Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What is a Carnie?

 Well let me see if I can explain what a carnie is.  A carnie is any person who engages in working on a game, ride, or in a food joint on a traveling carnival.  Some people that work in stationary amusement parks are also considered carnies. Now for the glossary of terms that you will encounter in this blog page.
Joint: No NOT the kind that people smoke... a joint is any structure that houses a game or a concession...ie; food.

Gamie: A person who tries to cheat you out of your money by playing a game whether it is chance or skill

Ride Jock: A person who sets up, runs, and tears down one ore more rides

Carnival Group: A group of people that travel together on the same carnival; ie James E. Strates Shows who do the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York.

Green Help: Any person who comes in off the street to help with set up or tear down of the rides,concessions, or games... they may or may not start to travel after helping

Spot Help: Similar to green help in that they come from the street to help, but only do it for that particular spot or a particular set of spots.

Travel Help: These are the people that get up every day and work on the carnival. They go from one spot to another for the entire season or jump in in the middle of the season

Season: The time period when carnivals move from Florida (East Coast) to New York, Maine, New Hampshire etc depending on the group

R-Key:  Also called a trailer hitch pin...can be found in any hardware store. These are one of the most important safety items on ANY ride that a patron goes on.  they look like a capital letter R but a bit more curvy. Reffered to as a key to the midway

Snap Ring: This is a metal ring with a straight metal pin attached in a similar style to a door knocker. This is alos another important type ofsafety item on a ride

Diaper Pin: Looks like a really big diaper pin. Made of metal and is the last type of pin used on rides.

Cotter pin: A stright pin with a bulb at one end, bend the ends up towards the bulb after inserting it through the hole to fasten two pieces together

Safety pins/keys/rings:  All the aforementioned items are used on every ride. These are what hold all the other pieces of the ride together. Each manufacturer of rides uses one or more of these to "lock" the pieces together to keep people safe. Without them, tubs can fly off, or other pieces can injure people

Safety inspections: Some states require an inspection at EVERY spot, others are good for the season and it is up to the owners to make sure that the ride jocks inspect their rides every spot.  New York requires weekly inspections, and state inspector, who is independent of the carnival group, inspects every ride for safety. If the ride does not pass, the ride jock has until the inspector leaves to correct the problem or the ride does NOT run at that spot.

Circus Jump: A complete tear down of all rides, games, and concessions, and an immediate move to the next spot, and an immediate set up of all the aforementioned. Usually less than 24 hours elapse between tear down and set up.

Jump: The usual tear down, transport, and set up.  Takes a few days rather than one.

Mark: A mark is an old term used in the days when the ticket seller at a carnival would motion to another person standing nearby to "mark" the person to whom he just sold tickets to. This was done using chalk placed on the "marks" shoulder. A person was a mark when they had a lot of money in their purse/wallet and it told the gamies to put the pressure on to get the mark to spend their money and leave broke.

There are many more terms that are used and games that carnies play on the marks just to get a laugh. 

I have been a carnie since July 5, 1997 when I did my first tear down.  It was a really warm summer night and I was at the Cheektowaga town park with my family and boyfriend.  My boyfriend, knew the owner and some of the carnies on the lot. We were asked if we wanted to help out at the end of the night, and we agreed. I started my work with a 1942 Herschell Rodeo Carousel...ground mount. I did it in jelly sandals of all the worst kind of shoes to wear... I loved every minute of it. I got dirty, greasy, and sweaty. I ruined my brand new jeans in the process due to the fact that I kept wiping grease on them from my hands so that the next piece of metal I grabbed didn't slip.  The next week we were at it again, but we got to run our own rides. My boyfriend got to run the Hampton and I was stuck on the most boring ride...the bounce house.  3 tickets please... no one over 75 pounds, no shoes.  for spot help, the pay was good.  little did I know that I was hooked for life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say something if you dare.