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Humor Essays

East Side Story

Growing Up at the PNE

by (author) Nick Marino

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2023
Essays, General, Personal Memoirs, British Columbia (BC), Western Provinces
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2023
    List Price

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A sly, sentimental, and wickedly funny memoir about growing up at the local fair


The PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) is a Vancouver tradition, an annual fair started in 1910 that is famous for its farm animals, dog trick shows, and amusement park - highlighted by Canada's oldest wooden roller coaster still in existence. In 1980, when Nick Marino was twelve years old, he started working at the PNE and quickly learned that there was more to the fair than winning stuffed animals and eating mini donuts. He had to contend with belligerent bosses, unhinged carnies, and teenage hustlers. In this funny, charming memoir of fair life, Marino revisits the "Wild West" of the city's East Side, home to the PNE, sharing stories from his six summers working at the fair, where arcade bouncers went on midnight roller-coaster rides, riots broke out at concerts, and local kids helped themselves to everything. With beguiling and at times poignant humour, he explores the history of the PNE, whose grounds have been home to everything from questionable sideshow attractions and incarcerated Japanese Canadians during WWII to storied performers and beloved professional sports teams, and pulls back the curtain on the culture of carnivals and fairs, an unpredictable and eternally young world of players, scammers, and dreamers.

B&W photographs throughout.

East Side Story is the latest addition to the Robin's Egg Books series, which features some of the freshest, smartest, and above all, funniest writing on a variety of culturally relevant subjects. Titles in the imprint are curated and edited by comedian, playwright, and author Charles Demers.

About the author

Nick Marino is a writer, comedian, and elementary school teacher. He has performed at Just for Laughs Northwest and curated a series of comedy and music shows called Bite of the Underground. East Side Story: Growing Up at the PNE is his first book. He lives in Vancouver.

Nick Marino's profile page

Editorial Reviews

East Side Story is a history of a fairground that reads like a rollicking family history. A funny, clear-eyed writer, Nick Marino brilliantly taps into our collective longing for a simpler, less cynical place in our lives. -Kevin Chong, author of The Double Life of Benson Yu

In East Side Story, Nick Marino wonderfully brings to life a time and place that exists only in memory. It has laughs, adventure, and an insight into what kind of trouble a youth can get into in an amusement park. I knew the PNE was fun, but I had no idea it could be this fun. -Graham Clark, comedian and co-host of Stop Podcasting Yourself

With East Side Story, Nick Marino offers a fascinating chronicle of the municipal park and its iconic facilities through archival research, extensive interviews, and his own family history. -Literary Review of Canada

Wildly entertaining.... A personable, laugh-out-loud-funny memoir. This is the must-read Vancouver book of 2023. -Stir

Nick Marino's East Side Story is a personal and social history of the PNE unlike anything you've ever read, adding a whole new set of dimensions to East Vancouver lore - a mythos that is as extensive as it is under the radar. To read this is to taste the cotton candy and smell the grease in the gears of those rides, to hear the screams and laughter and feel the click of the turnstile as you re-enter those years of chaotic joy and manic excess. -Wayde Compton, author of The Outer Harbour and The Blue Road

While the tone is often wry, Marino doesn't shy away from genuine emotion. The result is a droll yet moving ode to a Canadian tradition. -Publishers Weekly