Seeing a midway set up in Meadowtown Centre this weekend prompts me to share with you a story of a young man who ran off and joined the circus.
There are many such stories to be told, my brother - five years my senior - being one of those who joined the carnival as a young man and never really left it.
But this is not a story about him. Instead, I want to tell you about a guy named Bingo (Irvin) Hauser, who in his heyday stuck his head in a lion's mouth and travelled the country with the glamourous Conklin shows.
While his memory slips a bit with old age - much like mine - Bingo's (85 years young) recollections of that era are still vivid.
What reminded me of Bingo and his stories was the sight of the lion's head logo on the side of many West Coast Amusement vehicles set up at the Pitt Meadows shopping centre.
Like many young men who grew up in Brandon, Man., this Polish immigrant had to leave to find employment during the 1940s.
Some of his friends headed for the mines, others joined the carnival, and still others became RCMP officers. Since the 14-year-old wasn't nearly tall enough (standing all of 5 feet, 4 inches tall) to become a Mountie in those days, and he hated confined spaces - so mining was out the question - Bingo jokes that he had no other choice but to join the carnival.
So he and his childhood buddy Sunny (Jack) Hazelwood signed on with Conklin Shows, earning a whopping $15 a week as a carnival barker. Within weeks, Bingo was promoted and given a raise to $50 a week.
A few years later, in 1947, he bought a lion cub named Simba (which is where the lion in the WCA logo comes from), starting his career as a lion tamer and sideshow owner.
Bingo eventually sold the animals to zoos, bought a merry-go-round and gradually built WCA into the major midway operation it is today.
Never planning to actually retire, he still remains at the helm of WCA. But Bingo explains that it's very much a family business. The parents of his wife Jackie were involved, and now their children, grandchildren - and likely soon their great grandchildren - will join the business - bringing to total five generations of their clan involved in the carnival.
The Hauser family now has three separate units, with more than 125 rides, games, and concessions and about 500 employees during peak season. And, based in the Lower Mainland, the company continues to entertain as Bingo has done in almost every community in western Canada since 1961.
Despite his senior years, Bingo and his wife still spend more than half the year on the road - albeit in separate units - visiting large and small communities alike, such as Pitt Meadows.
For more than seven decades of dedication to the industry, Bingo was inducted into the Showman's League of America Hall of Fame a few years back, joining the likes of Walt Disney and Buffalo Bill who earned the distinction.
At that time a number of fellow industry leaders in the U.S. and Canada also presented him with a life-sized chainsaw carving replica of that lion Bingo raised from a cub.
And just recently, further accolades were heaped on Bingo during the 47th annual Outdoor Amusement Business Association conference in Florida, where he was inducted into the industry's coveted international hall of fame.
"It means a lot to me. It's the top honour. You can't go any higher," he told me as he set out on yet another spring season.
If you have the chance to meet this cool old coot, ask him to share some of those stories from the early days in circus and carnival life. His recollections will help you forget Austin Powers' movie quote about the two things that scare him: nuclear war and carnies.
Bingo and his team are apparently going to be back in town again later in this spring for the Home Show and again in July for Country Fest.