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Haley Gregory

Ottawa, Thursday, 25 August 2005

I started when I was 16 and now I’m 37. It doesn’t seem like 20 years. I originally started in Brandon; I’m from Brandon. Born in Winnipeg, moved to Brandon when I was six. I started in the games for one year. I only made it to Calgary because in Calgary I got sick and went home. The next year I started working for Mitchell Concessions, in the cookhouse for about four and a half years. Then I left them and went to the Conklin Shows ticket office as a computer operator. I did that job for the rest of that year, maybe two more years. For a year or two I was the assistant manager of the ticket office, and then the manager of the ticket office for a few years. After that I went to the Patriot Unit for its last year. Then I came out to World’s Finest for three years and then I left. After that, Ottawa is the one spot I do, just because I like to come out and visit everybody, and they invite me back.

The rest of the time I work at the Canadian Tire store in Brandon. Not nearly as much fun as the carnival. This has been my only spot for the last five years. I thought I would get a real job, and a house and a yard. It’s OK, but I miss it a lot.

I learned just about everything I know on the carnival. Well, I started very young. I have to admit that when I was 16 I was a bit of a trouble causer. Your typical bad, trouble causing teenager, and once I went with the carnival that sort of straightened me out. Set me on the straight and narrow, a lot of hard work. You grow up pretty fast and you have a lot more responsibilities. You meet all sorts of different kinds of people.

I’d never touched a computer when I was in school. Computers were just coming in and I hadn’t done anything with them. I always said the only thing I can do with a computer is plug it in. When I started in the ticket office, what had happened is, on the jump between Calgary and Edmonton they had lost their computer operator and inventory clerk out of the office. They hired me and another girl, and they said to us, “We need somebody on the computer and somebody to do the inventory.” The other girl said, “I want no part of the computer.” We’re sitting in the ticket office and I looked at the computer and I said, “I used to say the only thing I could do with a computer is plug it in.” I looked at the back of the computer and I said, “I don’t think I could do that.” But they threw me on there and taught me how to do it.

That’s where I got my start in computers. I’m very strong in computers now. I’ve actually taken a two-year web design course. So that’s what got me into it and got me where I am today. I do a little on the side, but there’s not a lot of call for web design in Brandon. I have taken some pictures here for Barry, for their website, just of the rides.

That year with the Patriot Unit, there were two units. One did a lot more in Pennsylvania, than the unit I was on. Steve Choates was in the office on the other unit. We did a lot of small spots that I can’t remember. Probably about 15, 20 rides. We played a couple decent spots, but also some very tiny ones. I remember having a picture of the first ride gross: $397 for all the rides. That was one of the smaller ones. We also had some substantial ones.

I’ve never worked ticket boxes. I’ve jumped in a ticket box before when they were busy just to relieve the seller that was in there, but I’ve never actually been a ticket seller. I like to say that I’ve done it. I know what it’s like. I enjoyed it, like on the west I used to do it once in awhile. I enjoy it, talking with the people and stuff like that. When you’re dealing with your ticket sellers, you’ve done it, so you know, but I wouldn’t want to do it full time.

One of the carnies that sticks out in my mind is Theo Zacchini. He was out on the west when I was first there. He was always very happy. I was still working the cookhouse, at that point. I found him amazing. I was young and they told me that this guy built, like, everything, except the axles. I found that really amazing. His brother, I think, was in the Guinness Book of Records, for the longest cannonball. I thought that was really cool because this guy, his brother was famous and he built these rides, and they were like circus people.

He always stuck out in my mind. I have pictures of me and him together. He turned out to be a real sweetheart. He was there, I don’t know what he was doing. He was getting older. He’d give breaks. I have a picture of him on the front of the Glasshouse. I guess he was giving a break to somebody. I think he just liked to go out there and do it. He liked to talk to the people, I think.

I’d have to say that sort of a mentor of mine was Scooter. I always had enormous respect for him as a boss. A lot of my principles, of managing the office, come from him. I always found him to be very professional. Like I said, being in the office all the time, that’s sort of more my experience. He was always very professional and we did things right. A lot of the principles I have in running the office now, or whatever I do, come from him.

He always used to say, when we go to balance the office at the end of the night, he’d say, “Well you know, if you’re out X number of dollars, then spend that much time looking for it. If it’s $5, then spend $5 worth of your time looking for it.” I still say that to these guys here, when we balance at the end of the night. “If we’re a thousand dollars out, we’re all going to be here all night, but if we’re $5 dollars out, then we’re going to be here five minutes.”

So a lot of my principles I’ve got from Scooter. I’ve always had the utmost respect for him, he’s a great guy. I still remember his quotes, just the silly little things he says. “Take you’re time going, but hurry back,” is one of them. I have a couple of quotes from him on my website. I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

When I first started, Ross Curry was there in the office. I didn’t go to the fair in Brandon. I was going for coffee at the hotel they were staying at, and I just passed them, Scooter, Ross and those folks.

I have a funny story to tell you. Of course, in the west they were always very strict about not giving too much out and not giving refunds, and that sort of thing. That was their policy and they pretty much stuck to it. It was the CNE and I guess we had a bit of a problem because the pay-one-price passes we had were supposed to be good on the weekdays only. It didn’t say on the ticket or it was very small on the ticket, and a lot of people didn’t realize that. And a lot of people come down on the weekends to use them, and it was a Guest Relations fiasco. I wasn’t involved in it because GR was handling the pubs. I think John Gallant was in there at the time.

Somehow, this one lady had gotten to a ticket seller and a supervisor got involved, and they called me. I think they phoned me and she talked to me on the phone. I was pretty good about not giving out stuff, being pretty tough about it. I remember, this lady she was crying. She had come down with two or three handicapped kids, and they had these passes, and they had spent this money, and they had a little envelope. This envelope had like $10 for each kid for food and games. She’s crying and I’m like, oh by god. So I go to Scooter, “This lady, she’s crying and it’s awful, and the kids are screwed, and like …”

“You have to go ask Mr. Phillips, if you wanna do that.” Of course at the time he’s the president of the company and I’m sorta nervous about talking to him. I just went over to the midway office in the corner of the Horse Palace. I was so nervous. I said to him, “I can handle them yelling and screaming at me, getting mad and spitting ice cream waffles at me”—I’ll explain that one in a minute—“but I cannot handle it when they cry. That just does me in.” He said that was fine I could redeem these passes for her for that day. Like I say, I could handle everything else, but not when they’re crying.

The ice cream waffle story was also at the CNE. I think it was a Sunday night and it was very slow and it was quite late. Of course, the CNE grounds are very big. I guess this guy had come down and he and his friend had bought some tickets to go on the roller coaster. Well, at the time, they had ride lists in the booth with how many coupons were needed for each ride. I guess the ticket seller had looked at the wrong roller coaster, because we had three at the time, and told him it was six. Well, he wanted to go on the Double Loop and it was seven. So he had bought his tickets at the far end of the midway, down wherever, and he had come all the way up to the Double Loop and the Double Loop has that big walkway you have to go up to get to it. So he gets up there and it was seven coupons. He’s only got 12 and he needs 14. So he says to the guy, “Can I give you some money?” Of course, that’s not going to work, they’re not allowed to do that. “No, sorry I can’t do it.”

So he goes back to the ticket booth and he says, “Can I buy two coupons?” At the time, we don’t sell single coupons. The smallest denomination you can buy is a strip of four. The guy’s all mad: “I want my money back.” “Sorry, sir, we don’t give refunds.” He goes to the next ticket booth. The same thing: “I want to buy two coupons.” “Sorry you can’t do that.” “Well, I want a refund.” “We don’t give refunds.” So he goes to the next box.

At this point, I’m out doing my lap to check the boxes. I come around the corner of the box and the guy’s banging on the window and he’s screaming. I come and say, “Sir, can I help you?” He’s like, “Who the fuck are you?” I say, “I’m from the ticket office. What seems to be the problem here?” Meanwhile, in his travels between the ticket boxes he’s purchased an ice cream waffle, which he’s now eating. He’s standing about this far from me, yelling at me, with ice cream waffle in his mouth. He’s like spitting in my face. This was the epitome of patience. “I’m sorry, sir.” Most of the time, if people are in that situation and they come to me and say this is my problem and they’re decent. I’d have coupons in my pocket or a sorry for the convenience pass, and I’d just give it to them.

Once they start yelling at me, they’re not going to get anything. That’s just the way it goes—especially if they’re spitting ice cream waffle in my face.

So I say to the guy, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do for you. Guest relations is just across the way, if you want to go over to them and lodge a complaint, that’s fine.” So he goes over there and tells them what his problem is. They don’t know that he’s talked to me already, so they call me on the radio. So I go over there and now he’s over there and he’s yelling and spitting ice cream waffle all over Guest Relations. I was on the other side and I just said, “I’m sorry, sir, you fill out your complaint here. There’s nothing we can do for you.” So I left. At the end of the night, the girl from GR comes into the ticket office to drop off her box because they sell tickets out of there. She runs her hand through her hair and a big chunk of ice cream waffle falls out.

The next day, we found out that he was actually from Eye Weekly. The big thing was, don’t ever talk to the press. I thought, oh no, this is going to be a nightmare, I felt absolutely awful. I went to Scooter because I was so worried that this was going to be bad publicity. So I tell him about the story, and he says he’ll talk to whoever. He went and told Mr. Phillips and Frank, and he said that the guy was acting like an ass, so he got treated like an ass. That was that.

About four or five days later, I come into Scooter’s office and he’s in there with his friend Miles. I was just sitting there talking to him and Miles has this newspaper article that he starts reading. It’s about this incident. I thought, well, they’ve gone in the building because they knew how upset I was and they’ve one of those fake newspapers made up. So they were reading away, and I’m like, “yeah, whatever,” but no it was an actual article. The guy made himself in the article sound like an ass. He’s swearing in the article, fucking this, and fucking that. I have the article somewhere at home. That was my 15-minute claim to fame, a guy spitting ice cream waffle in my face and writing an article about me. My name was in it; I gave him my name.

Like I said, if people are decent, I’ll be decent back to them, I’ll do what I can for them, but if people are going to just yell at me … A lot of the times when I went to Guest Relations out in the west, like they’d call me for people not getting their change or not getting their bracelet or whatever, you know if they were decent, I’d work with them. But the second they started yelling at me, I’d say to them, “I just walked up to you. This is the first time I’ve laid eyes on you. Why are you yelling at me?” As soon as you say that to them, they sort of calm down, most of them, but some of them just want to fight.

We used to have these ski tags in the west. We had this poor kid at Guest Relations one day—I think he might have been slow—and he had the two little pieces of paper that you pull of the back. And that’s all he had. He said, “I bought my bracelet and lost it, but I have these.” I look around and they’re all over the ground and I say, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing we can do for you.” You hear every story.

The other big thing, of course, is that the ticket sellers are always trying to beat you for something. I’d get every story out there. What, the ticket sellers are trying to steal from you? They’re trying to beat the office. I’ve seen everything. They’d split the tickets and try to sell them as singles. Take a strip of forty and divide it and sell it as strips of four single tickets. That was a big one. They’d take the books of tickets and rip them apart, take sheets out the middle and put them back together again, so the next person who gets it is going to be short. You tell if they’d been ripped because they’d be taped, so what they would do is, they would rip it on the inside so you couldn’t see it. I’d even see them with a book of 49, which is about this square, go into the middle and tear out the centre of the strip of tickets. It’s not worth it.

John Anderson and Lurch, when we used to have problems with ticket sellers, they would come over and take the ticket sellers and play good cop, bad cop. Lurch was the good cop, and John Anderson was the bad cop. So they were always very good at this and I learned from them. The ticket sellers who had stolen from me—Scooter originally set me on the path of this story—I’d tell them that if the police are involved, they’re going to have a record, they’re not going to be able to leave the country, the record is going to haunt you for the rest of your life. So I would try that. This one girl, she had some of our money. I tried to pull this spiel on her and she wasn’t budging, not a bit. She wasn’t going to give in. So I went to get John Anderson and Lurch. Lurch wasn’t around, so John Anderson came. We had an Avco trailer like this, and my office was back here, and she was sitting out there. John Anderson and I came in the front door and, not a word of a lie, I came back here and plunked in my chair at my desk, and about three seconds later he was standing next to me with the money. I don’t know what he did or what he said to her, but he fixed it. He didn’t talk to her for too terribly long and he was right there with the money. He was very good at it, whatever he said. They usually did it behind closed doors. We would just leave them with the kid and go out front.

When you hire 70, 80, ticket sellers, 100, 120 sometimes, people who only work for you for two weeks, you’re going to get … You get some really good ones sometimes too. I have fond memories of some very interesting ones too. There’s always one. We would do interviews, two or three people would interview. And it always seemed at every spot, one person got through that was sort of a little off that nobody would admit to hiring. “Who hired this person?” I don’t know where this person came from, but they got in here, they got paper work and they sold.

We had this young lad working for us, I don’t know if I should mention his name or not. Let’s say his name was Andy. He worked for us a couple of years. He actually a travelling ticket seller, which was very rare in the west. You’d don’t get place to stay, you don’t get paid for the week, you just get paid for your days. So him and a couple of friends travelled. This poor supervisor in Calgary, every year something happened to this girl. One year a handicapped—special needs—person tried to bite her hand, that was the year after the incident with Andy. Anyway, it’s a Calgary Stampede night, later on in the night, it’s slowed down now, and she’s on supervision. Their supposed to have their doors locked. She goes up to the back of Andy’s booth and she just opened the door. He’s sitting back, an Easy Rider magazine laying on the counter, and he’s giving it a little tug. In his ticket box, while we’re open.

I go back to the office and at the time my assistant manager’s name was Geoffrey Fox, he was a guy who was going to Dalhousie University, he was a good guy, a little bit of a preppy, but a great assistant manager, and I called Geoff aside and I said, “Geoff, we have a problem. You’re going to deal with it because this is not a conversation that I as a woman am having with this guy. You have to deal with this.” So I told him the story, poor Geoff. I can remember him standing there, his arms crossed, his head down, shaking his head. And he talked to him apparently and straightened it out, and it never happened again. After that he was known as Handy Andy. To each there own.

I forgot to mention, I also worked for Mr. Conklin out with his little miniature golf course, in the malls and stuff. And I worked for a month, month and a half, down in San Francisco for Trish, just helping them get their books up to date. They had gone through a lot of accountants and bookkeeping type of people, so things were a bit of a mess. I went down there to get everything sort of organized, the way it should be. It was nice. Good for me, it was different, because it was food. Books are books, but still it was just a little bit different business than a carnival, being a real stationary business that’s there for 12 months of the year. It was a good experience.

We’ve had everything happen from people leaving their ticket boxes, just packing up and going, to coming in a thousand dollars short. A popular one in the west was, we used to have those strips of 22, there a big sheet and there’s four in a sheet, and send a poor ticket seller out there. You do everything you can to train these people. You have a ticket seller’s agreement; you have a meeting where you go over everything with them. You have a supervisor walk them through their first shift to get them started. They still find a way to come in short. But they have this book, like one sheet was four strips of 22, and they’d go out there and they’d sell a whole sheet for the price of 22. And they would come in hundreds and hundreds of dollars short, not from dishonesty, just from stupidity. What do you do? Of course they’re responsible for their shortages, so it comes out of their pay. I try to come to some sort of compromise, like we’ll keep you. If I think they’re going to be able to go out there again and get it right. So we’ll give you some extra hours and split whatever you make. So they still make some money and we get some of our money back. You do everything you can, except going out there and sitting with them for their eight-hour shift.

I’ve been to Puerto Rico too, three times. They went ten or eleven years before the three times that I went. We didn’t seem to make a lot of money, but it was fun. It was like a paid holiday for us. On the weekdays, we didn’t open until 4 or 5 because it was just too hot and we were closed by like midnight most times. And you’re in Puerto Rico for the winter. I’m from Brandon, Manitoba, it’s minus 40 in the winter. It was great down there.

There were different funny little things, like the Christmas tree we got one year. We were there over Christmas one year for sure. I remember them bringing it, a scraggly ass Christmas tree. They must have had it shipped in, it was sure sickly, it must have had about four branches and three needles on it. The first year I was there, they set it up in the cookhouse and decorated it up. All these strange things kept popping up on it, like a bolt off a ride was hanging on it one day. One guy’s Deggeller ID pass showed up on the tree. All this strange, carnival type things.

The first night I worked in the cookhouse, I worked nights, and everyone came in from the bar. This guy came up to the counter where I was slicing meat on the meat slicer, and he started eating the shavings from the meat that had dropped. He was absolutely hammered. I’m like, oh my god, what am I doing, working here. But I got over it and I stayed. That was always interesting to work in the cookhouse at nights. For the first three or four years I only worked nights. That was one of the reasons why I left Mitchell Concessions because I wanted to go on days and it didn’t look like I was going to get on days. I just had enough of working nights. In Puerto Rico, the first year I was with the cookhouse, and the next two I was in the office.

Puerto Rican ticket sellers were beautiful. We came down there and these people of course have nothing, absolutely nothing. I think at the time, the minimum wage in the States was like $3.65. We were like gods because we came down there and gave them this job making $3.65. They just loved us. At the end of each spot they would have a party for us. They would have all this food laid out. I remember one time they took us to this house and we were off in the boonies in Puerto Rico. We didn’t know where we are and we get there they’re all fighting to dance with you, they want to get pictures taken with you. It’s like you’re celebrities just because you’ve come there and given these poor people this job making $3.65 an hour. They think you’re wonderful. They were really nice. A lot of them didn’t speak English, so we had a couple who were our translators. That was a bit of a challenge. Not being able to go up to this person and say, “Don’t do that or don’t do this, or we’re doing this.” You had to always cart the translator out with you. But it was great, they were really nice people.

The patrons were all Spanish, of course. For rides, it would be mostly the travelling staff and they’d hire a few locals, to take tickets or whatever, or to translate. Security down there was something else. They hired local security. I remember this one guy, his name was Cowboy, he’s always wore a chequered shirt, a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, and he didn’t speak a word of English. He had this great big huge handgun with a scope on it. Everyone at the ticket office wanted to have their pictures taken with him. Big hunking handgun with a scope on it. He just loved us. He thought maybe he could come back to Canada with us. But as soon as he heard he couldn’t have his gun with him, that was it, he wasn’t coming. He wanted no part of that. Canada was good if he could take his gun. I remember they used to have a big chain link fence around the office compound and they’d always have one of these security guards sitting outside the office with a gun. That was a little different. I don’t think we ever had any real problems in the compound.

I actually brought home dogs from Puerto Rico. It was the first year I was in the office. I got my cousin a job with Mitchell Concessions and at the time he was still working for Mitchell’s and I was working in the office. There was this little dog down there, and she just showed up one day, hanging out at the cookhouse. Everyone in the cookhouse was feeding her, giving her leftovers. We decided to call her Pincho, which was what they called this kind of shish kabob down there. We said, if she stays here, she’s going to end up being a pincho. So they decided that she had to go home. Everyone started collecting money. Now, she’s decided she doesn’t like the Puerto Ricans anymore. She would sit there by the office compound and if any dark-skinned people came back there, she would bark at them until they got right back on the midway. The white people were the only ones feeding her. She was missing the last half of her tail and she was mangy, and very malnourished. She was quite young, just a puppy.

So they took up a collection and, of course, I being the animal lover, they gave me all the money and the dog and said, “Here, you take her home.” I think what happened is, when we went to leave—I wasn’t going to take, I wasn’t going to take her—then I thought, OK, I’m going take her, but when we went back to the ticket sellers’ party, and I went to look for her and she wasn’t there. We’d been torn down and we didn’t know where she was. I asked the security guards to try and find her. They took a drive out and found her and brought her back. We were leaving the next day, and she was all mangy, so I went out at one o’clock in the morning to this emergency animal clinic to get her shots and whatever she needed to get back to Canada.

Did all that and the next morning Lurch called to drive us to the airport. He called early. I didn’t have all our stuff ready, so I gave her to my cousin and said, “Shaun, here take the dog, here’s her stuff.” She had a little Conklin duffle bag and she was in there with all her stuff. He got her a crate at the airport. And still, even in the airport, she had a little hole in the top of the crate, and she would poke her head up and bark at the Puerto Ricans. I said to them when we got back to Canada, “Did you have any problems getting her across the border?” He said, “Oh, no, actually she probably helped us get across the border.” They flew to New York and drove across at Buffalo or something. He said, “No, because we told them the story that we’d save her and everyone just thought that was so sweet and she was so cute.”

The next year we go back and now there’s two dogs hanging out there, which we had named Pedro and Consuelo. The ticket sellers knew that I took this dog home before, so they had a water jug, and they’d cut a hole in the top and it’s passed around as “Haley’s take the dog home fund.” Of course, these people have nothing and they’d throw in some pennies, a couple of dimes, maybe a quarter. It’s adding up, though. Then the show people start hearing about it, and they’re coming in and they’re tucking in $5, $10, $20. Now, the next thing I know, I’ve got, like, $200, and I just felt like I should give it back to these people. I’d originally decided I was going to take the male, Pedro, home, but of course, being a male, he screwed off and takes off down to Burger King one day, and the girl was there, so I gathered her up and took her to the vet and everything. It was Greg Gravelle said to me, he says, “Well, it’s like this. If you change her name to Lucky, I’ll give her $40 towards her fund.” And I says, “Why?” He says, “She’s damn lucky to be getting out of here.” So I changed her name to Lucky. She came back too.

They’re both passed on now. They would have been 12, 13 years old now. My mom took care of them, too, because I was always on the road, so they would stay with her. When I first brought them home, it was like, “What the …!” The first one was so sickly and mangy, it was like, “What the hell’s that?” We used to call her a Puerto Rican sewer rat. She was a pretty sickly thing all her life. She had arthritis; it may have been from being malnourished and her bones not forming properly. And always she had skin conditions. The other one was much healthier. We found her when we played next to the airport, and she probably had a lot more tourist handouts.

Everybody in Puerto Rico is from New York. None of them are really from Puerto Rico. That’s what they say, “I’m actually from New York.” We had this one girl, Mildred. She was really loud, and she actually was from New York; she had a Bronx accent. I don’t know what she was doing there; visiting home, I guess.

There’s probably a million stories that I can’t remember right now. I remember a few times, when we had a bad day in Calgary or Edmonton, big spots, when we couldn’t balance, and I’d still be there in the morning when the day shift came in. I’d be drooling and banging my head off the trailer because I was so tired. Someone would come in with a fresh set of eyes and they’d find it in two minutes.

I was in Edmonton that year they had the tornado, but it didn’t really hit us. I haven’t been there for any really big floods. I’ve seen pictures in the yearbook of the floods, floating down the midway, but I wasn’t there for that. There were a couple of bad storms. The brothers Mitchell always got very nervous about the storms. And when you’re first out there, you’re wondering why. But then a couple of times during bad storms, the whole cookhouse is bouncing four feet off the ground, and then it dawned on me why they got so nervous about these things.

My mother, when I first started—I was only 16—she said to me, “You know, if I don’t want you to go, I could call the police and have them bring you home. But, I know you’d be hell to live with, so you just make sure that you take care of yourself and eat well.” Of course, now mother’s just thrilled. She loves Conklin anything. She just retired from being a nurse in the emergency room, and her pride and joy was one of those old, red Conklin mugs. So got so cranky if someone she worked with would drink out of her Conklin mug. She had a Conklin sweater and she’d be wearing it at work and the kids in the ER would see it, and they’d be, “Oh, that’s the carnival.” Eventually, she was quite proud of me and the carnival.

It’s a lot of hard work and it’s long hours. It takes a lot out of you. I don’t know whether I could do it full time or not, probably. I miss it; I really do miss it. I think that carnies do stick together. They may bicker amongst themselves, but when push comes to shove …

I do use carnie terms of speech, but no one knows what I’m talking about most of the time. My cat’s name is Scratch. People go like, “Oh, that’s because he scratches you.” That’s because he was in the office, I got him when I was on the Patriot Unit. I got my first house trailer, just a tiny little thing, and this was my housewarming gift, this cat. I didn’t have my dogs and I was sort of lonely, living alone. So I had this cat and I couldn’t think of a name for him. He was in the office with me during the day, and he kept knocking the money tray over. So I called him Scratch. I tell people that and they go like, “OK, whatever.” But people out here, I tell them, and they know what I mean.

I feel the carnival is my home, I do, still, even though I’m not here. I’ve always felt comfortable here, like I could be myself; get a little goofy sometimes and crazy. Ask anyone here. Last night Corey had a big bag of cotton candy and it comes in clumps. She asked me if I could stick a whole clump in my mouth and I did. When you work in the office and don’t get out much, you have to come up with things to entertain yourself.

When I was working here on the Talbot Unit Trudy and I got this list of things to do, fun things to do to entertain yourself, like looking at people through the tines of a fork and pretending they’re in jail. Or page yourself over the intercom at work. We would do it over the radio; people were going, “Wasn’t that her calling herself?” One was to see how many miniature marshmallows you could insert inside your nose and blow them out. So instead we were going to see how far we could blow them off the back step of our office. Her dog was there and he cleaned up the marshmallows when we were done. I’m sure people do things like this in other offices, too, it’s not just the carnival. The other day we had a paper airplane flying contest. I lost.

The carnival is different, it’s just hard to explain. If you went to someone on the street and tried to explain the subculture of the carnival, you’d never be able to get it across, unless they actually came here. I try to explain to people, it’s its own little town, travelling together. I found in the west, when we stayed in hotels all the time, it’s nice because you always have your water and power, and you don’t have to wait for it, but it’s also not so good, because how much can you pack and move every two weeks. That’s the one thing I liked about having a house trailer, on the smaller show; you have everything there. You can go home and make a sandwich.

See I found that after being on the carnival for so many years, because of always eating out, always eating midway food, always having your food prepared for you, that having a home cooked meal was a treat. For people who, you know, work in a bank, going out is a treat for them. For me, having a home cooked meal was a treat, sort of backwards. I love midway food; I could live on pizza. That was what I always remember from all the places I’ve been, is the food. In San Francisco it’s Blondie’s Pizza, in Puerto Rico, the little Cuban sandwiches they made down there. You crave these things and it’s not like you can just zip out the corner store and get them. Mitchell’s cheeseburgers were so good, the cheese fries. I love midway food but having a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, with mashed potatoes and gravy that was like a treat.

I absolutely think that the sale of Conklin Shows is the end of an era. I was very sad when I heard that. It’s supposed to be Conklin Shows that plays all those spots. It was three generations and I was devastated when I heard. It’s sad, but I’m sure there’s a very good reason for everything.

I have a funny story about Frank. One time in Calgary, we were short ticket sellers, the people we needed to hire just didn’t show up. So I sent the supervisors out on to the midway to gather people up to come work for the ticket office. Apparently, one of the asked Frank if he wanted to come and apply for a job as a ticket seller. I have no idea what he said, but apparently he wasn’t interested.

The new organization is not Conklin Shows, so it wouldn’t be surprising if things weren’t going well. I think one of the key factors with the fair boards is that the new organization is not Canadian. Conklin, technically, was still Canadian. I’m sure it will all work out for the best in the end.

The year I went to Puerto Rico with Mitchell’s, I caught the Brandon bus to catch the plane in Winnipeg. We actually left Brandon on my birthday, November 2nd. My dad took me to Winnipeg and I was in the bathroom. Of course, it was all guys who I was going with, the next thing I knew the bathroom door opened and they’re all singing happy birthday for me. That was pretty memorable.

I hope to always have a finger in the business. I’d like to. This is a good spot for me. The year after I left here, what happened is they asked me if I could come back and do this spot, because of my experience out west running a larger ticket office. This is quite a big fair for Barry’s show, with all the units coming together and wanting to make the fair board happy. Box asked me if I would come out and do that for them. Just because of my experience.

For me, I did for so many years in the west, that it’s like second nature. I’m sure any of these people here could do it, but they just haven’t done it before. The staff they give me here are excellent. Everyone does a really good job of what they do in the office. It runs very smoothly. I always say that we should take this operation on the road, and rent ourselves out because it runs so well. There’s still small glitches, but like I said, I really enjoy coming out for the two weeks and seeing everybody, and still having my finger in it. I started this the first year they got this spot. I’ll always hope to still have some involvement in it, I think. At least get out to see people once a year.

Note: There are over 200 pages of interviews here, mostly verbatim and unedited. If you find spelling mistakes or typos, or want to add something, contact me at john [dot] thurston [at] sympatico [dot] ca. Thank you!


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