Curator’s Corner

Venice Beach Freakshow And AMC Visits The Museum

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Today was a fun day at the museum. I had a chance to make many wonderful and unusual new friends.

We taped our segment, showing the cast and crew around the museum, for the upcoming episode of ‘ Venice Beach Freakshow ‘ this morning. Saturday is the taping date for the ‘big show’ on stage and the crew is busy setting up the stage and top for the grand performance. I can’t wait!

These guys were like kids in a candy store, seeing all the exhibits , artifacts and photographs we have. They are, for the most part, young people and I was struck with their enthusiasm for preserving the history of this business.

As I often tell people “All that we preserve in this generation is all we’ll ever be able to save”. Abandoned artifacts deteriorate, get hauled to the curb by uncaring relatives when we die, or sold off on E-Bay to provide trendy decor for some senseless boutique.

There will be precious little left in a few years.

They get it…And that gives me hope for all our grandchildren who may one day, many years from now, be curious to know just what made this insanely wonderful business that is for the most part, already just a memory, so addictive to so many of us.

They understand… it’s worth preserving.


alt=""The great thing about being involved with the Showmen’s Museum is the people you get to meet. I have had the the great pleasure of meeting some of the coolest folks of all ages that have contributed to our business and it’s history in too many ways to count. The younger generation that came to visit us impressed me. I hope this business can survive the perilous path the future is laying out before them because there is a real and genuine enthusiasm in this generation who have that same indomitable spirit that so many of the early pioneers of the road held fast to. My hope for the future of our lifestyle was redeemed by having the good fortune to have met them and see that spark in their eyes when they talked about it and their keen interest in our colorful history. The best part of this job is sharing the jackpots. I have had my little digital recorder on in my top pocket, hidden away and have captured some stories and history that may never get told again due to the age of some of these great folks. For example I offer a wonderful couple that I met that some of you guys may already know, Grant and Gail Simmons.alt=""These two special people operate a Root Beer truck on the midways throughout the north eastern corridor. Not just ANY root beer truck, mind you, but a wonderfully preserved 1937 Ford with a genuine root beer barrel that dates back to the early 1900’s. They go out in June and come back in October just as they have for decades and make their delicious brew by hand from their own recipe. I’m told it’s just about the closest thing to heaven you can taste. The thing that impressed me was that they will soon celebrate their birthdays. He will be a mere 76 years old and she will see 75 this year. They hold hands like teenagers as they talk and recount the history they have lived through. She smiles at him with her impish grin and I can feel a sense of the love they have shared for so long. She asks me, shyly if I think we would be interested in having the Root Beer truck as part of the museum collection when they pass on. “We don’t plan on retiring any time soon” they quickly add, “but we know we can’t do this forever and we told the Coleman family we would be on their show when they celebrate their centennial in 2015. After that we may take some time off. Do you think you could find any room in here for something like this?” I smile at these gentle and loving people, humbled by the fact they would even consider donating this priceless treasure to us and reply “Even if we have to knock a wall out to make it fit”


alt=""Jane and her son James Roy came down for the Trade Show with their antique ‘Fiddle Sticks’ ice cream joint, a most welcome donation to our wonderful Showmen’s Museum. “Would you be interested in having it?” she inquired. I jumped at it. It may seem, to the uninitiated, to be just a small, run of the mill booth, the kind you might run across at almost any fair or celebration but, like all the pieces in our collection, it has a wonderful story to recount to those who take the time to listen. If this little stand could talk, oh what tales it would tell ! Built in the 1930’s, it is a real piece of “Americana” that has been run by the Pope family for generations. How many thousands of midways has this tiny stand set on, serving this unique, gooey and delicious frozen treat to millions of children and adults throughout the years? The photos only give us a glimpse of it’s wonderful history. In one we see the first show business generation of the Pope family serving up this frozen delight to to the public, many who would taste it’s chocolate, nutty covered goodness for the very first time in their lives. In the other we see Jane’s husband, Jimmy, passing the same delicious treat across the counter in the late 1940’s to a gentleman in a fine suit, tailored for the times. Jimmy’s hair is dark and thick under the paper hat he wears, his jaunty sideburns long, his features youthful and if you look closely you can see the promise of the future reflected in his sparkling eyes.alt="" Jane’s eyes mist over as she recounts to me some of the history she and her husband shared together with this little stand. I put my arm around her shoulder to somehow alleviate a small degree of the pain she feels from the passing of her husband and best friend, Jimmy. I know my small gesture will be ineffective but I want my friend to know I understand her pain from my own personal experience. But just as quickly, she remembers a happy memory from their past and her warm smile returns to light up her beautiful face again as she tells me about it. She is a strong woman with a warm and wonderful heart and I feel honored to count her and her son, James Roy as friends. I was lucky to be able to count Jimmy as my friend too and when I pass beyond that final curtain, I hope he is one of the first guys I get to sit across the cookhouse table with on that big midway on the other side because he always had some of the best jackpots to share and they all seemed to end with that distinctive chuckle of his. You see, the point is, that there are no small or insignificant pieces under the museum’s big top. Together they all form a culmination of who we were, what we did and contribute to the tapestry of a colorful lifestyle that almost defies logical description. People like Jimmy and Jane Pope, Jimmy’s daddy and his grandson, James Roy are a part of all the countless others who are represented here by the tiny ice cream stands, window cards and other valuable bits and pieces in this tremendous collection we are so lucky to have assembled. By their tangible contributions, these people are the ones who will tell the story to future generations, yet to come, of what made this unique lifestyle so addictive to those of us who had the great, good fortune to have been a small part of it. Because I genuinely believe that what we manage to save now, in this generation, is all we’ll ever save. The clock is ticking our historical treasure away now at an ever increasing pace. Collectors who care only about the intrinsic value of these items will gladly sell it away to nameless, faceless people, all over the world through the internet for a few bucks. People who will know nothing about it’s true meaning and will care less will see it as nothing more than interesting conversation pieces to adorn their living rooms, trendy boutiques or greasy restaurants with. And the ravages of time and the simple ignorance of those who are called upon to reluctantly settle our estates after we pass away will destroy the rest. How many treasures have we already lost because somebody’s heirs hastily dragged it to the curb as trash, unaware of it’s significance? If you have something, no matter how insignificant you may think it is, that you think should belong here among our collective family heirlooms, give me a call or message me right here on Facebook. Ill make sure you and the items are labeled for history and the items story remembered. Like I did with my wonderful friends Jane and James Roy,  . . .   I’ll jump at it.

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