June 7, 2013 marks the 83rd birthday of Anthony Salerno, Sr., owner and founder of Windy City Amusements of St. Charles, IL. MCW wishes him a very Happy Birthday - May you have many more!
Anthony Salerno, Sr. has a long history in the carnival industry, living in the Chicago area most of his life. "I grew up in an area of the city known as 'The Patch,' which is located between Grand, Chicago, and Western Avenues," Salerno says. "My mother came here from Calabria, and settled in Chicago in the 1920s".
Salerno attended Wells High School on Chicago's Near West Side, and began working in the carnival industry during his teenage years. "I guess I must have been 17 or 18 years old, and my friend's grandfather, Lawrence Maturo owned Greater American Carnival near Rockwell and Huron. He hired me to work the games," Salerno says.
He worked for Lawrence for several years and also held a job with the City of Chicago in the Forestry Department before becoming a full time game concessionaire. Soon he framed his own joint, a Glass Pitch and traveled throughout the country booking with various shows including Royal American, Link Shows, Bill Hames, Jack Thompson, and Chuck Magid's Midwest Midways among many others.
Salerno was on the road through 1975 when he and his sons purchased a Tilt-A-Whirl and booked it with Enjoy Buck Shows, Bucky Gas, around the Chicago area. Unfortunately, things didn't work out and within a year Salerno decided to leave the show and form his own family carnival. In 1977, they formed Windy City Amusements and purchased several rides from Dispensa's Kiddy Kingdom, based out of Elgin, IL including a Loop-O-Plane, Rock-O-Plane, Swinger, Octopus, and several kiddy rides.
Throughout the years, Salerno and his three sons, Anthony Jr., Mark, and Michael continued adding more rides and expanding their route throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Today, Windy City Amusements operates two to three units per week; owning more than 60 rides, games, and food concessions making them one of the largest shows in the Midwest. The show travels in a 40 mile radius of their Aurora, IL based winter quarters during the months of April through October. The winter months are spent doing extensive maintenance on their equipment in winter quarters.
Throughout the years, Salerno has seen the amusement industry change from a more colorful era where a lot of the labor was done by hand, to a more automated and regulated industry.
"It wasn't like today where everything is set up on trailers," Salerno continues. "We had to pound the stakes, put up tents, games, and haul lumber. As far as eating goes, you asked around to see if there was (a really affordable) restaurant in town, and maybe had one good meal a day. By the end of the day, you slept in the trucks if you were lucky and under the trucks or tarps if you weren't."
Salerno noted another major change in the industry from when he started; the rising costs of rides. "Back in the day, you could buy a ride for $30,000. Today, rides cost over $500,000."
Today, while most of the day to day operations on the midway are handled by Anthony Jr., Mark, and Michael Salerno, Anthony Sr. still remains active in the industry at age 83 as the company's comptroller. Anthony Sr., his wife Ruth, and sons are lifetime and gold card members of the Showmen's League of America and also supports many of the industry's organizations including the OABA and IAAF (Gibtown).
Photos of Windy City Amusements throughout the years (1980-1995)
Windy City Amusements - present (2011-2013)