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When the carnival came to town

Country Roads

July 30, 2012
Arvid Huisman ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

It was about this time of the year when the carnival came to our town in the late '50s. There was a large open lot east across the street from the school in Jewell at that time and that's where the carnival set up.

We lived less than a block up the street from the carnival grounds. The open area was covered in tall grass which the carnival operator had cut. He then hired neighborhood kids to rake up the cuttings before they set up the rides, games and concessions.

Late in the morning, just hours before the rides began operating, the carnival boss paid us kids for our work. In addition to about five dollars in cash, he gave each us a generous handful of tickets for rides.

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Frankly, I would have done the work for ride tickets only but the cash was a wonderful bonus.

I recall getting my "pay" and heading home for dinner. The noon meal was the largest of the day in our family and it was dinner not lunch.

For reasons that will become clear in a moment, I remember this meal. Beef roast, potatoes and gravy and a vegetable; I'm sure there was a dessert, too.

More than full I pushed away from the table and headed directly for the carnival grounds. For an 11-year-old boy there is nothing better than going to the carnival with a pocket full of money and a handful of ride tickets.

First stop - the cotton candy vendor. I loved cotton candy in those days.

While picking away at the pink fluffy candy, I walked around to take inventory of all the ride opportunities. Cotton candy consumed, I stopped by the snow cone vendor for a cooler.

The swings looked fun and that's what I chose for my first ride of the day. Round-and-round we went. It was fun. I assume that it was because the crowd was still rather light that the ride went on longer than normal.

My memory gets cloudy here. I recall riding on some other amusements but I can't remember the specifics.

I do remember my final ride of the day. I loved the Ferris wheel and got in line to ride.

The Ferris wheel operator put me in a car between two big kids - guys about to go into ninth grade, as I recall. I knew these guys and to this about-to-be-a-sixth-grader they seemed closer to being Eddie Haskells than Wally Cleavers.

Soon all the cars were loaded and the Ferris wheel began revolving at full speed. The big guys began rocking the car forward and back. I didn't feel safe and the motion wasn't comfortable. At one point I asked the guys to stop rocking the car. They just laughed at me.

Another couple of revolutions and I began feeling the effects of motion on a stomach full of roast beef, potatoes and gravy, cotton candy and a snow cone. Again I asked the big guys to quit rocking the car. They seemed to enjoy my distress and rocked even harder.

I remember coming over the top of the wheel and shouting at the operator as we passed by: "Stop this thing" He just stared at me.

A revolution later he got the message. I vomited. On the Ferris wheel car. On myself. And on the big guys.

Another 360 degrees and he had the big wheel stopped. I was humiliated and the big guys were furious. "Stupid kid" was the nicest thing I recall hearing.

I exited the car and ran toward home where Mom helped me clean up. The rest of the afternoon was spent on the couch with an upset stomach.

Worst of all, a partial fistful of ride tickets went unused.

Several years passed before I tried riding a Ferris wheel again. Though the outcome was just an upset stomach, I decided that was enough. I haven't been on another Ferris wheel since.

Unfortunately, I also discovered that I don't do well on most other amusement rides. I used to love the Octopus and the Tea Cups. After the Great Day of Regurgitation I get nauseous on those rides, too.

It been more than 50 years since the Ferris wheel incident but I vividly remember when the carnival came to town.



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