Thursday, June 30, 2005

When Shannon drops by each afternoon after work to pick up the kids he strolls into the computer room and casually punches up the days stats. He can tell how many people visited my Blog Site that day, how long they stayed, how many were first time visitors, how many returned and even their location. There are a couple from Brooklyn that have me slightly puzzled. He then shows me a pie shaped graph which indicates the "Old Guard" that have been with me from the beginning in one color, newcomers in another color, those that have repeated, etc. He even showed me another graph indicating that the hits are down on the weekend which is understandable but that overall it grows by the day. He also informed me that the slate will clear tonight and begins anew each month.

My daughter Dalilah enjoys most of my pictures and notes but mostly the contemporary stuff. Likewise with my wife but she says she can get along nicely without the sarcasm so I will close out June on a bright and airy note with a picture of the Ken & Nicole World Famous Circus Concert Band about to offer their rendition of "Pimpin' All Over the World" and "Kinda High, Kinda Drunk"

I got quite a bit of feed-back from the Christy 2-car Show. Here is Christy Bros. Circus during it's palmy days during the mid and late 1920's. The side show banners at right have been half-masted so it must have been a windy day. At right the band wagon can be seen returning from parade, in the center is the wild west canopy that Christy used for a menagerie and at left the six pole big top which presented a five ring format. Buckles

Mrs. George Christy handling the money. The logo under the window makes me wonder if this where Mrs. Woodcock got the idea? Buckles

When the Ringling-Barnum Show discontinued street parades, Christy jumped at the chance to buy the beautiful Swan band wagon(seen in this picture) plus several other tableaux. Buckles

Here are some of the Christy Show coaches spotted at a depot. A far cry from the 2-car show seen in Wallis, Tx. in 1919. Buckles

George Christy was a good business man and had holdings in the Houston area so with the advent of the Depression he immediately closed the circus after the 1930 season for good. For some reason he maintained some of his horses and elephants for a Unit he booked out on Shrine dates, Fairs and even other circuses all thru the 1930's. During this time he entered into politics even becoming the Mayor of Pasadena, Tx. for a while. In the mid 30's he sold some of his beautiful parade vehicles to Jess Adkins and Zack Terrell for their newly framed Cole Bros. Circus and this picture shows Mr. Christy in the process of selling equipment to Ken Maynard who was taking a show out. Buckles

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I have always been fascinated by these 2-car shows. This is George Christy's early years with Christy Bros. Circus. You can see the end door on the end of the baggage car open and local livery wagons would be hired to gilly the equipment to the lot and back. After being loaded at night these two cars could be coupled onto the next train headed their direction. This picture was taken in Wallis, Tx. Dec. 22, 1919 and you will notice the lack of a title on the cars, this was done intentionally with hopes of preventing the townspeople from realizing the magnitude of the show visiting their fair city or the lack thereof. Buckles

Someone on the show must have had a sense of humor, one car is numbered "10" and the other "2" This would have been the feature animal and this "casual man about town" will proceed to ride him to the lot. Being so late in the year the show probably showed year around. Buckles

This is the show set up on the lot a few days later 12/26/19 in Angleton, Tx. Surprising how much stuff you can cram into two cars. Big Top looks to be about 60' across with three 30' middles, should be able to seat 300 people or so. They even had a nice little marquee and what appears to be a ticket wagon in front. The wagon in front of the Side Show could be disassembled and loaded into a possum belly on the train. I see they were enterprising enough to have a "cooch broad". Bear in mind that the majority of the show would have to be handled twice when loading up at night, once on the rented gilly wagon and again from there to the baggage car. A hard way to make a living in bad weather. The show thrived tho, the following season 1920, another car was added and Christy's first elephant (Caradini Babe) was purchased from Mugivan & Bowers. By 1922 they moved on 9 cars with an advertising car ahead and by the end of the decade was a legitimate 30 car show and a major player.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

This was John Ringling North's pride and joy, heading in the back door of the big top is the air conditioned cage of the gorilla "Gargantua the Great". How many people had air conditioning in their homes in 1938? Buckles

Ths Barnes Show carried 17 elephants in 1938 but rose to 21 with the addition of the RBBB unit, they were Big Modoc, Queen and two Forest African elephants "Sudan" and "Puqua" imported in 1936 and originally billed as "Pygmies" but by 1938 they are becoming suspiciously large. I need to make it clear that Mr. Buck neither owned nor captured any of these animals he was simply hired to ride the double howdah, smile and wave. Buckles

This giraffe was halter broke and I have seen films of the 1938 Ringling Show with her being led around in the Frank Buck spec. Buckles

When the show has a tight lot the first thing sacrificed is the menagerie tent and as you can see the public will pass thru an area corralled by side wall only. Hence the expression a "corral menagerie" Buckles

In 1938 the Ringling Show featured Frank Buck in a "Bring 'em back alive" spec. He, of course, was included in the group sent to the Barnes Show after the Union Strike along with a large group of featured animals. This is Mr. and Mrs. Buck on the Barnes lot. Buckles

This is a follow up on yesterdays 1938 Barnes-Floto saga. I might add that our latest addition to the family is quite pretty and believe me, 70 years as boy and man I have become an expert on ugly babies. Buckles

Monday, June 27, 2005

Kathleen Sara Woodcock

Born June 27th 2005 - 7:20am - Brandon, FL
7lbs 5oz - 20inches

When John Ringling bought out the American Circus Corporation inthe Fall of 1929 he not only eliminated his major competition but acquired five established railroad shows "Hagenbeck-Wallace", "Sells-Floto", "Al G. Barnes", "John Robinson" and "Sparks Circus". Owing to the Great Depression, by the time Ringling died in 1936 not only the Ringling show had fallen into Receivership but only one of the Corporation Shows remained on the road, Al G. Barnes. The following winter Sam Gumpertz, now in charge. decided to lease out the Hagenbeck-Wallace equipment and animals to a combine headed by Howard Y. Bary so this show would return to the road. Someone also decided to add the dormant Sells-Floto title to the Barnes Show. Actually the Floto Show had been off the road since 1932 but the title remained well known. This shot of the ticket ofice shows off the new "face lift". Buckles

To further complicate matters, the Ringling Show closed early in 1938 due to a Union strike and returned to Sarasota. After a brief time many of the Ringling features, part of it's big top and a lot of the department heads made the long run to South Dakota where they were merged with the Barnes show and finished out the season with the incredible title "Al G. Barnes and Sells-Floto Combined Circus presents Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Features" This picture shows the hodge-podge loading order on an Al G. Barnes flat car. Buckles

Here we see just the opposite, Barnes wagons on a Ringling flat car the things hanging from the sides of the wagons are "lead bars" that enable elephants to work in teams while in harness (the same as double-trees on horses). Buckles

Chaos this morning, frantic phone calls, Pat and Ryan brought here, Melissa taken to Hospital, baby girl born at 7AM Kathleen Sarah but getting back to serious matters, erratic Blog messages sent out. I'll start over.

In order to unload wagons from the train a location must be found where the trackage
intersects with a throughfare (called the "crossing") the ramps (runs) are put in place and the
first car unloaded is called the "run car". The wagons are not necessarily taken directly to the lot but spotted in a nearby area, as the wagons in the picture indicate, there they wait until the next available hitch of baggage horses. The stringer wagon at left is obviously very heavy, solid lumber and you will note the ring curb rack on the side of the prop wagon. At the end of the 1938 season it all came to an end, the Barnes Show elephants were absorbed into the Ringling herd and everything else left out in the Florida sun to rot. The Hagenbeck-Wallace folded out in California the same year and the last of the American Circus Corporation gone forever.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

A few of you have heard me over the past eight months prattle on about the circus my mother's family the Ortons owned for many years however this is my father-in-law's circus "Marlow's Mighty Show" here seen in the 1930's. This day they must have appeared as part of a local event since I'm sure the Hillbilly band on the flat bed truck was not part of the show. No idea what the coralled attraction at left would be, maybe a pit show. The performance was a family affair with owner Ruben Ray in clown makeup and his wife Lalea trained dogs, ponies and monkeys. Buckles

Ruben would sometimes store the show equipment and book the family with other shows like Russell Bros.Circus in 1939 seen balancing youngest daughter Barbara. He did continue on with his small circus until the 1960's and after I married into the family Barbara and I would camp on his lot with the elephants during lay-offs. He was a very clever entertainer and aside from standard clown gags he knew all the "sucker-box" magic tricks and excelled as a talking clown. He spoke perfect Spanish and with a Latin audience he was incredible, he would even sing songs that they immediately recognized and sang along with him. I suppose he could best be discribed as a modern day "Dan Rice".

With a clever play on words the act was called the "Eight Rays of Sunshine". Older brother Leslie and parents Lalea-Leota and Ruben in the back row and in front Lottie, Billie, Barbara, Hope and Peggy. Buckles

Who could have known what the future held for the youngest and sweetest of the family, seen here with Big Apple Circus in a costume that Billy Barton would later refer to as "The Globes of Death". Buckles

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Ringling Show had three giants in 1948 these were the Fishers "Worlds Largest Married Couple" and the "Icelandic Giant" Johann Petersson who was attired in Viking garb with the horned helmet. This shot seems to have been taken in some CHS member's circus room. Buckles

After giving this photo a second glance, I think this might be the Hertzberg Circus collection at the San Antonio Library.

This picture was taken with the Al G. Barnes Circus in the early 1920's and well done. As you can see the cowboy motif greatly enhances the illusion of height. I don't know the giant's name but the two young elephants are "Sedro" and "Culver". Buckles

This photograph is unidentified to me tho the face is familiar and I admire his choice of companions, real hotsie-totsies. Buckles

With no connection to the Circus business this is Robert Wadlow and his father from Alton, Ill. At the time of his death in 1941 he was considered the tallest man in Medical History at 8' 9". Buckles

Friday, June 24, 2005

Iron Jaw

I still don't have a grip on sending messages out on this new system. On re-reading the tiger items a couple don't even make sense, and to make matters even worse, if I hit the wrong button the picture is published in mid-sentence. In-as-much as that this time last year I didn't even know how to plug the machine in I ask for your patience. By the way, the best tiger trainer I ever worked around was Charley Baumann. Buckles

Since these pictures are a set, several months ago my son Shannon attempted to show me how to send them out together and the response was disappointing. This system should do the trick. This is Herman Weedon in the old Selig Zoo in Los Angeles. I believe it was taken in the 1910's. You may notice the block in front in front of the barrell, this was probably used to keep it stationary until the picture was taken. When training this trick there are blocks placed in front and back and after the animal feels secure the front block is pulled ahead a few inches while the one in back is kept snugged up tightly. Tigers have great balance and in no time the blocks are removed completely. A piece of cake. Buckles

Albert Rix once told me that he had trained bears to do this trick in the Hagenbeck Zoo and the bear in the center stood upright on his hind legs and moved from side to side to make the teeter-totter operate. Buckles

The first cat acts I remember had lots of action with mostly lions and lionesses that even run around the wall and even "chase" the trained out the door. This prop would altogether too cumbersome for a circus that moved each day but I have seen dogs and ponies run on smaller turntables. Buckles

The first cat acts I remember were all fighting acts with lots of action with the trainer being

Thursday, June 23, 2005

As we all know, Thursday is clown day and here we see my favorite clown gag of all time. A forerunner of the famous "Atomic Hair Grower" Buckles

I suppose there is humor in all things. I thought the Prohibition Era was a more serious affair. Someone wrote on the back of this picture "Sells-Floto" but the big top side wall in the background appears rather low for a show that size. Buckles

No introduction required here. Buckles

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

On the other hand we find the less glamorous American Mud Show (God Bless them all). Buckles

This is the Walter Guice aerial bar act 1936 and as a child this type act was by far my favorite. By simply looking at the wardrobe you can see what part each character played. These acts fell by the wayside since the momentum required to leap from bar to bar was generated by physical power as you see gymnasts do in the Olympics. Would it be so awful if the Ken & Nicole show took a page from the Soleil book and hired Collegiate athletes to duplicate these type acts rather than have a bunch of chaotic kids running around? Buckles

Here we see the six pole big top and between poles 3 and 4 lies the center ring, then flanked on each side of it are stages1 and 2 and in the ends of the tent are rings 1 and 3. Incredibly they even placed a stage between the end center pole and the quarter poles enabling 7 act displays. Buckles

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Here we see a double howdah exiting Spec and bearing Authentic Zulu Warriors (actually members of the big top crew). In those days the band also marched around the track and this clarinet player in his haste to return to the band stand is about to be trampled. Should a double howdah be introduced to the Ken & Nicole Show? Buckles

This is the wagon used to move the Sea Elephant back and forth from the train to the lot. This was done by either baggage stock or a Mack truck. Here we see "John" backing the vehicle into the menagerie under the watchful eye of his keeper riding above and where a portable tank had been assembled. It must have been a pretty good load since we see three men on the wagon pole. Buckles

This is George Denman having completed the march from the cars and dismounted from his horse is leading the herd into Colts Park, Hartford, Ct. 7/9/30. The show carried 34 elephants that season including 3 males surprisingly all tuskless, John, Sammy and Joe. Denman appears quite dapper with his bow tie and riding breeches, all his assistants were expected to wear ties as well as you can see on Cowboy Taylor and Edward Doherty riding "John". This was Denmans 23rd season under Ringling employ, having been in the elephant Dept. with Barnum & Bailey when that show was purchased by the Ringlings. He retired during the 1933 season and was replaced by another old timer Bill Emory. Denman died in 1937.

Monday, June 20, 2005

This lithograph was in the Tampa Tribune and is supposed to depict Larry Davis.