National Showmens Association
How We Began
By: Jack Beebe
National Showmens Association was founded in 1938, the dominant trade organization
was the Showmen League of America based out of Chicago.
The high spot of the winter season for the show people was the Outdoor Showmens
Convention held at the Sherman House in Chicago. Most of the East Coast showpeople when by
train. In Lou Dufours book, Fabulous years, written with Irwin Kirby, he
writes about how on the 1937 trip, he, George A. Hamid Sr. and Art Lewis laid the
groundwork for the NSA. The carnival and fair industry grew so big and so fast on the East
Coast that they thought the East Coast should have the same type trade organization as in
Chicago. They continued the discussion in Chicago and took it up with the SLA. After
several weeks went by and the SLA board of governors failed to respond to the idea, they
held a meeting in George A. Hamid Sr.s office and the NSA was born. The initials of
the National Showmens Association, NSA, are a ply on the initials from the SLA.
Some of those also present at the meeting were Fank Miller, Paul Miller, Max Linderman,
Ralph Endy, Dave Endy, Oscar Buck, Art Lewis, and Ben Weiss. About three thousand dollars
was raised. Within two weeks the first meeting of the National Showmens Association
was held at the Picadilly Hotel in New York. The 25 attending members became charter
members of the NSA. George A. Hamid Sr. was named president. The vice presidents were Max
Linderman, Art Lewis and Oscar Buck.
After 90 days the NSA had grown 350 members strong and the club rooms were established in
the Palace Theater in Times Square.
The NSAs big event at the time was a Thanksgiving Eve banquet at the Commodore Hotel
in New York City. The banquet was held there because it was common that the attendees get
on the train from the Grand Central Station directly after the banquet and go to the
Chicago and the National Trade Show and convention.
Over 800 people attended the first banquet. Lou Dufour was banquet chairman and Billy Rose
was chairman of entertainment. George A. Hamid Sr. saw to it that all the top fair
managers of the east were present as his guest. Notables present include Grover Whalen of
the New York Worlds fair, humorist harry Hershfield and Tex ORourke, the
generations most sought after toastmaster. The entertainment, at no cost, included
Milton Berle, Helen Morgan, Red Skelton, Lou Holtz, Benny Fields, Bob Harvard and stars
from the Billy Roses Broadway reviews.
At the time, George A. Hamid Sr. owned the Steel Pier in Atlantic City which was famous
for its rides, games and live shows. Also up and down the Atlantic City Boardwalk were
games and amusements of every type, not to forget another monster pier named the Million
In the era, up in the New York area, Coney Island was running full tilt with its famous
Steeple Chase Park, Luna Park, and Dreamland Park. Coney also had amusements of every
description up and down its own boardwalk and on every street in the area.
Across the river, perched on the New Jersey palisades highly visible as you crossed the
George Washington Bridge was the Palisades Amusement park.
In New York City itself, amusement games and attractions were numerous, especially on 42nd
Street and uptown.
New York State has the great railroad carnival, Strates Shows. New Jersey gave us
Amusements of America and The Vivonas. Huge shows that played the East such as the
railroad carnival World of Mirth, gave us their managers and employees. Out on Queens
Boulevard was the Mckee amusement park. The OC Buck, Endy, Howard and I.T. Shows were
thriving in this area.
Not all of our founding members came from the carnivals and parks. Pat Valdo was the
longtime performance Director for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The
Miller Brothers also had all the concessions on the RBBB.
These are the places and shows where our National Showmens Association got our first
leaders and members.
The NSAs first charity division was known as the Sunshine Fund. Elizabeth (Bess)
Hamid, George A. Hamid Srs wife, was Chairwomen. Her grandson, James M. Hamid Sr.,
recalls that she would strong-arm any performer who worked for any of the Hamid
enterprises into donations money to the Sunshine Fund. Because of this, she became known
as Sunshine Bess.
A cemetery committee was established and plots were purchased at the Ferncliff Cemetery in
Hartsdale New York. A lion monument was built on the property. The lion remains the symbol
of the National Showmens Association.
After the first meeting held at the Palace Theatre building, the NSA sold bonds to enable
the club to purchase its very own building at 123 West 56th Street. That building held
both offices and club rooms. The upstairs held a meeting room for the NSA Ladies Auxiliary
and also a board room for the Board of Governors to meet in. Downstairs was the larger
main meeting room, a bar that was open only after meetings as well as an office for the
paid Executive Secretary. The clubroom walls were lined with pictures and plaques honoring
members as well as pictures of all the clubs banquets. Most of these were stolen
from storage trailers when the NSA moved to Long Island.