Sal, The Laughing Lady, Queen of the Funhouse
How did she become so famous? By her infectious laugh.
Sal was an oversized lady who held forth at the entrance to Jester's Funhouse at Worcester Street and the Boardwalk.
She shook her head, bowed low, waved her arms and an uproarious laugh came from a hidden loudspeaker. She chuckled, wheezed, tried to catch her breath and burst forth in a new wild giggle.
"You couldn't hear it without laughing yourself ", is how Barth, in his collection of stories titled Lost in the Funhouse, described her.
A concession, where candy and soft drinks were sold, was only a few feet away. Here, Mrs. Jester and her husband controlled the buttons and the leavers which caused the sound and the movements of Sal.
Sal was purchased by Mr. Jester in the early 1940s from a funhouse equipment firm in Philadelphia.
When purchased, she had on a perky hat, a pink print dress, and a plain pink jacket. He had the black Mary Jane shores that had to be painted on, because none could be bought large enough to fit her. A large handbag was slung over her left shoulder.
Laughing Sal had to be enclosed in a chicken wire cage to keep people from damaging her. Before this was done, someone was always trying to shake her hand or trying to remove her handbag.
Benches were placed in front of the entrance to the Funhouse. Many people came, often bringing their children, to watch Sal, and to listen to her laugh. One could not sit very long without laughing along with her. The children had mixed emotions: some loved her; others were a little frightened at her loud outburst.
One mother told Mrs. Jester that Sal was the means of weaning her boy. When he asked for his bottle, she told him Sal had it. This little scheme worked.
Sal was the greatest attraction of the Funhouse. This place of amusement was built by Mr. Thomas Conway of Atlantic City in the late 1920s. He managed it for a couple of years. Because of ill health, he sold out to Lloyd E. Jester, Sr. and returned to New Jersey.
Inside were many things to interest the adventurers. There were air bags, which one had to walk through, slides lily pads to step on, floating ice, (blocks of wood on springs), and dancing skeletons.
Mr. Jester later installed an octopus, whose tentacles reached out, a "tilt room" built on an angle. One couldn't walk straight across it. Everyone called it the "Crazy room". He also bought the Harris Devil, a big gorilla that sprang out at everyone, a bull dog, and Laughing Sal.
Many people became lost in the inside maze and some became scared of the unknown things ahead of them. Sometimes an attendant had to be sent in to rescue the victim.
After Mr. Jester retired in 1970, the business was turned over to his son, Lloyd E. Jester, Jr. He and his partner, Dominic Scarpa, rebuilt the Funhouse and operated it for two years. It was then torn out to make room for an expanded arcade, Sportland.
Sal was transferred to Berlin to take up residence in a small storage house in back of the Jester's home.
Vandals broke in the windows and damaged Sal. She was not laughing anymore. Her face was bashed in; one hand missing and her dress torn to shreds.
Mrs. Jester presented this famous landmark to the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum in the summer of 1980.
Now restored, Sal can be seen on the second floor of the Museum, dispensing her laughter, taking pride in her position in history which she has so rightfully earned.
Irma J. Jester
Related StoriesVisit The Boardwalk of Yesterday exhibit to hear Laughing Sal.
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