Almost as soon as war was declared against Germany on the 3rd September, 1939, the government closed all places of entertainment. Cinemas, dance halls and of course, the fairgrounds, were not allowed to open. Later they were there to entertain the people and help keep up public morale.
But in the first place, George Thomas Tuby’s family fair was on Doncaster Market Place. Harry taking the Ben Hur, George Edgar with the Swish but Arthur, with the small Ark opened at Armthorpe. This was because the small art, in the face of competition from the Ben Hur would have done no business. The fair was open on the Friday and Saturday. Then war came on the Sunday and amusements were prohibited. So they pulled down and brought their machines, the little ark, the Ben Hur, and the Swirl to their ground at Mexborough. Deep down, the family never expected to open again on Doncaster Market. For in his life time, ‘Tom’ Tuby told his sons that the council wanted the fair moved off the old market place. However the showmen would be safe as long as he was on the council. But he knew that when he was off the council, it would be the end of this historic site for the travelling fraternity. And so it turned out to be. A few weeks later, picture houses and dance halls were allowed to open again. So some of the Tuby brothers went to the Police in Mexborough and asked these officers of the West Riding Constabulary if they could open on the Mexborough site. Approval was given provided that the machines were blacked out and that they closed down and all lights were put out immediately the sirens signalled an air raid. The first ride to be built up was the little Ark. When it came to blacking it out, they had the rounding boards, front and scenery off the switchback. These were brought to Mexborough from Bentley near Doncaster and these were put all round the Ark. The shutters off the whales made an entrance into the Ark. They used the top tilt and rafters off the switchback together with the sleepers and the bottom from the switchback. These were all in first class condition for the top frame and all the scenery, spider bottom had all been renewed in 1926. As time went on the family built the Swish up and it was during the war that the only serious accident the family had on the fairs happened. A young chap called Meggitt jumped out of one of the swish cars while it was going, got his head caught in it and it killed him. Another example of how so many fairground accidents are caused not by showmen or their equipment, but by the bravado or stupidity of the riders. And the Tuby family remained static at Mexborough for the duration of the war. While they did not move, they let other travellers use their ground. For at this time they had two runs of fairs. ‘Tom’ Tuby built up such a showland empire that he owned nine fair grounds. The family would set off in March with their opening fair at Retford, but in earlier times they would travel down as far as King’s Lynn for the opening and then work through into Stamford and Grantham. However, in those early days according to the stories the family remember being handed down to them, Lynn in the old days was a boozy fair more than one for taking money. However, that is in the past for today, like every other fair ground, Lynn is a place for only hard work and pageant through the official noon opening. Easter saw the family split between Conisborough and Goole in those immediate pre-war days. At one time it was Harry Tuby who went to Goole, but when they acquired the small Ark they switched over with Arthur doing Goole and Harry Conisborough. They used to go to Barnby Dun and Bentley, all different places so that Arthur and Harry with similar rides did not clash. They used to do Barnsley and places such as Epworth, Mapperley, Rawcliffe, Worksop, Retford, but they always had two circuits so that one attraction did not take the money which another Tuby attraction could take. Arthur would do one circuit and Harry and George Edgar the other. Although the family did not use these sites during the war, it made little difference to Arthur. He spent six years in the Army fighting for the right to continue his fairground career. For George Rhodes Tuby, who was at Thorne when the conflict started, war work was vastly different to the amusement life, but it was the skills and knowledge he had obtained on the fairs that made an impact on wartime food production, as he went into agriculture.
When war broke out, his mother, Annie was at Barnsley, again on the market place, and where, as we have seen, she was destined to remain for the duration. But there was to be a shock for her when, one morning, she went into the Dodgem and found the body of a land girl who had been murdered.
The police eventually traced and arrested a boy friend who stood trial for the crime. The jury decided that was guilty and in those days there was but one penalty for murder. His early morning meeting with the hang man punished him in the traditional manner. With the fairs closed down, George Rhodes Tuby found himself in Lincolnshire near the old Kelston airfield. Then it was one of the many bomber stations that covered this part of the East Coast Landscape. Without fairs to attend there was no income so he needed a job. He went with his close friend, John Dowse to John’s sister’s farm near Louth in Lincolnshire. That stay was short, however, for he got a job with a local landowner, Ernest Samuel Sharpley J.P. who was a local magistrate. George Rhodes was also a member of the local defence volunteers, ready to fight if the enemy had invaded along this particular part of the coast. In his new position he found what should have been a completely different form of work. Initially his new ‘boss’ was unsure of taking anyone on who had been self employed because he believed they would be reluctant labour. But George Rhodes Tuby proved to be an exception to that rule. For there is little doubt that he revolutionised estate work in many ways. At 7am on that first morning her reported for work to discover that the job for the next few weeks would be threshing the corn brought in at harvest time. Although this was a mixed estate with arable, sheep, bulls, pigs and a few cows for milk for the hall. The wages were eighteen old shillings per week. His lodgings in the village of North Elkington, with its ten houses, took sixteen shillings out of his wages each week and it was obvious to him, from the food that was served up, that his landlady was hardly in a good financial position. But with the attitude developed on the fairground where he had been used to living well, George Rhodes handed her twenty five shillings to go out and buy food. Or as he says, he told her to go out and get a bit more on the table. He found that the family he was lodging with were very religious people with the village chapel next to their cottage. And on that first Sunday he was happy to go with them to chapel. His employer was also there and could not help but note that young George Rhodes was dressed almost as well as himself, his smart clothes contrasting sharply with the attire of the country lads. So, the result of that Sunday service was that George found himself with an invitation to dinner at 8pm. And there had been enquiries made about the Tuby name and now he was known as the grandson of the showman who had been so generous towards local Louth charities. As that meal, asked if he was enjoying his work, he had the confidence to suggest the job was not being done correctly. At the time there was deep snow on the ground and the corn to be threshed was in stacks in a field some two miles from the yard. With sixteen horses plus tractors on the estate there was only one cart being used to move the corn back to the yard. George suggested that three trailers be used, one on the road loaded and in transit. Another would be at the farm being unloaded into the threshing drum and the third would be in the field, at the stack being loaded with corn. And while this was seen as a good idea, there were no trailers on the farm. So, at what was becoming a regular Sunday dinner at the Hall, George was asked to make the trailers. When he was questioned as to materials, his first request was for a motor car. His employers had three cars , a 2-seater straight eight, a Ford and a red Sunbeam. He was allowed to take the Ford. He decided to go to Barnsley as he had a friend in Wombwell who had a vehicle breakers yard. Not only was the Ford loaned to George, he was given an open cheque because of the trust in the Tuby family and embarked, both to buy the necessary chassis and to see his family. He also wanted a source of timber, a blacksmith who would loan him the forge etc., and an iron monger for the screws and nails. The following morning, Monday, instead of going to the farm yard he was at the Hall. He was taken by his boss to Louth, some four miles away where again he found the name ‘Tuby’ was not only known but respected. He was set up with a timber yard and although the blacksmith was not prepared to give any loan facilities, his employer carried sufficient weight for this craftsman to agree to work under the orders of George Rhodes Tuby, and he got full facilities at the ironmongers. The next day saw him en-route to Barnsley to the breakers yard. He had a spell with his mother, helping on the fair and it was towards the weekend when he was ready to return with the three chassis. Then the breaker offered to take the chassis to the farm for £6 each. But it had to be on the Sunday.
What George forgot to take into account was that his gaffer was highly religious, a man to whom Sunday was sacred. He also hitched a 22′ long, double wheel Bedford chassis to the car and they started out.Although the chassis were unloaded as quickly as possible, the repercussions came the following morning when his employer would not speak to him for travelling on the Sabbath.
Then his mechanical abilities came to the fore when the farm foreman, who used a motor cycle dating back to the First World War, burnt out a piston. He was a preacher and could not travel without the motor cycle. With no spares available it was a case of call for George. He borrowed a cycle one Saturday afternoon and went to a breakers yard in Louth. There he found a piston of the right bore and then called on a friendly garage owner with a lather. The rings were skimmed and the piston fitted, the motor cycle was back on the road. Then a haulier was unable to move some sheep on the farm. Within a day and a half, with everyone co-operating, George Tuby had the first trailer completed with a handbrake and partitioned. That first journey to Louth market it was towed by an Allis Chalmers tractor with George Tuby driving it. That trailer certainly roused the interest of the farming fraternity, who were all trying to find out where it had come from. But while other enthused, George Rhodes saw it as a rush job and he dismissed it as rubbish. But the other two trailers were far from rubbish. For one thing he fitted turn tables for use when negotiating farm gateways in narrow lanes. In the four years that he was there George’s fairground knowledge became indispensable. Tractor and vehicle repairs were trusted to him and he even built air raid shelters for the family. And, while he was there he met his wife to be, Ivy, and within six weeks the couple were married and have lived happily ever after with two sons, Roger and Charles and daughter Pauleen. And unknown to the foreman who paid George each week, he was earning possibly £2 more than that foreman. For his boss also handed a pay packet. And this was not surprising. For when the old lighting set which illuminated the Hall broke down, it was George Tuby who again came to the rescue. And it was a job he was pleased to do. For there was no pleasure for George to arrive in the morning when it was dark and go to feed a bull with no light to see if he had been unchained since he left work. He found that the generator had packed up and there was no means of charging the large batteries which provided the illumination. He stripped down the generator, cleaned everything up and borrowed a car to go to Barnsley and bring some brushes back. And again he proved to the outside public the ability of fairground fraternity when it came to anything mechanical and electrical. And such was his value to agriculture that he was released from his part time army duties providing he kept up his practice on the rifle range. He suggested trailers with tanks for moving fuel to the fields so the tractors did not have to waste time returning to the yard to fill up. And of course, he built these himself. Other farmers noted George Rhodes work and soon he was making trailers for them in his spare time. George remained at the farm until the war was over and one tiny part of the farming community in Lincolnshire discovered the true value of a fairground craftsman.