Showman (1937)

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SHOWMAN yet come into existence. Horses and baseball were flourishing all right. But football was either small time or purely collegiate. Ice-hockey didn't exist in- doors and no crowd was going to spend money to stand and freeze on the banks of an outdoor rink. Basket- ball had hardly been invented yet. But there were plenty of kinds of competition, now wholly or partly dead, for the public to spend its money on. Bicycling had already been the big thing for ten or fifteen years when I got into it. Everybody was riding a wheel and arguing about the merits of well-known makes. There were pieces in the papers about the dan- gers of the scorching speed the bicycling craze had brought in its wake. Cigarette packages carried pic- tures of famous cycle-racers right up along with musical-comedy stars and baseball heroes. Small boys knew by heart the records of Cannon Ball Eddie Bald, the Adonis of the wheelmen, Major Taylor, the great negro rider, and Tom Cooper, A. A. Zimmerman, Fred Kramer and the rest. It was a sensational sport in its day. A champion streaking round the track hunkered over on his wheel in one of the old-time thirty-mile races was the epitome of human speed. And dangerous. Take a spill off a speeding bicycle on a hardwood track and you'd be better off if you'd stopped one of Joe Louis' punches. It was hardly better on the big con- crete oval that our outfit built on Manhattan Beach. Our outfit, to which I contributed my general pro- moter's background, consisted of myself, Pat Powers, 224