Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sparks Circus 1925/ Paul Wenzel

I was reluctant to send this picture out at first, for fear that someone would claim that the horse was being overworked. JUST KIDDING! JUST KIDDING!

Sparks Circus 1925/ clown unknown

These "chases" wouldn't go over well today since the hand full of remaining circus musicians probably think that a "Galop" is a town in New Mexico.

John Robinson Circus 1923/ Abe Goldstein

I don't recall ever seeing a circus clown use a cigar. Maybe this one is a prop.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus 1978/ Barbara and "Anna May"

Big Apple Circus (date unknown)/ "Peggy"

This picture of "Peggy" being washed down before the performance was taken by Michael Christensen aka "Mr. Stubbs" while showing Hanover N.H.

Big Apple Circus 2000/ "Amy"

This is a dinner table skit we did with Big Apple featuring "Amy" and Bello Nock.
You know, I forgot to mention all the scuttlebutt passed around at the drinking sessions while in Peru. Mostly about the Hometown Show whereas they will work their way north, then across Canada, jump south to Florida, sail to Puerto Rico and finally winter in Florence, S.C.
Sashay Houcke will be replaced as elephant man on the Red Unit by Billy Morris and finally all ties with the Tampa Fairgrounds have ben severed and both Shows will winter in Orlando.
The final and most bizarre discussion regarded the proposed "Yak Act" with Big Apple. My memory is a little fuzzy but things like "trainer receives Yak Attack", Nicole states "yaks are yucky"were bandied about and we closed out the evening by singing that '50's golden oldie "Yackety Yak don't come back"

Friday, July 29, 2005

RBBB Circus World 1977/ Barber shop skit

Little John, this is the barber shop number you were talking about with "Anna May" and "Peggy" at Circus World in 1977, tho very similar in appearance, this is a different "Peggy". She was owned by Ringling and as far as I know remains there still.
My "Peggy" was named "Eva" when I got her and I had a policy in those days that when I received a problem elephant, I changed everything including the name. In fact I renamed her after my sister in law who upon receiving the news replied "You gotta be kidding!".

Riddle Elephant Sanctuary #1

I just got these wonderful pictures from Scott Riddle yesterday, this is Anna May's grave site. The lady employees there embellished her tombstone with a large star and they were right, a star she was.

Riddle Elephant Sanctuary #2

Peggy looks huge, I originally got her in 1982 as a gift since she had a bad reputation. She was an excellent performer. Scott tells me that she is an absolute pleasure to be around these days but was despondant for a while after the death of Anna May.

Riddle Elephant Sanctuary #3

Amy is sure getting big, she was never much of an actress but she would have followed me thru the "Gates of Hell" she was utterly fearless.
I remember one occasion when we were at Lincoln Center with Big Apple Circus we walked with an escort downtown to do a TV Spot. This entailed walking against one-way traffic, fire engines, busses, etc. Up the steps then into a freight elevator and since it had been a cold walk she actually leaned against the elevator wall and dozed on the way up.
Then down the narrow hall to do the Weather Show with Al Roker, was presented with the obligatory jelly rolls and we then retraced our steps making the quarter mile hike back but this time with the traffic.

Riddle Elephant Sanctuary #4

As you can see, Amy has a boyfriend. Several calves have already been born and thrive here since Greenbrier and another Sanctuary in Hugo, Ok. are the only facilities with the expertise of controlling male elephants.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Al G. Barnes & Sells Floto Cicus 1938/ Los Angeles

As a rule, horse power was the way circuses were moved but not in this instance. The next step would be to get two elephants behind the wagon to push.

Al G. Barnes & Sells-Floto Circus 1938/ Los Angeles

Fortunately the last wagons to be spotted were the cages, they were the lightest and by the time they were brought in the roadway was a mess.
This particular lot was in La Brea. Nuf Ced.

By the way, when I was in Peru last weekend I received wonderful news that the Sells-Floto
and Hagenbeck-Wallace logos have been replaced with Ken & Nicole. It has long been a sore spot among fans to have these two grand old titles affiliated with a concession company and a prop shop.

Al G. Barnes Circus/ Date unknown

This cage is buried to the hub. This photo shows how brawny the Barnes elephants were, something like people who work-out today. After the Al G. Barnes Circus was taken off the road, these elephants were absorbed into the Ringling herd and the differences were remarkable, six elephants exceeded 10,000 pounds, the largest came from the Barnes Show, "Babe", "Jewell", "Josky" and "Trilby".

Ringling-Barnum 1930/ "Minnie" and "Dolly"

This is the Ringling Show in 1930 and these two young elephants "Minnie" and "Dolly" are growing up in ignorance. All they did was walk in spec wearing these clown suits. Here they are waiting at the back door and are so unreliable you will notice they have to be chained for this just for this short period of time.
After the 1933 season they were moved over to the Barnes Show (also owned by Ringling) and
many years later Slivers Madison told me that by this time they were pretty big and very ill mannered. In his own words "they didn't even know how to shit in the ring".

Al G. Barnes Circus 1934/ Working in the sand

To give you an idea how fast elephants grow, this is "Minnie" and "Dolly" four years later in the center of the picture behind the man walking. Walter McClain was in charge of the 16 elephants on the show that season and he may well have them all moving the "Hippo Den" thru the sand in Seattle 5/27/34.
Some of you West Coast people may remember Minnie from the Vargas Show, she trouped with
them 1973 thru '77 and caried a lion on her back in Spec. She was eventually retired to a place in the LA area and died about 1980.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Headed for the lot

Now began the process of moving the wagons from the train to the lot. This is a good shot of a chain driven Mack truck, very durable, they remained around shows for almost another twenty years. You may notice the solid rubber tires. The driver would drop off these wagons at the front of the lot then head back to the train for another load.

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Elephant teams pulling wagons

Rather than simply walk the elephants to the lot, the Barnes Show was noted for it's working elephants with a simple philosophy "as long as you are headed that direction you might as well take a wagon with you".
Two teams on this wagon, must have been a heavy load, probably seat planks. The team in front are attatched to a curved metal bar at the end of the wagon tongue called a "goose neck".
The teamster riding the wagon applied the brakes with the use of a steering wheel device.

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Blacksmith shop

Lots of horses on shows in those days both in the performance and as baggage stock and the blacksmith was always busy.
The area was also used for other types of metal work and general maintenence.

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Stake driver

The center poles are already up and the stake driver is in action. When the man pulls the handle two rollers meet, lifting the blade seen at the top. When he returns the handle to it's normal position the blade falls and a large metal block at the bottom of the blade slams into the wooden stake. Looks simple but it's a tricky piece of business, after a stake is driven the horses pull the wagon ahead to the next position, the man must pick up a new stake, raise the blade and insert the stake quickly and properly before the weight decends. Many a good man has had his shin cracked when the stake got kicked back at him.

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Spreading the canvas

Looks like an army spreading out the big top canvas but in 1933 even three meals a day and cigarettes was a good deal.
As the stake driver continues around the tent we see the tail end of the stringer wagon. Stringers are the long "stair-step" shaped supports that when one end is raised form the base for the bleachers. The stringers spread out on the ground in the previous picture were used for the grandstand and each
step being wider by design so rather than placing a simple plank like the General Admission people suffered these stringers supported a wider plank (a bible-back) affording a grandstand with chairs.

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Big Top

This is the standard size big top for a 30 car railroad show, called a 150 with three 50's whch means it is 150' across and the center poles are 50' apart making the tent 300' long and 150' wide and designed to seat about 4,000 people comfortably 5,000 uncomfortably.
This is the back side of the tent, the other side would be the "back yard" or the area where the dressing rooms were located and performers entered. The small tent is where canvasmen spent the day, they were issued "crumb boxes" in which to keep all their earthly possessions and the boss canvasman would set up residence in the "stake & chain" wagon which he used as an office.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Making a Sunday run

I like this picture looking backward from the flat cars to the coaches in the rear. It must have been a pretty good climb since they have placed a second locomotive in the middle of the train.
Living conditions on the train were quite cramped providing only a berth since the people were on the circus lot all day anyway. Consequently it was common for people on a Sunday run to leave the confinement of the coaches and ride the flat cars during the day. One such party took this picture.
My most plesant memories of the Ringling Show 45 years later was traveling across the country on the train. Times had changed tho, the show had provided us with half a railroad car for living
accomodations in the "Beverly Hills" section of the train with all the facilities of an apartment. Generators provided air conditioning or heat year around. On Sunday evening after the elephants had been loaded in the cars and fed, I would stroll down to the coaches, climb aboard, have dinner and watch TV before going to bed.
Charly and Araceli Baumann lived in the next coach and while enroute Barbara and I would drop in, have a beer and catch up on the gossip. Just like Fred and Ethel Mertz.

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Spotting the train

These remaining pictures were taken in Joplin, Mo. 7/28/33 and shows the early morning arrival. Looks like the big top crew is up and waiting for the train to be broken up and the yard engines to spot each section where it will be unloaded.
On top of the pole wagon you can see the elephants watering barrells and the contraption to the right of them is a "Georgia buggy" it works something like a pump handle but is used to pull up tent stakes, the end at left is raised as high as possible while a chain on the other end is wrapped around the stake, down comes the high end and up comes the stake. This is as far as my understanding of mechanics extends.

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Train unloading #1

The train crew is using a hook rope to pull the unloading ramps that had been stowed beneath this cage wagon the night before. With the use of cross-over plates each wagon will travel from car to car and be unloaded at this point. With a show this size, to speed things up, another crew is somewhere setting up the runs for another section of flat cars so the unloading isn't confined to just one spot.

Al G. Barnes Cicus 1933/ Train unloading #2

The runs are down and the cook-house wagon ready to be unloaded while a future Circus Fan at left watches with awe.

Al G. Barnes Circus 1933/ Train unloading #3

Unloading the flat cars remains the same as William Cameron Coup first started doing it on the Barnum Show in 1872. The wagons are towed by teams of baggage horses walking along side the flat cars to the end as shown in this picture. For braking power on their descent, a hook rope is attatched to a ring in the back corner of each wagon and wraped around a snubbing post. The man standing on the ground is shown releasing the slack as the wagon heads downward.
Probably the most dangerous job on the entire show is steering the wagon as the horses pull it from car to car. The man standing in the center of the car is about to do just that, he will hold the end of the wagon tongue and should he lose control while the wagon is in motion and allow the vehicle to slide into the retaining curb (gun whales) and jack-knife, he can easily be and often was, swept off the car.

Monday, July 25, 2005

RBBB 1942/ Betty Broadbent

Do you remember "Lydia the tattooed lady" that Groucho Marx sang about? Well this is Betty Broadbent I remember her well, a very nice lady.
The picture below is Charlie Tripp (armless wonder) and Eli Bowen who actually had small feet growing from his hips. They were featured in the 1897 Barnum & Bailey Side Show.
This picture might be posed to prevent blurring since the spokes appear to be stationary but
as far as these two guys actually riding the bike, it was a piece of cake.

The return from Peru

Our flight from Indianapolis to Atlanta was cancelled so we were switched over from Delta to Trans Air and while undergoing the humiliating process of doing the Chain Gang Shuffle carrying shoes in one hand and luggage in the other, John and I were selected for further scrutiny by having to sit in a chair while a metal detector examined the bottom of our feet, stand spread eagle while the baton then traveled inside our legs and upward and finally our bags unloaded and contents rechecked.

As everyone knows moving thru the Atlanta Airport is little different from what Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh went thru but on the final leg to Sarasota the Delta lady mistakenly put us on a flight for the following morning. We discovered this with 30 minutes to spare and after 15 minutes of argument we took off for the proper gate, thru the mass of humanity, down the long escalator to the shuttle train, the trip to Concourse E, up the long escalator where the Colonel commandeered a driver with an electric cart and with the command "Rack on driver!" we arrived at the proper flight as they were just closing the door. Two seats remained, John sat by the exit door and I was placed in the backend blues.

On the top of my "incompetency list" AOL has now been replaced by Delta Airlines.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Circus Hall of Fame/ Peru, In.

John Herriott and I are flying up to Peru, Ind. this morning, where John and other circus personalities Trevor Bale, Gerard Soules and Miles White will be honored at the Circus Hall of Fame.
Above is a picture of the quarters in Peru that once served as winter home for the Hagenbeck-Wallace, Sells-Floto and JohnRobinson Circuses and remains as an Historic Site.
Therefore the Magic Lantern Show will be shut down for the weekend but return to former glory Monday morning.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Ed Sullivan Show 1966

Barbara's getting quite a fan club. I doubt there was anything between her and Clyde Beatty but if there was, a tip of the hat for her tact.

Barnum & Bailey 1917/ The Greatest Show on Earth

I like this picture, maybe I should have had Shannon sharpen it up a bit. White City must have been an Amusement Park which would account for the roller coaster. The lot looks very tight with not enough room to erect the menagerie tent so the animal dens were placed in an oval with elephants standing in two rows butt to butt, the lead stock (camels, zebras, etc.) next and the three wagons beneath that would be the giraffe dens. For obvious reasons this is called a "corrall menagerie".
You may note that the big top has eight center poles which made the tent well in excess of 300' in length. From the size of the crowd it looks like the show made the nut that day.

Barnum & Bailey 1917/ Harry Mooney

This is Harry Mooney who was in charge of the Barnum & Bailey elephants in 1917. I can find no record of him prior to 1903, the year the show returned from it's five year European tour. This tells me that he was probably hired while the show was abroad. Wish I had a hat like that, I'd wear it to Peru.

Barnum & Bailey/ Mooney's musical elephants

In 1917 the Barnum Show carried 18 Asian elephants, four of which were males. Two tuskers "Pilate" and "Mighty" and two that had no ivory at all "Albert" and "Coco".
To the uninformed, P.T. Barnum and James A. Bailey were long since dead by this time and the show was owned by the Ringling Brothers. Two years later both shows and titles were merged and the 1919 show carried 36 elephants adding three more tuskless males "Sammy", "Rio" and "John". This phenomenon is not all that unusual but I have read that tuskless males in the jungle will instinctly become more ferocious in order to compete with tuskers.
My dad was on the show in 1920 taking care of two camels named "Victor" and "Rosie" and added that the only tusker at that time was "Mighty" and he had knobs on the end of his tusks but for some reason they were flat like door knobs. He also mentioned that when the elephant men mounted up to ride to the train the Ringling elephants raised them up with their trunks and the Barnum elephants used their left front foot.

Barnum & Bailey/ Harry Mooney and (walkover)

I know you won't believe this but I saw this trick duplicated last winter at the Ken & Nicole rehearsal by a man who leapt repeatedly, backward and forward over a prone tiger. Not only that but he conducted a frantic dialogue over a microphone while doing so.
My first thought was for Mooney "alas had he only realized that the elephant was unnecessary, he could have saved himself a lot of work by simply hopping over the dogs and horses".

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Gentry Bros. Dog & Pony Show

The Gentry's were renowned for their Dog & Pony Shows. In fact after the turn of the century they had four units out touring the country. Their shows had typical circus animal acts but also included "skits" such as the one shown in this picture where the "scamp dog" has just been arrested by the "police".
During the performance he would appear without warning and disrupt the act in progress, maybe by duplicating the trick another dog had done or by doing it backwards. Each time he would be chased from the ring by the Ringmaster and as a running gag when he reappeared the kids would scream with delight wondering what mischief he would get into next.
Ultimately he would be brought in for a trial and a baboon with a wig and gavel would preside, the verdict was Guilty and he would be escorted from the tent.
The band would go into a "Dirge" and in the back door came a small hearse pulled by two black ponies wearing black plumes and trappings, they would make a slow march around the track bringing considerable alarm to the children but as the hearse began to exit the tent the rear doors would swing open, out would come Mr. Scamp on a dead run, one lap around the track, then out the back door.

Unidentified pony cart

I'm guessing that this is another Gentry picture.

Ringling Bros. Circus 1910's/ Pig cart

I sent this picture out before not sure of it's significance but my friend Fred Dahlinger explained that one of the features on the Ringling Show at the time was horses jumping in and out of large barrells. This then would be a parody of the horse act in a later clown number.I can see the barrells being unloaded with great ceremony off the cart just like the horse barrells had been then the dogs going thru their routine. With the Spider monkey looking on? Pretty cute.

Sparks Circus 1920's/ Frank Phillips

Frank Phillips was a well knwn animal trainer, at one time he was in charge of the elephants with Downie Bros. Circus and later worked lions when at Jungleland in California. As compared with a horse, pigs, ponies and mules are pretty bright.
This picture was taken at the Sparks Show winter quarters in Macon, Ga. and Mr. Phillips is about to take this vehicle out for a spin.

Rube Act

Today this is called a "barnyard act" but anyone who has ever seen "Hee Haw" on TV will catch my drift. This picture is unidentified.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mr. Clyde Beatty

I was with Polack Bros. Circus showing the Shrine date in San Jose, Ca. when I heard that Clyde Beatty had died, forty years ago today. The public had come to recognize him as the person who represented the American Circus and he held that position well, always a gentleman and a credit to the business.

Clyde Beatty in practice

Clyde Beatty was with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1929 when that show was purchased by John Ringling. In the early 1930's Mr. Beatty would appear with the Ringling Show in Madison Sq. Garden but return to H-W for the under canvas tour and then during the winter months do movie work in Hollywood.
So great was his fame that a circus continued to use his name in it's title for almost forty years after his death.

Cole Bros. Circus 1935/ Harriet Beatty

This was taken at Rochester, Ind. when the new Cole Bros. Circus was being framed in 1935 and shows Harriet Beatty in practice. The elephant is the "Anna May" my dad had trained ten years earlier at Hall's place in Lancaster, Mo. and later the namesake of the "Anna May" that was in our family from 1949 until her recent retirement to the Elephant Sanctuary in Greenbriar, Ark.
The tiger and lion were named "Prince" and "Rimba".

Clyde Beatty 1963/ Detroit Shrine date

This is the last picture I have of Mr. Beatty taken with Barbara at while appearing with the Shrine Circus at the Detroit State Fairgrounds in 1963.

Monday, July 18, 2005

An introduction

This is a picture of my wife and I with Jim Howell the artist who painted the portrait shown on my Blog Site. Taken in 1978 while with Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus.
My Great Grandfather Hiram Orton took a small circus out of Portage, Wis. in 1853 and my family having remained in the circus business for a century and a half accounts for the thousands of pictures I own and also entitles me to have an opinion on the subject.
Now in retirement, one day my wife decided to buy a new computer and handed the old one down to me, my son Shannon who works for Brighthouse, hooked the thing up and it sat on a table in my room for several months until I noticed my grandson Pat ( age 8) playing a game on the thing and I asked him to show me how he did that and rest is history.
I started out sending a few pictures to friends unaware of the "6 Degrees of Separation" scenario that might develop and it got out of hand and before I knew it I had over 200 people on my list
including two in Germany, three in England and even one in Ireland.
Finally I was shut down by AOL who suspected I was running some sort of commercial enterprise and in fact to this day I can only eMail one person at a time.
Shannon came up with this Blog Site which I still can't quite understand but I do the best I can.
The opinions offered are not "the word as handed down by God unto Moses" but a very close second. Shannon told me that this method of communication would bring about lively debate.

RBBB 1970/ Wolfgang Holzmair

Mills Bros. Circus 1963/ JohnZerbini

RBBB 1954/ Trevor Bale

Sunday, July 17, 2005

RBBB 1966/ Program

Programs are not my specialty but I have RBBB programs going consecutively back to 1925 and scattered Barnum & Bailey and Ringling programs prior to that. I stopped collecting them some time ago since they are so bulky, two books a year takes up too much room and as far as reading material goes, I was convinced long ago that Kenneth Feld is truly wonderful.
In this program I counted 16 three ring displays.
Among the animals alone were 3 rings of elephants, 3 rings of liberty horses, 3 rings of menage horses, 3 rings of bareback horses, 3 rings of dogs and ponies (featuring the Stephensons), 3 rings of exotic stock (camels and zebras) a display of chimps and bears and even a pidgeon act.
In the steel arena Charly Bauman's tigers, Adela Smieja's lions and from the Althoff Circus the big tiger that rode the horse.

RBBB 1966/ Elephant display

How nice to see the Ringling Show unencumbered by the Rock Concert crap that clutters it up today and is used to eliminate the Spec and about 40% of the performers.
Hugo Schmitt in the center with Axel Gautier and Ed Healy working the end rings. At the extreme right is "Marcella" who did a "2-step shuffle" down the front track.