Step Right Up

Growing up, Labor Day signified several things: the end of summer, the town firemen’s parade and fair, and a telethon hosted by a comedian named Jerry Lewis, which raised money for muscular dystrophy. For a twenty-one hour period, you could turn on the television to watch a plethora of comedians, singers, and dancers entertaining the audience while the show’s viewers called in their donations. Celebrities from Frank Sinatra to Carrie Underwood appeared on the show, which ended its run in 2010.

I am sure that by now you are wondering what has caused me to write about this particular event. What could possibly be the relevance to my life? It probably sounds like I have really meandered way off the path of our family story. Am I losing it or grabbing at straws because I am running out of material?

Not so fast. I am not desperate for material yet. I am going to tell you a story I am positive is new to all of you. In addition to raising money via this annual telethon, Jerry Lewis also called on kids throughout America to raise money for this disease via backyard carnivals. We had one at our house.

While I cannot remember all the details due to my advanced age, I can recall enough so that I can paint you a picture of the event. Hopefully, with some help from my siblings or my friend, Karen, I will be able to fill in the blanks later.

I know I sent away to Jerry for a carnival packet, which included suggestions for games, tickets, and signs to display around the neighborhood. We had a fortune telling booth, which we created by putting up a sheet over the slide of the swing set. One of us was the gypsy, who dressed up in some sort of costume which was comprised of a cloth head covering and an old dress belonging to Grandma. We invented stories to predict the future of our young customers.

In the sandbox we placed dishes, which was similar to the nickel toss at the firemen’s fair. The idea was to stand at the edge of the sandbox and try to gently, but with great accuracy, throw a coin so that it would stay on one of the plates. We also had a milk bottle toss, which involved dropping a clothes pin into a milk bottle.

Of course we had refreshments, which may have been nothing more than some lemonade. So we put up our signs, and the kids from the block beyond Wootton Street came. They spent their pennies and nickels on our games and drinks, and at the end of the carnival, Grandma sent our measly profit back to Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy fund. It was not a waste of our time at all because we had fun planning it, a great time that day, and when it was over, we felt we had helped the cause just a bit.

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