Arena of Death

On the midway at the Puyallup fair during the Depression, the carnies who ran booths, games and rides were joined by daredevils and novelty risk takers who sold tickets to wide eyed spectators anxious to watch somebody else flirt with fate. In 1937 the Arena of Death appeared midway down the midway, more an oversized wooden barrel than an arena. There among the sideshows, the attraction sent up the resonant circling buzz of a motorcycle several times an hour as audiences ringed the lip of the barrel watching centrifugal force and well practiced daring create the improbable spectacle of a bike rider on a vertical wall. At other fairs the idea was expanded by using automobiles and even sidecars occupied by circus animals(that is a full maned lion in the photo). In time the novelty wore off and the Arena of Death passed away. Somehow still photos are poor evidence of a very hard way to make a living.


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