My April 2007 article, concerning the J.J. Page Carnival that visited Johnson City each April between about 1930 and 1949, prompted a letter from a reader: “My name is Charles Howell. I now own the J.J. Page home place just off Watauga Ave. where Mr. and Mrs. Page lived when they operated the carnival in the 30s and 40s.”
Charles said that he never attended any of the Page carnival shows because he was not born until several years after it ended its run.
I asked him if he knew much about this family. He responded: “J.J. and Minnie's only daughter, Dorothy Page Samier, lived in the house until age and health concerns forced her into a nursing home. She had two daughters both of whom left Johnson City in the late 70s.”
Charles explained that a collection of carnival artifacts was left behind in his basement that included several costumes, a sideshow tent, old letters, photos and other related paraphernalia.
Unfortunately, due to age, moisture, rodents and other harsh conditions, the fabric items were not salvageable. Howell sent me several photos that cover the carnival’s long colorful history:
1- Minnie Page in the 1920s.
2- J.J. and Minnie Page.
3- $300 Unaka and City Bank check written July 16, 1926 to “Cash” against the Unaka and City National Bank: It contains a picture of the business that once operated from the tall building at E. Main and Spring streets, later becoming the site of the Hamilton National Bank.
4- A $25 personalized check from J.J. Page Exhibition reads “Modern Shows and Up-To-Date Rides” written to the “Red Store” dated Sept. 18, 1941: The financial institution on the check is “The Banking and Trust Company, Jonesboro, Tennessee.” Two retail grocery “Red Stores” were in business that year in Johnson City, one at 266 W. Market at W. Watauga and the other at 210 N. Roan.
5, 6- Two photos of the Page carnival: Can someone identify the location of these two pictures? One site was opposite Memorial Stadium near Tannery Knob and another one east on Main at Broadway within sight of Belle Ridge.
7- Carnival Admission tickets: The cost was 26 cents per person. “Est. Price 22 cents – Federal Tax 4 cents.”
8- Advertising card containing the words: “J.J. Page Exhibition Shows – Better Class Amusements.”
9- Envelope from a letter written by a carnival worker in Augusta, GA and addressed to Mr. Page in Johnson City on Dec. 25, 1935: The writer first wishes the family a merry Christmas and a happy New Year and then informs his boss that he is out of groceries and wants enough money sent to buy paint because he says that he is “tired of laying around now.”
The envelope and letter logo each contain the words: “J.J. Page Exhibition Shows; J.J. Page Owner & Manager; Consisting of Shows, Riding Devices, Concessions, Bands and Free Acts; Permanent Address and Winter Quarters, Johnson City, Tenn.”
10- Photo of two carnival cowboys addressed “To our friend, J.J. Page” from “Shot Gun and Jim.”
The last item that Charles sent was an undated article from “Modern Mechanix and Inventions” titled, “You Can’t Win – How Carnival Racketeers Rob the Public of Vast Sums in Carnival Games.” The publication humorously said that it is easier for a three-legged horse to win the Kentucky Derby than for a carnival goer to win a rigged carnival prize.
Charles further whetted my historical appetite with these remarks: “I still have a couple of boxes full of J.J. Page items. When I get time, I will dig them out and send you more.” Needless to say, I am anxiously waiting.