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The Shell Game: Fall Fair and Midway (5 photos)

'The Shell Game, or variations of three walnuts and a pea, worked money out of the crowd, who were dead certain where the hidden pea was,' author notes

Postcard Memories is a weekly series of historic postcard views and photos submitted by René Hackstetter.

Every September, we would attend the Fall Fair in Midland.

I was a ‘Carny’ in the summer of ’69, joining the Midway in Whitby, when I  developed a crush on the owner’s daughter. Our crew tore down and set up rides all over Ontario from Oakville to Fort Erie, Peterborough and a final stop in Midland. I operated a ticket booth as well.

When we reached Midland, I hopped off, saying goodbye and returned to school.

The Midway, as we called it, attached itself to Fall Fairs and gave kids the Tilt-a-Whirl, cotton candy, the Funhouse and for others, the Crown and Anchor and other games. 

The Shell Game, or variations of three walnuts and a pea, worked money out of the crowd, who were dead certain where the hidden pea was.

Very popular game and still played today, whether in real estate or offshore trusts…who is  the owner or where is he? I am certain he is under this shell….

The county fall fair was always composed of hard-working farmers and townsfolk with a bit of money at the end of harvest and like the sheep they shored, they too were shorn.

The echo of the Crown and Anchor wheel is heard and the crane machines are tinkling busily.

As a child of 10, I will never forget watching an old farmer after losing  everything at the wheels, staggering back slightly, his wife supporting him in his shock, both realizing he had lost his money.

The stock barn, riding ring, 4H Clubs and all those treasures we associate with the land are themes at the Fall Fair. The blue ribbon for grain, a huge squash or best apple pie really does mean something.

Our history here, in this place, is tied to the land and the first frost.

If you can get a second crop of hay out, well, God bless you, ‘cause I saw yer grain on the prize table last year!’

Each year we plant, cultivate and harvest trying to put up something in the  grange. If we remember to collect some of last year’s seeds, we have a chance to  germinate anew. If we record what happens, we can sometimes avoid problems. Let’s remember what the season looked like and who the marauders are - whether crow or ferret.


Each year, a Fall Fair was celebrated, sadly no more. Call me old fashioned, but  I sure miss those days.

The Fall Fair is gone and only the Midway remains and the shell game continues.

Copyright René Hackstetter, November 13, 2020.