He’s been known as Bingo for decades but his real name is Irvin Hauser.
The founder of West Coast Amusements died last month, while the midway was touring Vancouver Island.
Now, thousands of people from around the world are expected to converge on the Langley Events Centre Friday afternoon to say their goodbyes to the industry legend. The celebration of life starts at 2 p.m.
West Coast Amusements is a Canadian company with offices and winter quarters in Langley. Bingo and Jackie Hauser have lived in Langley for more than 50 years.
West Coast Amusements was founded in 1962 by Bingo, who has been in show business since the mid-1940s. Raised and educated in Brandon, Man., Bingo ran away to join the circus and started travelling with carnivals. Bingo started his own animal show, the inspiration for the lion in the WCA logo.
Details of a service are expected in the coming days.
Here’s the Langley Advance 2012 feature on Hauser when he was honoured by the carnival industry.
Murrayville’s Bingo (Irvin) Hauser spends more than half of each year on the road, travelling for work.
But his most recent trip, down south to Florida, was all about pleasure.
The 85-year-old owner of West Coast Amusements ran away and joined the circus when he was 14, and has since dedicated his entire life to the carnival industry.
It was that lifetime commitment to the business that earned him a distinct honour as the latest inductee into the Outdoor Amusement Business Association’s (OABA) hall of fame.
“It means a lot to me. It’s the top honour. You can’t go any higher,” Hauser told the Langley Advance, just weeks before the spring season gets underway.
He described the recognition as a very humbling honour and acknowledgement of more than seven decades of work.
“It’s like the Oscars. That’s what it means in the carnival industry,” Hauser said, admitting to being a little choked up when he was presented with his trophy and forced to watch a video recapping his life before a crowd of about 500 people.
Like many young men who grew up in Brandon, Man., this Polish immigrant had to leave to find employment during the 1940s.
Some of Hauser’s friends headed for the mines, others joined the carnival, and still others became RCMP officers. Since he wasn’t nearly tall enough (standing all of 5 foot, 4 inches tall) to become a Mountie in those days, and he hated confined spaces – so mining was out – Hauser jokes that he had no other choice but to join the carnival.
So he and his childhood buddy Sunny (Jack) Hazelwood signed on with the glamourous world of Conklin Shows earning a whopping $15 a week as a carnival barker. Within weeks, Hauser was promoted and given a raise to $50 a week.
A few years later, in 1947, he bought a lion cub named Simba (which is where the lion in the WCA logo comes from), starting his career as a lion tamer and sideshow owner.
Hauser eventually sold the animals to zoos, bought a merry-go-round and gradually built WCA into the major midway operation it is today.
Never planning to actually retire, Hauser still remains at the helm of WCA. But he explained that it’s very much a family business. The parents of his wife Jackie were involved, and now their children, grandchildren – and likely soon their great-grandchildren – will join the business – bringing to total five generations of their clan involved in the carnival.
The Hauser family now has three separate units with more than 125 rides, games, and concessions and about 500 employees during peak season. Based out of Langley and Chilliwack, the company continue to entertain as Hauser has done in almost every community in western Canada since 1961.
A few years ago, Hauser was inducted into the Showman’s League of America Hall of Fame, along with the likes of Walt Disney and Buffalo Bill. At that time a number of fellow industry leaders in the U.S. and Canada also presented him with a life-sized chainsaw carving replica of the lion Hauser raised from cub.
This most recent accolade was bestowed on Hauser during the 47th annual OABA conference. The OABA began presenting inductions into the industry hall of fame in 2001, and the award is coveted by those in the mobile amusement business because it recognizes “exceptional commitment and dedication to this industry,” said OABA chair Bill Johnson, when recently presenting Hauser with the honour.
When Ella’s Closet owners Carla Oberg and Ella Little found out their longtime friends and customers were being honoured (Jackie received the BC Fairs Milestone Award), they asked the Hausers if they could add their own tribute – a window display of circus and carnival memorabilia. It will be up to about March 20 at the store on 200th Street at 40th Avenue.
“I think it’s wonderful to have someone in our neighbourhood win that calibre of award,” said Little.
“They’re very supportive of the whole community,” added Oberg.
In the meantime, one of the WCA units will be set up in the old Willowbrook Cinema site off Willowbrook Drive, next to the bowling lanes, from March 28 to April 1. As well, several WCA rides are set up in B.C. Place for the spring break (March 13-18).