“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
~United States Declaration of Independence
Cars and Carnivals
What does it mean to be free? To some people today, it means to be able to say whatever they want, when they want. To the Founding Fathers of the United States, being subjugated by despotic foreign governments was no idea of freedom. Just like Americans today, 18th Century American leaders knew that being able to conduct their affairs freely was paramount in building a new society based upon free-trade and freedom of expression.
American carnivals like the Governor Mifflin Community Days celebration in Shillington, PA have come to embody what it means to be free. To be able to enjoy your friends, family, and fresh air is what it’s all about. Think about the last carnival you were at. When you walked through the gate did you happen to take it all in?
Did you smell the hamburgers steaming from the many food carts? What about that sweet, freshly-made cotton candy? Maybe it’s the pizza and fries that are making your mouth water. How about that Polish Sausage cart that is sizzling across from the taco stand? To the Weirdo of the Summer, just standing in the middle of all those smells can spark up nostalgia like an old DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince song.
Standing amidst the dulcet sounds of the buzzers, music, bells, and crowd noise you start to feel a sensation of contentment which switches to excitement. No, it wasn’t the powdered sugar on the 4 pounds of funnel cake you ate…(okay, maybe that had something to do with it). Chances are that by standing in the middle of the action you instantaneously teleported back in time to days of childhood spent at a carnival.
When you were young, first it was your parents or older relatives that introduce you to the amazement. Your young mind was locked on things such as stuffed animals or cotton candy. When you got a little older, the rides became more important and when you got older still, maybe meeting a potential summer crush was the only thing on the agenda. There’s a microcosm that exists at town fairs and carnivals that you didn’t know you were part of at a young age.
Remember the first time you were allowed to roam the carnival freely? Maybe your parents were just steps behind but that bit of freedom was everything. To our parents, it meant giving their children the opportunity to express themselves in an environment designed for wholesome entertainment.
Every now and then you get a little more than you expect when you attend something like a carnival and as the Weirdo of the Summer walked toward the back of the Community Days Carnival, he saw what it was he came to see.
Sometimes when you get older, you still want to go on rides but you want to be more in-control than flailing around in the tilt-a-whirl. In America, we take great pride in being able to express ourselves any way we see fit. When we were younger, we customized our rides so that we can attract the opposite sex (loud bass = phone numbers duh). We did burn-outs to prove we have power. We bought all the gizmos to make our cars stand-out for one reason or another but that’s what Americans do.
You can call it a rat-rod or you can call it a sculpture but what it really does is give the middle finger to what people think is normal. It’s a big middle finger to those who think cars are supposed to be a certain way. It’s a big middle finger to people too close behind on the road.
Granted, this rat was the most unique machine at the tiny car-show but there were a few other machines that caught the attention of the WeirdosXxXx Canon lens.
Meet the 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS. This blue dream machine was the cleanest car at the show. The 53 year-old 327 engine bay looked as if it came fresh off the showroom floor. In the 50’s and 60’s, the American Muscle Car became synonymous with what it meant to be free. To be able to roll-around town in your shiny new vessel of independence was all that mattered. What’s better is to show up to the cruise spot and have all eyes on you.
As America’s population started to boom in the 1950’s, families had to think bigger if they wanted to go on a cruise down the road. People started trading in their 1940 Dodge Coupes for station wagons such as this 1958 Pontiac Chieftain Safari.
Any good car show will have many types of cars but the memorable machines are like time-capsules. When you are at a car-show, don’t be afraid to poke your head inside and out. You might see something that gives an idea of what was on everyone’s mind in that time.
“A customer can order their car painted any color they want so long as it’s black.” ~Henry Ford
There is something unique about American Automotive history in-that sometimes both the manufacturer and buyer were forced to make decisions to save money. One of those decisions was the choice of color or optional equipment. Today, we take that tiny bit of freedom for granted. In Henry Ford’s day, these options didn’t exist due to the nature of how his Model-T was built on his infamous assembly line. The fact was that black paint actually dried faster and in America, time is money.
As used Model-T’s started piling-up and became a dime-a-dozen, young hot-rodders began chopping-up the old buckets and frames, got rid of body panels, slapped-in flat-heads V-8’s or superchargers to rumble down the strip in their own style.
As the sun starts to set over Shillington, the car show, and the Carnival, you can’t help but be reminded of Summers of the past. Maybe you never thought about it as you made your way passed all the sights, sounds, and smells of the carnival.
Stop to think about the fact that you are free to be there. We are free to gorge on cotton candy and hot dogs. We are free to get on a ride and scream our lungs out in public. We are free because people just like us decided to fight for what we as Americans believe to be a nominal way of life.
Article and Photography by Matt Graham
Photo Editing done with GIMP by goats