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National Showmen’s Association
“How We Began”
By: Jack Beebe

OctopusBefore the National Showmen’s 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 Showmen’s Convention held at the Sherman House in Chicago. Most of the East Coast showpeople when by train. In Lou Dufour’s 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 Showmen’s 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 Showmen’s 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 NSA’s 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 World’s fair, humorist harry Hershfield and Tex O’Rourke, the generation’s 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 Dollar Pier.
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 Showmen’s Association got our first leaders and members.

The NSA’s first charity division was known as the Sunshine Fund. Elizabeth (Bess) Hamid, George A. Hamid Sr’s 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 Showmen’s 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 club’s banquets. Most of these were stolen from storage trailers when the NSA moved to Long Island.

National Showmen’s Association

Phone: 516-972-1744

Peter Zorlenzan
Secretary / Treasurer
61 College Rd.
Selden, NY 11784-2809

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