A miniature model of a merry-go-round and Ferris wheel share a spot on the desk in Lucille Haunstein’s room at Elmcroft of Lima assisted living center. She often looks at them as the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease slowly wrestles away her life.
Those two keepsakes represent a special time for Lucille’s family. They also explain why her daughter felt it was so important last week for mom to receive a ride on the merry-go-round at the Allen County Fair.
As Brenda Buchanan tells it, “We were carny people … we spent our summers working the fair and carnival circuit, and boy, did we have fun.”
It was a lifestyle handed down from one generation to the next.
As youngsters growing up in Kalida in the 1930s and ’40s, Lucille Geckle and her brothers would work the concession stands owned by Ray and JoAnne Prowant of nearby Dupont. The Prowants were well-known in the fair world and Lucille’s family felt it a privilege to work for them, especially during such tough economic times.
When Lucille married Dwight Haunstein, a construction worker, one of their first investments was a photo trailer for the carnival circuit. The hook: People could go inside the trailer and have a photograph taken that made it appear as if they were on the moon. The couple later purchased a duck pond, dart game and a lemonade stand.
“As kids, for my brothers Dennis and Gene and I, this was our way of life,” Brenda said. “We would go to school, and then, during the summer, would travel from fair to fair. My brothers and I would work the photo trailer, taking turns shooting pictures and developing film. Mom would work the lemonade stand. One summer, it was so cold she made hot chocolate instead of lemonade. Dad would come on the weekends and move us to the next fair.”
What Brenda enjoyed the most was meeting “the other carnies.” After the fair closed in the evening, they would all get together to talk and play cards.
“Some people would refer to them as freaks, but we found them so interesting. There was Jolly Dolly, who would dance and swallow swords, the alligator man and the bearded lady. Then there were the circus people and Gypsies. We all shared a bond,” Brenda said.
Some of the best food she ever ate was “at a Gypsy boy’s” birthday party.
“They said some day he would be a king,” Brenda said. “There was a long table filled with food. At the end of the table was a pig with an apple in its mouth. My brothers and I never saw anything like this before.”
The family’s adventures on the fair circuit ended when Dwight Haunstein lost his leg in a construction accident. The travel from fair to fair was just too much for them. Lucille would end up getting a job at St. Rita’s Medical Center, where she worked until she retired.
She never quit talking, however, about Ferris wheel weddings and her favorite ride — the merry-go-round, Brenda said. That’s why it was so important for them to get her on a merry-go-round last week.
“We lost Dad a year ago, and Mom will turn 87 on Thursday. We don’t know how much longer we’ll have her. That smile on her face as she rode the merry-go-round was like the ones I saw years ago.
“I’ll always cherish that morning and the life she gave us as children.”
ROSES AND THORNS: A special camera makes its way into the rose garden.
Rose: After nearly two years of discussions and searching, Lima police will soon be wearing body cameras.
Rose: To Keith Bolyard Jr., of Columbus Grove. He had his idea — “The Plugger Uber” — featured Friday in the nationally syndicated comic strip “Pluggers.”
Rose: To James Chambers Sr., of Lima, who will turn 100 on Saturday. He was a youth when Babe Ruth was setting home-run records, lived through 18 U.S. presidents, and saw the end of two world wars.
Rose: To the Rev. Kent Kaufman, of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Lima. The Ottoville native is celebrating his 25thh year in the priesthood.
Rose: To Allen County Fair manager Bob Fricke and staff, for putting on another great fair.
Rose: To the Drury twins, Hunter and Painter, of Shawnee Middle School. In their second year of 4-H, they are poster children of all he good things the program provides.
Rose: The Husky Lima Refinery donated $100,000 to support activities at the new student life center a OSU-Lima.
Thorn: The televised Lima City Council meetings on G-TV are no longer broadcast as they used to be. The same meeting has been showing for months. When it does attempt to show a current meeting, it cuts off before the meeting is over.
PARTING SHOT: The trouble with learning from experience is that you never graduate.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.