TUCKED away at the back of a light industrial centre 70-year-old John Hansen is preparing amusement and sideshow equipment for Carnival Fever at Cannington Showgrounds on June 3-5.
Mr Hansen of Victoria Park and his three sons are showmen who travel the country to festivals with their collection of rides and games.
Last week, surrounded by colourful mechanical rides in his Cannington warehouse, Mr Hansen reminisced on his 53-years working in the carnival amusement industry.
Mr Hansen, who is president of the WA Showman’s Association, started working on sideshows at age 15 and remembers chopping wood for a steam carousel at Cicerello’s in Fremantle.
The same carousel, now 120 years old, will be operating at the carnival (below).
He has seen sideshows change over time from acts like the girl in a fish bowl, dancing ducks, boxing troupes to the million dollar imported white-knuckle rides of today.
He recalls his brief stint as a boxer in George Stewart’s touring boxing troupe.
“The punters would put their hand up to fight. If they stayed for three rounds, they got a pound. That was a great draw card at all the country shows,” he said.
“I stood on the board once because his fighters had run away and left him. They were big blokes coming at you – shearers and farmers – there were some heavy boys around.”
Mr Hansen organised the first family fun day at Cannington 20 years ago.
He remembers when there was a trotting track long before the greyhounds and when the shopping precinct was a golf driving range.
“I have seen the whole of Australia through the shows,” he said.
“It gets into your blood. The best thing about it all is when you go to a show you see the kids and they all have smiles on their dials and everybody is happy.”
His three sons, John Junior, Matthew and Darren, now run the business and travel the country with the amusement rides.
Mr Hansen said once a year they spent a month up north setting up sideshows at outback carnivals.
For agricultural shows closer to Perth in towns such as Southern Cross, the Hansens leave home on a Wedensday for work returning on the Sunday.
“It was hard on the family. My wife came away with me for the first two to three years in a caravan. It was tough for her,” he said.
He said you needed a variety of skills to be a showman including knowing how to weld, paint, drive prime loaders and carpentry.
“You have to be everything. You have to work the stalls and know how to sell the product to the customer,” he said.
“This time of the year is about maintenance. You work three months on maintenance painting the rides up, doing all the lights and getting the rides checked again and then you do a run.
“Safety is the most important thing on any amusement ride. They all get checked every year. Engineers check them and WorkSafe can come and check them at any time they want.”
Next week’s show boasts 18 rides including the supernova, super sizzler and the star-flyer.