Beginning about age 11 my parents let me use their lawnmower to mow the neighbors’ lawns but it became an issue with my father about splitting the money and with my mother about wearing out the equipment. So when I was 13 I bought my own 22” from Sam Emanuel who had a hardware store on upper Main; the cost $64 paying half down and a portion every week from my lawn-mowing route. Sam got to know a lot more about my finances that he ever expected because I would stop in several times a week to update him on my jobs and payments. When the bill was paid off at the end of summer I never had a reason to go back except a year or two later when the muffler needed to be replaced. We spoke for about an hour and I realized I had made a good impression on him by how I had handled my payments. In truth it was easy. My parents were always clear that promises made are promises to be kept. Throughout my entire life this has been a given.
So, come summer, I would have money in my pocket and the biggest July-August event, the carnival, upcoming.
These fairs and the occasional circus would arrive by truck on Tuesdays, take shape on Wednesdays and be underway on Thursdays, early enough for exchanges of opinions about “what’s good this year?” If the weather held there would be good crowds. If not a smaller crowd would be wearing slickers. Come Sunday while we slept in, the fair would wrap up and move on – leaving impressionable kids with memories to last a lifetime.
The event, sponsored by the fire department, was kind of tacky in the daylight but splendid at night when the bright lights set off the imagination. In the daylight the Dive Bomber, a two-seat affair for fifty cents that flung its riders from here to hell and back looked beaten up and intimidating. At night it just looked scary. Early on I saw it as an IQ test. Years later I heard it was involved in a terrible accident. They should have called it the Death Wish.
There were also the baby-rides. This isn’t what the carnival folk called them but my friends did. There were also games of chance including one run by the fire department one year that was intended to be level but was canted prompting the excited to bet their limited fortunes on the possibilities in one far corner where the ball inevitably landed.