St. Augustine Photographer | International Independent Showmen's Museum
For the past few months, Rich and I have been watching The X-Files. There was an episode about this town where people from the traveling carnivals would spend their off season. We're not talking the modern day carnivals, we're talking unique side show stuff. Well the X-Files episode is based out of Gibsonton, FL. I'm also pretty sure American Horror Story loosely based one of their seasons off Gibsonton. My parents live in Apollo Beach which is only ONE EXIT away from Gibsonton! When I asked my dad about it he knew right away what I was talking about. He was a hydraulic salesman and knew the area fairly well. He would sell pumps and such to the carnival people for the rides. Back in the 20's and 30s people who were born with genetic deformities would make the best of things and join the traveling carnival shows. As times changed human oddities became distasteful. Two of the most famous people from this time were Al and Jeanie Tomaini. They were the "World's Strangest Married Couple" Al was 8 feet 4 inches and was the "World's Tallest Man", and Jeanie was 2 feet 6 inches, and she was know as the "Half Girl". They met at the carnival and eloped together. Eventually they adopted 2 daughters. Al and Jeanie opened a fish camp in Gibsonton (affectionately called Gibtown by the locals) The fish camp was named Giants Fish Camp Marina. They have erected a memorial of a huge boot. The memorial stands as tall as Al did. While the side shows have gone by the wayside you can still see several old pieces of carnival equipment and they have opened a Showmen's museum as a memorial. The post office in Gibsonton has a dwarf counter and several other people in these shows are buried in a cemetery close by. Other local residents who have since passed away include, Colonel Casper Balsam a circus midget who portrayed a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz, andGrady Stiles, a performer known as "Lobster Boy".
It was super cool and we had a great time. The Executive Director of the Museum, David "Doc" Rivera was a wealth of knowledge. He used to own a carnival back in the day and now shares his stories with those visiting the museum. I just loved this little museum and the kooky little town. Cities like this are truly colorful spots in America's history.
There were so many awesome things about the museum. It featured Father Mac, the pastor that traveled with the carnival, Daisy Mae, the double nosed cow, and a crazy in depth library area. It also had several HAND CARVED carousel horses. I never knew that people made a living carving carousel horses back in the day. They were stunning. My favorite thing was probably this little metal carousel that was gathering dust in the corner. It was probably as big around as a car tire, but it was gorgeous. The details were so incredible. Also there was a crazy detailed figurine carnival that was build using household items like matchsticks and such. My favorite was the Snakes Alive and Tina truck.