It was the 1950s and school was out for the summer. By mid July, we were getting bored, so we decided to have a neighborhood carnival in our back yard.
My father brought home some cardboard boxes from an appliance store. My friends and I painted them and cut out doors and windows to make a ticket booth and a concession stand, to sell cups of lemonade and buttered popcorn in brown lunch bags. (Thank you, Mom.)
We came up with some games that required a moderate amount of skill, such as Swimming Pool Bowling. This involved setting up plastic bowling pins inside an empty swimming pool. The contestants would roll the bowling ball down the short swimming pool slide and try to bowl a strike.
We’d originally tried to add water to the pool but the bowling pins and ball just bobbed along in the water, so we drained the pool and hyped the fact that there was a slide involved, which made our game not only unique, but kept the ball contained so that Sally Anne Hansen didn’t have to chase it all over our backyard every time someone played the game. She wasn’t very happy about re-setting the pins as it was.
Games and food were fine, but we decided to add a Fun House and a Talent Show to bring in kids from two or three blocks away. We got out or crayons and made fliers that we posted on trees and telephone poles–“Come to the Sycamore Street Carnival!!” Then for the next few days, we got to work creating the carnival.
The Fun House Committee set up a maze in our garage. Since our carnival was held during the day, it was easier to blindfold the
victims customers than it was to cover the garage windows with cardboard. Besides, we’d used all the cardboard on the ticket booth and concession stand.
Since most of the members on the Fun House Committee were also performing in the Talent Show, I have to be honest and say that they didn’t exactly throw themselves into planning the Fun House. There was a bowl of cold spaghetti that was supposed to be a bowl of worms, but it’s a little difficult to steer a blindfolded person’s hand into a bowl of cold spaghetti when they are using it to feel their way along a rope line.
Someone would brush a dry rag mop across a customer’s face and say “Oh-h-h spider webs!” in a scary Fun House voice. This worked fine until they accidentally hit Marguerite Jenkins on the chin with the mop handle. Marguerite saw the blood and started crying. My mother ran out with a clean towel and some ice. She shot us a “what-were-you-thinking?” look over her shoulder as she walked Marguerite back home.
The episode had all of us feeling bad and not in the mood for carnivals until Marguerite returned a few minutes later sporting a bandage and carrying a baton. I’d forgotten that she had signed up for the Talent Show. What a trouper!
The show must go on and so it did.
I think most of the members of the audience were part of the Talent Show as well and they would just come up to the stage when their act was announced. They sang, performed card tricks, played their flutes, or danced. Marguerite received especially enthusiastic applause for her baton twirling.
I was so enjoying the show I didn’t have time to be nervous about my talent contribution: it was an original play I wrote entitled “The Bunny and the Duck.”
Dianne Stone starred as the Bunny. I don’t remember if she wore bunny ears, but she stayed in character with her hands held up like paws and a very convincing rabbit-like overbite.
The Duck was actually a rocking seat that my father and uncle had made for me when I was a baby. I suppose if they had made the sides of the rocker look like a puppy, the play would have been called The Bunny and the Puppy, but no matter.
You may be wondering: How much writing is involved in a play about a bunny and a piece of baby furniture? Quite a bit, actually because the Duck had a speaking part.
This was a challenge to our little theater group. At first we thought we could hide Phyllis Whitfield (she being the smallest of us) in the bottom of the rocker so that she could be the voice of the Duck. Alas, even skinny Phyllis was too big to hide inside the rocker, so I stood offstage and spoke the lines. This was convenient because I had to push the Duck onstage with the handle to the very same rag mop that had bloodied poor Marguerite just an hour earlier.
The play opened with a very forlorn Bunny rubbing her eyes with her paws and crying “Nobody likes me!”
Enter the Duck, stage left, to ask Bunny what was the matter? Bunny says everyone chases her away from their gardens, the birds make fun of her long front teeth, and the cats try to catch her.
Duck gives wise counsel, telling Bunny that they are all jealous of how soft her fur is and how fast she can run. Soon Bunny is feeling much better about herself and happy to have a new friend.
The play ended with a duet sung by Bunny and Duck and accompanied by Joey Dettorre on the trumpet. We all came out to take our bows and, if we had had a curtain, it would have closed on a successful Sycamore Street Carnival.