Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

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May 6, 2020 15 min
There was a glorious time in American history when circus sideshow performers lived together in a small town in Florida. Learn about the fascinating history of Gibtown today! Learn more about your ad-choices at
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Episode Transcription

The text below is machine transcribed.

Hen you welcome to the short stuff, I'm Josh, there's Chulk, it's just the two of us again.

We can let it all hang out.

ECAUSE Jerry's, not around we're just a couple of dudes hanging out in our bathrobes talking about Gibtown, the town in Florida, near Sersoda and Tampa where the people who lived in the circus or the carnivals went to live when they weren't working wat. It go quick story since we've on I short stuff I'll make it twenty seconds. Okay, I got out of the shower today and I almost went and put on a suit just to walk into the kitchen and make him only laugh Al Right, but it wasn't worth the effort. So I was like I told her the joke and said to just imagine I did that.

Alright, that's good enough!

So gibtown yeah, we did a show.

An episode on circus side shows way back and it's a really good one, and I know that we'll talk about this a little bit in this episode. But these things can very much seem like exploitation of people with disabilities and on one hand they certainly were sure, but on the other hand we found out through research.

A lot of these people was the only way they could make money. A lot of them found love and community, and so it is very much something that is in the gray area.

As far as you know when this was going on, I just wanted to throw that out there. I think that was really good chuck, because I remember our what if we call him Sidsho performers or did we was freaks used in the title of that episode? I don't remember, I don't think we did, but it was a really good one, and I remember I just saw freaks the nineteen thirty movie the other day and apparently a lot of people from Gibtown who hadn't settled there quite yet, but soon would were in that movie as well yeah for sure. So we're talking about Gibsenton Florida, which is near Tampa, and it is on the Alphia, I'm sorry, F, the Alafia or the Alafhia River. Do you know which one? It is no no.

I hang out on the east side when I'm down there, that's west side, we don't we don't get along very well.

Well, I see you flashing your west side, Yep, sorry yeah!

You couldn't even see me and U You knew that. I did that when I saide west side and it was all jumbled to like it's just basically, all fingers were splayed on each hand, and then I put it up against my chest as if I've been recording a lot of these scype things now, with movie crush and always do video and they're always surprised when they ask about us, and I'm like we don't do video, mainly because my notes get in the way, but I was like after this long. All I need is that guy mit year holes sure a little bit of this for theright up in your ear.

It's alnnee man yeah, so GIB Gibsenton.

If he went to that town n th s and walked around a bit, you would think what is going on here. There are lines and tigers in that backyard. Oh, my there is an restaurant run by an eight foot tall man and his wife, a woman with no legs yeah and there's lobster boy, and there is monkey girl - and these are all sort of the unfortunate names given to them on their side - show tours yes, sometimes by their adopted parents who would be the promoters, a side shower circus promoters who basically Li, had legally adopted them, and in some cases that was actually a step up. For you know some of the the kids. But yes, if you did walk around what what came to be called Gib town, it did seem a little different. I mean just the fact that people had like monkeys and elephants and Lions and tigers in their backyard. That's a pretty that's a bits. Different than most other towns, the side show rides parked in people's driveways. It's a little different to, and apparently this town was that way, because it was first settled by the the giant and the half woman. They called themselves, but their names were Alan Gennie Tomaini, which is Great Genie Tomyini.

It just rolls off the tongue - ah that's great, but they first showed up there in the ES, and I guess they just basically said: Hey everybody. This this place is kind of cool, we're not judged we're not treated differently in the town's actually kind of neat, and eventually the town or the county. Hillsbro County passed an ordinance that said you can have things like carnival rides in your driveweight or elephants in your backyard e. If you are a carnival or circus performer yeah, I think they got the notion that it was a pretty sleepy little town and in he s they had about a hundred actual sideshow performers and about a thousand carnes that would live there. When you know it just became a friendly place for them all to live, and they were all kind of like a big family, so they congregated there and - and I think the town was like you know what these are great residents. They pay their state taxes, wait a minute, it's Florida right that! That's why they're living here there are no state Texas, although I don't know if that was the deal back then, but or has it always been the deal? I don't even know, I don't know. I know, there's no state income text, but there's like the property texes are much higher like they make it up an other ways for sure right. They get they get you one away or the other that elephant tax is really steep, but they realized hey. We could use these residents and they're only here part time if you know what I'm saying so, that's kind of great too, and so they made, like you said these business orde ordinances that made it kind of a friendly place for Carnes Yep.

So I say we take a break and come back and talk a little more about Gib town. Let's do it alrightwhat's the famous quote: Chuck: Don't don't try it jake. This is Gib town.

I think that's it.

I don't even think I got the first part right.

No, you didn't Jank Jake, Stop Stop! This is good to don't do it.

I think it's a Gib town, I'm walking here, that's it!

That's it that's from midnight cowboy right midnight cowboy. Yes, that is Dustin Hoffman, yeah, right, ere, Tou, nice work, yeah.

So back to Gibtown this town. By, like we sad, B N H, s was booming with carnival folk.

They love living there. It was kind of a lovely community for them, and we mentioned earlier that they sometimes found love.

We mentioned the the tall man and the short lady who traveled as the world's strangest married couple. It's actually a very sweet story. Yeah like he was over eight feet, tall chuck and she not having any legs was about two and a half feet tall and it amit the knees.

Yeah Yeah, I guess so - maybe like mid Chin. Actually, who knows it? Wasn net! THAT'S AW PICTURE! Okay, where there you go so the Tomyinis they toured as the world strangest married couple and they actually, they had kids too and thr. Their daughter remembered that they would. You know, leave for the summer and go make some money and come back to givtown and run the fishcamp giants. FISHCAMP, which is one of the places that that they ownd, which was very legendary but apparently isn't there anymore.

No, there is a memorial there. Now I watched a couple of short youtube videos about Gib town and you know there're still remnants of, and there are still some performers about. Two hundred Carnivale people still live there, but they're little remnants of that past world. Every now and then you'll see some broken down. Old Rusted Rides in like a vacant lot or maybe a themed restaurant. That's closed down so get towns about forty five miles from Sarasoda, which is where the wringling brothers Barnman Bailey circus winters.

So I think it was, and we've talked about Florida in general having sort of circus stuff M in general. So I think it all just sort of made sense right, and I don't know why Gibtown. I think it was just that the Tomainis happened to set up shop there and found that the people were taller and friendly and it just kind of spread from there. So it had the Hayday from I'd, say the s till, maybe the s or so, and this article from how stuff works points out that there were side shows in operation. Prelala pellusicide shows like the real deal into the as and although they really kind of started to decline. By, like the ES and es people were like this seems, exploitive and people say right. I probably is, but let's not ask the performers, let's just decide for them, but finally ine thusand, nine hundred nd. Ninety, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passe and all of a sudden you know, working in a sideshow is not the only place. You could get a job if you had some sort of.

What's the word I'm looking for, I don't know physical malady abnormality, maybe yeah, I'm not sure the right way to say that these days, I'm not either. But if you were a sideshop performer, you could now get a job anywhere. Thanks to the ADA, that's right, which is great the lobster boys he was known, Greaty styles.

He was known as the lobster boy because and here's the deal - and we talked about this in the side - show performer podcast and episode - is that you got into these things because you were born with a condition almost invariably and they would give you a name like lobster boy when in fact you had a real life condition which which one was that Ectro dectoly right where it appears like. You have two fingers only that sort of look like claws. It looks a lot like lobster claus actually yeah and Justin. Beeber's wife actually has a form of this, because she has a Pinki that is sort of misshaping and she has just come out and said all right. Let's look and talk it look at it and talk about it because ofor her here it is, but he actually was a terrible person. Yeah I sow that he was murdered. He was an abuseive alcoholic.

He killed his first wife and was sentenced to home incarseration because there was no prison that could care for him.

Wait was he killed us now? I think he killed his on aaute hell, beyonce yeah, that's right! Yeah yeah daughter's fiance, home and carcerated quit drinking got married again started drinking again and allegedly he was either knocked off by a carny for fifteen hundred bucks paid for by his current wife. Mor the neighbor just came over and took care of business because they knew what a bad guy he was yeah.

I think like He.

He was paid from what I saw like that that amount of money I didn't see any other alternate theories, but yeah shot him twice in the head and he died like sitting in his chair yeah. He wasn't a very good guy from what I saw either.

No so to you know not to trash his name. No, but you know this, but that was like the big scandal in Gibtown. For the most part, it was like a really peaceful, happy place where, if you were a sideshope performer like you could go feel at home and be yourself and one of the cutest things that I saw was that another couple that found love Priscilla. The monkey girl who had hypertricosis, which is she had like a full head of hair like a hair dew as an infant, and it just kept going from there. She had a beard she was like just had tons of hair and she married Emmett the alligator skinman, who had a healthy case of ICTHEOSIS, which is Thik gaily skin all over your body, and they were married for so long that they had their fiftieth wedding anniversary at a local club, the showman's Club there. In fact, in one thousand nine hundred and eighty eight, isn't that the cutest thing it is, and I love the idea of Gibtown that these people came together on the outskirts of society and now hipsters are moving there apparently yeah.

That's the least surprising part of this entire episode.

That's right!

One other thing: If you want to see something very cute, go look up a baby photo of Priscilla the monkey girl. She was adorable degree.

Well, that's IT for short stuff! Everybody short stuff is out.

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