the Wanderling

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My dad left home at age 16 and never went back nor finish high school. The time was just before the start of the Great Depression and his family was already showing signs of having a hard time. As he told it he felt one less mouth to feed would help. He rode the rails, worked as a carny and a roustabout for a traveling sideshow as part of a circus, and prospected for gold on both sides of the High Sierras and into the Mojave Desert.

One summer, after his roustabout and carny years and fresh from the gold fields flush with cash, my dad met the girl who would become my mother in the then small southern California beach community of Redondo Beach, she visiting there for the summer with her mother and younger sister. A year and a half later they were married, eventually returning to Redondo to settle down and raise a family, all just before, into, and during World War II and where they were living when both my younger bother and I were born.

During those early days of World War II and just before, with Redondo having practically a wide-open waterfront along El Paseo, but being far enough away from the concentrated Navy action in and around San Pedro and Long Beach that Shore Patrol presence was minimal, Navy personnel and other servicemen found Redondo increasingly attractive. So too did the women who plied their trade. Plus Redondo was psychologically closer for most So Cal based sailors and servicemen than either Hollywood or Los Angeles. It had a more hometown feel and way less pricey with little or no mob presence say like the operations run by Brenda Allen in L.A. for example. With a hands off policy by the city, or at least a more-or-less look the other way policy and the lower overhead costs of operations, it wasn't long before the offerings by Fifie Malouf along the north part of the Strand, with easy access to El Paseo, were discovered, making it even less likely for trips into Los Angeles.

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Of course, Redondo was small potatoes compared to the huge oceanfront amusement park in Long Beach called the Pike. During World War II the Pike was a wide-open, crawling with sailors and those that preyed on them. I absolutely loved the place. It was wild, colorful, exciting and reeked with a certain sense of Terry and the Pirates danger.

Wedged between Long Beach on the east and San Pedro on the west was the Los Angeles harbor and during the war all of it's shipbuilding, especially Liberty ships of which my dad helped build. In those days wartime didn't offer itself up to a whole lot of casual travel, but one day my dad had to go by Terminal Island where he worked to turn in some paperwork or sign something and took my brothers and me along. From there it was just a quick jump to the Pike, the four of us spending the rest of the whole day there after my dad finished his errand.

Once reaching the Pike, as we were inching our way through the crowded thoroughfare taking in all the sights and sounds, as funny as it seemed, a number of people running some of the booths knew my dad. Seems when he was on the road in his youth he worked as a "carny" or barker as well as a roustabout for a traveling carnival and in the process learned all the secret signs and inside dope.(see) The old timers could easily tell he wasn't a rube or mark. Soon we were in the back in a hang out come eating area set aside for workers, with my dad and a bunch of his new found or long lost cronies going over the old times --- something I never knew about my dad until then --- especially the part when one of the men began to razz him about when he was a barker and had, so he said people said, fallen in love with a star attraction in one of the shows, a woman that was only 21 inches tall. My dad said she was so small that she could stand in the palm of his hand.

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For the record, and perhaps because of my father, I have always carried a certain special fondness toward traveling shows, their people, and the like, and have over the years had need to seek refuge within their ranks on occasion, most oft citing my dad as having been a barker. Those making the decisions to let me stay took it as though I had as a young boy, traveled with my father, and thus then knew the inside workings of their world --- although in the end it was patently not so --- with most of my expertise garnered from, what else, comic books. Starting in the fall of 1946 through to the end of 1949 fifteen issues of The Barker was published and I read everyone of them, over and over. After the first time I was hired, as a quick learner and willing to do as I was asked no matter how minor or untasteful the task, in each case, it wasn't long before I was taken into the fold and looked upon as one of their own, albeit, never at the level of acceptance as my father. I have gone back on occasion here-and-there for a month or two or a summer usually filling some otherwise low-ranked position and, except for what I got out of it and in a position to give, for not much more than room and board, such as it was.

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Besides the Barker comics I read as a ten year old or so, in later years I also had a second source of circus life that happened just at the end of high school that I thought I would never ever in my life admit to anybody that I watched, but offered below for your own edification:


(please click)

As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.