Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Midway Memories: 1936 -1950

We have to lay down a timeline to follow this story.  Far Guy’s Dad Marvin graduated from High School in 1932.  He wanted to be a Lawyer. (He was a real good debater.)  Times were hard during the “dirty thirties.”  He didn’t see much hope for going to college.

I am not sure what he did in 1933.  Helped out on the farm making ends meet most likely.

1934 to 1936 found him in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Itasca State Park planting trees that are still around at the Headwaters and cutting trails for roads. He was also at the Hanna Ore Camp near Osage and Lovelis Lake near Itasca State Park in 1936.

From what I can piece together in 1937-1940 he worked for his Uncle Herman running one of the Erie Digger Joints in Nebraska and in states southward during the Fall.  He enjoyed Louisianna and would often talk about how whole towns would party when the shrimp boats would come in.  Far Guy says “ Dad talked of people singing Shrimp boats is a coming and of a shucked oyster soaking in a glass of whiskey and water..soaking up all the alcohol and of a tiny seahorse that was wrapped in a piece of cotton that someone traded him for a free game.”

Cotton Bales in Louisianna

This a photo of Marvin on top of Cotton Bales someplace in the south.

This photo was taken while he was working for Uncle Herman.

marvin and Gene Coels or Irish not sure which

Marvin is on the right.  The fellow on the left is one of two people Marvin’s best friend Eugene Cowels or a fellow who was called Irish.  Far Guy says he thinks it is Irish. The Erie Diggers are still coin operated at this time.  I can see the coin slot just above the crank.  I believe the sign says “ The Erie Digger See it Work”  It might say 5 cents or 10 cents.

Vickie Porterfield possibly

The coin slot can be seen in this photo of a small child.  No one is real certain who the child is.

On October 26 1940 Marvin would marry Evelyn.  We believe they traveled with a carnival the summer of 1941.  Evelyn had never been away from home, one day in Wisconsin she was so homesick that Marvin put her on a bus for home. 

From April 6 1942 to September 5 1945 Marvin and Evelyn lived in Omaha Nebraska at 1732 Van Camp Ave.  Marvin worked for The Glen L. Martin Company building B 26 Bombers during the war.

During their time in Omaha three children were born.  Twins: Phillip Leroy and Elizabeth Ann born and died September 23 1942.  Far Guy’s sister and only living sibling Janice Marie born May 29 1945.

After the war was over they purchased a home in Park Rapids Minnesota which would be their “home base” close to family.

During those years 1945 –1950.  Evelyn stayed home with Janice while she was really little. Marvin traveled with a carnival during the summer and fall.  He was with Home State Shows and Rocko Shows. In the late 1940’s Evelyn went out on the road with Marvin leaving Janice home with her grandparents for the summer because of the Polio outbreaks. Janice says “I was three or four years old.”

Far Guy would join the family in 1950.

Far Guy writes:

So far the photos have been of Herman Henderson’s Erie Diggers mounted on a trailer.

When my Dad started up on his own, he bought a few machines here and there.  These machines were grouped together and displayed on top of their shipping crates.  A wood 2 x 4 structure with a canvas top and sides was placed above the machines to help protect the machines from the elements.  In carnival lingo this was referred to as a “set joint”.  The shipping crates opened to the inside and the spare prizes (stock) was kept inside. An interesting note here; after I built the replicas of the shipping containers, I was wondering what to use as a door latch.  From somewhere in my memory I remembered a latch wasn’t used.  The door was simply kept closed with a screw.


An Original Erie Digger sitting on top of it’s shipping crate.

At the end of the spot (fair or celebration) the digger machines would be placed back into their shipping crates and along with the set joint placed into a box built on the back of an old Chevy 1 Ton Pickup. That box served as living quarters when the joint was set up.

Marvin in diggers

Marvin and possibly a fellow named Dick. 

The Diggers were no longer coin operated at the time of this photo about 1953.  The “See it Work” signs are now hanging from the roof of the joint to make way for the people to put their dimes on top of the machines.  The machines are now trailer mounted, it is no longer a set joint.  There are fourteen machines on the trailer.  This many people watching the diggers work, in carnival lingo would be called a “tip.”  My Dad is very well dressed, as he wears a white shirt and a sport coat while he works.  This was Dad’s first big joint. 

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  1. What an interesting story! My dad flew in those B-26 bombers built by Marvin. He had a really impressive past. I enjoyed learning about him. :-)

  2. I'm a 'day late and a dollar short' for commenting, but I enjoyed reading about your jewelweed soap in your previousn post. Interesting. The Erie Diggers info is interesting, too. They were before my time and I don't think I'd ever seen photos of them until your posts. I might have guessed what they were if I had seen a photo, though because I did enjoy a few tries at the later versions of the crane we had available when I was a kid. Not sure I ever actually snagged anything with one. Hmm.

  3. Oh wow, Gene jogged my old grey cells to actually remember the cranes. I at first thought I had never seen them before. But I do now remember them at the fourth of July carnivals in Osceola, Iowa. I can still hear that end of the crane banging against the glass as the crane swung around. The seeing them in rows on the trailer brought it all back. I don't remember playing with one but I am old. The carnival workers always were a mystery to me as I did wonder as a kid if they ever had a home. It is a good write up of the family story and the crane story too.

  4. So sad that the twins died. But what an interesting family history--with photos! :)

  5. I really liked this post. I love hearing about a person's family history.

  6. Some people had to work very hard to make a living and in so doing had a very interesting life. Great story of far Guy's dad.

  7. Such an interesting story. My mom remembers these fondly and her uncles getting prizes for her at carnivals as a child. I had never seen photos before so this was really neat.

  8. People did whatever they could during the dirty thirties, just to survive. It made strong people out of them...tremendously resilient!

  9. It's always so interesting to hear people's stories of what they did "back then", how they made do in hard times, and in the process learn about things entirely new to my experience.


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments! If you have a question I will try to answer it here. Connie