George Beecher Interview
(Life on The James E. Strates Train)

With the opening of the State Fair just around the corner, it's only natural that we'd interview George Beecher.

George works for the people who bring you all of those Midway attractions — The James E. Strates Shows.

We talked with George Beecher about his life and work.

Q. George, how long have you been with the Strates Shows?
A. Since the Summer of'81.

Q. And what's your position?
A. I'm an assistant in the Show Office. I work for the office manager in the field of tickets and special promos.

Q. What exactly does that job entail?
A. I pay bills, do payroll, handle receipts.

Q. What were you doing before you joined Strates?
A. I was in the circus business. I worked for Clyde Beatty Cole Bros, and The Ringling Show.

Q. That was for how long?
A. From July '68 to December '80.

Q. What did you do for the circus?
A. I worked in the concession offices, handling money, stock, merchandising and ticket sales.

Q. Did you come from a show-biz family?
A. No. I'm the only abnormal one. (Laughs).

Q. So what did you do before you joined the circus?
A. I had a job in a big plant in Connecticut. It was a large aircraft parts company called Avco Lycoming.

Q. What did you do for them?
A. I started out working in tool cribs and then went into material control.

Q. Do you live and travel on the Strates train?
A. Yes.

Q. What is life aboard the train like? You don't have your own car do you?
A. No. I have a room on board the staff car.

Q. What's that like?
A. It's a small room with a bed and bathroom. Outside of the room is a lounge area, like a community room.

Q. Do you have a T.V.?
A. Yes.

Q. How many people are living on the train?
A. I'd say 75-80 people. That includes men, women, and a few kids.

Q. Mostly white-collar workers like yourself?
A. I'd say one-third staff, and two thirds ride personnel.

Q. How many hours a day are you working?
A. The midway opens at 10 a.m. I usually finish at 12:30 a.m. In some cities the schedule is a bit shorter.

Q. You're on the road 6 months a year?
A. We're on the road from mid-May to Thanksgiving.

Q. What happens to you after Thanksgiving?
A. I go back to Orlando, Florida for awhile, then back up to my family home in Connecticut. In February, I go back down to Florida to get ready for the winter shows that Strates does in Florida, beginning in March.

Q. Do you like this life?
A. Strangely enough, yes. I was attracted to it because it was a railroad show.

Q. It's actually the only show that travels by train isn't it?
A. No. Ringling Bros, travels by train. But, The Strates Show is the last railroad carnival show in America.

Q. You tour only the east coast?
A. That's right.

Q. How fast does the train go? As fast as Amtrak?
A. No, because it's pulling all of that equipment. It goes 40-50 m.p.h. (miles per hour).

Q. That means you're spending a lot of time on that train, between stops. I hope it's air-conditioned.
A. It is.

Q. What is the appeal to you personally of this life?
A. It gets in your blood. Well, it's actually a little more than that. If you're geared to it, there's a special magnetic force. You bring a little bit of fantasy to cities and towns in America.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved