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Jan Faltash

Ottawa, Friday, 26 August 2005

July 2002 is when I started, so it’s not that long, but I grew up around the business. In the yearbook, the Faltash you see is probably my ex-husband, Tom, and our son is in there. I may even be. I was with it before my husband was. My dad, my biological father, and Barry’s dad were good friends. He may have been on Sullivan Shows. That’s how my father met my mother. My mother is Tiny Jamieson’s sister, so her brother came home with my dad and, as they say, the rest is history.

We used to sometimes go out on the weekends and sleep in the back of the panel trucks. We would go by train or by bus, or whatever. My father worked for Mr. Conklin, senior, Patty Conklin. I know he did that for a while. He worked with Red Ratthe. He was a wheel man, he used to operate the Ferris wheel, that was his piece of equipment. His name was Bill Silk; they used to call him Silky. That was my dad. My mother was always after him not to be out here. The carnival, the Ex or the CNE, or something would be nearby, and he wouldn’t get back, he’d show up during the night, he’d be covered in grease, they had a problem with the wheel. So that was my exposure to it. I guess they separated, I’m not even sure if I was in my teens yet, and then he had a stroke and his memory was altered. He moved up to Bobcaygeon and my mother met Sammy Arrigo, and he married my mother.

He’s technically my stepfather, but all the time he’s been a part of our lives, he’s never introduced me as his stepdaughter, it’s always been, “my daughter,” although he has two real daughters, he’s always introduced me as his daughter too. So he’s had a big impact on my life, because I was still young, and he was just such a character. Of course, he had a small show and my mom operated the candy on his show, Big A Amusements. I worked there in the candy on the weekends. In fact, the first year the candy went into London, I was the one who went in with it. I was working, I did have a job, I left school early, and I did have a job, but I’d take my vacations so that I could work in London. And you know, it’s that family thing: “We’ve got a big weekend coming up, and you have to come out and help.” Then I got married and I had a son of my own, and I was still going out on the weekends helping.

I got into investment banking, at a very junior level. I did that for 25 or 30 years. I didn’t finish high school, but it was a time when you could do that. I mean you had to take the Canadian securities course. Then when I came up for a partnership, I had to take what they call a PDO—a partner, director and officer’s exam—which is a very extensive exam. I was the first female shareholder within our firm because it’s a very male world. I think I was the first female director within the industry. That was a firm called Davidson Partners, where I started, and it grew. It had branches, there was probably nine or ten branches across Canada, and then we merged with Midland-Doherty. We had an agreement, essentially for a year, but it was such a huge firm, so a group of us left there and started a small boutique firm called Standard Securities. The last three years I was there, I was president and CEO of Standard, but it was just …

After that many years, and the regulatory bodies, and the stress and the structure and the hours, I’d never really gone on vacation. I hadn’t gone out to work on the show in a number of years. I used to go out and visit, of course. I felt myself not being well. It took me a while to identify what it was because I had done this all my life. When I realized what it was, it was probably a three to four month transition period; I realized I had to leave.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I was just going to take the summer off. A client of ours that I’d dealt with for years, his son had an event planning company. I knew I wanted to get as far away from investments as I could. His business was just booming, but the administrative side, the infrastructure, was not together to maintain the business. So I went with him for a couple of years and one night Barry and I were out for dinner, and I kinda felt like I wasn’t challenged there anymore, I wasn’t really doing enough. I went on for a six-month contract, and the administrative stuff was cleared up after that, but they didn’t want me to leave, so I stayed.

Barry and I are first cousins, obviously, and I went out to dinner with him one night. He actually asked me if I’d meet him for dinner. I guess there were some changes around here, staff that had left a few months prior. I’m not sure whether he’d planned it that way, to make an offer. You can’t always figure out that complicated mind of his. I said I’d think about it, and I was driving home that night … I know most of the players; I understand the business, obviously not as fully as people who have been working out here all their lives, but I did have a general understanding of the business.

So I called him up and I said, “Yeah, I think I’d like to do it.” He said, “I’d like you to go and talk to Jim.” I did that. We talked for about an hour. He’s such a nice man. He asked me a few questions and just how I felt about working with Barry. There really wasn’t a designated job description. You know, you do some of this and you do some of that, whatever needs to be done. My candy background comes in handy sometimes. There was a rental and I jumped in the candy for the day, went back to my roots.

I’m enjoying it. It’s stressful, but it’s not as structured. You know what has to be done. It’s much more personal and personable, with the people that you’re working with. There’s so many weird people around, and the characters. There’s times that I think, I wish that I could talk to Sam about this because he had so many years of experience. We can’t talk to him now; he has Alzheimer’s. Five years ago, there’d be times when he’d get a little bit confused, but when you’re 81 years old, you’re allowed to forget every once in a while. Now, physically he’s fine. A year ago, although she was resistant, she put him in a home. My mom’s at the home every night after dinner. I have so many great memories with him. I can remember pulling loads and working in the candy, and knowing that I had to go to work on Monday morning. This was when he was still building his business up. Tom and I would have been in our late teens. My husband later had the Rotor. I heard that it was used as a torture device at one time.

My dad had worked with Barry’s father. He moved up to Bobcaygeon after his massive stroke in his mid to late 30s. They said he never come back but he did. He walked with a little bit of a pull on one side, but his memory was different. He always called Barry the Bishop and I was the Squawk. But after he got some of his memory back, he didn’t remember those nicknames. Every year I would go up to Lindsay with my son, meet up with Barry and take a quick drive up to Bobcaygeon to visit with him. I remember Barry telling him the new wheels suck, they’re all hydraulic. Sometimes Barry would send Steamer up to pick him up and bring him down to the fair for a day when they were in Lindsay. He passed away probably eight years ago, something like that. My son’s not in the business still, but his dad is still working for the new company. He was working for Frank down there and he’s still at the shop in West Palm. My son’s living down there.

Sam was always fun to be around his show. He’d get into the candy trailer and my mother would just about kill him. Remember that song, “The Candy Man”? He’d get in the trailer and start singing that song, and my mother would be hitting him with a stick to get him out of there. They used to fight like cats and dogs. She’s a tall woman, and he’s not that tall. There was one time we were going to the airport. He was going out west to the show, he had some rides booked out west. We were taking him to the airport and he’s walking through the airport with one of us on each side, and he was just in heaven.

My son’s very much like Patrick and Stacey, and there was a couple of years Sam would take my son Tom to the trade show in Tampa. He’d tell people this is his grandson and people would look at him because there was such a difference in size. He used to love doing stuff like that. He told us that he had sold balloons outside of the CNE when he was 12 years old. He wouldn’t buy a licence because the fine was less than the licence. He’d set up his thing outside of the CNE and sell his balloons. That’s where he started. His parents were Italian and had a fruit and vegetable stand on Queen Street, near West Lodge. He didn’t want to do that. So he became an entrepreneur. Quite the guy.

We’re a pretty shy group, really. I’m usually the quiet, silent type. I kind of sit back, unless they hit me head on. Dealing with the fair boards is great. Some of them are a little more challenging than others, but for the most part they’re pretty nice people. They really are dedicated to their fairs. This fair is so large and in such a political environment to begin with. It’s fun. Sometimes I get pulled in a show ring to show a dairy heifer or whatever. I gave out prizes to the llama costume contest last year. But the 4-H kids are great and work so hard. They love to win, but they’re so happy for each other too. I really enjoy working with them. That’s such an important part, what goes on in that building. I’ve shown the sheep and given out ribbons. Those are the fun things.

I’d never been on a helicopter until I started working out here, but that happened at Brigden Fair. It was really quite funny. It was my first year, so I was being very obliging. One of the directors came over and asked if I wanted to go up for a helicopter ride. He said, “It’s really great. You can see the fair grounds and I can show you the boundaries of our property.” I get in and I’m a little bit nervous, and I say, “You know, I’ve never been in a helicopter before.” And he said, “Neither have I!” He wasn’t the pilot. There’s been a lot of things that I’ve never done.

There’s that social side and you kind of end up being the face of the company. You really want to do a good job. I look around here and see how much work goes into everything. I was driving along the highway and I was coming up to some of our trucks going in to the Christmas party for the CNE. I looked at them and said, Wow! It was winter but they were clean, they were shiny, and it says so much about it. I walk around and look at all the rides. I hear that this one’s 12 years old or 15 years, and you see the work those boys do in the wintertime with Barry.

It’s very easy to be a part of this company because of the equipment and the staff. It’s a lot different than what I used to see around Big A Amusements. Sam’s was a smaller show. I’ve heard stories about moving the show on one licence plate. He always had little local things all around the Toronto area, pretty much. This is going quite a ways back. You don’t really think about it at the time, but then you become more educated and you wonder, how could he do that?

That fire was bad. We sort of noticed some changes in him after that. There again, there were a couple of American operators, and Barry, Don Campbell, gave him rides so he’d be able to accommodate his contracts. They didn’t ask him for anything back. He still had a couple of pieces of his own that he could get out there. The way everybody rallied around, that’s what you like to see. I don’t think there’s many businesses like that. If Coke had a problem, do you think Pepsi’s going to come running in to help? That’s the business, but I don’t know how much it’s changed over the years.

It would be nice to see the people being portrayed in a more positive light. That’s very offensive to me. Barry’s helping people out on the show, that’s not anything that people really know about except the individuals who’ve been helped. There’s a number of them walking around out here. Not that Barry had a problem with it, but these were things that they wanted to fix themselves but couldn’t afford to do it. They work very hard; some can be a little challenging, but you look around here and how much of the staff has been around Barry for so many years. I don’t know if that happens everywhere, but I’m impressed. There’s a lot of years accumulated with these people. I don’t take anything personally for myself, but I get upset if I hear negative comments. This is a lot of work. I watched them on the Fury last night. This guy had probably been on every ride and on the Fury he gave it all up. These guys are out there hosing it down, cleaning it down. Yet they get in that bingo and spend their hard-earned dollars, but they know its going for a good cause. Everybody gets excited when they win something back.

When I was working with my mom, and somebody walked away and forgot their change, you’d call them back to give them it, and they’d go, “Oh,” in surprise that I didn’t pocket it. I think that could be my cause, if I had time. I have enough causes right now, but that could be one. Most of the boards recognize the amount of work that goes into it. Still dates are a little different. I think it was in Dundas, there was a beauty salon six blocks away and somebody threw a rock through the front window and they were down on the midway looking for who did it. I guess there’d been some fires in Port Dalhousie, months before we got there, and then there were some more while we were there, down by the water. They came around asking questions. That sort of thing really bothers me.

At one time, everything was a little rougher, including construction workers and lawyers. But these guys are out working, they’re not sitting back holding out their hand looking for somebody to take care of them. They’re working very hard. I guess there are a few that sit back and collect what they can during the winter, but it’s not like it’s a year round thing.

We’re trying to build up winter events. We do some corporate Christmas parties. If there’s an opportunity to do an event at the Rogers’ Centre, we take it. There’s dealing with contract issues during the winter with fair boards. There are contracts that I deal with. And any other issues that come up that I can help out with. It’s a good chance for me to meet with people. It’s not quite as demanding, but there’s still lots to do all year round. They operate the shop pretty much the full year.

Especially Barry’s boys, they work hard. Somebody said to me once, “It must be nice for your last name to be Jamieson.” I told him you wouldn’t want your last name to be Jamieson. There’s no free ride. They work very hard, those two boys. No attitude and they’ve got lovely partners, both the girls. They’re both engaged. The girls will be looking at this for many years to come. Patrick and Corey are on one unit, and Corey works out of that office. Stacey and Nicole are on the other unit, and Nicole works out of that office. Very nice girls.

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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