Creative Project #1 Jerry Lewis' MDA Kid's Back Yard Carnival

When I strain my brain to think back over the course of my life for early traces of hyper-creativity, I see flashes of the normal creativity a boy growing up in the sixties and seventies might have displayed. I was part of the last of the great outdoorskids generation. Atari and Asteroids were just a few years in the coming. We were out of the house when the sun came up and, except for a brief stop back in for lunch, we stayed out until the corner streetlamp came glowing to life.  My summer days were spent exploring creeks, searching for discarded soda bottles and building tree houses and go-carts that required using tools that no pre-teen boy should have been using. And today would have prompted a visit from the Division of Family Services. I was a proud member of the Cub and Boy Scouts. Which nurtured your skills, talents and creativity with each merit badge you earned or patch you were awarded.

But when I look beyond the normal and search for the unique creative talents, I come to a time when Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) back yard carnivals were all the rage. For those less fortunate generations that weren’t able to enjoy the awesomeness of these events, let me give you a brief synopsis.

If you sent a letter to the MDA they would send you a Jerry’s Kids MDA Back Yard Carnival kit. These packets were filled with all kinds of cool things that instructed you how to create a carnival in your back yard and sell tickets and charge to play games with prizes. (See photo’s at top of page of an original packet circa 1974) All the money your earned at your carnival was then sent back to help Jerry’s Kids. You know the ones who had MD and had to be in wheelchairs and on crutches. Also include in the envelope were signs to hang around the neighborhood, tickets, badges, game ideas and letter that let you go out and solicit to local business for prizes. I remember the savings and loan down the street from my grandparents giving me an entire case of pink plastic piggybanks with their name on the side. I was in hog heaven. 

I think I organized at least three back yard carnivals in my life. Here’s a Youtube video link I found of a guy named Weird Paul who had one and still had the kit. He gives you a visual of what they were like. (Or see photos at top of page.)

But orchestrating the actual carnivals wasn’t were I excelled in my hyper-creativeness. It was the games and activities that I came up with that would standout all these years later as milestones of early hyper-creativeness. There was the one year when I borrowed my cousin’s toy slot machine/bank he got for Christmas. It looked something like this:

You would drop the coin in and pull the handle and the wheels would spin and make noise, but nothing ever came out of the slot machine. It was bank. Well, it was supposed to be a bank. But after my Dad explained to me how a slot machine paid off, I then took that knowledge, along with my cousin’s toy slot machine/bank and at my next MDA back yard carnival I had a new game! An actual casino slot machine that paid out! For the price of a penny a spin, you could walk away with up to a quarter if you hit cherries straight across the board! Talk about taking the gaming idea to the next level. Thank God, no one ever hit the jack pot. But there were several nickel and dime winners that hooked a bunch of boys (and girls) into gambling away an entire weeks allowance. That little creative project made me…I mean, Jerry’s Kid’s a coffee can full of pennies.  

And how could I ever forget the road flare holding experience. My siblings say it never happened, but you just can’t make this stuff up. Well, unless you’re a hypercreatist. Then you might be able. While it may not have happened exactly like this, the meat of the story is basically true. My father had an entire box of road flares in the trunk of his car. How or why they were there was never asked. Dad was always surprising us with crazy stuff that he’d come home with on his plethora of jobs. Super-ginormous rubber bands. River rocks so black and shiny you could see yourself in them. Dad had a lot of occupations. But it wasn’t because he was a hypercreatist. It was because of one of our Top 11 Traits of a Hypercreatist. He had an alcohol addiction. But I digress. This week we stumbled upon a case of road flares in his trunk. I don’t rightfully remember him just giving some to us. I think we may have “borrowed” a bunch. Fast Forward. Jerry Lewis MDA Kid’s carnival. Behind the shed and out of the adult’s view, stood little hypercreatist Harry Sneed. For the cost of one empty soda bottle you could take off one end of the road flare and strike it against the other end. Pop! A burst of molting flames shot forth like an Excalibur of flames permeating from our hands.  Here’s a video on how to safely light one. Watch it and imagine a bunch of 10-year-old boys playing with flares like Fourth of July sparklers and competing to see who could hold them the longest before they burnt out. (Another Division of Family Services visit:) 

But the most carnival hyper-creativeness that stands out in my mind was the day I was walking through the alley and discovered a discarded kids swimming pool. It was the kind that was corrugated, that you unrolled and put supports and a top rim on. It looked something like this.  

Well, it looked like I had wasted the haul of what I thought was a great dumpster find. It was going to be another summer of sprinkler surfing. Then I got an idea. No, it was more than an idea. It was God’s hand of hyper-creativity being place on my head.  What if I rolled the swimming pool down the hill over the brushes and put the sprinkler on it? OMFG!!! It would become not just a super-slide, but a super-wet-slide! Halleluiah. Halleluiah. I could hear the angels sing. I unleashed the metal slide down the hill. Turned on the sprinkler and faced it towards the slide. I then used my little brother as a test dummy to try it out. It worked! Of course, you had to learn to use your balance to stay on it, lest you slide off and land in a sticker bush. But it worked! I then built an entire Jerry’s MDA carnival around that super-slide. And hopefully there’s some adult out there today whose life is just a tad bit better because of the $13.85 I gave to Jerry’s Kid’s that year. 

If this story has entertained and you’d like to read about more of my many creative projects, you can find all of them on My Creative Page and take a peek into nearly fifty years as a hypercreatist.

Thanks for giving me a few valuable minutes of your life!


And don’t forget to find out What is a Hypercreatist and their Top 11 Traits

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