Dumb Shit We Do As Teenagers (or How I Saved Stuffed Animals on Black Monday)

Tales From The ExIf you've been reading this blog the past week, you know I've been sharing old tales from my three years working a game booth at the CNE. This story is about the dumb shit you do as a teenager when you think you're fearless and feel invincible.

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 thievery of a prize or two or three. In 1991, I was the game booth manager for Pop-a-Ball.


I can't remember what the wholesale cost of the jumbo prizes was but I think they were about $25 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 some 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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Bella Mendes

Its really a cool idea to hang out the stuffed animals to attract the people.

August 26, 2010 @ 4:48 AM

N.M.B. Ryan

I never really understood those people (typically guys) who would drop hundreds of dollars on silly stuffed animals.

I think for some guys, it's a machismo thing to demonstrate his manliness. Here's their internal thinking:

"So, let me get this straight. You're telling me that if I succesffully toss this nickel on a plate....or throw a dart and pop a balloon, my prowess as a man has been increased? Wow! That sounds easy! Let's do it!"

But then, if the guy doesn't win, he walks away feeling somewhat emasculated, with his girl saying "oh it's probably fixed anyway", which, in the guy's mind, is another way of saying "i must find a real man who can successfully squirt this stream of water into that clown's mouth."

So i'm guessing Mike, that the barkers would take advantage of that..thereby pressuring these guys to spend more and more money until they won. And of course, you're not a real man until you've won the biggest effing stuffed panda.

And, in the end, you essentially pay fifty bucks for something that has a cost of twenty five.

Look, i realize it's all supposed to be just some harmless fun, but i do believe there's a little pressure for the average shmo to "perform" (like the giant hammer ringing the bell game).

And then, the best part is, if you do win the giant Snoopy, you get to walk around the CNE carrying this damn awkward thing.

Yaaay fun!

August 27, 2010 @ 9:36 AM


I played the games for fun, but never expected to win anything. Sure it would be fun to win a (small) prize as a souvenir from your visit but I could never understand those people who had bags of stuffed animals - large and small- they had won. What do they do with all those when they get home?

August 27, 2010 @ 12:43 PM


I don't get the people who overanalyze these games. It's supposed to be fun. Why ruin it by adding some dubious sexual connotations to the games?

Anyway, great story, Mike.

August 27, 2010 @ 10:17 PM

Conklin Ghost

"Crowds of Youth"?
You have no balls Mike. You know damn well it was BLACK youth that trashed the CNE on the last day. Why not grow a pair and tell the truth???

August 29, 2010 @ 10:56 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Conklin Ghost

I honestly can't remember the colour of skin of the two guys who yanked my prizes in this particular sequence.

August 29, 2010 @ 3:26 PM


it was black youth back in the 80's and 90's at least, i rememeber the black community leaders on t.v. and the papers pleading with the black youth to stop feeding the stereotype and to be better members of the community. i was a street kid back then and recall those "managers" would come down and hire some of us to work the booths on the last night, you know, to "protect" the goods lol, they would ask/suggest we bring a baseball bat or such things on occassion. racism has always swung both ways but back then it was much worse. at least to those who werent daft.

November 25, 2014 @ 4:26 PM

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