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Jim Kong

Toronto, Wednesday, 31 August 2005

In 1962 I went to England to study electronic work. From there, I joined in the amusement and video game business, what you call Penny Arcade. I was there for seven years, then I went over to west Africa—Ghana, Nigeria, Chad, and all these other places in the west Africa area—for four years through to ’72. At the same time I organized to get a casino going. I looked after three casinos, bringing slot machines in, and also video games and other amusement games, jukeboxes and everything. But I didn’t like Africa much, so I went back to London. I ran into a friend who asked me migrate to Canada, which I did.

In 1972 I migrated to Canada and I worked for a company called Fountainhead Amusements. The guy who ran it was a Jewish boy, named Neil Ruben. He put me to work for Salon Deux Comas—that is Club Two for Sure—in Quebec. I worked for them for one season, then I came down here to see Alfie Phillips to book an arcade. He said, “OK.” I came down here with an arcade in partnership with Fountainhead Amusements. So I came down here in 1973 and started the arcade business with the show.

When Jim had the western unit put together, I took a big arcade out there to the western road show. In ’78, Jim bought me out, so I ended up working for him for two years. I looked after the arcade business in the CN Tower and Safari Park in Rockland and Hemmingford. Then I also organized the western road show arcade and Ontario, all the travelling arcades for Conklin Shows. They decided not to keep it, so we sold the western road show arcade to Don Paul and I believe Dave King took over eventually after he passed away. I worked for Jim for many years, then he decided not to have the arcade business. He told me to take all the equipment out of his shop and go out on my own. Then I went on my own until 1990.

In the meantime, I still did maintenance, mostly electronic work for the company, like a consultant. I’ve done a lot of repairs for the show. When I first joined up, they used to have a lot of problems with the Wild Cat. I fixed that for them, after that they didn’t have any more burnt-out motors or anything like that. It was all electrical problems. The Jumbo Jet the same, all voltage and electrical problems. The first year we found out that the track was not running at full power. I measured the power supply on the track and it was supposed to run at 78, but they were only getting 48 volts. Frank Conklin started to get involved and I was talking to him about it. So he brought in a generator just to run 78 volts to the track. Then everything worked fine. Later on they built a transformer station here to run the Jumbo Jet and all sorts of things. I suggested that they should get more stable power but somebody else built it.

The Wave Swinger, I did a repair to its power supply. When it first came from Italy, they had a lot of problems with European standard. Jim Glover and Bob Shaylor, they handcuffed me to the ride and said, “Fix it!” They’re bigger boys than me, and they grabbed me and handcuffed me to the ride. So I got a guy who used to work for us, we called him Cookie, but his name is Bill Broadbank, we got together and bought a North

American standard power supply from Hammond. We converted it over. A few years ago, Jim Caskey told me that since we fixed it they didn’t have any more trouble with the power supply.

When I was out west, I used to work side-by-side with Bill Evans, the electrician. Because I’m familiar with electrical work, they always come to me, if something goes wrong with a ride; always electrical problems. They got the first Gravitron and the motor was always running very hot. I found out that the voltage was too low for it. I told them to put the generator closer. With the cable shorter, there was no loss of power, and then it ran all right. Then they got the Monster ride and it was the same thing. They had about three or four hundred feet of cable and by the time it got to the ride it didn’t want to run. We brought the generator over and run it directly into the generator and everything works fine.

They have a lot of electronic work and people go in there that don’t know anything about it. They were using CMOS chips, which are very sensitive to power spikes. CMOS chip is good because it’s immune to noise in the line, but if you’re not familiar with it and you’re not grounded and touch it, a little bit of spike blows it up. What they should do, is hold on to a ground before they touch it. I would advise them, “If you don’t know anything, stay away from the computer board. Let somebody who knows it.” All the rides now are using computer boards and 9 out of 10 times, the problem is caused by the ride operator. They don’t know anything about it and they just want to show off that they know something about it, and they go inside, touch this, touch that, and they blow it. They’re not doing the ride owner any favours. They’re making it worse. Whoever’s doing the electronic work, whenever they get to the computer board, it’s a nightmare because we don’t know what’s they’ve done to it. If something goes wrong, they should call the right guy to do the job. They get there, they open the box and know they have to be grounded before they start touching the computer board. Every factory has got their own computer programming. You have to get the specs from the factory. The programming comes on the memory chips. So whenever you want to reprogram it, the factory always sends you the manual and you follow the manual to reprogram it. The factory sends you a manual to troubleshoot and things like that. Most of the time, you use your own common sense to get around it. If you’re familiar with computer work, you can more or less look at it and know how it works, and you trace the trouble.

I’ve been in the carnival business since 1972 and I never look back. I’ve got three girls who’ve grown up in the carnival and they’re all educated. The oldest one is still with the show, selling pizza and ice cream. Her husband is with World’s Finest Shows as a technician. Bill Carter is his name and he’s a top dog. Sandra Carter is my daughter. The other two work with computers. One for Blackberry, she’s a manager of customer service. The other now works in the States for MARS, they’re an advertising company. All the money I make from the carnival went to educate them. I cannot look back. There is a life in the carnival.

I’ve had lots of fun in the carnival business. I used to make lots of fun with people. Like for instance, there was a driver-mechanic for Conklin Shows out west, named Dungie. He used to go to sleep in the truck. We took his boots off and painted one foot black, one foot red. When he gets up he starts screaming. Don’t go to sleep when you’re on the job or people will do something. We work hard and also party hard. We used to have a guy worked for us who would get so drunk. He loved his hair. When he got drunk one day, we shaved it off. He almost killed us.

Those were the good days. Carnies used to stick together in those days, but nowadays I find it’s very different. The new guys come in and want to work short hours. They like the pay, but they don’t like the work. They don’t stick together. It’s not the same as how it used to be. If you had a problem in the old days, someone would help you. We used to have an Indian guy who worked for us who choked himself to death with his false teeth. That was up in Peterborough. We found out that his family couldn’t afford his funeral fee and Pat Marco just went out on the midway with a cap. Next thing, we had so much money that we could afford to buy him a casket and send him home to Sudbury. Nowadays, you die and you’re dead, nobody cares for you. There was lots of times when you work hard and its no fun, but after work, there’s always fun. Nowadays, its so different, everybody’s business, business, business. The boss is after them.

I changed my life many times in the carnival. I used to run the arcade and in 1990 I got rid of it, and my son-in-law took over it. Jim Conklin talked me into selling curly fries. I had them for six years and I couldn’t cut it. So I left and went to the Caribbean on and off for about nine years. Then I started a video game business down there too, in Trinidad. I sold it and I come back and got in the cookhouse business for a couple of years. Then one day six years ago, we were walking out of Jim’s office and he stopped and said, “I want to speak to you in my office tomorrow at nine o’clock.” I went to see him and he talked me back into Conklin Shows.” I had the cookhouse with Homeniuk Shows. Jim talked me into joining him when he was putting Supershows together. So for the past six years, I’ve been doing booking, taking care of the front end. He gave me his cart. We’ve been going for six years, so I think we are doing all right.

My wife looks after the ice cream waffle for Jim and they don’t need me in Ottawa, so Jim talked me into coming here to give my wife a hand. I listen to her complain. Jim is not here, so she has to have someone to complain to. Thank you Mr. Conklin. We brought an office girl here to look after his interests, his games and waffles and whatnot. He’s got some line-up games, Skeeball, cranes and other games.

I met my wife in England. I hung out in the nurses’ hostel too many times. That’s where the girls are. I used to go out with some other girls before I met my wife; she knows them all. She went to Africa. My first and second children have been to Africa. I had a good time in Africa. When you’re there for four years, you can gain some experience of what the country and the people are like.

For instance, I went to Trinidad to visit a friend. I see there’s no video games there. I started to bring container loads there. Next thing I know, I’ve got three hundred odd machines. Then I got rid of them and come back here and start thinking about retiring. Jim talked me out of retiring. He says, “You don’t have to work, but you come out to play.” Lots of aggravation.

I remember, Pat Marco, years ago, when I first joined up in ’73 with the arcade. The carnival business in those days was a very closed-door business. If you are new, they try to push you out. If you put up with it, you’re in. I remember he used set up my arcades not even in the midway. I used to play tricks on him: I still made money. In Peterborough, they cut down a tree to put the arcade there. I was not even near the midway. But I saw there was a racetrack behind the arcade, so I put the front end facing the racetrack. That’s when I started to make money. Pat Marco see me, my arcade was full up, and he was standing there, a cigar in his mouth, nodding his head. The following year, they put an extra concession line in front of the arcade. Then in the Markham fair grounds they put me right opposite the parking lot. I was about 50 or 60 feet away from the midway. They thought I was going to die. But I opened another entrance for the parking lot.

My second year, we were in Burlington, for the first spot, by the refinery there. A big rain comes down and all his PA systems are under the water. He had no choice, he had to look for me to fix his PA systems. One day I fixed about half a dozen and he was so thrilled with it, he gave me a hundred dollars cash for my labour, but I didn’t take it, of course. He’s the lot manager and I didn’t want to get a bad spot again. After that we become friends. They accepted me as a carnie then. Then I got to know Alfie a bit better, got to know everybody a bit better, so we used to understand each other. Then they realized how good I was with the electrical work. Soon they asked me to fix electrical work on the rides. I do it for them for nothing for years. When I was out west I do the same thing, synchronize the generator and all that. I do it for nothing; carnie is carnie, right, you got to help each other.

When Dave Bastido first come out to work in the office, one day they were bugging me to get the rent in. I said, “Look, I haven’t made any money yet.” They wanted it all in paper, but I had lots of coin. Ralph Kelly and Pat Marco were sitting down there and they said, “Take it in.” I took it into the office. Dave said, “No, no, we don’t take hard.” I said, “OK, you’ll have to wait.” He said, “I’ll wait.” When I come out of the office, Pat Marco and Ralph Kelly see me coming out and waved me to come over. I went over and Pat said, “He doesn’t want to take it?” Pat opened it up and broke up all the rolls of nickels and dimes and quarters, mixed them all up and put them back in the bag. “Take it to the office,” he said. I took it back there. Dave started to tell me off. I said, “Look, the manager said you have to accept it.” He had to count it all over again.

Pat did a lot of other things to my guys. They were all concerned with girls, but I cannot put them down on paper. He was a nice guy; I respected him. I still go and visit his wife, Dottie. My wife and me go and visit her when we have time. I’m 71 now and still a carnie. Off-season, I give Jim a hand with booking. Edna, myself, Jane Tremblay, we all do booking. Jim gives us advice, what to do, what not to do. I’m learning.

He’s a great guy to work with. He’s still teaching me how to lay out the lot. He said to me one time, “Lay out the way you think is right. Never mind what people tell you. Nobody likes your layout anyhow. Lay it out, put the show up, go and make money, that’s it. Don’t worry about what people say about it. They don’t like your layout, too bad.” He told me not to worry about what people criticize about you. If he tells me to change it I do: he signs the pay cheque. He calls the shots.

He’s a nice guy. I’m getting to him a bit better as the days go by. Before I don’t know him that much, but now I work with him directly for six years, I understand him quite a bit. He’s a very kind-hearted person. If he likes you, he’d take his pants off for you. If you get on his wrong side, forget about it. Even my wife, she told him, “That’s it. I’m not coming out again.” He had a way to come to her and get her back working. I think he’s a ladies’ man, he knows how to talk to them. That’s one of the things I learned from him: people get mad at you, tell them to take a rest. Talk to them later when they cool down. I’m 71, but I still have a very bad temper. I cannot talk to people. People not nice to me, I whack ’em. Then they say, “I would not hit you back, you’re an old man, I respect you.” I say, “If you respect me, you would not say those words to me. So you got whacked and now you say you respect me.”

I been here since 1972 and brought up three children, have three grandchildren. Pay for everything and don’t owe anybody any money. I can go to sleep with no worries. I don’t have to think where I’m going to find the next dollar. I’ve done my share and worked very hard. During the western road show, I worked hard, from ’76 to ’80. In ’78 Jim bought out my arcade, but then I used to drive too. I used to have an A driver’s license. They used to ask me to drive for them when they were short a driver.

After that I dropped my A driver’s license. Now, when the snow flies, I drive a snowplough on highways 403, 6 and 8. I keep myself busy, otherwise I sit down in front of the TV and feel miserable. When there’s no snow, I sit in the office and make phone calls. I live out in the country outside Brantford. When Jim bought me out, I bought a country house. Nobody wanted to live in that area, but now it’s all built up. Now, my taxes have gone up and I protest.

The carnival life, whether it’s good or bad depends on what you want to do. If you come out here, and smoke up and party, without looking after yourself in the pocket, you shouldn’t be a carnie. Nothing wrong with carnival people, we’re a different breed. At least they’re not on welfare. They work a lot of hours and then are entitled for unemployment. At least they don’t go on welfare. It’s very hard now to find somebody who will put up with the hours, the living conditions, and everything. But when I first joined up in the carnival business, I see people sleeping in the possum belly, in the trucks, in the rides, wherever they can put their heads down. But nowadays, all the guys that come out to work want a bunk, want a shower, want running hot and cold water, and a toilet to go with it. I remember in those days, you wouldn’t even have a toilet, you’d go in the bush. You wouldn’t have toilet paper, you’d get a stick. Now you have to give them all that, or they wouldn’t come out to work with you. The conditions for carnival people have improved a lot.

This is up north here, I don’t know about down south. I don’t have too much experience with the carnival business in the south, on the States side. I did go down there a couple of times with Lawrence Carr Shows. I travelled with them a couple of times down south. I didn’t like it, so I came back. I would never go back down there anymore. That would have been the early ’70s.

Now, we get older, we just look back on it and laugh at it. At the time it was not very funny. When you hear the guys talking about the old times, you know the old carnies, we sit back. Billy Watson, myself, and all these other people, you know that we are getting old.

Mr. Conklin, he knows that I’m more geared for business. When I took over in the CN Tower, they were all black-and-white TV games. I said, “Hey, this arcade’s obsolete.” So I upgraded and they made all kinds of money. I took over in 1979. In ’78 he bought me, then I started working for him here and there, then he asked me to take over the arcade in the CN Tower. I looked into the operation there and saw they were behind times. So I got Space Invaders, colour TVs, Pac Man, pinball and all that. Then the arcade picked up. The CN Tower people wanted a change, so they took the location from him and wouldn’t renew the lease. That was in ’86 or sometime around then. Alfie would remember when they lost the lease. Then they put in a space simulator.

The arcade business is not the same as what it used to be. I remember when I first came in the country in ’72 and all the games were running on nickels and dimes. I think I was the first one to convert them into quarters and everybody laughed at me. But they still played, even at a quarter a game. There was another guy with an arcade, Donald Fielding. He had an arcade side-by-side with us. When I converted my arcade into a quarter arcade, they said, “Oh, he’s going to go into the welfare office.” But I got all the latest modern games. So when I looked over at their arcade, it was always empty and mine was always packed. They had old-fashioned games.

Even in here, this waffle ice cream, I think Patty Conklin brought this thing in here. People remember, they used to come and buy a waffle for a quarter, I don’t know how long ago that is. An old man came up to me with a walking stick, with a quarter, and he says, “Can I buy a waffle for a quarter.” I said, “Sir, if you’ve got a silver quarter, I’m going to give you a waffle. I remember those days of silver quarters. If you have a silver quarter I’ll give you a waffle.” He says, “Where am I going to find one?” I said, “There you go. Where you going to get a waffle for a quarter?” He laughed and said he had done that just for a joke. Then he bought a waffle for three dollars.

People come up to me and say, “Oh, I’m glad somebody still keeps the tradition.” There are not many people who do that. In the food building, everybody with their ice cream cups with strawberry jam, fruit, they’re not tradition. I heard a little bit of conversation with Jim. His father brought the idea from New York. I had a couple in here the other day and they said, “What is this?” I said, “This is an idea that originally came from New York.” He said, “I’m from New York and never heard of it.” I said, “We Canadians stole your idea and we kept it, so now better try it.” They bought two and sat down and enjoyed it. They said, “Damn Yankees got very good idea.” I said, “Damn Canadians they clever too, they stole all your ideas.” I kept the tradition too.

The CNE have a lot of people copy us, but they’re not the same. People complain, the price is too high. They use waffles they put in the toaster, but we make it right in front of their face. There’s another couple of guys, used to work with Jim, they copy us too, but they can’t beat us. It’s different ingredients. My wife learned how to adjust the ingredients to the old time batter mix. This year we couldn’t get it, so we had to get it from Robin Hood, batter mix for pancakes. My wife adds oil and vanilla and makes them taste like the old ones. Jim hasn’t put his price up. I suggested he put the price up, he says no. He wants the tradition and doesn’t care about the price. Sell it low, you get the volume and you end up with the same.

He knows what he’s doing. I think he is very tradition-minded. Even the Supershows is very traditional. I told him, “Supershows started out with eight, nine rides. It’s supposed to be a family show. Now you’ve got 14 pieces more or less like the original show I joined up with, just as big.” Now I’ve become like Pat Marco, one of the oldest guys in that Supershows. Jim spends lots of time with that show. He keeps it going quite well.

He’s always on top of us. He’s good at it. Every year he changes rides. Every week he’s on top of us to aggravate us so we do a better job. He told Dave McKelvey, “I’ve got to get him going otherwise he won’t do a good job.”

I’m at booking [at] supershows.ca. It comes straight to my Blackberry. It’s handy. I make my report to Jim every day. He likes it. It keeps him working. Oh look at that. Somebody just sent me an e-mail, “Full erection, no prescription required. Only $2.99 per dose.” Where they get my address, I don’t know. I send things to print at home, to jim-kong@excite.com.

Since we took over waffle ice cream, last year was our best year. This year we are down. The layout is no good. Too many food booths down here. Evenings are very cool down here and they don’t’ want ice cream. Old Chinese saying, “The bigger the pot, the more crust down there.” Fewer items to sell, less overhead. Jim likes that: “You and your Chinese quotations, again.” He always laughs at me because when I want to buy something, I always bargain. He says, “This is your nature.” I say, “No, its our culture.” Now he says, “Go and negotiate booking and use your Chinese culture, bargain with them.” He’s got a Chinese guy who works for him out in California and I remind Jim of him. Everything must be bargained for. We love to bargain.

In Africa, when I started casino, I get to know some of the commanding officers. They introduced me to the tax revenue people and the licensing people. I go there, say I want this, I want that, and I always got it. I used to do bootlegging in Africa. During the civil war in Nigeria, they used to seize a lot of imported whisky and brandy. I get to know the commanding officer and just before Christmas, all the Europeans who work over there they want to have something good. I used to go to the commanding officer and say, “You’ve got lots of seized whisky. Can I buy it from you?” He says, “Yeah, how much you going to pay me?” I say, “How much you want?” He says, “Five dollars.” I say, “I don’t have five dollars, I’ll give you three.” He says, “How many cases you need?” I says, “Load up the van out there.” I took it to the foreigners club and sell it for $15 a bottle. Had to be cash. That’s how I make some money and I took my money back and paid for my house. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Good money in Africa, but I didn’t like it very much because, first of all, my kids were growing up and it was primitive, not very hygienic. Every three months, you have malaria coming up, then another three months, you have meningitis coming up, another three months, yellow fever coming up. You get scared. So I sent my kids home but then I didn’t see them very much. It was time to go.

I go to the Canadian consulate and did a bit of research to find out what was going on. When I came here in ’72, in the snowstorm I see people walking backwards. So I said to a guy I met in the restaurant, “Canadians are very funny people. They’re out there walking backwards.” He said, “Why don’t you go out and find out?” So I went out there. I came back and say, “I know why. The snow is hitting the face.” Every country you go to you experience something new.

When I came up from Malaysia, in the tropical countries nobody takes hot shower, hot bath. The first time I went to England, I was in the train for two days and I was a bit stinky. When I get to my friend’s place, I said, “I want to have a bath.” He said, “You have to put money in the gas meter to warm up the water.” I said, “I don’t need that.”

They didn’t say anything to me; they just see what I do. So I walk in there, turn the water tap on, fill up the bathtub. I put my foot in it and whoops. I wet my face, wet my hair, pretend I have bath and came out. They said, “You have your bath?” I said, “Oh yeah, it’s all right. I feel good now.” He said, “You lie. You couldn’t even get into the water.” After that, I put the pennies in.

Bernard Shows, they called the Barnyard Shows. That’s the show that John Homeniuk sold to Jim. Then he went off and started on his own. A few years ago he got rid of it and joined his son, Randy. He’s got a few rides and played here and there. This year, he says, “I’m retired, that’s it, done.” He’ll be back. What’s he going to do? We get old and don’t work, your body turns into a veggie. I keep myself busy. Maybe work for another year for Jim, I don’t know. Seven years’ itch.

I feel like I know Patty all my life because of all the stories people tell me. But I know Jim quite well. He’s quite a guy. He looked like a movie star when he was younger.

When I first met Barry out west, he called me an asshole. I was setting up and you need the truck around you for all the parts and everything. He comes over and says, “I want the truck moved.” I say, “Get the fuck out of here. Who you think you are?” Then he gets mad at me and he told me where to go. Later, when he got to know me, he says, “You’re not as bad as I think you are.” Now we work together. That’s just my way.

I’m like that. Anywhere I go in the world, if anybody is rude to me, I whack him. That’s my way. Otherwise how can I travel so far away? When I was in England, I worked for a computer company for a couple of years and when the union joined up, I said no. I don’t work for union, I’m not a communist. I like to work, I like to make money, I like to have luxury items. I used to ride Harley-Davidson, MG sports car, things like that because I work for them. I work hard. I work Saturday, Sunday, I get all the overtime I need. Then when I got married, I had to sell all those things.

After the computer firm, then I worked for a newsprint company. They sent me out to do service. I remember a funny incident. I went to repair jukeboxes; I went in there, the jukebox is turned off to cool down. When I turned it back on, everything works. So I cleaned all the ventilation out. Then the guy goes to change the records and threw all the schematics and everything on the ventilation and block it up. So another service call for no reason; a thermal problem. So I put a very nasty note in there: “Do not leave any fucking garbage on this ventilation outlet.”

The next mechanic sees it and he took it to the boss. The boss calls me up and says, “Why you write all these bad words in the jukeboxes?” I said, “Inside the jukebox, the public don’t see it. Only the guy who goes inside sees it. Now they know, they shouldn’t leave anything on the ventilation outlet. They notice it now, since I write that word. Before, I clean it up, they mess it up. I put the bad word, they get the point.” He looked at me and he laughed, “You’re right. They understand it now. Good old English.” I worked for them for about three months. They promised to send me for training. They brought in 110 volt, 60-cycle jukeboxes from the States, but England was using 250, 50-cycle. So they were going too fast. To slow it down, I put another gear ratio in. But to buy another gear cost a lot of money. So what I did was get all the springs and cut them up and put them on the spindle and see how it goes. The bigger the spindle is the slower it goes. So I cut a few springs and put them on to see the drift. The ear cannot tell the difference. I told the boss, I put a step-up transformer. He listens to it and saw I knew what I was doing. The foreman was jealous of my performance.

Then they put me on collections and all the collections went up. They asked me how I made the collections go up. I said, “When I go to the location, nobody is looking after the change. So I tell the manager, if you look after the change, I give you 10%.” Then the boss got mad and kicked the waste paper basket right across the office. He said, “You’re not doing collections. You call them up, they’re not getting the 10%.” I called them up and all the collections went down. He said, “You’re so clever. You want to run with me? Show me what you can do.” In a month, my section beat his section for collections. He said, “You’re the manager now. Do whatever you want to do.” So I did.

Later on they bought another business and put me on the other business. Most of the games don’t belong to them. They belong to the individuals in there. So I told them that they had to go out. They put the company games in there. He said, “From now on, you’re the senior manager. You’ve taken everything from me.” Those Englishmen, they don’t like that. One by one, they quit. He had to get new staff and he said, “You train them.” I brought in a few people who were my friends. It worked out fine. Then the old-timers, one by one they came back.

I wanted to buy a house. I asked the company to lend me some money. They turned me down. I said, “Bye, bye.” I left them. A couple of months later, three of the directors came to my place. I opened the door and asked them, “You guys come here as friends, or as bosses?” They said, “What’s the difference?” I said, “Boss, you get the hell out of here. Friend, you’re welcome. I don’t have booze for you, but I give you cup of tea.” They said, “We come as friends.” I just bought a house through the London city council, and I don’t have the money to buy furniture. All the time, there was gossip that I was stealing money from them. So they come and they look at the house. I got one chair for my wife, black and white TV sitting on a milk crate, no carpet; a little heater in one room. In the kitchen I have no fridge, just a gas cooker. No furniture anyplace. I asked, “Do you want to see upstairs?” There’s one bed and one baby cot in one room.

We came down and they said, “We want to see you tomorrow morning.” I say, “What for?” They say, “We want to talk to you.” I went to the office and talked to them. They said, “How can you live like that? No furniture, no carpet, no heating system, how can you keep a family like that?” I said, “That’s all I can afford.” Then they realized, I didn’t steal from them.” They said, “We want you to go back to work.” One of the directors, he’s an Englishman who doesn’t like foreigner. He was one that picked up the key and threw it across the table. He said, “Go back to work.” I said, “No. Once I quit, if I come back, it wouldn’t be the same. I don’t want it to be like that. When I quit, I quit. If I come back, there’s gossip in there that say I’m desperate to come back to work for you.”

So I went to work for this company in Africa. They treat me good. They give me a nice bungalow, a Mercedes 280 to drive, seven servants to look after my family. I’m like a king out there. I just go and tell them people what to do, train people how to fix games. My house in England, I let my friends stay in it, I don’t even lease it. I go through bootlegging. Go back there, I pay for the house. Then I don’t owe anybody money. I didn’t like Africa, so I come over here. Over here I work for Neil Ruben for six months, then we become partners for seven years.

Then Jim bought us out and I end up working for him for two years full-time. The rest of the time he give me expenses, like a consultant, look after the CN Tower. I spend as little time as possible there, just work there for a little bit. Then he give me back the arcade at no cost. We sold the western one, got the money back for him. The rest, he say, “Take it out. Do whatever you want to do.” I stay back and help them repair whatever they need to repair. Alfie got to know me quite well then. I deal with Alfie directly then. When Jamieson took over, he wanted to increase my rent. I go to see Alfie. I say, “They gonna increase my rent. They want to charge me for house trailer parking too. That’s OK with me, because from now on, if they need me to do something, it be $125 an hour.” He say, “Why?” I say, “I’m a licensed electrician, don’t forget.” He said, “We don’t want to increase your rent, we don’t charge you for the house trailer. Stay where you are.” I say, “OK.” After that, 1990, I got rid of the arcade; my son-in-law took over. Then Jim talked me into selling curly fries. I couldn’t get along with certain people, names I’m not going to mention. So I left Conklin Shows completely. I went to the Caribbean.

I come back, run into Jim. I’m back in there again. Everybody go back to Conklin Shows. Sooner or later they be back. Once we work in Conklin Shows, we’re trained like a homing pigeon. They can go away, but they always fly back.

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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