Sunday, April 30, 2006

Video Clip of Baby Emily

Here's another picture of Baby Logan. Charlie Gray also sent this video clip as well.

VIDEO CLIP - Windows Media Format
Click on the link

From Don Bloomer

What a wonderful time to be alive, yesterday I asked if anyone had a picture of Rex Williams in the Rose Bowl Parade with the Vargas herd and quicker than a Ken & Nicole alibi, I received this.

"Coon and Possum " Show

Everybody seems to like this Big Apple stuff. Annie even wants to see a chronological series which would cover 1982 thru 2000. Let's see I'm 71 now, maybe I could do that.
I wasn't on the show this season. This is the year that they did the HBO Special that runs til this day with Ben, Darlene and the girls.
I only saw the show once and can't recall what part the pig played or the name of it's Jockey.
This is "Ned" with Ben standing off camera at left and in the background we see a bewildered Barry and an amused Paul.

Big Apple Circus 1991-92

The program Miss Woodward is holding indicates the Coney Island Season.

From Charlie Gray / "Lily" and "Logan"

How refreshing for Charlie to share this with us. Occasionally you hear of a calf being born at the Ringling Stud Farm but you are afraid to ask.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

To Annie

Adagio number with Big Apple Circus.


A visit to Mt. Olivet!

This is contributor Terry Fenne leading a Carson & Barnes elephant at Rex Williams funeral several years ago in Daingerfield, Texas.
I received these pictures from him yesterday from his recent trip to "That Green Valley on the Red River" Hugo, Oklahoma.

Mt. Olivet Cemetery #1

Okie was a classic story, ran away and joined the circus in his teens and was most of his life with the Millers. Aside from being boss elephant man, worked cats, horses generally useful as all-around showman.
There are a large number of the upright stones seen in the upper left. Each is capped with an elephant and mark the outer perimeters of Showman's Rest.

Mt. Olivet Cemetery #2

Bless his soul, Turtle took great pride in being referred to as Bobby Gibbs illegitimate son.

Mt. Olivet Cemetery #3

Kenny Ikirt was in charge of the Carson & Barnes elephants in the 1970's almost right up until his death. The carving in the center showing elephants doing a long mount on tubs has almost faded away.

Mt. Olivet Cemetery #4

Ted is here in spirit only since his ashes were spread over the bay in Bridgeport and this monument was erected in his memory by his mother.

Mt. Olivet Cemetery #5

Friday, April 28, 2006

To DanH

Is this what you mean?

The Great Fred J. Mack Circus in 1955

Courtesy of Fred Pfening:

During the spring of 1955 Public Enterprises, Inc. was organized by a group
of Columbus, Ohio businessmen. Fred D. Pfening,Jr. was president of the
corporation. Stock sold in the company totaled $27,600.
The company operated the Fred J. Mack Circus. The show opened in late
April and closed on July 5. It moved on nine trucks. The big top was a new
70 round top with two 30s and one 40 foot middle. Seating was on five
hundred chairs and bleachers. Music was on records, played in a former
funeral hearse. Chief Clarence Keys was boss canvasman and his wife Tillie
had the cookhouse.
The performance included acts presented by six former circus owners. The
midway show was a menagerie owned by R. A. Miller. Miller¹s elephant,
Jessie, was a feature of the performance. Frankie Lou Woods presented it.
Another feature was aerialists Mickey King.
The daily nut was about $690 a day. The show lost money from the start.
The closing came when the advance stands ran out. The loss for season was
The equipment was advertised in the Billboard. It was sold to Arthur
³Hardtimes² Leonard in October for $3,400. They money from Leonard was used
to pay the government with holding taxes and admission taxes.
Leonard operated the Leonard Bros. Circus in 1956. The equipment was
then sold. The grandstand finally wound up with Bob Snowden¹s Duke of
Paducah Circus in 1960 and on his King Bros. Circus in 1961.

Quick Fix!

Bill Powell made an attempt to send me some pictures from his mother, Gee Gee's collection but all I got were the accompanying messages. I fear that he attempted to use a Company Computer from which of course, all classified information is deleted. So I quickly dug into the Big Apple files to come up with this mornings folly.

On that subject a friend called me last night during intermission of the Red Show and was laughing so hard I couldn't understand him at first but it seems he had just heard the "Folks you ain't seen nothin' yet" announcement which he couldn't have agreed with more. He added that he asked someone on the show what this year's theme was and was told it was "Balls".
Who could have forseen a year ago that this would wind up being the good show?

Big Apple Circus (Date unknown) #1

Barbara put this act together, picked out Vanessa Thomas from the Big Apple cast, choreographed the routine even designed and made the costume which you could never really see due to the lighting. A small price to pay for being truly artistic.
Elephants are "Anna May" and "Peggy" and more pictures from Paul Gutheil.

Big Apple Circus (Date unknown) #2

This trick has always been called the "whirl".

Big Apple Circus (Date unknown) #3

"Peggy" shown here with Vanessa, resides at the Riddle Sanctuary in Arkansas today.

Big Apple Circus (Date unknown) #4

My dad always called this trick the "handshake"

Big Apple Circus (Date unknown) #5

"Anna May" with guest Kevin Bacon.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

California Bill - Update

Received an E-Mail from Kari Johnson:

Hi, AB 3027 passed out of the Public Safety Committee yesterday. There were a lot of great people there to represent our side. Some of the committee members expressed concern about the bill but it got through anyway. It goes to the Appropriations Committee next. We have another chance to stop it there. We need examples of how the bill would hurt California financially. If it the bill gets out of the Appropriations Committee it would go to the Assembly floor. It is very importantright now for everyone to contact their local Assembly Person and ask for their help in opposing AB 3027. Thanks to all of you who wrote letters and made phone calls. Please remember to get your letters in early. The analysis said that only 28 letters from individuals were received and I know that many more were sent that didn't make it in time to be counted. I'll let you know when we have information on where to send letters next. You can track the bill by going to, click on bill information and put in bill # 3027. You can read the analysis there and keep track of the bill.

Thank you for your support.Kari Johnson

"Targa" #1

Mac MacDonald told me that "Targa" was included in the group of elephants imported in 1953 from which he selected the famous "Besalou Elephants" for Polack Bros. Circus. He said she was only a few months old so he passed on her and she went to Catskill Game Farm instead.
After the 1955 season with the Ringling Show Hugo Schmitt decided to buy his own elephant and being good friends with the Lindermanns he bought "Targa" (Hugo once told me that in India the word "Targa" means star).
Here we see her at age 3 with Leonard Bros. Circus in 1956 with Hugo and his son Roman.

"Targa" #2

Included in this picture is Hugo's wife Jennie holding "Pasha".
Leonard Bros. was owned by "Hard Times" Leonard formerly of Mills Bros. Circus but the show was originally built by Fred Pfening and known as the Fred J. Mack Circus. As you can see they had a chair grandstand, quite unusual for a show this size. These are the only pictures I have of this show but maybe I can get Fred to send me some pictures to put on the blog.
I don't know the exact date on these but in all probability the Ringling Show had already folded under canvas, was back in the barn and Concello, now back in command, was making offers for Hugo to come on home.

"Targa" #3

When we showed Queens with Big Apple it was always in Cunningham Park and the show set up on the parking lot of a facility with a series of tennis courts. In 1987 while playing there the Red Show was down town in the Garden and on one Sunday a bunch of us decided to drive down to where the train was spotted, watch them load out and cut up some jackpots. I almost had Alan Slifka talked into going but he finally thought better of it.
King Tusk was the feature but I was surprised to see my friend Lee Keener walking with the herd, I was told "Tommy" had already been loaded in his truck down at the Garden and Lee was just making the walk to help Gunther.
After the elephants were loaded in the cars Lee called me over to one side, looked all around and whispered "Targa dropped dead this morning with the Blue Show up in Providence".
My first thought was "Why are we whispering?" but despite having only been with the show a few months Lee had already mastered the art of Secret Keeping.
On the same lot in Queens six years later almost to the day, I received an emergency phone call, I walked over to the phone booth by one of the tennis courts only to learn from Ted that Axel had just been killed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chicago Worlds Fair 1934

Thanks to Shannon I am back in business but owing to the lateness of the day and the risk of missing Judge Judy, I will confine things to this wonderful picture just received from Dave Price.
This is the Live Power Show that Zack Terrell produced at the Chicago Fair featuring Allen King's lion act and shows the overhead track that enabled the front half of the arena to withdraw into the back half so other type acts could appear. Mr. King can be glimpsed in the chute.
Mr. Terrell bought these three elephants from the Wm. P. Hall Farm, from left "Juno", "Tony" and "Big Katie" and were the beginning of the elephant herd to be assembled for next year's Cole Bros. Circus.
Working the act is John Smith (Monkey Smitty) and the elephant empress is Estrella Nelson from the famous Nelson Family of acrobats and the wife of Mr. Terrell.

More problems!

This time with Google. Talked with Shannon and he said he would check it out from work.
Three pictures of "Targa" and Hugo with Leonard Bros. Circus in 1956 ready to go and a long monologue with each but a trip to to Tampa necessary later this morning, so we'll see how it plays out.

I asked Shannon if everyone with a computer goes thru this and he said "Yes, in fact this is what he and his coworkers at Brighthouse refer to as Job Security".

Shannon here: Actually the issue today is not with Blogger but with Picasa/Hello. This application & service hosts the pictures that we all enjoy. When I finally begin telecommuting soon, I will be changing this around. It's hard to complain when all of this is free, Blogger & Hello/Picasa.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Curse of the Cat People"

Maybe some of you movie buffs can come up with some info on this one.

Cole Bros. Circus/ Georgia Sweet

I only remember Miss Sweet at left, as an older lady, the previous picture taken earlier in her career. She and my mother were good friends but I don't recall a husband, maybe she was single. Gee Gee did the Roman riding when we were on the show.
The other people are Ruth Nelson and Horace Laird. Mr. Laird also served as the mail man.
Johny Herriott and I were talking about him the other day and agreed that neither of us ever heard of him after the Cole Show.
Johnny added that being mailman was a responsible job since everyone on the show would give him cash to buy money orders without the least reservation.

Robbins Bros. Circus 1949/ For Anita and Brandy

My family was on this show too, owned by Big Bob Stevens and previously known as Bailey Bros. Circus. I was a high steppin' candy butcher working for the A & E Concession Company (Laura Anderson and Frank Ellis).
Other than the Riding Conleys we had the Silverlake Family, Jackie Tolliver and Ernest and Percy Clarke who did a comedy fencing act dressed as Musketeers. Skinny Goe had an excellent band.
The boss canvasman was Johnny Wall and his wife Gladys Gillum (a former lady wrestler) had a small cat act, four or five lions (Killum' Gillum). After her act the Silverlakes did a "Gargo" number (giraffe parody) while the steel was coming down. Marcus in the front, Franklin in the back and their father Brownie, in clown makeup and pith helmet, worked the act. He would conclude a long introduction with "Tie him up and turn him loose!".
One day for some unknown reason Miss Gillum while exiting the tent spied Gargo awaiting it's cue and walked over and laughing, shot it in the ass with her blank gun. The canvas immediately ignited and Franklin was rushed to the Hospital with severe burns.
The show carried a lot of grift and on more than one occasion the last of the trucks pulling off the lot at night were escorted with gun fire. Fortunately the Lucky Boys only worked after the night performance affording ample time for artists and animals to be gone before all Hell broke loose.
I remember a rare two-day stand in Canada and business was so good Big Bob let them work after the first night resulting in the loss of the second day. We were promptly escorted out of town.

Chariot Races in the Big Top!

As previously mentioned, the races were a traditional number just before the closing act with circuses for many years. I remember them with the Cole Show as late as the 1940's, my favorite was a pony race with rhesus monkeys as jockeys.

"Off to the races!"

I believe this is Ringling Bros. Circus in the 1910's, Dan Draper could tell us.
Rider in the center is Spader Johnson and on the right Bob Stickney Jr.

Cole Bros. Circus 1949/ Jinx Adams

A long line of horses like this was not a part of the races but a separate act in itself and appeared earlier in the show.

Georgia Sweet

"The Blonde Bombshell"

The undisputed Queen of Roman Riding, Gee Gee Engesser in command of sixteen galloping horses.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

More good news from Canada!

Charlie Gray tells me that yet another calf was born at their facility at 10:00 AM this morning, a female they have named "Emily" 270 lbs.
The mother is "Kitty" age 45, her 4th calf and the father once again is "Rex" his 3rd.
This is the 11th born since 1991 and all still living. He is to be congratulated.

Roy Wells 1976/ "Reed #2" and "Kiki"

Somehow I printed this picture twice earlier today and while trying to delete one I managed to lose them both as well as the messages received.

The Greatest Show on Earh 1930's #1

Isn't this Roland Butler drawing more attractive and colorful than the "bowling ball" coming thru your windshield drawing we see today?

The Greatest Show on Earth 1930's #2

You first passed thru this menagerie on the way to the big top in 1936, this photo has the elephant men lined up at left and menagerie hands at right.
The show carried 34 female Asian elephants and the 3 African "Pygmy" elephants, one of which is being held at left by boss Larry Davis while the cage boys are showing off an orang-u-tan.
In the center is the Native American encampment featured by Western Star, Col. Tim McCoy.

The Greatest Show on Earth 1930's #3

Merle Evans band in 1939 seated in the center ring. In those days they played a concert while the audience was being seated consisting of classical music, overtures and popular tunes of the day.
The trumpet player with the mustache at Mr. Evans left is Henry Keyes who was band director with Polack Bros. Circus in the 1960's when we were on the show.

The Greatest Show on Earth 1930's #4

The Greatest Show on Earth 1930's #5

I once asked George Werner how big the tent was in 1951 and he said 206' across with four 59' middle pieces. It was wider than this tent as seen in LA in 1934 because it had to accomodate Concello's seat wagons but this is a mammoth spread of canvas.
To get the proper perspective, the menagerie tent in the center was 150' across, the standard size big top for the competitive circuses.
This was not a 5 ring circus but actually 3 rings and four stages since there was enough room between the end center poles and the first row of quarter poles to place smaller stages, thus a seven act display. The stages on each side of the center ring had to be heavy enough to accomodate an elephant act so they could have five herds working at once.
And of course, the track wide enough to present chariot races before the show closed with the Zacchini's double cannon.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

To Darryl / "Karen"

This is Hugo and "Karen" during the winter of 1969-70 in Venice shortly after her arrival. I took this picture myself.

"Karen" 25 years later

"Karen" was in my act in 1994-95 "Siam", "Minnie", "Mysore", "Kernaudi" and "Karen". For some reason unknown by me today, someone decided that Graham needed another teeter-board elephant so I chose her because I knew she was smart enough to pick it up in few days, which she did.
This is a picture of Shannon and myself during a morning practice session with Graham Chipperfield in flight. No idea if they ever used it in the show or not.

Harlequin Dancer #1

I have quite a few clown pictures among which I find this set but without the faintest recollection where they came from.
Perhaps Ron, Barry or Pat could come up with some names and a general date?

Harlequin Dancer #2

Harlequin Dancer #3

Friday, April 21, 2006

To Max

Not only did I keep a card index file on individual elephants but a yearly record as seen here.
I discontinued this about 10 years ago when it became somewhat of a criminal activity. Once when having my elephants inspected by the USDA lady she mentioned that she had heard of my hobby and asked, "I don't suppose you would want me looking at this years list." and I answered "You are absolutely right, I wouldn't".
At about the same time I received a letter from my Insurance Company asking how many elephants so and so had. At that time you were charged per elephant and they had heard that this party actually had three when he was only paying for two. I of course plead ignorance.
Could you imagine what would happen today if someone went to the Manager of the Ken & Nicole Show and said, "There's some guy out back taking down the names of the elephants!"

Seal Bros. Circus 1936/ J.E. Bowman and "Ena"

This is "Ena" ten years earler, no sign of the tumor.

1922 Jack Stengard's Midgets (Vaudeville)
1923 World Bros. Circus (Fred Buchanan)
1924-31 Robbins Bros. Circus (Fred Buchanan)
1931-33 Wm. P. Hall Animal Farm
1934-37 Seal Bros. Circus (Bud E. Anderson)
1938-40 Parker & Watts Circus
1942-43 Hamid-Morton Indoor Circus
1944-45 Hugo Bros. Circus (Leased from Tom Ewalt)
1946 Ball Bros. Circus
1947-48 Madden-Stillian Circus
1949 Jarmes Bros. Circus
1950 Capell Bros. Circus
1951 Heart of Texas Shows (Harry Craig)
1951-52 Don Breshear Shows

(Died in 1952)

Rebecca, is this better?

Gene Garner with the former Tom Packs elephants circa 1965.