Thursday, September 25, 2008

Article #23 The Circus is Coming

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.


  1. Perspective is everything.
    Mine is in 3 parts:
    As a 5th grade teacher, The Shriners provided tickets to the circus and it was our class trip for many years. Thousands of kids, and we were responsible for ours. We had parents, held hands, had buddies, blah-blah- a safety issue that was paramount!Safety was my job, and the circus was secondary. I won't even mention the junk that is sold to the kids!
    Case 2- My friend [with her 2 kids]and I with my 'one of a kind' went to the circus in town. The 3 year old son of my the blink of an eye...disappeared. It was the scariest experience. We were 2 minutes from calling the state police when he was spotted in the front row with a couple he knew-he had just manuevered his way into the bigtop without any fanfare and in a nanosecond.The couple was expecting to see his mom in a second. Safe and sound... Whew!
    3- I read the best seller, Water for Elephants.[ and it bothered me.]
    Now I realize that blame for none of these scenarios should be at the fault of the circus.
    See what I mean about:
    Perspective is Everything!!

  2. I never liked the circus. It was visual overload to me. And it often had an unpleasant smell... I thought it was too noisy. And it was full of so many things that frightened me as a young girl. I wish it had been fun for me. I was always fascinated with the trapeze artists and thought the women were so beautiful... but, then I saw one up close and she didn't look so great. She looked garish! A couple of the sideshow "freaks", as they were then called, were just that. freaky. Some of them scared me and others just made me really, really sad. I think we went three or four times. I also took my children. (No need for them to suffer for my childhood fears and disapointments.) They all thought it was "okay", but didn't really care it they went again.

    My son took his boy and Chandi's oldest boy to the circus this past summer. Brannock, Chandi's six year old...had an allergic reaction to something there. His face swelled up, his eyes were totally swollen shut, he had huge bumps and red marks all over his head and hands. So, that's most likely going to be her familie's only experience with Barnum and Bailey. Her children all have wierd allergies.

    Currently, I sort of resent the way they send kids home from school with free tickets to the circus... for THEM. But, mom and dad have to pay $26.00 per ticket and they need to cough up another $13 - $17 per for any other children in the family. A lot of young families just can't afford that and it seems unfair to me to send a 6 year, old or a 9 year old home from school with a free admission and expect mom and dad to have to deal with it.

    Okay, I'm off my soap box.

    Glad the circus had so many fun memories for you!! I'm absolutely sure that the majority of people my age are standing in your nostalgic corner. I loved movies about the circus... and I loved going to the "Pike" in Long Beach and playing the games on the boardwalk for cupie dolls, and eating the truly horrible hamburgers that they sold there. The huge puff balls of pink cotton candy were always a special treat. Som I do understand some of the fond memories you have. Sorry... did I just rain on your parade??

  3. It is all very exciting going back with you to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the circus. That was fun.

    Thanks for sharing your memories of it.

  4. I have mixed feelings about the circus. I love it as a little kid, but was really upset when we went when I was a pre-teen. I was concerned about the animals and the safety of the performers..With age came fear and concern..

  5. My Gram used to talk about the gypsies in Darien, Connecticut, as people who stole children. What a time! And the circus was a place of pure adventure, according to her. Your post and photos capture that excitement!