At nine-years old a midget named Karl Kosiczky escaped an unhappy home life in Germany and joined a midget show,
travelling from one European country to another until he moved to the United States.
The young man happened
on a very fortunate career opportunity in 1938 as MGM was on the hunt for little people to play those would forever-after-be-known
as 'munchkins' The movie, of course, was The Wizard of Oz.
At 21 years of age,
he auditioned and happily in the process met the 123 other little people with whom he worked through a grueling two-month
Some incidents during rehearsals and filming he
recalls vividly. Particularly amusing was his first day on the set when a prop man showed him the incredibly magnificent and
extravagant scenery. "I was startled while walking
past some trees,' he says, '...They seemed to be making faces at me.'
'I've got news for
you,' said the prop man. 'There are men in each tree and they ARE making faces at you!' That particular set-up was for the
scene in which Dorothy, along with Toto, the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man, attempted to pick an apple, and the apple
trees weren't at all happy about it.
'Judy Garland was
young and a little nervous throughout the project,' recalls the munchkin. 'As the main character, she had so much work to
do. But she was very sweet and kind to all of us. What I find most amusing is that the Wicked Witch of the West, played by
Margaret Hamilton, was actually very much loved by children. She was kind to them, but,' he laughs, 'in the Wizard of Oz she
did - and still - scares them to death.'
'Standing four feet
and four inches tall, I was the smallest munchkin. I couldn't even reach the door knob,' he says. 'But not only was I the
First Trumpeter,' he boasts. 'I was also one of the Munchkin soldiers, one of the singers who led Judy Garland to 'Follow
the Yellow Brick Road,' and the only Sleepy Head boy in the nest of eggs.' That makes four parts in the Wizard of Oz!'.
'But I distinctly
recall during a newspaper interview last year, Karl chuckled about being dressed up as a female to play a munchkin towns woman,'
says Jean Nelson of Chesterton, Indiana. 'So by my count, that would make five parts.' Twenty years ago, Nelson founded the
Wizard of Oz Festival and began searching for the original munchkins. One by when as she found them, she invited them to the
Festival - which is now the oldest and largest of its kind. Penned by one newspaper writer as the' Mother of the Munchkins,'
Nelson smiles when leafing through a mass of loving hand-written letters she continually receives from Slover which always
begin 'Dear Mama Nelson' or 'Dear Mother Nelson.'
After the Wizard of
Oz, Slover continued his show business career by dancing and singing across the country in the 'Original World Famous Singers
Midget Show. 'We'd work for a week at a time, pack up and move on to another town.' When the show broke up in 1942, the man
of small stature worked for B.A. Slover who owned several rides at the Royal American Carnival in Tampa. B.A. Slover and his
wife Ada took an entrepreneurial shot by opening Southern Amusement. The company booked jobs in shopping centers, loaded the
rides onto truck beds and literally took their show on the road. Kosiczky stuck with the family venture and sold tickets for
the mobile rides.
Young Karl went to
work for and live with the Slover clan in 1943. He became part of a family business with the family he'd grown to love. He
became a United States Citizen. The couple wanted to adopt Karl, but he was too old for adoption. He was, however, able to
legally change his name to Slover and he did. For the more than 20 years since B.A and Ada passed on, Carl has lived with
their son Jimmy and his wife Marion in Tampa, Florida.
Slovers' frame is
small, but his lists of professional credits and celebrities he has known is large. He worked with stars like Jimmy Durante
and Ray Milland. One movie role led to another for the little person. There was Bringing Up Baby; Terror of Tiny Town (which
boasted an all midget cast); and Laurel and Hardy's Blockhead. 'I also had a part in School Time and Magic Trio, They Gave
Him A Gun starring Spencer Tracy and' he adds, '...even played a baby in a carriage in The Lost Weekend.'
'I've got a good life.
A wonderful life. I've no complaints,' says the mild-mannered munchkin. Outdoors, he enjoys gardening and weed-pulling. But
when Florida's sun gets a bit too hot for the 82 year old, relaxes by watching Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Who Wants to
be a Millionaire. Active still, Slover makes television appearances and does newspaper and magazine interviews, public appearances
at community organizations, schools and nursing homes giving advice to both young and old.
'My real joy is arriving
in Chicago, Illinois on our way to Chesterton, Indiana. We do it each September to attend the Wizard of Oz Festival. It gives
us a wonderful opportunity to spend a weekend with Oz fans and reminisce with the munchkins we worked with 66 years ago. The
town even has special ambassadors and escorts waiting on us. They make such a fuss over us, and plan for every moment of our
visit. But sadly,' says the munchkin, '...there are only nine of us left.'
Sloven's advice to
anyone who has reached his age is: 'Just try to get along the best you can. Enjoy what you have. Enjoy where you live. Most
of all, remember what Judy Garland said, '....there's no place like home.'