Fun House of Pain?

Long Beach Pike, circa 1960s

My Real Memoir

My fingers had every reason to think I hated them. I cut more chunks out of them than I did any actual wood when whittling surfer style “tiki god” pendants for my friends (“Dear Mitch, please carve away from us, not towards us!” ~Sincerely, Your Fingers). And then there was the night Dad accidentally slammed and locked the car door on my rude (a.k.a. middle) finger!

But the worst calamity that ever befell my phalanges was at a so-called Fun House. Dad had rewarded his top newspaper solicitors with an outing (I don’t mean to brag, but I was number one), and I’d brought along my cousin Frankie. The Pike was a grubby pre-World War I era amusement park known for two things: 1) The Cyclone Racer (one of America’s great roller coasters) and, 2) Ladies offering to go on “dates” with sailors.

Frankie and I had just left the sideshow, having viewed The Astonishing Woman-Who-Has-Nothing-but-a-Red-Light-Bulb-for-a-Head, and were ready to tackle the Fun House, with its jiggling floors and joggling doorways. I ran ahead, and was alone when I entered an empty hall with a rubber walkway. I stepped onto it. Nothing.

“Is something supposed to happen?” I asked an acne-festooned carny on a stool at the end of the hallway. Without looking up from his girly mag, he flicked a wall switch. The walkway jerked backward, causing me to tumble.

The carny sneered as I landed on my butt. I laughed self-consciously, as though I were in on the joke. I wasn’t. 12-year-olds are never in on the joke.

I also wasn’t in on the fact that the moving walkway was sliding under a metal lip. The rubber wanted to take my hand with it, but the metal lip kept it from doing so. Nevertheless, it refused to surrender my hand, instead slicing away layer after layer of skin from my fingers. I screamed.

The carny yelled, “Well, get up, baby!”

“I can’t!” I shrieked as I watched the metal plane away the final layers of epidermis and begin scraping the bones. The carny flicked the power off, sauntered over, and then, seeing my fresh-ground-beef hand for the first time, remarked, “Oh, crap.”

Oh, crap indeed. He took me to a living stereotype, a scruffy, pot-bellied, booze-soaked fellow called “Doc.” When I finally found my frantic father, Frankie and the other boys, it was with a freshly-aspirined stomach and an “all fixed up” Bactine-sprayed, gauze-bundled hand.

I underwent five months of skin grafts and hand movement therapy (yes, Momandad sued the Pike). I was even able to take guitar lessons the following year. Because if there’s anything cooler than scarred hands, it’s guitar playing hands. And by eighth grade I had both, so, um…

Lucky me?

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Fun House of Pain?

  1. Pingback: The Prince of Drama | Mitch Teemley

  2. LOL! Good grief, what a tale. I used to just wander around carnivals and boardwalks every chance I got, studying the stereotypical carni bums. To this day I love a good shady carnival, but mostly just to people watch. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Geez how awful!! Glad that no lasting damage was done!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Post hoc. ergo propter hoc. ‘After something, therefore because of that something’ You went to the funhouse with the thought you hated your fingers and thence, blamed those curses or thoughts upon your very nasty injury in the fun house. Or was it the other way around? I wonder, do you dutifully read my blog as I do yours? Jack (

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yikes!! The ultimate employee comment: oh, crap.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Chris Ciccarelli says:

    Good Morning Mitch! Not sure if I’ve mentioned it but Im a Volenteer for the LaMirada Perfirming Arts Theater, & on the theaters Historical Committee. We have wonderful Directors & their vision has been to making our theater “One of a kind” equal to the Pantages or Pasadena theaters. Where am I going with this, we are gathering photos/videos & interviewing anyone who may have had a connection to the theater in some capacity, from a Maintenance crew member to a superstar like Dick Van Dyke, or Mayor Dave Peters. & would be willing to share copies with us. We will be celebrating the theaters 50th Anniversary, Sept. 26, 2027 & planning a hugh event to honor the occasion. 1st do you have photos? If so will you pls make a copy & mail the copy to me, 14821 Calpella Street, LaMirada 90638. Pls include a story about photo & who was in the photo. This would include any pictures of Festival de Art. Anything would be appreciated!!


    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Hi Christie! All of my memories are tied to when it was a movie theatre, and the only photos I have are ones I’ve found online. As far as the stage theatre goes, I saw a couple of shows there years ago, but don’t have any photos, and I’m Facebook friends with the Rigbys, but don’t really know them. Not much help, I’m afraid. By Festival de Art, do you mean the festival that originally took place in the La Mirada Shopping Center back in the 60s?


  7. Wow… the not-so-fun house. :/

    Liked by 2 people

  8. WebbBlogs says:

    I love reading your memoir post. You had such an exciting childhood 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Nathanieldoggenius says:

    Now mitch do yours

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Amazing story! God bless, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m surprised the carny doc didn’t just pour Mercurochrome (when it actually contained mercury) over your butchered hand and tell you just to blow on it. Great story, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. kerbey says:

    Horrific. I’m upset on behalf of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. murisopsis says:

    ouch. ouch. ouch! I currently can’t make a fist and my teeth hurt for 7th grade Mitch. Lucky that your parents were able to afford the skin grafts!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thotaramani says:

    It was really nice going through the 📯 post. Mitch! TQ for sharing with all your friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pam Webb says:

    I gotta hand it to you Mitch, you have led an adventuresome life.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ann Coleman says:

    That’s horrible!!! And that carnival is lucky your parents didn’t sue… It amazes me how many dangerous rides and attractions are attended to by young people who are clearly not trained on how to operate them.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I absolutely love the tales of your childhood, but this one made me cringe. Just a little. Glad it had a happy ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Nancy Ruegg says:

    OH MY–I cringed too! Can’t imagine watching my fingers being filed away, much less the horrific pain. This post reminded me of that “scar series” you ran a few years ago, and again, I’m shaking my head in wonder that you survived your youth!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. You had enough stories by age 12 to keep you busy the rest of your life!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. swabby429 says:

    They earned that law suit.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Mary Sweeney says:

    Your scar stories always gave Bill & I anxiety. Ha-ha! Bill used to say “his poor mom”. Bill had his share of scars too, but I think you might hold a record.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This took my breath away and caused my fingers to retract as I imagined your pain. Mitch, I’m so glad you survived your childhood, and bless us with wonderful storytelling material.


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