I have had jack-in-the-box’s on the brain lately. Whenever something dances around my mind like that it usually finds it way into a comic. It’s funny but often I will just do a bit of research on a topic, even if I know exactly what the comic is going to be, and when I do I find something dark beneath the surface. Perhaps, there’s a name for that, or there should be. Darkdar? Wow, say that out loud and you will sound developmentally disabled. Maybe, I should stick to comicking.
Anyway, I googled jack-in-the-box and had to rummage through a load of links related to the fast food chain, but lo and behold if there isn’t a weird little story behind the origins of the popular children’s toy. Back in the late 1200’s, there was a rector of a UK parish by the name of John Schorne. He was considered to be a very pious holy man and credited for curing illnesses in the county. For some reason, he was believed to have cast the devil into a boot. I’m not sure how well a boot would seal in anything, let alone something as slippery as the devil, but whatever. Somehow, the idea of this evil entity trapped in a boot led to the jack-in-the-box toy’s creation. Is this true? I have no idea. There really wasn’t much info on the origins and that’s the only story I found so I’m going to say, ‘Ok. Why the hell not?” Hehe.
Time for adventure! I told you there was carnies involved. Well, sorta, but it was mostly a ‘hook’. (Just like the carnival folk use!). A few years ago I had heard of a small town in the Tampa Bay area (FL) called Gibsonton that was home to retired carnival workers (yes, including ‘freaks’, but I’m not so fond of applying that word to people unless they are cool with it). It also is where carnies and circus performers will spend off-season time.
Al the 8′ 4 1/2″ Giant and his wife Jeanie the 2′ 6″ Half Girl built a restaurant and camp in Gibsonton back in the 1940’s. As I understand it, at the camp there was a grave monument business where they created custom monuments in various colors. Some oddball memorabilia was also scattered around the camp like the Giant’s boot and a collection boasting dirt from around the world. Cool, huh? The town housed many carnvial legends like Lobster boy and the Human Blockhead and has the only post office with a counter for midgets. You can see why the idea of exploring there was irresistible.
So, yes we did find the town but it’s not what it was. The Giant’s restaurant is abandoned and quite dilapidated. The camp, well, I’m not entirely sure. I only encountered one woman who didn’t seem to like us being there so we politely moved along. We walked down one old dirt road (clearly marked ” KEEP OUT ” ) which was just the remains of houses, most of which seemed to have burned down. I’m not sure what the story is there. Jim and I like old things, interesting textures, etc. so we had a field day taking random shots. Still, it felt sad because at some point, years ago, this was someone’s life.
Afterwards, we headed back down 41 in search of, well anything interesting. We ended up finding the Showtown Bar and Restaurant which has some amazing murals and Trompe l’oeil style work. I’m really disgusted with myself for not having the exact name of the artist because he’s quite incredible. All his work there is circus and carnival themed, some powerful, some humorous, all really well executed. I believe his name is Rowning or Browning but I’ll be damned if I can find anything on him online which is a shame. If anyone knows, please let me know.
At the Showtown, we met a “carnie” who was just a super nice guy who worked as a ride technician since he was around 16 years old. He explained the money is great, the work and life is hard, but he wouldn’t change a thing. He told us a little more about the town and where some of the smaller side streets are where we could see the front yards with old circus rides and such on the lawns. This is something I had read about and hoped to come across, but alas we were losing light and the television over the bar warned of several tornadoes moving into the area. We photographed some murals, including one in the girl’s bathroom of a guy peeing and then headed for safety in 1700’s style. I’ll get into that next week. I’m sick of blahhhging. Let’s look at pictures!
What’s Left of the Giant’s Restaurant and Camp:
Burnt Offerings – In the ruins of an house, I came across this haunting female face. My favorite image of the whole trip!
I liked the contrast of wreckage, human abandonment and the unstoppable force and beauty of nature.
Showtown Bar, Gibsonton FL
Here’s me choking the man in the ladies room at the Showtown Bar
A better idea of the mural and me peeing, hoo!
Ringmaster with trippy double eyes – part of a mural inside Showtown Bar
Awesome trompe l’oeil mural inside Showtown
This is such a small sample of the photos we took. There had to be like 40 murals there, but this gives you an idea. Check out Faith Arella’s Weblog for more images and some great entries on her more in-depth visit to Gibsonton.
Stories and life are pulsating all around you. Adventure can even be found in your own backyard if you open your eyes and look. Just sayin’ 😉
Til next week…