Step right this way sir!
Aug 31 1976
Short-changing customers could probably increase Ron Hale’s gross income by 10 per cent at Parkesville’s Midway.
“It’s unreal how many kids can’t count,” says Hale, who ran his own janitor service in Calgary for 11 years before opening the midway here four years ago with used fairground equipment.
But kids always get their change back. When the Midway first opened, customers counted their change carefully, expecting to be robbed. Now they check their wallets at the ticket booth before going on a ride, se says, and that form of acceptance has been a long time coming.
At first, local residents were wary of the village midway. “The first year, I made a few mistakes. I wasn’t used to a small town, and everybody’s got their sniffer in your business.”
His reorded music was too loud, for instance, and at least one resort owner complained repeatedly. So, when his loudspeakers were stoen, he never bothered to report it. “They were just meant to go.”
And his donkey was too loud, as well. It brayed in the middle of the night, and even sparked an editorial in a local newspaper.
He gave the animal away.
At one time or another, Hale’s had a whole menagerie of farm animals, including skunks, rabbits, chicks, ducks, guinea pigs, a sheep, a goat and a pony. The kids loved it, and so did he, especially the goat, which ate cigarette butts and kept the grass mowed. But you can’t harbour an animal in the village, so they’re gone too.
Running a midway is just like farming, says Hale, who finds his profits directly connected to the amount of overcast in the sky.
Though business is down this season, he’s seen worse. His first year, marred by a ferry strike “was a disaster.” His second season was good, but cold-weather affected his third season and this year is much the same despite his opening in April, a month early
The end o f August usually finishes his seaon, and he packs his equipment home.
During off-season he’s worked at odd jobs, but this year, he intends building a house for his famiyl. His retired father runs the ticket booth while his two sons and daughters, aged 10 to17 help around the grounds. His wife works full time and during the off-seaon last year he became a house-person, a role he didn’t like bit.
Next season may be his last in the community park. He finds the location too far from the highway and when his five-year lease with the village is up, he may buy land near the highway out of town, spending some money to improve it.
Though he’s never had an accident during operating hours, his biggest expense is insurance. All nine rides are inspected when they’re greased, about every three days, and there’s never been a structural failure.
Though he’s accepted as one of the crowd by people in travelling carnivals, he feels his operation is much safer than travelling shows “where it’s just slap, dab, get ‘er goin'”.
One kid got the thrill of his life when the car he was riding on came loose, he said,”but the mother was more scared than the kid.” And one youth was hurt playing tag on the trampolines after hours. After that, Hale posted a sign ordering customers to stick to one trampoline, rather than bounce all over the area.
It’s teen-agers that are the worst headache for Hale, but younger kids more than make up for it. “It’s the expression on their faces.” Running the midway is “the reverse of normal business. Usually you have somethng to offer that people need, but don’t want to pay for. Here, people spend their money with smiles on their faces.”.