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Sam Johnston appears on A&E's Shipping Wars


By John Owens, CFE

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Ever wonder what it would be like to become part of a reality TV Show?  How about one you never knew existed?

Sam Johnston, who runs Funderland and owned Midway of Fun a number of years ago has just finished appearing on A&E's "Shipping Wars" and had some interesting thoughts on his very special experience.

A&E's "Shipping Wars", for those of that have never seen the show is, according to their web site a series that "...follows six independent shippers who have discovered that fortunes can be made transporting items that traditional carriers won't touch.  Each episode dives into the cutthroat world of heavy-duty movers as they battle for the chance to transport the unshippable. The competition begins with uShip, the world's largest online marketplace for independent truckers. Every day, thousands of shipments are put up for auction. The battle is fierce as the movers have only minutes to bid, and the lowest bidder gets the load."

Sam Johnston's Monster on Shipping WarsJohnston had refurbished a Monster ride he owned.  He sold it to Harvey Slusky, for his amusement park in Houston, Texas.  Slusky told Johnston that he would need help with the transportation of the ride from Sacramento, California to Houston.  Harvey got in touch with shipping wars and asked them to submit some bids for the pick-up and delivery of the ride to Houston.  They won the bid but this is where the whole story goes off track.  According to Sam Johnston, "the people on the show are more like actors than real truckers.  They are just looking for controversy and came in with a negative attitude about carnies."

Sam's trailers were about 6 years old and had just had a DOT inspector tell him everything was fine and usable.  According to Johnston, the "truckers" on the show made a big issue about the tires which were also fine, said Johnston, again according to the California DOT.   In fact, the DOT inspector told Johnston that as long as they had tread and held air they were fine.

Sam JohnstonThe original date of the move of the Monster ride was August 8, 2012.  The producers of Shipping Wars asked Johnston to hold off until August 12th because of their shooting schedule.  Johnston agreed and when they showed up to do the shoot they immediately began complaining about everything from the shape of Johnston's trailers to the tires.  They wanted to show the equipment being put on the truck and taken off the truck and Johnston accommodated that request.

The whole process set back the delivery date about a week.  Johnston also said that the trucks they came in with are "too light" for the job that needed to be done.

In all, he was not overly complimentary of the people or the show.

Johnston just finished his second term as President of the Showmen's League of America where he has been a member for over 30 years and is a current Trustee and Past Chairman of the OABA where he has been a member for well over 30 years. He traveled across country visiting fairs and carnivals last year as part of his duties.   Johnston is still very active in the Outdoor Amusement Industry. 

You can see A&E's "Shipping Wars" Show featuring Sam as the Network is re-running the show, "The Carney Code" on:

  • Sunday, January 27th at 3:32 AM EST
  • Saturday, January 26th at 11:31 PM EST
  • Sunday February 3rd at 2:30 PM EST

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