“This is as far as we go.”
There is something terribly sad and agonizingly painful when a once proud and mighty show comes to the end of the rails.
You can see it coming if you have had the experience and know what to look for. Money for repairs and replacement parts dries up. Vehicle and ride maintenence becomes a minimal amount of ‘patching up’. Paint fades and peels and, little by little, the lights wink out and the once beautiful midway begins to look haggard, worn out and old. The Midway Lights Go Out
This business is not like any other normal, run of the mill business…it’s a way of life, a homestead. The great names that were instrumental in forging this unique amusement experiment have, for the most part, had their ‘seasons in the sun’ and disappeared from the landscape.
I guess it’s inevitable that things change with time. Technology advances for better or worse, laws change or are enacted that profoundly affect us all and personal relationships are created or dissolved. Time moves on. The driving human force behind the creation of the show inevitably grows old and passes away and their heirs, if they have any, are ill suited to continue. Or maybe the owners simply got tired, and with the onset of advanced age, made unsound business decisions. Maybe they were just overtaken by time. Who can really say. They’re all gone now and there are only a few people left to tell their stories without bias. I find the long, colorful history of these great shows and the interesting men who forged them from nothing, a thing of intense fascination.
But I can tell you from personal experience that for those caught up in the drama of the death of a big show it is excruciating on many levels. People spent entire generations on these shows, raised families and watched their children grow up, marry in the business and have children of their own.
Then one day, almost without warning, they found themselves homeless and jobless after decades of living in their reliable, stable environment. It was all they had ever known for all of their adult lives and in what amounted to an instant it was over. The close friends that they had known all their lives suddenly just drifted away forever like smoke on the wind.
Many of these folks were too old to find another show even if they had wanted to. They had older skills that were not in demand. They had expected to die of old age on these shows, surrounded by their friends and their families. They were heartbroken. A few drifted over to other shows but the business was rapidly changing in many ways. In time they retired to Gibtown or other small towns throughout America where most of them have passed quietly away bequeathing nothing more than a few faded, creased and unsigned photographs that leave us guessing at who they were.