…Besides caddying I also worked our local fair. This was held the last two weeks of August, beginning of September, ending Labour Day to be exact, the day before school started. It was about eighteen days in duration, was the oldest continuous annual fair in North America and, besides entertainment, it provided local part time employment for youth across the city.
I worked as a busboy at an outdoor Charcoal Broiled Hamburger restaurant or stand as they sometimes referred to it during the fair. It was really nothing more than a “V” shaped open air concession booth that sold burgers of all sorts and sizes, hot dogs, French fries, soft drinks, coffee and other major food group worthy snacks and delectable treats. During the winter, or off fair months, this concession closed itself off from the elements with temporary walls and remained open to cater to the permanent maintenance workers at the fairgrounds and also to service the fan base that attended the professional football matches at the local coliseum.
This stadium was quite big for the times holding about 40,000 people at a sitting. It had a large concourse that also provided various snacks and refreshments, including beer during game time. The fairgrounds were substantial in size housing many permanent structures that had been around for over a hundred years. In addition to the sports stadium this included the Horticultural Building, Better Living, The Press, Four H, Equestrian and Riding Arena, Sports, Food and the Automotive Building, which was large and cavernous enough to hold the annual automotive, boat shows, home shows and my own particular favourite: Medieval Nights. There were parks, musical bandstands and gazebos and various fountains and green spaces. During the summer months it was a wonderful sight to behold, a real oasis in the city during those hot and humid summer days.
The concession was owned by two local businessmen: big, overweight, cigar chomping, loud, obstinate, ignorant, business like, local area demagogues. Everyone feared these guys. They were also part of the “Carny” world owning a number of gaming concessions along the midway as well as a segment of concession booths along the stadium’s concourse. These guys were into everything. I worked there for three summer fairs, well two and a half as you shall soon see. The work was mindless fluff: empty the garbage; ensure all the condiments were full; replenish supplies such as coffee cups, cold drink cups and the like; clean what few tables there were; and just be an all round gofer.
Beside our booth there was a side entrance, staff only, to the Food Building. It was in here that we stored all of our supplies. It was also my smoking room and measuring room. We diluted almost everything in there. Ketchup, mustard, pop, coffee, you name it. Yes coffee for it was also my job to gather discarded coffee grounds and add them to our tins of real coffee bean. It also housed a cold storage walk in freezer, which held our pails of our so called charcoal broiled hamburgers.
I was paid 90 cents per hour for my first two fairs then a dollar an hour for the third. I started at 14 and ended my career in magnanimous fashion when I was 17. There were two of us during the height of the fair working 12-15 hour days. As this was a 24 and 7 establishment for the fair’s duration, it had a small night staff that catered to the fair’s grounds keepers and maintenance staff as the fair itself closed each night at midnight, opening again at 0800 each morning. My keenness was at its peak during my first year. My keenness weaned a bit during the second year but waning precipitously during my final fair. I knew it was coming to a head and it seemed to be directly proportional to my rebelliousness as I matured into an immature adolescent. It all started with those charcoal broiled hamburgers…