Toronto Mike

Observing the Conklin Carnies - Tales From The Ex

During 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.

The CNE's midway, full of rides and game booths, is mainly operated by Conklin and has been for decades.  I didn't work for Conklin.  As mentioned in previous tales, I worked for a smaller operation run by a man named Ardo.  I did, however, have a unique opportunity to observe the lifestyle of the Conklin carnies.

Most of those I worked with, including myself, went to school the day after the Ex closed.  Most of those working the many Conklin rides and games tore down and moved on to the next carnival.  They were your stereotypical carnies and this was their year-round, full-time occupation.  Today, Conklin's website actually hosts their employee handbook.  Along with projecting a positive attitude and maintaining a professional attitude, there's no eating, drinking, or smoking while working.  Fifteen years ago when I was observing the Conklin carnies on a daily basis, there was no such handbook.

These guys amazed me with their ability to work so consistently on so little sleep.  They were up at dawn and partying hard well into the wee hours of the night.  They slept in trailers on the site and you could always find them enjoying life outside the trailer with a smoke in one hand and a beer in the other.  I think this was their official uniform at the time.  We were always envious of their innate ability to have a great time at any hour of the day.  They partied hard, but they worked hard too.  As I previously wrote, they were there when I needed them and they've got my respect...even if they don't have all their teeth.

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