Wow, how some names take me back to people and days gone by. You guys
are making me feel older than I am.
I lived in Dallas my first three decades and during the 70's and 80's I
was introduced to my good friend Lowell Stapf. He held court in the old
semi-trailer that was his office and was always parked behind the German
funhouse on the midway at the State Fair of Texas. He would give me,
Lew Williams, organist extraordinaire, and several of his friends
window tags so we could get in and park in the fair's employee lot any
day we wanted to come to see him. I found him way more entertaining
than the fair, which the tag also gave us free access to.
Lowell would often take us out to dinner, filling his two stretch limos
with his friends and employees. His company was called Steck and Stapf
Amusements, and they booked all the midway carnies. I got to meet the
unforgettable Dr. Miracle. His real name was Ward Hall and he ran the
sideshow, with a long list of so-called sideshow freaks. Actually they
were all great folks. There was the dwarf named Poobah, who lifted a
bucket of rocks with a hole in his tongue, handled snakes, and did other
amazing feats. The 7-foot-tall Amazon Queen was really not quite that
tall and was actually a man in drag. The Tattooed Lady in those days
was covered with tats from head to toe. She was in her nineties.
If you look on the net, Ward Hall has several books out including a
memoir of carnival oddities. This link goes to an article about him:
My friend Lowell Stapf, who had his workshop and home in Amarillo,
would gather his employees and friends like me after the fair closed
every night, where the group shot the bull and had a drink or two before
going to bed. It was a big stag party with all the roustabouts and
freaks. His partner Duane Steck had an indoor carnival in Garland,
Tex., I believe, where there was a carousel with a couple of band
organs, and a Tilt-A-Whirl and other rides available for birthdays and
Lowell had employed Jack and Louise Schott for many years, rebuilding
band organs that he used, bought, sold, and collected. When
I went to work after college for Jack Myer in Arlington, I worked for a
couple of years with Louise, who was by then a widow. She sat there
rebuilding every pneumatic thingamajig that came to her table. Flawless
work and really fast. There was almost never anything that needed more
attention after she set it aside as finished. I heard that several
years later she died of cancer.
It is good to hear that Lowell is still going strong. Back in the disco
days he bought a defunct potato-chip factory in Amarillo and opened a
disco called the Paramount Club. He bought all the stuff out of a
demolished Paramount theater and installed it into this disco. The DJ
booth was behind glass that was the arched window of a giant Wurlitzer
jukebox, two stories tall, complete with bubble lights. The giant
speaker of the jukebox was the earthquake speaker for the dance floor.
This building is where he had his pipe organ and workshop, upstairs and
in back. I miss Lowell and must go back and see him again sometime. He
had a wealth of knowledge and was a gold mine of information. Thanks,
guys, for the walk down Memory Lane.