“the show is coming!”

They used to have tent shows – did anybody tell you about them, the shows that would come to the Eastern Shore?  … They’d come with movies and actors on the stage and that sort of thing and set up the tents, and they would come at strawberry-picking time, because that was the first time in the year that people in the neighborhood had a little cash. The pickers had made some money, and it cost ten cents to get in.

One of them was O.L. Sykes – the name on the truck.  The other one was Al Moore.  I don’t know where they came from or how far they went, but you’d hear they were down the county.  The show is coming!  So you knew pretty soon they’d be up in Birdsnest.

Some of the movies … were silent still, and they’d put the words on the screen.  Both black and white came.  The black folks sat on the right-hand side and the white folks on the left-hand side.  But all under the tent together, and while they were under the tent, both sides  – when the words came onto the screen, you didn’t have to know how to read when you were real little, because those who could read would whisper to their neighbor what the words were saying, and you could hear in unison maybe 40 voices whispering what the words were up on the screen.

And almost all of them were old western shows that they had.  I don’t remember any of the actors but it was a marvelous thing to go to those tent shows.  They’d take them down on Sunday and move up the road a ways farther and set it up again.

They’d sell Cracker Jacks after the movie was over, turn on the lights, and then some would get up on the stage and act and dance and tell the corniest jokes and encourage people in the audience to come up and do tap dancing or any old fool thing, but it was a wonderful show.  Those places were packed every night.

From an interview with Ridgway Dunton, summer 2010.


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