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Kenny Galuska

Toronto, Thursday, 1 September 2005

Yes, my dad, Stan Galuska, took the wrap for Patty when the police busted the ring toss in ’62. My dad took the pinch for the thing because Cy Hardy and Patty couldn’t take any more pinches. Especially Cy, he would have served a sentence in jail. So my dad said, “OK, I’ll take the pinch.” But the lawyer didn’t cover the case very good. It was like a fifty grand sting, which Mr. Conklin and Cy Hardy paid for. Afterwards my dad ran the office on the eastern road show. Then in ’76 when they went out west, he went out west and ran the machine shop, making sure that all the tools got back at the proper time. He set up a program because a lot of tools used to go missing. He saved them a lot of money over the years, on tools and machines and stuff like that.

I remember, years ago when I was a teenager, between Red Ratthe and John Macdonald there was a conflict for power. Both of them wanted to be number one. They were always nice to me. Red would call me his little boy. Both of them were very nice, but they didn’t get along over the power situation. You get the fighting Irish and the French mixture. They both know the business inside out. But Heinz Schlichthorn was number one. When they brought over the Wild Mouse, they had to change all the scenery and the lights and everything else because they weren’t set up for North American; Heinz did all that.

I started off in 1960 when I was nine years old working in the Hoop-La with my father and I went on the eastern road show afterwards. We went to the Western Fair after the Toronto Exhibition, and I would just work the weekends because I went back to school. I would come out for weekends in the spring and in the fall as well, right through to Simcoe. If I didn’t get good grades or I didn’t behave, I couldn’t come out.

When I was sitting in the old orange office, there’d be Patty Conklin, Tim Jordan, from Sullivan Shows, later on, Tommy Cox, that was with Don Campbell. In them years, Don Campbell used to be on Conklin Shows. Then he got financed by Patty Conklin to buy rides. Up until then he had the Diggers, and the bumper cars and a couple of other rides. He started his own show when Patty gave him his stake. Don Campbell was a very smart individual, with his wife Scoop. Denny, the son, he runs the main unit now. They have two units. Kenny Robinson is out with his son and he’s got Phil McCaffery, who is the head honcho of the games and the management, because he’s the muscle.

I’ve been down to Puerto Rico a couple of times and a lot of spots in the United States. There have been some downs. It gets frustrating at times. Most of the time you do all right. My philosophy has always been, I didn’t want to get rich, I just wanted to live well in the wintertime. I’ve managed to do it, over the years. I’ve lived in Florida in the winter for the past 18 years. I was living in East Lake fish camp in Pacific, Florida, with Dougie Gaines. I’ve known him since I was five years old. He passed away in ’97, three years after my father passed away in ’95. He was 63 years old. Dougie was with Johnnie Miller all those years. He was in the air force, but he came in to work the Toronto Exhibition and a couple of other fairs afterwards.

There was old Freddie Harris and Jim Sisson, he had the Ball in the Cat’s Mouth. I was 15 or 16 when I worked for him. A couple of years later, a guy named John Bush, from Montreal, took it over and I worked for him for another year. Then I got put into the bowler that same year because somebody was swinging with cash.

Actually, Mr. Conklin, Jim, came up to me and asked me to come with him to the bowler to see if I can catch who was stealing money. There was a lot of money going out. I was watching the play and I see a guy with a Kleenex and he’s in his apron a lot. So I figure he’s rolling up doubles and throwing them out to his friends. So I grabbed his arm, and I’m only like 16 at the time, and I said, “Drop the Kleenex.” He says, “You know, son, I’ve got three or four guys out there that’ll take care of you. They’re going to hurt you.” I said, “Just drop it.” I give the signal and they came in and they nailed him. They had security out there, I think the gentleman’s name was King who ran the security for the show at the time. They were right there. They nailed him and his brother and that was it. For the rest of the spot, I took his place.

With Bobby Hunter and all the rest of them, we used to form the line and hold the rope, like with the Shriners. We used to have the foam hats on and we’d bite a cookie impression out of them, and we’d walk down the midway like that. It was always fun.

One year, they asked me to go out to Patty Conklin’s place and do the lawn out there, the leaves and all that. I was with my younger brother. They told us, “Do not go close to the house and get caught, or you’ll be brought in for lemonade and cookies.” One day we were out there and we got caught. We were in the house for a couple of hours and we never got finished up. So we got in trouble. My dad says, “What was going on here?” Mrs. Conklin, Edyth, caught us. She was a stand-in for a big-time actress, I can’t remember the name, maybe Audrey Hepburn. That was during the ’30s. I think she was stand-in for a couple of her movies.

When my mom first started in the business, she worked for Jim and Claude Brown in Kiddieland. My mom started in the business first. My dad started eight years later. My dad worked for American Standard Core Company. He did all the castings for toilets, sinks and everything. He also did the big castings to light up the city, just the castings. One year, when I was 14 or 15, we took a stroll through the Automotive Building and his picture was in there for doing the castings to light up Chicago. We were surprised and we didn’t think it was him. He worked for American Standard here in Toronto. My dad would go get the stuff. He was always good to my sisters, myself and my mom. We had a good childhood.

He boxed during the war. He met Jack Dempsey at a big tournament overseas. My dad almost killed a guy. After it was all over, he was talking to Jack Dempsey, and he says, “Son, you’re going to kill somebody. You’ve got that look in your eyes. You’re going to hit somebody the wrong way and that’ll be it for him. You better get out of boxing. You’re good, but you’re deadly.” After that my dad boxed a few more times and that was it. He was a sergeant major in the artillery. His general was Stafford Smythe. He used to drive him around in the jeep before they set up the guns. Smythe would say, “What we need tonight is a couple of big steaks, I don’t care where you get them. And we need some whisky.”

They closed down American Standard and moved to the States. They wanted him to stay on. My dad didn’t want to lose his bonus money, so he got out. Some of his Italian and Polish buddies stayed on for two more years and lost their bonus money. My dad took his bonus and got out. My mom was talking to Jim and he said, “Why doesn’t Stan come down and see what he likes to do here?” My dad went down and got into the Hoop-La. It was only a couple of years before I jumped in, in 1960. He went on from there with the office on the eastern road show and then out west. It was Jim and Cy Hardy’s hoop joint, my dad just ran it for them.

They had two brothers in there, Don and Jim Fema, Italian boys. One year they were working on the same side, both close to the middle. So what we did was draw a chalk line down the middle. The one put his foot over on the other one’s side, and there was a scrap right in the joint for about 30 seconds. My dad looked at them and said, “That’s enough!” and they stopped and started selling hoops again. I’m there, trying to edge in and pick up hoops real quick.

A couple of years after that, when the joint was sloughed, a plain-clothes detective was going to jump in the joint. Georgie the Nova Scotian, who knew my dad, he was in the navy at the time, punched the guy right over the counter. But the cop didn’t flash his badge. Georgie was small but wiry; he was a boxer too. After Georgie punched him over the counter, then the guy flashed his badge, “Look at this!” Georgie had his apron off and was ready to go, and he says, “Well, I thought you were going to steal my money.” It was wacky times, but everybody got along pretty well. There was the odd scrap.

When I was out on the eastern road show with my dad, I’d be sitting in the office and my dad would say, “Don’t say nothing until somebody says something to you.” Then one day, Patty says to me, “Son, would you like a soda?” I said, “Yes, sir.” And he says, “OK, there’s the fridge. I’ll take a Coca Cola as well.” So I got him a Coca Cola and a soda for me and he says, “Ask the rest of the gentlemen what they want.” So I looked after them all. Every night I’d be waiting for my dad to drive us back to the hotel. He had an old orange International pickup truck from the company.

I was about 12 years old and doing relief for all the different games. It was a blessing, because I got to learn every game on the midway. Afterwards, it benefited myself quite a bit, because I could tell how they each should be operated, I learned so much about them. A lot of people think they know more than the old boys, but it don’t work that way.

I worked one flat store. There was a steel car, about a foot and a half long and it was on a track with rubbers on both ends. You’d wing it and it would roll back and forth and then stop. There was 1 to 28 numbers, with red in the middle, for a choice piece, which was a $12 stand-up clock. Pat Marco said to me, “Son, I’m going to explain things to you. If you see coming down the midway one or two gentlemen nicely dressed in suits, you bail out the back of the game with the car and the cash. Don’t show up the next spot, show up the following spot after that.” I said, “Yes, sir. I’ll do that.” But I was leery about this act. Two days later I see two gentlemen coming down. I thought, this don’t look good. I grabbed the car, the cash, folded up the apron and bailed out the back. Two spots later, I showed up with the cash. I disappeared for a week. I was petrified. They were plainclothes cops and they were going to slough the joint, but they didn’t have the proof because I had the car and the cash. They framed something else in the game.

Even with the bushel baskets, they used to have a pop cap right in the middle. That kind of spring loaded it a little bit more. The baskets were probably back two feet more than they are nowadays. If the ball hit the back, forget about it. You had to hit it off the rim. You push the basket down and have them spring loaded and go to town.

Pat Marco called me Flash. I was 10, 11 years old, when I learned to set up games. Later he had only university and college kids out there. These guys were trying to set up, put braces in, going in angles up in the air. It’s not going to hold nothing, they’re just up in the air. He goes, “Flash, you better get over there and straighten that game out.” They couldn’t figure out that T1 should connect to T1. I’d go, oh boy, this is going to be a fun set up.

We pulled a fast one on Alfie one year. You know, he smoked the big White Owl cigars for years. One year, we all lined up, there was about 30 of us, and we all lined up against the trailers before the gate was open, smoking the big White Owls. He comes up and shook his head and said, “Very good. Let’s open the gate and get going.” He’s a good guy.

Johnnie Miller was a great guy. When we went to North Bay, he’d always have a big barbeque at his place and invite everybody. He had a lot of characters work for him. Like Terry Binns, Dougie Gains; Terry’s 44 now and started when he was 14.

Miller had five or six games on the other side of the Flyer. Gord Lownes, he had a few of the games on the other side, by the Derby Racer, a Window Smash and a few other games. Freddie Harris had the bowl, Johnnie Bush and Jim Sisson, with the Ball in the Cat’s Mouth. Then we had Bill DeLondon, from Florida, and a gentleman named Jim Curry—not Newfie Curry but another Jim Curry—had a centre Tic-Tac-Toe and a line up bushel baskets, right next to the Ball in the Cats. Then there was Greg Kolisnikov’s father, George, that had a soft ice cream stand right next to the bushel baskets. In the Silver Dollar there was Pete Phillips, Dave and Alfie’s cousin, there was Dave in there—Hoop Phillips, because he had the Hoop-La in the Silver Dollar. He liked to smoke the cigars; he’d be eatin’ them, like Alfie eats them. Ron Manning, as well. Jason Manning’s got a couple of games in trailers up here now, in the independent line up, by the Horse Palace.

One year in the Silver Dollar, there was some guy, a big buy, getting out of line. First Peter went to talk to him, and he picked Peter up and threw him into the Ring Toss. This guy was big. Then Ron Manning wrestled with him and he did pretty well the same with him, got him over the counter. A few more guys got in there and they had to wrestle him down before the police got in there and escorted away. The usual thing, he said he had won and he hadn’t. It’s so active out there on the midway, something going on all the time.

I was with Bob Hunter for two years in a row, in 1980 and ’81. In the winter, sitting at home I decided I was tired of working the hanky panks. I went to the Geneva Club one night for some function and Bobby asked me, “You want to come and work?” I worked for him the two years and then they got the centre octagon fishpond 28-footer and Greg Gravelle wanted me to run that, because I had the fishpond trailer for Joe Statton the first four years out west, from ’76 to ’79.

Back then, Joe was kinda flipping on everybody, he was firing everybody. He had one guy, the pencil was dancing for the figures when he paid off, not for myself. But then it got worse in ’80–’81, when I was in with Bobby Hunter. I told Bobby Brady, who was with Joe, “You better get out of there.” He got stung big time. He had centre bushel baskets right here in Kiddieland, right next to my fishpond. The year after that everybody got shorted. It wasn’t Joe directly; it was the person in the office. I can’t remember the guy’s name now. He just came in and the pencil started dancing. Everybody got stung, all the agents, like 1,500, 2,000, and he had four people working for him. Joe was flipping on everybody and Bobby said he wouldn’t take it.

The following year, I think it was ’82, Bobby Brady worked for Bobby Hunter. Joe was trying to get him out of there and said, “I’m black balling you forever.” Hunter said, “No, you’re not. This is my joint.” Joe wanted to black ball me in 1980. He brought up Alfie and Greg, and Frank even was there. Alfie said, “Well, he’s here with Hunter and that’s it; party’s over.” Joe wasn’t with Conklin for long after that.

Now, he’s with Murphy Brothers. He was the front-end guy there for a while, then he got goofy, giving the same location to two different people—and getting the money from two different people. There was a little problems there. Now, I think he’s working for Claude Metcalfe, that’s what I heard. He’s gone down a long way. Out west, he used to have 18 games; he was making good money. He had a partner there for a while, who was collecting money for the first three, four years in the west, and then that was it. He paid him off, with a generator to piece him off and a couple of other things. This guy went to Murphy Brothers, as well. Then he got thrown off the Murphy Brothers for comments about a couple of flat stores still on the midway down there. He had big problems there.

From Brandon, Joe had Garth Hoy, Stitch and Garry Champagne, and some other guys. When Joe was running the stuff for Frank Eastman, they all worked for Joe. That’s when he had Gordie and Doug Woods working for him. Doug started an argument with them. He’s running that now, he’s got cash in there. He’s been there quite a while, probably 14, 15 years now. He’s doing good. That’s a nice show. Bernard Shows was a nice show. They played some good spots once in a while, Ancaster, Caledonia, Brigden. Brigden is their last spot of the year. They’d be in Welland now and that’s a good spot too. They finished in Ottawa last weekend.

The last 15, 20 years, the shows have been commercializing everything too much. If you educate them too much, I believe, it runs down the road. A lot of times when I had the different hanky panks, like the dime pitch and the quarter pitch down south, the customers, even if the dime’s half and half, they want to beef about it and they go to Guest Relations. Instead of discussing it, Guest Relations just says, “Give him the piece. No questions, just give him the piece.”

One time, I put a glass on the dime and kept somebody else with me to watch it, so I don’t move it, and sent him to Guest Relations. They came back, lifted the glass, looked at it, “Just give him the piece.” The one year it happened and I said, “No, I ain’t giving him the piece. You give him the piece.” They said, “Why are you that way?” and I said, “Well look at that dime. If it’s a winner, I’m going to give him the piece automatic.” It’s not that hard. I’d rather give him the piece and keep the tip, cause you’re doing so much. So I give away a $10, $12 piece, who cares. But if it’s not a winner, there are rules.

The group games are the best, I think. But now they’ve got a line as well, with too many of them and also the price, $3 to play. You got 15 people playing, that’s $45 and they give out maybe a $5 piece. The stock is nothing. Years ago, the policy was, you have to give out 30 percent in stock, or they’d take it off your rent, off the top. But then that stopped. The policy was you couldn’t buy any stock except from Ganz Brothers. Now, since this new regime has come in, Farrow and all that, you’re allowed to buy from anyone. Now Sam Ganz has to worry as well.

He’s a nice gentleman, Sam. Him and my mom always talked. In the back of the Silver Dollar, she had her stock office, right, and he’d come in there and have a coffee with her. All the children from the midway would come in there. Melissa Conklin would come in there all the time. My mom used to give them milk, or sodas, and cookies. My mom would always bring extra sandwiches. My sisters worked for about two or three years apiece, then they went on to their own careers.

One time, Mike, that played for the Alabama Crimson Tide and worked for my dad in the Hoop-la, he was on his knees and this Italian guy was playing. He wasn’t looking down. This guy says, “Look, that one’s on the choice block. I want that nice camera.” Mike says, “It’s not on, it’s crooked.” The guy says, “I’m a gonna punch you right in the nose.” Mike says, “You better think about that.” One of the Fema brothers says too, “You better think about that. He’s a pretty big boy.” The Italian guy says, “He’s a little shrimp.” Mike stood up, as he’s rising, the Italian guy is looking and looking, and he says, “Holy crap! This boyza big! I better apologize before I get hit.”

My dad put an apron on me when I was ten and I worked one of the ends. Some of them in the game didn’t like that, me taking money from them. We had one or two other kids, 16 or 17, and they were picking up hoops, not taking in money. It was rough. The hoops flying all over the place, you get hit in the back of the head all the time. They had the four turntables, and the big boxes, and the hooks with the big flash hanging. Watches, radios, cameras, one TV. I don’t think anybody ever won the TV. We used to have 12 display cases with hard flash and we’d take that down at night and put it in the boxes, so no one would steal it. We were an extra hour, hour and a half just closing the joint down at night.

Things have changed a lot, but it’s like the old days for me because I’m with my best buddy in the business. We’ve know each other 43 years now and some of the pranks we pulled, I don’t know how we got away with some of them. I had the fishpond with Gravel up to ’97, the year Dougie passed away. With the combination of my dad passing away in ’95; then Jim McSorley, John Macdonald and a few others, and then Dougie passing away, they were all like fathers to me. In’98, I was in Markham and I had a nervous breakdown. I said to Gravelle, “I gotta go home.” That was it. I went home.

The next year, I did some stuff in the spring for Mr. Conklin, then I went out with Robert Gable. He’s got his own show, but it’s getting rough for him. There are so many people playing in this area, Toronto and the outskirts, that it’s very hard to make a living. I was with Gable just for one year. We had a few days off and I came down to the Ex. I saw Hunter and he says, “Next year, come out and work for me,” which I did. I’ve been with him ever since. I should of stayed with him from ’81 on. Most of the time, you never do what you should do anyway. That’s the same for anybody.

Note: There are over 200 pages of interviews here, mostly verbatim and unedited. If you find spelling mistakes or typos, or want to add something, contact me at john [dot] thurston [at] sympatico [dot] ca. Thank you!

 

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