Everyone loves the seashore, whether it’s Coney Island or down the Jersey coast at Asbury Park or on the Boardwalk…. Of course, when I first went to the shore and the amusement parks there, it was a different time. Novelties like sideshows, games of chance, so-called “freak” exhibitions, questionable magic performances, daredevil spectacles, and the usual shady characters from the underside of polite society all collected in a steamy, swarthy, and fairly sexy stew of adventure, raucous partying, and occasional danger! I adored it! ….and the men!... even the less attractive ones were fascinating on some level. At that time, it was the custom to visit the photography studios temporarily set up in the vacation resorts, both high and low, to commemorate one’s holiday….so I kept photos of several of the ones I crossed paths with, (or knew quite well too!) Here’s a collection of some of them from my treasure box….….
Top row (l to r)
1) Chauncey McRider; inveterate gambler and ponzi schemer who portrayed himself as a prince from a small German duchy of some sort… I named the Chauncey Wheel after him when I started my own "Smarty-Pantz Trivia Challenges" testing the knowledge of vacationers, pickpockets, and ne'er-do-wells milling around in the sawdust looking for cheap thrills, lasting love, or some spare change...
2) Clybourne Shenk; idiot-savant, brilliant at odd mathematical, geometric, trigonometric, and calculus phenomenon, but unable to recite the alphabet or tie his own ascot. He performed his skills hourly at “Hiram’s Fascinating Folks Emporium”, and made a small fortune. But at 31 years of age, he fell down the stairs on his back porch, and it was discovered that the strange bump on the left side of his head was a benign tumor causing both the brilliant and unfortunate aspects of his mental state. It was removed at an outpatient surgery/barber shop, and he became a completely normal, and a sadly uninteresting brush salesman in Ronkonkoma.
3) Meckdahl Ziffenmyer; a shoe salesman and part-time “home scientist” who began experimenting with electricity and its effects on hair restoration.
4) Quiffel the Inscrutable; (real name never disclosed) A magician and contortionist who specialized in conjuring tricks with celery and other oblong vegetables while bent into fascinating shapes; that's Quiffel who was bent, NOT the vegetables.
2nd row (l to r)
5) Fairley Pruss; perfumer at the local Belasco’s Notions Shoppe, and “friendly boy” at various sailors’ bars in the neighborhood
6) Fred Bumpp; local police detective (and occasional companion of Fairley Pruss)
7) Horace Welty; husband to Felicia Welty, regional pie-baking champion at many seaside 4H club festivals and food-preparation contests in the Summer months. Horace was a regular “daytime habitué” of the more exotic dancing-girl tents and pavilions along the Boardwalk while his wife was engaged in her many competitions.
8) Pete Welty; crazed brother to Horace, and famed “speed-eater” at assorted wiener, cotton candy, donut, and, yes, pie eating contests. Tragically, at the Ocean Grove County Fair, while wolfing down the 23rd strawberry-rhubarb pie of his own sister-in-law’s making, he suddenly collapsed from extreme sugar-toxicity and died. He was well in the lead to win the brass-plated loving cup too.
3rd row (l to r)
9) Douglas Hodd; ferris wheel repairman and operator…and ladies’ underwear collector (both new and... ahem, "pre-owned")
10) Digby Hanover; Vaudeville actor specializing in debonair villain roles (ie. Bankers, mortgage holders, disreputable doctors, and collectors of ladies’ underwear items... preferably pre-owned)
11) Teddy Planck; general errand boy and hireling available for any sort of chores or scut-work. A fairly good juggler. Played the harmonica ….sort of…. with his nose.
12) Samuel Britzer; bellboy-second-class at the Mabel MacWhorter Mermadon Guest House. Known for being extremely attentive to single lady travelers and women of means. Said to be ….”gifted” in “evening-relations”….
4th row (l to r)
13) Scott Pount; rugby, soccer, lacrosse, football, and interpretive dance champion at Brisby State College for Animal Husbandry and Farm Sciences.
14) Morris Pount; Scott’s older brother and junior neckwear salesman at Firmby’s. Firmby's company slogan was "Gentlemen! Size DOES matter!"
15) Clancy Pimatt, second Earl of Actrin; impoverished bon-vivant and charmer from the continent who made his living telling fortunes using tarot cards, crystal balls, tea leaves, and stale biscuits. He proved to be strangely accurate but failed to predict his own trampling by Mr. Jamby, the new hippo at the Coney Island Jungle Jamboree tent.
16) Ferd “the Forlorn” Falloy; a high school chemistry teacher at Primbleton’s Girls Academy who, through an unfortunate scandal involving polka-dot bloomers, fell on hard times and became a county-fair “Vegetarian Geek”. He was forced, for the amusement of paying and shrieking customers, to dig potatoes and other root vegetables out of pots of dirt onstage and then to "kill" and eat them with his own teeth, shaking them violently while growling and drooling! The effect was said to be terrifying, and Ferd’s own sister, Mabel, was hired to portray a nurse who would revive the audience members who fainted, mostly women, but also the occasional single gentleman…with "a sensitive nature"...
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