I was wondering if anyone could help me find any information on a “Leo Banks.” He was from Nova Scotia, Canada. He was travelling with a circus which came to Virden, Manitoba in 1946. I would very much like to get in contact with him or his family!
Banks could still be living today; if age 20 in 1946 he’d be about age 90 or greater today. But, that’s the lower limit and it’s beyond average male life expectancy, so odds are against it. Leo could be a nickname, or shortened first or middle name, you’re right, it could be almost anything. You might try searching for full given names with which it’s associated, Leonard and so on. You might search Canadian, provincial and American death records, as well as Nova Scotia directories and census documents. Build out from the one fact that you have, his Nova Scotia location, assuming it’s accurate. A circa 1926 or earlier birth suggests inclusion in 1920 or perhaps 1910 censuses. You might find an obituary, which can name next of kin and other relevant data; a death certificate that mentions relations; internment records (which can reference next of kin) and so on. You might consult with a professional genealogist familiar with Canadian documentation if nothing turns up. Al Stencell, a Canadian in Toronto with a wealth of knowledge about the Casey operation and Canadian showmen in general, may also have some helpful tips. He would know the occupation of a ‘boy wonder’. Also seek out ProQuest’s entertainment archive, as related in message 4667 and search for Banks; maybe he was active in the 1930s and 1920s.
I searched without clarifying success for the phrase ‘boy wonder’ as employed by carnival personnel. In an offline exchange with Al Stencell, who has studied the topic for years and knows many people that were in the trade, he suggested, but was unable to confirm that the identification might relate to a walk-on person, someone seeking a meal[s], lodging, employment or transportation, and who was willing to perform most any task or job in the side show to be retained. It speaks to an enthusiasm to participate and join in. The component word ‘boy’ might suggest a youthful person, or a somewhat denigrating naming of an older individual; and ‘wonder’ presumably relates to the willingness and perhaps ability to attempt or accomplish any task or assignment given to them, with or without competency and success. It seems to parallel other societal use of the phrase to some regard. Other veterans of the carnival world are certainly invited to offer their insights on the interpretation. Word and phrase usage varies from show to show, circus to carnival, regionally and across time.
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