When colorful posters of wild animals performing appeared in the store windows on Eureka’s Main Street, we knew the circus was coming to our rural mining town. Soon the elephants guided by their trainers would be putting up a huge tent outside the city limits while the town’s youth gathered around to watch their every move. Everything about this event was exciting. Wild animals trained to jump through fiery hoops, trapeze artists flying through the air––leaping to another swing without falling, and clowns in bright costumes with funny painted faces acting crazy were wonders that I remember seeing as a child.
When it was time for the show to begin, the nicely dressed ringmaster would shout into a megaphone… Let the show begin! First, came the parade of all the performers around the ring, the wild animals in cages or led by their trainers, agile bareback horse riders, skilled trapeze artists, and the funny clowns juggling were always crowd pleasers. Families, seated closely together on risers under the big top, loved eating popcorn, peanuts and cotton candy while watching the show.
After the circus, carnival rides could be enjoyed. I loved to ride the carousel with its wooden carved horses that went up and down and around. How fun to pretend I was riding a real horse. Going round and round, listening to the piped organ music it was easy to imagine being in another world. Then there was the exciting ferris wheel which I always had to ride with an adult because it was scary to be so high off the ground. Coming down it was fun to let hold of the safety bar and pretend to be flying as you descended. Those were memorable family times.
The circus had many gypsies who worked the sideshows, and carnival rides. You could get your fortune told or see a two headed cow or the fat man, win a kewpie doll or stuffed animal by knocking down some stacked wooden milk bottles or throwing darts at balloons, but the most exciting event was the main show. Then, as quickly as the circus had come to town, it left. Sometimes a few adventurous town youths went along, hired to be helpers. Running away from their rural roots into the exciting world of the circus, it would only take a few months of this lifestyle before they would return-grateful to be back home again.