Posted on Hey Rube Circus by Noel Benedetti, April 27th, 2010
Al Tomaini’s shoe trouble
If you’re interested in sideshow culture, you should know about Gibsonton, FL and you likely have heard of Al Tomaini. If not, allow me to fill you in.
Al Tomaini was a giant (literally, he was 8 feet 4 inches tall) who fell in love with Jeanie, a legless woman who stood 2 feet 6 inches tall. The duo were career sideshow performers and were billed as “the world’s strangest married couple.” Eventually, they settled in Gibsonton, FL, also known as Gibtown or Freaktown because of the large population of circus folks who settled there.
Al truly was, in more ways than one, a pillar of the community. He donated the town’s first ambulance, served as fire chief, helped build the community hall, served as president of the Chamber of Commerce and owned several local business including Giant’s Fish Camp and a TV repair shop.
In Al’s honor, one of his boots (size 27) was displayed on the side of Highway 41 for years after his death in 1962. Now, the Concerned Citizens of Gibsontonwant to place a stone replica of Al’s boot in its place to cement his impact on the community. However, Hillsborough County has declared the statue a “accessory structure” and will only allow it to be displayed 50 feet away from the highway due to zoning restrictions, where no one could possibly see it.