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Terry “Torch” Warboys

Ottawa, Tuesday, 23 August 2005

Barry Jamieson: So, the Torch, he got the name the Torch because he was welding a trailer and the trailer caught fire. It was an arcade trailer and it was rotten on the side. So Terry was welding, so he welds the trailer up and he sets the fucking trailer on fire—not on purpose. The insulation or whatever caught on fire, so that’s where he got the name Torch.

Torch has been with me since the first day we took this company out. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen years ago, and before that he was out here with me. And his wife’s been out here and his daughter’s out here, Kendal. But Torch has been probably, I’d be guessing, what, 18 years?

Torch: Twenty-five.

Jamieson: And he’d done lots of shit. He’s done the safety, he does the trucking, he does whatever. Some things he likes doing, some things he doesn’t like doing, but that happens to everyone.

Terry was an avid hockey player and he got hurt playing hockey, but he plays with the boys in the house league. He lives in Simcoe. But he could probably tell you a few stories.

I think Terry came to work when we were in Pembroke.

Torch: That was the year I was an electrician. The year before I did uniforms, 1980 I did uniforms and weighed tickets.
Jamieson: He worked for John Homeniuk.

Torch: Well actually how I got the job is, I took John Anderson for a job interview in Brantford. Matthew Smith worked there at the time and he was a friend of mine. I went in to talk to him and Box walked in and asked if I wanted a job. So we went to talk to John Homeniuk and I had a job by the time I left. John, they said they were gonna call.

Jamieson: So the old Torch has been around for a while.

Torch: Then the next year I was the electrician. I did that to ’85. On the job training. I took it high school, but that’s about it. Then in ’85 I became ride supervisor on the Bicycle Unit, it was called.

Jamieson: I didn’t think it was 25 years that Terry’s been here.

Torch: Then in ’92 I went with World’s Finest.

Jamieson: That’s when we incorporated. Terry will tell yah. He was working in the barns in Simcoe. We didn’t have no buildings.

Torch: No heat.

Jamieson: Nothing; just an old barn, that’s where we did our work. Wiring the lights on the Loop-O-Plane with a big pair of gloves on. Terry’ll tell you some stories. I’m just waiting for some oil for this thing here. [The tower ride had blown a gasket and needed to be repaired.] Get it up again. I’ll think of some stories.

There may be some things Terry don’t wanna tell yah. I don’t know, I haven’t been following him all those years.

Torch: Yah, well, ’83 I was out west, did electrical out there. Then I came back here. That’s when our unit used to go out with them. Then we’d come back and play the fall fairs around Ontario. We still play a lot of them.

As far as changes, now it’s the paper work. Not just TSSA, everything. Department of Labour it’s all paper work. TSSA now has propane. It’s the amount of paper work for everything. Even for the trucks and the trailers, like moving the stuff over the road. It’s like a big paper shuffle. Getting everything documented, they want now. That’s the biggest change.

Even before the TSSA or the MCCR. We had our daily inspections, our maintenance calls, we did all that. It wasn’t such a big deal in the ’80s. But it’s just the additional paper work. Plus the drivers have to keep a logbook. That just come in the late ’80s. That’s the biggest change that I’ve seen.

The fairs that we play still have the agricultural stuff. All the little fairs, like Caledonia, Ancaster, they’re pretty well all the same, they have that agricultural content. That keeps the locals coming in.

The biggest change is these festivals. A few years ago they were great. But now they’re drying up because they’re not getting the municipalities’ money or grants. The sponsors are pulling out now. Like Aquafest in Hamilton, they didn’t have it this year. Their sponsor pulled out and the city said they weren’t going to put any more money into it. Windsor and Belleville, they’re still going.

Windsor Freedomfest is called Summerfest now, the same dates, first of July. At one time that one was in a hotel parking lot, then it went to the streets, now we’re down in Dieppe Park, right along the river, right across from where the casino is. They say they get a million people to watch the fireworks, 500 thousand on each side. Riverside they close down now, it’s all lined with people. It’s all free admission.

That’s another thing that’s starting to hurt these festivals a little bit. At one time it used to all be free admission, now they’re charging, gate pass.

But the fall fairs, that basic agricultural content is always there, at least with the ones that we play; still the same. Here, they say they used to have cattle shows, but not any more. But like Belleville and all them, like agricultural-wise the same, since I’ve been playing them. Belleville’s supposed to be moving in a year or two. Out by that ten-acre truck stop, that property out there by the 401. They’re putting slots and all that in, the racetrack’s going out there. They’re selling the fairgrounds, I guess the agricultural society owns it, but then, with the new one they get the slots and the horse racing.

Then Renfrew, that’s pretty well the same. They’ve mellowed out a bit. Yeah, one guy up there told me up there, “We’re not 20 years behind now, we’re only five.” It’s a good little fair, it’s turned into a real good one. Then Lindsay, Markham, Simcoe, they’ve all been the same since I’ve going to them.

Markham’s a good fair. I’ve never played at the old lot in Markham, but the new one, it’s a beautiful fairgrounds; it’s one of the nicest fairgrounds in Ontario. They’ve got ample parking and they’ve got something going on there all the time. Two or three stages, they’ll have one stage going here and then they’ll have another stage something going on. Down at the farm land stage there’s always something going on.

Simcoe fair, that’s the fair I used to go to when I was a kid. I’m from Norwich. The Norfolk County Fair and back then it used to all be along the fence. Actually, where we play now there used to be house and farm. That all went, quite a few years ago. Even when I was a kid, the house went.

I never worked a ride or a joint, or anything. Electrician and ride superintendent. Do whatever has to be done. Somebody didn’t show up here or there, you gotta pick the garbage up, you gotta pick it up.

So many stories. You know what I’ll do, I’ll write some down.

The first year, too, I used to have to drive Pat Marco. Like, say if we were playing in Burlington, the next spot was Brantford, I’d take him Friday morning, drive him to Brantford to lay it out. I’d help just by being at the end of the tape, he’d lay it out. If you were sitting there, he always used to smoke them Pall Mall cigarettes, he’d go like this, and he’d have the cigarette there. But the odd time, he’d go with the hot end, just to see if you were paying attention. He’d ask you if you were hungry, and he’d say, “Go run around the midway until you’re fed up.” Little one-liners like that, he was famous for. He was always doing something.

Yeah, cause him and John Homeniuk were running the Bernard that year. Box, he worked the office. And Billy Watson was a concessionaire. Then out west, with Simpson and Hunky Joe. Newfie then, he was already east with Lynch Shows. And Pottsie, Stewart Potts. That’s the thing with the carnival, everybody’s got a nickname, right. You gotta stop and think, what was their real name.

Gus Harvey, he was out there then. I’ll never forget, one year in Barry he went through three TVs. He had a camper and before he got it, it was rewired. They wired it up wrong. So every time he plugged this TV into this outlet, it’d blow the TV up. He’d take it back and say, “I just got this and it doesn’t work.” He’d get another one and plug it into another socket and it wouldn’t work, so then, where the TV was supposed to go, he’d plug it in. The TV would blow again. After the third one, they said, “We ain’t giving you any more TVs.” We had to tear the camper all apart, got it wired up right.

Yeah, I think I’ll stay with the show. I got a slide ride. I’ve had that since ’86. I’ve always worked in winter quarters. Strip down and repair. Last winter we built two new bunkhouses. Two years ago, we did the office trailer. Bought a trailer, and revamped it all and built it the way we wanted it. Trucks to go over and old trailers. It’s as busy in the winter, as it is in the summer.

There’s the Skydome. We do between Christmas and New Years. It used to be called First Night, I don’t know what’s its called now. We put in anywhere’s from 12 to 20 rides. And then March break too. We play then. Last November, we set up in one of the buildings at the CNE for company Christmas parties, for Friday, Saturday, Sunday. All the stuff stayed set up, then Friday would be Bank of Montreal, Saturday and Sunday some other company.

So they keep us busy. Then usually we take January or February off. I go south just for a week, Dominican. Usually after the convention there’s the big push to get ready for the spring. Usually we start the end of April, to catch the Easter weekend. It all depends how it falls. We’ve opened in snow. Started out in snow, finished in snow.

I remember one year, we were coming down Hamilton mountain there into Stony Creek. We got our loads in there and they closed the roads because of snow, we couldn’t get out. This was the spring of the year that we were starting. We had to get a room for the night. Next day Barry’s asking, “How come these loads aren’t in there?” We says, “Barry, they closed the roads and wouldn’t let us out of town.” That was the second or third year I was on the road. The next day the sun come out and it was all gone. It’s just that it was snowing and blowing so bad you couldn’t see, so they just closed everything.

Still dates in the spring can be pretty slow. All depends on the weather. Crapshoot. Weather, that’s one thing you can’t control. Wake up in the morning, go out of your trailer and that’s what it is.

As far as the carnival as a community, it’s a little different than it was, say, even 15 years ago. Back then everybody was sorta like one big happy family. Now you have the rides and the games. Thing is, the problem with the concessions, they have a big turnover, more than what the rides do. They just get them for this spot or that spot, they get a lot of locals. With the rides, the second and third guys might be temporary, but we have our foremen, a lot of them have been around just as long as I have.
I find a bigger turnover with the games, than with the rides. That’s due to commission. You have a bad month coming up, you take off the month and come back when we’re going to have a month of good spots.

The ride guys are all on salary, then they get bonuses, if they stay to the end of the season. We got a couple of guys out here a long time. Robby Duke, he’s been out here longer than me.

Red Mills, Jim Mills, he came back five years ago. He was gone for awhile. He quit the amusement business and he got his millwright papers. Got them and then come back to work for us. He goes back to King Shows with Barry. Whenever Barry came over, he came over. He’s in the maintenance department. He’d have some pretty good stories.

Now, we’ve got licensed mechanics for the rides. We’ve had to have them since three years ago, I think, two years ago. You have to apply to the TSSA, for your application, you used to have to put down who was your mechanic, who was in charge, and all that. The TSSA put a committee together and drew up this plan. I wouldn’t say stricter, because they leave it up to the owner’s discretion, how many mechanics you need. You don’t have to have one for every ride. We probably have about 15 out here.

We have 55 rides out here. That’s everything, 30 kiddie rides. More kiddie rides than majors. That’s a strong kiddieland. Lot of kids down there today, it’s kids’ day today.

I don’t know what else to say. I’ll write some stories down.

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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