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They're Still Suckers for Barnum

March 13, 1986|JENNINGS PARROTT

--If there's a sucker born every minute, showman extraordinaire P. T. Barnum continues to reel 'em in nearly a century after his death. The self-proclaimed "Prince of Humbug"--who brought us 26-inch-tall Gen. Tom Thumb, Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy and Jumbo the Elephant during his entrepreneurial career--is drawing a crowd these days with an exhibit at the New York Historical Society. "Barnum was a master manipulator of the press, a very clever person who could make other people laugh," said Jean Ashton, curator of the exhibit. "He allowed his people--country people--to be a part of the joke, then told them, 'Don't tell your friends.' " Barnum, born in Bethel, Conn., in 1810, quickly realized he did not want to work for a living--a fact evident from the letters, posters, pictures and displays that fill a room on the second floor of the Manhattan building. "In his youth, Barnum was perceived as lazy, which he was not," said Ashton. "He was looking for ways to make money without working." The collection is billed as "P. T. Barnum: Prince of Humbug, Merchant of Delight."

--A 74-year-old woman known as "Mama Soul" has been fined $1 and placed on 10 years' probation in Houston for twice selling drugs to undercover police officers. Judge George Walker sentenced Sally Evans after she pleaded guilty. He admonished her: "Go and sin no more." Evans said she would celebrate the sentence by going fishing. Police found $4,000 worth of Valium, codeine and marijuana in Evans' house July 26. Officers had arrested Evans about six weeks earlier for delivery and possession of about 6,000 pills. She also had $4,000 in cash and cases of liquor, which police said she also had been selling from her home. Evans, who has more than 60 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is a retired hospital worker who collects Social Security and disability checks.

--Elton Floyd wasn't about to lose any sleep over a stolen car. Emmet Floyd and a 4-year-old son left Elton, 11, sleeping in the back seat of the car when they stopped at night at a grocery store in Baton Rouge, La. But the father left the keys in the car, and, when he returned a few minutes later, the car--and Elton, asleep in the back seat--were gone. The boy never realized he was being chauffeured around town by a car thief, police said, and did not wake up until mosquitoes started biting him inside the abandoned vehicle the next morning. Police found the car and the boy unharmed around 8:30 a.m. "I was asleep," he told police, "I didn't even know it was stolen."

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