Risking My Life On Black Monday - Tales From The Ex

Tales From The ExDuring the 125th Canadian National Exhibition, I'm sharing stories from my three years working there as a game booth attendant. Below is one of many.

We called it Black Monday. Labour Day Monday was always the last and busiest day of the CNE. It was also well known as a day when crowds of youth would come to the midway and cause mischief.

In order to attract people to our game booth, the largest stuffed animals were hung around the booth as bait. They were hung from the rafters with S-hooks and string. That's it. On Black Monday, the game booth manager could expect the attempted theivery of a prize or two or three. In 1991, I was the game booth manager.

I can't remember what the wholesale cost of the jumbo prizes was but I think they were about $45 each. For whatever reason, we managers believed we had to protect these things with our lives. On Black Monday, the volume of business was staggering but I was obsessed with keeping my eyes on the prizes. No punk kid was going to snatch one of my giant pandas or pink elephants...not on my watch.

I remember one especially manic sequence in particular. One group of teens ripped down a prize on one end of the booth while another group grabbed a stuffed animal on the other end. Both parties began walking away in an attempt to blend into the thick crowd. I had to be a cowboy. I didn't even hesitate to think about whether these petty thugs were carrying knives or worse, I just knew they had property that I was to protect. I jumped into the crowd and snatched back the first prize, threw it in the booth and made a bee line to the second. Again, I think I startled the guy making off with the loot because I came upon him out of no where and ripped the animal out of his hands. With both prizes back in the booth and with my blood curdling with adrenaline, I jumped back in and prepared for retribution. None came and I had saved Ardo about $100 cash. More importantly, I protected my territory and won another battle for the good guys.

Today I wouldn't risk a beating or my life for the sake of a couple of prizes, but teenagers seldom use such logic to their advantage. I was young, dumb and in charge that Black Monday. I haven't felt as powerful since.

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Funny you call it "Black Monday" without telling why. I remember as a tradition we use to round up the boys. My cousin and his friends all of my friends from my neighbourhood. Mostly Black kids of Caribbean heritage. We would go down with about 30 people. We would get in free and we would generally go drunk and stoned. Once it got a little later the trouble would begin. The crowd would start yanking the toys from the the games. You couldn't stop it. All the games started to close and one guy tried to play hero and was fighting with a kid for a stuffed toy. The crowd turned on him. Blood was everywhere and our group of friends surrounded him and pulled him to safety. It was scary and seems like so long ago. Things have changed but black youth were hated back in those days.

July 31, 2011 @ 6:48 PM

Teena in Toronto

We do crazy things when we're young.

Did the owner thank you?

August 29, 2011 @ 3:12 PM


i worked the toroto ex in 1990 on black monday , we lost 4 jumbos , but not before taking out 4 to 5 black men with a half of a pool stick , then we quickly droped the awenings till the mad savage uncivilized mob was under control , this just goes to show you how blacks protray themselves !

July 28, 2013 @ 12:49 PM


"Blacks"?? Don't you mean "how young black teenagers portray themselves"? I grew up in the '80s during the bad times. I had enough common sense to stay away from Black Monday...but I remember the boys from Regent/the Jungle/Moss Park and scarborough doing all kinds of crazy shit. Marc Forrest/Kongo..Those crazy mofos!

September 2, 2013 @ 3:15 PM


Sounds like the same Black Monday I experienced working at the Labatt's tent one year. A fellow longhair at the time was my partner. I remember his shock (as he was from a small WASPy town) when things started going amiss...

We had been on a break and were making our way back to the tent after a Tiny Tom's Run to the Food Building. Remember, at the time, the tent was on the grounds by the Prince's Gates (across from some newfangled dinner theatre called His Majesty's Feast) so we had a good while to walk.

Just as we passed the Bavarian Hut, we were circled by about 30 young black kids. (An aside... I've never felt poverty was about race, just saying) I looked at Kev and said "find the biggest one ... and punch him in the face real hard... then haul your ass back to the tent"

We took minimal lumps and litetrally fought our way back to the tent and hopped it's fence. At the time it seemed fun and adventurous (what did Chuck D say about young guys? young dumb numb and full of cum I believe - brains weren't in the conversation), I mean the dangers weren't really registering in the moment. Looking back now, I see how we could have been seriously hurt. Although it DID give me my funniest Steve Anthony moment of all time (and he's been generous enough to give me several over the years)

Nice to see someone else loving our great city as much as I have, Mike. keep it up

January 13, 2014 @ 7:17 AM


I worked at the Ex 3 summers late 70s early 80's the last summer I worked there I worked at one of those handwriting analysis computer booths. I remember my boss giving me my last pay and telling me to leave at 6pm Labour Day and not to hang around. Go straight home.

September 8, 2015 @ 1:16 AM


I was at the CNE 88 thru 93 and it was hairy on the Monday every year. I remember rapes fights beatings and people pushed into rides.The newbies and most of the women were sent home by six. On Monday you were told to keep darts and anything that could be used as a weapon off the counters. The fair is very loud but you could here it when it started, ten seconds later you would see a swarm of people coming down the midway. If you could drop your awnings fast enough it wasn't to bad, you could ride it out for the hour after the rush that it took for police to clear it, if not it was a battle.It was basically a riot where you and your joint were the target. By 93 it had tamed down a bit, i remember one joint stayed open and took money till close. There was 30 to 40 people crowded around it protected by 2 huge bikers and a couple of big dogs. It was a different time and to really get it you probably had to be there.

November 20, 2016 @ 5:50 AM


I remember black Mondays from the 80's, when things got a little crazy. The games would get their stuffed animals ripped off, or torn apart in the process, big gang fights. Even rides would get taken over by groups of little thugs. My friend had his ride over run by the crowds, so he loaded up the ride, turned it on and then unplugged the control panel and went for a break. When he got back the fools were practically green and most of them were puking on each other. It was good fun haha, when they staggered off the ride, the day was over for most of them. Then the cops on horseback came out, turned their horses sideways and pushed the crowds out the gate. I mean everyone got the boot, even a few unfortunate carnies. We wouldn't even have extra help to teardown the rides, but we were tough, most carnies are, or were anyhow. I feel sorry for the kids nowadays, the rides are all little pop up, parking lot size rides. We grew up with the big iron, real carnival rides, Conklin Western Road Show, where we moved "park models". Big rides meant for amusement parks, rides that took a small army of workers to put them up and take them down, and we did it every week or two. Times have changed, but the locals still like to raise a little hell. Have fun out there kiddies.

September 3, 2018 @ 10:23 PM


I worked the haunted house in the early 80's. On black Monday as I was collecting tickets I had a guy come up to me and out of the blue he punches me in the face. I was more shocked then anything. Security wasn't far away, but right after that he just took off running. We closed the ride down. I laugh about it today.

March 31, 2019 @ 5:50 PM

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