Dalton Fisher: ‘I Worked 23 Hours a Day as a Carny at the PNE’

Dalton Fisher (b. 1935) reminisces about the simple charm of his 1950s childhood and the wearisome conditions of his first job as a carny.


Dalton Fisher: In springtime, I worked as a carny at the PNE.


Bruce Macdonald: It was a pretty popular place in the summertime.


Dalton Fisher: Oh, yeah. It’s kind of in its twilight years, I think, now.


B.M.: I guess you could make pretty good money in the old days.

The PNE in the late 1930s
Image credit: James Crookall, public domain

Dalton Fisher: I don’t know about that. I remember the first time I worked there, at the PNE, I worked 23 hours per day and I was so tired.


B.M.: How do you work 23 hours a day at the PNE?


Dalton Fisher: Because I was working during the games, and then I worked at night flipping hamburgers. After that, when the PNE closed at night, I got another job there dipping candy apples and making candy floss for the next day. But dipping the apples was the main thing. And also ice cream with chocolate and nuts on it; I dipped them and put them in the freezer for the next day. So, the prep work, I guess, for the following day.

Then, two hours per day I would sleep. It’s now open on Sundays as well as every weekend, but, in those days, it was closed on the weekends. So that was my only two days off. But, during the week, when I was working there, I would catch my two hours of sleep at a shooting gallery, in behind… I was so tired I could sleep through anything, for two hours, and I got them to wake me up after two hours, and go back to work again.

A shooting gallery in Vancouver at the beginning of the XXth century
Image credit: M. James Skitt Matthews, public domain

B.M.: So you remember those days pretty well.


Dalton Fisher: Oh, God, yeah. In fact, there used to be a vacant field just off Hastings St. I guess that would be going north. And they used to keep horses there. The reason they kept them there was because there was a horse factory; they’d bring them in live and get them ready for butchering.


B.M.: Where was that? Hastings and…?


Dalton Fisher: Hastings and Princess.


B.M.: Right when you were a small child? Wow… yikes.


Dalton Fisher: The kindergarten was in that area, too.


B.M.: You remember going to kindergarten.


Dalton Fisher: Oh yeah. It was a simpler time, that’s for sure. As I look back now, it was a much simpler time. We didn’t have all of the entertainment that we have today. I can remember that at the Royal Oak theatre, in Burnaby, they used to have Firemen’s Days there. On the weekends, we’d each bring in a used toy, and the firemen would refurbish the used toys and make them into something nice and shiny for the kids who couldn’t afford them.
And the other thing I recall is that they used to have yo-yo contests.

Man showing techniques for a Sun $100 yo-yo contest
Image credit: M. James Skitt Matthews, public domain

B.M.: This was in the ’50s. What do you remember about the yo-yo contests?


Dalton Fisher: There would be a guy who would come in and perform between movies. And he would ‘walk the dog‘ and all the rest of it…


B.M.: ‘All around the world‘…


Dalton Fisher: ‘Loop the Loop‘ and all the rest of it.


B.M.: Saturday matinée.


Dalton Fisher: Kind of hokey.


B.M.: It was huge though; for a while there, it was really huge.


Dalton Fisher: Yeah. I don’t think they even have yo-yos anymore.


B.M.: Well, not really. Kids are on the video games, that’s for sure.


Dalton Fisher: If it’s not electronically hooked up, they’re not interested. But it was a good time to be a kid. The other thing, too, is that we used to walk to school; we would not be afraid to walk to school. Nowadays every parent takes their kid to school in the car because they’re afraid there’s all the predators or something. That’s kind of weird. We need to go back to those days, I think, if that’s even possible.


B.M.: Yeah… I wonder.

Governor-General Harold Alexander looking at toys refurbished by Canadian firemen – The Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 1951
Source: Google News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *