All because of the Tilt-a-whirl

Published 2:00 am Saturday, October 3, 2015

In the fall when the cotton was picked and the peanuts were stacked, the county fair came to town, the “carnies” set up 25-cent side shows with the most amazing things – a sword sallower, a fire eater, a knife thrower that could throw knives and split the hairs on a lady’s head and a man that could stretch out on a bed of nails and one that could walk barefooted on hot coals.

And, then, there were the freak shows with giants, midgets, fat ladies, tattooed men, bearded women, the gorilla girl, the rubber man that could stretch everything and Siamese twins in a jar of formaldehyde – dead Siamese twins.

Once in a sideshow there was a man with a face like a lion, a woman that looked like a mule – really – and the frog boy. There was also a half man, half woman but you had to go through another tent flap and pay extra to see that. I did not.

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What I did pay extra to see was the live chicken-eating man. He just snatched the head right off an old feathered chicken and stuck it in his mouth. Everybody ran out of the tent so we didn’t know if he chewed up the head and swallowed it or not.

But the most popular sideshows were off limits to children and ladies. Only men were allowed in the hootchie-kootchie show.

The hootchie-kootchie show was always down at the far and dark end of the fairgrounds and usually off to the side of the Ferris wheel and not too far from the Tilt-a-Whirl. And it was from the spinning tops on the Tilt-a-Whirl that we could sneak-peek at the previews of the hootchie-kootchie show.

When it was almost time for the show, the hootchie-kootchie girls would come out on the midway stage, lights would flash and the music would blare out. The men would come rushing down the midway with their hats pulled down over their eyes and the collars of the coats pulled up around their necks like they were about to freeze to death or maybe trying to hide from somebody.

The men would stand shoulder to shoulder with their backs turned to the midway and the hootchie-kootchie girls would come out in shiny, slinky, dresses that were split up the side so you could see one long leg. They wore high heel shoes and beads around their necks that twirled in rhythm to the music.

They all had red, red lips and rouge on their cheeks. They chewed chewing gum, actually they smacked on it and between smacks they would lick their lips and bat their artificial eyelashes.

They each had different color long hair and it all looked like it had come out of a bottle, that’s what Mama would have said.

The hoochie-koochie girls would shake their hips to the music and wiggle their finger for the men to come on in and see the show and they did – and in a hurry.

If some of the men hung back, one of the hootchie-kootchie girls would stay on stage and shake and wiggle some more. It was an amazing thing to see.

The Tilt-a-Whirl was the best place to see the hootchie-kootchie girls because you had to wait for the ride to start and keep sitting after it stopped. When the ladies figured that out, they would make a beeline to the Tilt-a-Whirl when the music blared and the lights started flashing. For some reason, not as many men went to the hootchie-kootchie show after that. Soon they stopped having the hootchie-kootchie show and all because of the Tilt-a-Whirl.