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Gil Burnett at the site of his former sno-ball stand, now a bike rental lot, in Carolina Beach, June 26. Let’s go back 70-some years to The Great Depression. Let’s go to 1937. Carolina Beach. I was 12 years old, and I was a carnival boy. Mr. Mansfield was my boss; he owned the carnival, the Ferris wheel, the hobbyhorses, sno-ball and popcorn stands. My job was selling popcorn. Unemployment was very high during that Depression. All kids like me — in fact, all people — wanted jobs. So I was lucky. I sold popcorn in bags about three inches in diameter and about eight inches high for a nickel. A nickel. Let me describe Mr. Mansfield. He was a very smart man, he was very smart in politics, a smart businessman. Every after-noon Mr. Mansfield — who was probably five feet ten inches, not a heavyset man, a slender man — after he’d have a bath and eat supper, he’d come down to the walkway. Picture the ocean, the strand, the boardwalk — it was boards, not cement back then — and then the carnival. He would be dressed with white shoes. I can see him now: white socks, a white suit, black belt, white shirt, black tie, white hat with a black ribbon around the hat— a wide brim hat. That was Mr. Mansfield. He would talk to people, he would politic. He was on the town council at times. Howard was my boss. He was Mr. Mansfield’s top man, and he sort of ran the show. He would count my money for the popcorn. And sometimes I’d check up short — he’d take it out of my pay. Sometimes I would check up over — and Howard would keep it. I didn’t like that, that wasn’t quite right in my opinion. I asked him to stop; he didn’t pay me any mind. I’m a 12-year-old kid, a dime a dozen, all kids lookin’ for jobs. He doesn’t need me in the work, he could get others. So finally I talked to Mr. Mansfield. I said, “Mr. Mansfield, I have not been knockin’ down on you, that’s stealing.” I said, “I have stolen, but I have not been stealing from you. And Howard is taking it out of my pay if I’m short, and he is keeping it if I have extra money when he checks me up. I wish you’d get him to treat me right on that.” Mr. Mansfield doesn’t pay me any mind. I figure maybe I’ll give him a week or two and maybe he’ll change it. He didn’t. Again, I talked to Mr. Mansfield. I said, “Mr. Mansfield, if you don’t get him to treat me right, I’m going to quit working for you.” He didn’t care. I quit. www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com 23 WBM


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