Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Midway Memories : Double Wheels

Back in the hay day of carnival business having two popular high rides was a big deal.  They could been seen from a long ways away which made for good advertizing and the capacity was fairly good.  A good wheel man was very important. 

Double wheels somewhere

Promotional photos were taken so a booking agent could show the Fair Board the double wheels.  We think this is Far Guys Dad in the photo.

Double Wheels early days Waukon Iowa

Waukon Iowa

The wheels would have a first man, a second man and sometimes a third man..and set up help.  Men who worked the wheel over the years were Perkel, Jerry Leper, Billy Grover, Dale Merriam, Ron Zwald, Stan the Black Man, Hubert Heeren and Virgil Landgraft. Perkel was a tall guy the spitting image of John Wayne, and he had a good sense of humor.

Hubert Heeren was one of the best wheel men ever.  Far Guy worked the wheel on set up/tear down day/night.  I would find a spot out of the way, settle in and watch.  Far Guy worked the top.  Which meant he would climb up one of the towers once it was set and raised and then balance on the top and attach all the spokes.  There was a series of ropes, the spoke was assembled on the ground and then the ropes were pulled and it rose to the center where Far Guy put in the bolts. He would slide down the cable, put together another spoke and climb up the tower and pin another spoke in place until they were all in place. It was a dangerous job, but with Hubert in control all the time injuries were minor.  Far Guy used to call it fighting the pig iron.  I learned alot by watching…and didn’t get involved other than to get them water and once in awhile searching for a cotter pin in the dark.  Far Guy fell out of the top once, hit his shins, ribs and head and bled all over in Staples Minnesota, Lois (Hubert’s wife) helped doctor him up and that was the last time he ever set up a wheel. ( Hubert calls us every once in awhile, he lives in Oklahoma and is a widower…when he gets lonesome he calls us.)

Half of the wheel seats were taken off each night and covers put on over all the seats.  If the weather turned stormy the seats would come off and four ropes were tied from the wheel to trucks. 

Sometimes that didn’t work.  Columbus Nebraska 1956

Columbus Nebraska about 1956

Hubert Heeren, Al Merriam, Dale Merriam and Marvin Henderson.

Wheel Damaged possibly Hubert in the photo

This wheel had the old wooden seats.  That is possibly Hubert Heeren in the photo.

The wheels were a total loss. New wheels were purchased.

Two wheels in color Northfield Iowa (2)

This is Northfield Iowa a number of years later.   Eventually one of the wheels was sold, with the advent of other more exciting carnival rides.

When I was about 12 years old, Far Guys Dad told him to take me on some rides.  Needless to say he stood there with his hands in his pockets and his head down and mumbled “You don’t want to go on any rides do you?”  Far Guy says he said “You wanna go on some rides?”  I said “No” “No thanks.” But I relented and went on the Ferris Wheel with him.

Wheel Seat

So we have a wheel seat in our yard. 

Blog Signature


  1. Of course you would have a wheel seat in your yard! How wonderful! Interesting how it was all put together.
    I remember the excitement in my stomach when, driving up, you could see the lights of the carnival, and especially the Ferris wheel, from a distance at night. Some fun was about to be had!

  2. That seat is so wonderful! Wow, I think I would of been scared to see my hubby up that high working. Wonderful story!

  3. I love that seat, but I also love the story of your early romance, if you can call it that. What an exciting life Far Guy as lived! :-)

  4. So interesting. Never thought about those that came with the rides into our small town and what they went through or put up with. Your carnival stories are a delight!

  5. OMG! I cannot imagine climbing those things! How dangerous! I had enough trouble riding and I think that is where I got my fear of heights. An older cousin took me up in one and rocked it at the top when it stopped. That was the one and only time I ever rode one. Fascinating history though and what a crash to have the whole thing come down! Thank goodness no one was hurt I hope. How sweet is the seat in your yard? You 2 love birds!

  6. Carnival life was completely different from ordinary life. there was mystery and excitement. There were different terms which kept them separate.

  7. I love that ferris wheel seat. What a special thing to have.

  8. These posts are so fun to read, especially this time of year when fairs and rides are available. It's interesting to learn the behind-the-scenes stuff thst we might take for granted as riders. Climbing to tie the wheel would acare the heck out of me! The wheel seat is perfect for the two of you!!!

  9. I really like the ferris wheel seat. I rode my first ferris wheel with a girl in my class. Sandy Jones was her name and that was just like having a first date. I was scared even though it was not that big of wheel. I didn't know the seats were removed at night but that does make sense. Our small town where I went to school, Murray, had a jamboree and they had a minimum carnival. The ferris wheel was so small that anyone taller than three feet probably never rode it. Fun information from Far Guy.

  10. I love love love that you have and old wheel seat in your yard!!!

  11. When I saw the seat in your yard all I could think was how romantic, you lovebirds!!

  12. That is so cool to have the wheel seat in your yard. This is my favorite of all your series on your blog.

  13. That was a great story about Carnival wheels! And having a seat in your yard in the perfect ending.

  14. What wonderful memories!! So many things that we have done in our history...each of us has one...

    This seat is great!!

  15. How very special the seat is. Enjoyed the info and pictures.

  16. I enjoy the family history you give of the fairs and the midway. It is very interesting seeing it from the other side. We LOVED our county fair growing up - - and as our girls got older, too. I do remember my mom warning up more than once when we were teenagers and going with our girlfriends that we were NOT to talk or flirt with the workers on the rides. I guess she thought we might be enticed and leave town with them. I wonder if she knew anyone who had?!!
    My brother worked small carnivals with a neighbor - - - sometimes the Ferris wheel and sometimes the live pony rides. It is a hard, hot job - - - even more so I would think if you travel with it.


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments! If you have a question I will try to answer it here. I no longer accept anonymous comments. All comments will be approved before posting...due to spammers...may the fleas of a thousand camels infest every hair on his body. Connie