Tuesday, August 21

Fun of the Fair.

When my brother & I were kids, our mother had to work, as our parents were divorced. Our father eventually remarried, & had another family, so there was never enough money for him to support us as well as his second family.

I remember once, being angry at the injustice of it, & asking my mother why she didnt go to the police to make them get the money off him. She rightly pointed out, that he only had so much money, & if he couldnt pay, he might have to go to jail, & what use would that be? Two families would be without money. And the fact that there were 6 children in the second family probably made money pretty tight for them, too.

And though I was quite young, I could see the logic in that, & never mentioned it again. And to be fair to our mother, she was a very good provider for us. We never went without. We always had shoes, nice clothes, & plenty of food. There was always money for school excursions & books pencils etc.

Admittedly, there was the help of our Grandmother. We lived with her, & my Grandfather until he died when I was about 8. Our Grandmother was always there when we came home from school, & always there in the mornings when we left for school. We always had school lunches, & wonderful meals cooked by our Grandmother. Or, when she got a chance, our mother would cook.

She once made a banana cake for my brother's birthday. The only thing wrong with that was, my brother hated bananas, cake & all, & it made his toungue itch. So, he never did get a cake that year. And we have laughed about it ever since. I dont remember her ever cooking me a cake, but then I probably wouldnt have minded much. I preferred savoury things even as a child.

Our mother used to look forward to when she had time off, & could take us out, & it would be just the 3 of us. At Christmas & New Year there would be a Fun Fair at a Beach near the little town where we lived. And she would take us over in the evening to listen to the music at the Sound Shell.

The Sound Shell was a large, shell shaped edifice built specially for the festivities, with a stage, with steps & it was shaped to amplify the sound, & there would be singing contests, Beauty contests, & Raffles, & next to it, there was a Side Show Alley. With a Ferris Wheel, & huge rides with swinging metal seats, suspended on long chains, the went way, way, out when the ride began, & scared the hell out of everyone! I think it may have been called the Ocotopus. I am sure my brother will remember!

Or the Ocotopus may have been another ride from a slightly later era, where the chairs were on the ends of long 'tentacles' of steel, & they went around as well as up & down, as the ride progressed. There was usually a good reason the barriers were set far away. Flying snacks could be seen being involuntarily 'tossed' as the ride went on, faster & faster.

And there were the small Carousels, with the mysterious painted ponies, that went up & down, for the younger children, or the more timid, such as myself.

I loved those wonderful wooden, painted ponies, with real horse hair manes & tails, & they all seemed to have personalities to me, & to this day, I have a love for Carousels. And I loved the clanking music they played as the rides whirled around.

We would take rugs with us, & some cushions, as seating round the Sound Shell was strictly ground only. And because it was so close to the beach, the grass would be dry, & it was a tussocky, prickly grass that grows in the sandy beach soil. So a rug was a luxury, or a necessity, if you were allergic to the grass prickle.

And we would take raffle tickets, with little luck. Though one evening, we just had this sudden feeling we would win, & we were arguing about who had to go to collect the prize, when they called our number. The people around us looked at us as if we had 3 heads each! And I unwillingly slunk up to recieve the prize, which was a towel! Most prizes were at least 2 towels, but ours was only one! We felt a little cheated.

And the singing contests could be very painful affairs. The total lack of talent of some contestants was truly cringeworthy, & I always felt sorry for them when the heartless crowd booed them off the stage. And once there was a group who sang "That'll Be the Day" - sang it flatly & droningly, & no one had ever heard it before, & booed them off. Later we learned it was a new Buddy Holly hit, & of course when he sang it, it sounded nothing like the version of the hapless young boys.

And there were the usual laughing Clowns, in the Side Show Alley, with ping pong balls to put down their gaping mouths, & darts for cards, & guns, & soft balls to throw at targets. And the prizes were crappy, but somehow they seem so much better than the current day prizes at such side show allies. I still have a pair of pottery egg cups that are supposedly now worth about $20 each to collectors! And even the little Kewpie dolls on the sticks are said to now be collectors items.

And there were the snack vans with their odious Hot Dogs. These were saveloys, on a stick, dipped in a heinous yellow thick batter, & then deep fried in fat. And then they were dipped in thick tomato sauce & poked through a serviette when you bought them. Or put into a paper bag. I can only remember eating- or partially eating- one in my life. The huge lumps of gristle made it most unattractive to me, & later when I learned what they may contain, I was very glad I was not a fan.

And many a chundered hot dog could be seen in the vicinity of the Ferris Wheel & the flying chained chairs!

And the popcorn, & magical Fairy Floss, which always seemed impossible. I think it may be called Candy Floss in America. It is spun sugar, & always seemed to be pink. I think it might still be pink?

And the Beauty Contests, which were supposedly won by the roars of the crowd. those poor girls standing cowering on view, with skimpy bathing suits. No question, it was the body alone that won them the Quest! Never mind intelligent conversation or any other skill. You dont look good in a bathing suit? Forget it!

What! You are the Mayor's lumpy, plain daughter? Well,,,, "For gosh sakes can someone talk the lump-of-lard out of entering?" "Well hell, I dont know! Say it is too late...there are too many entrants...., anything,... she will be booed for sure." " He likes a drink, get him sloshed & maybe he won't notice!"
"Hell, I know, we'll use her to present the prizes!! We can pretend she cant enter because of who her father is!" "Brilliant! Problem solved."

These were the days when there was no such thing as Political Correctness! Girls bodies were there to be ogled, & everyone knew that was how it was!

The loud music, the warm night air, the smell of the sea & the sand. If I close my eyes I can still see it all from the young teen's perspective. I can still hear the music of the Carousel, the spruikers shouting for custom. So exciting, & the laughter & music seemed a portent of good times to come. And the rest of my life, waiting to begin.

Buddy Holly Peggy Sue.


Tanya said...

You always have such interesting posts and I'm amazed at all the details you can remember from your past. I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday! You paint such an easy picture to see!

tracey petersen said...

Chundered hot dog?!? Man, I could live a happy life never hearing about that again!
Your mum was a pioneer. How hard she must have worked at a time when it wasn't easy for a woman to bring up her family alone.

joyce said...

Your post reminded me of all the fairs we went to in our nearest town. I longed to try Candy Floss and when I did I was bitterly disappointed. It was like eating pure sugar.

Aunty Evil said...

Ahh Meggie, the Pluto Pups. Those horrid saveloys on a stick. I never did like those!

Loved the fairy floss though. I remember the ride called the Cha Cha, which flicked you backwards and forwards across the area. Not a good idea after the Pluto Pup and fairy floss though!

CONNIE W said...

Meggie, Fun post, takes me back a few years too. The spun sugar treat is called Cotton Candy here and now comes in blue or pink, and even sometimes is sold in bags at stores (yuck). We had a ride called the Octopus that was black and had the up/down, spin-around seats but I was never going to ride that thing! I loved the Tilt-A-Whirl which was an unlovely ride that made my neck feel like it would jerk backwards (yet I rode it!) and another ride that I did enjoy but can't recall the name, and the Ferris Wheel that I rode back then but won't now because I dislike heights. Too I remember the cupie dolls on a stick/cane as well as the plaster figurines given as prizes in the game booths which I could never win. Our county fairs did then, and still do, sold snacks called Nutty Bars which are ice cream on a stick, dipped into chocolate and covered with nuts, Lemon Shake-Ups, individually made lemonades in big cups by, obviously, adding the ingredients and then shaking until well mixed, and lastly the salt water taffy made right there. Plenty of sugar to go around for everyone.

Stomper Girl said...

I sympathise with your banana-hating brother

sheoflittlebrain said...

meggie, you so take me back in time..the county fair..complete with carnival .. the lights of the rides against the night sky, and the screams of the riders..

Lucy said...

Oh I loved this one Meggie! Just a great, beautifully stitched together story, all the wonderful joyful bits of growing up and all the yuk and difficult bits all in there together, just how it is.
And that's right about your amazing memory!

ancient one said...

I could pass up the "Cotton Candy" but I always got a candied apple on a stick. Those things could practically pull your teeth out. Seven children in my family, so not much riding. Mostly walking around and enjoying everything that was free. We all got to ride the carasell which we called "hobby horses" once.

Thanks for the memories!!

Wizened Wizard said...

Great, vivid memories, Meggie. It sounds as though your mother was a wise woman, and no doubt a hard-working one.

I love the ending: "So exciting, & the laughter & music seemed a portent of good times to come. And the rest of my life, waiting to begin."

But... haven't you noticed? Girls' bodies are still being ogled... ; )

bec said...

I love your stories so much, Meggie, and am so very glad the blogosphere lets you share them with us.

leslie said...

Well, I just discovered you because YOU discovered ME, so thought I'd pop over to check your blog out. It's wonderful - and I, too, can relate to the fairs. Our big PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) is on now and maybe I'll do a post about it.

bluemountainsmary said...

Meggie - like Tanya said - you tell your stories so clearly that it is like going to the movies - I have pictures in my head all the time when I am reading your posts -

crafty said...

I don't know how you did it, but you even managed to make the chundered hotdogs sound poetic.

Bren said...

They didn't have funnel cake when we were kids did they?
It sounds like your mom was a terrific lady who loved you and your brother very much. Thank God for Grandmas, huh!?

Ali Honey said...

Yes Meggie, much of that is very familar. A&P Shows had the same type of actractions and food.

Your Mum amd Grandparents did well...they helped shape you into a fun caring eloquent person!

The Sagittarian said...

What a great memory! I love your posts, so interesting and detailed. Love the photos too. Enjoy your day!

My float said...

Oh, another beautiful post. I can smell that pluto pup! Hear that carnival music! See the clowns. What marvellous images you conjure up.

Henri said...

Tofee Apples too ? Meggie ?,
I never minded the Hot Dogs - Loved the Candy Floss , The Octopus Ride scared the hell out of me too ! I can not recall the name of the ride with the little chairs on chains -- only that that seemed terrifying as well & the screams of those on it bloodcurdling . Loved the Ferris wheel and being able to see forever over the harbour and beyond - even at night .I agree about the sounds , smells sights and tates -- Wonderous ! Most of all the great feeling of having you and Mary there too to share it . You are right she was a wonderful mother & friend.
Poor Mary never lived that banana cake down really did she ? I think she did actually make me a lovely ginger one to make up for it -- I never cared too much anyhow .