According to Ward Hall, the twins' mother rejected them when they were born, leaving them to be raised by their father, Wesley, and later stepmother Mary. For the first two years of their lives, the twins were in and out of hospitals while doctors attempted to determine whether or not the twins could be separated. Because they share a single set of male organs, doctors decided that it was best not to separate them. They learned to walk at the age of 29 months.
Though Mr. Galyon initially vowed his sons would never be put on exhibition, he found himself with medical bills that he could not pay otherwise. The twins were exhibited in an air-conditioned trailer for most of their show careers, where they lounged about watching television while spectators peered in the window at them. The 1988 book Psychological Profiles of Conjoined Twins by J. David Smith discusses some of the in-depth tests conducted on the brothers, determining that, although their IQs are in the average range, they seem much slower due to lack of an education. They also have battled anger problems since an early age and have occasionally gotten into fist fights over the years. At the age of 14, one twin broke his foot after kicking a trailer in a fit of anger.
After politically correct backlash of the 1970s made life difficult for human freaks in the United States, Ronnie and Donnie toured Latin America, appearing with Circo Union in Mexico. In the 1980s they were managed by Ward Hall and Chris Christ and appeared with a number of other Hall & Christ freaks in Being Different in 1981.