Monday, May 31, 2010

Circus Memorial Day (From Don Covington)

179983_2, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

The show must go on: Memorial Day site home to mass circus burial ground.

Coffins belonging to the victims of a tragic circus train wreck fill the mass grave at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Every year on the Saturday before Memorial Day, a team of volunteers from the Showmen’s League of America gather on the verdant grounds of Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park to walk their usual route along the historic graveyard.
They come outfitted with the standard stack of American flags to place alongside the final resting places of more than 400 people in preparation for the traditional remembrance service. Only it isn’t war heroes and decorated servicemen marked by the stream of red, white and blue.
These tombstones belong to a different type of veteran: a circus veteran.
“I’d like to think that many of them have been of service by entertaining the children of the world and the people of the world,” said Joe Burum, executive director of the Showmen’s League of America.
Known as Showmen’s Rest, the area is composed of 455 graves that belong to some of the most famous acts under the big top such as clowns, aerialists and animal trainers.
Despite having no direct tie to the military, Showmen’s Rest has been used as the site for the Memorial Day service for years because of its appealing beauty and easy to spot location, said Diane Burmeister, a member of the Showmen’s League and in-house historian.
The site is owned by the league, a Chicago-based organization that caters to the needs and wishes of carnival people.
“We have always taken care of our own and that is what the Showmen’s League was set up for,” she said.
Located near Cermak Road and Des Plaines Avenue, the site hardly blends in with the quiet backdrop of Woodlawn’s massive trees and aging headstones. Five majestic elephant statues made of granite stand abreast with their trunks pointed downward, a symbol of mourning and sadness, Burmeister said.
Showmen’s Rest was created in 1918 just months before a fatal train accident that left more than 85 members of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus dead and another 170 injured. Burmeister said the group was four miles outside Hammond, Ind. when their train was struck by an oncoming locomotive, splitting the first five cars in half.
A fire broke out from kerosene lamps inside the train cars causing a blazing inferno that took four hours to put out.
“No one really had a chance to get out,” Burmeister said.
After hearing of the tragic accident, members of the Showmen’s League donated their cemetery plot and financial resources to ensure the dead were properly buried and the injured were taken care of. Freezer trucks were used to transport the dead from Indiana to the Forest Park cemetery.
Contrary to popular belief no elephants or animals reside at Showmen’s Rest, but the area continues to serve as a final resting place for some of the country’s most famous big top performers. All 50 states are represented and another 310 cemetery plots remain under the ownership of the league for future use.
Each December the dead are honored during the league’s annual meeting, as well as in August by the National Clown Association as part of National Clown Week.
Burum said despite the often-humorous nature of the circus, the Showmen’s League is nothing to laugh at. Formed by the legendary William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the league has continued to support traveling circus and carnival performers for nearly 100 years.
Scholarship funds have been set up, medical and burial services paid for and numerous care packages have been sent overseas in support of those who traded the bright lights of the big top for the trenches of war during World War I and World War II.
“We are not all what the public thinks we are,” Burum said. “There are exceptionally sharp businessmen and businesswomen (in the league).”
For more information about the Showmen’s League of America, go to The Memorial Day service will take place at 1 p.m. Monday, May 31st at Woodlawn Cemetery, 7750 W. Cermak Road.

John Ringling North II-Circus owner & producer

Hello Buckles,
Here are recent photos of of some of the personalities that are on the Kelly-Miller show this year...very talented and most friendly folks as well.
Best regards,
Don Curtis

John Moss, III, Renya Moss, John Moss, IV & Nathan Moss

Casey McCoy-performing tigers

Casey McCoy-performing tigers, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Natalie Chandler Cainan-performing dogs

Cathy Poema-hula hoops, web & Risley

Lucky Eddie & Vickie Straeffer-musicians

Steve Copeland

Steve Copeland, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Nikki Ogle-aerialist

Nikki Ogle-aerialist, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Raul Olivares Guerrero-juggler

Raul Olivares Guerrero-juggler, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Mary Carmen Gonzales-cook house assistant & Brian LaPalme-chef extraordinare & fire manipulator

Ryan Combs

Ryan Combs, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

L-R-Tatiana Combs,Delana Fusco,Cathy Poema & Carolyn Rice with Mike Rice looking on (Didn't catch names of 4 girls in back row)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Laying down on the job!

Scan12988, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

We have three computers in the house and due to a
faulty "router" (whatever that is) each was gradually
eliminated until by yesterday afternoon, due to the vast
importance of the Blog, my computer was the last man
But alas, by this morning it too had expired, leaving
the Kelly-Miller portraits from Don Curtis unpublished.
Shannon is off from work today and brought over the
replacement router but being late in the day
and exhausted from fending off the enemy, I will
resume the Blog tomorrow.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

From Ralph Pierce #1

IMG_0084, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Color photo is of actual Ringling Wardrobe from before 1918.
These pieces are from a collection about 3 times this large and have been saved and preserved by a local woman in Baraboo. She and her sister, in their youth, played around the abandoned Water Street Winterquarters and were given permission to remove unwanted materials, wardrobe. To our benifit these young ladies were able to save circus history for us to enjoy and learn from. This Wardrobe was on display last summer at the 125th Anniversary Ringling Celebration Exhibit in Downtown Baraboo created by the Friends of Circus World Museum and local circus enthusiasts.

From Ralph Pierce #2

RBWQ-np-xx-36, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Ringling Wardrobe Department while in Baraboo Winterquarters

Barnett Bros. #1 (From Eric Beheim)

Barnett Bros. 1, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Seeing the postings of Barnett Bros. posters reminded me that I have a TRU-VUE filmstrip of black & white stereo (i.e. 3-D) photos that were taken professionally on the show in the mid-1930s. Titled “A Day at the Circus” this filmstrip remained in the TRU-VUE catalogue until 1941, when it was replaced by the series on the 1941 Ringling show. Since it was discontinued almost 70 years ago, “A Day at the Circus” is not as easy to find as the Ringling series, which is itself now becoming quite scarce. Some years ago, I sent Buckles a few scans from this set. Since then, my computer has been upgraded and is now able to do a much better job of scanning these old, contrasty photos. Here are new scans of all 13 photos from this series, presented in the order that they appear on the filmstrip

(There is no indication as to where or when these photos were taken, and no performers' names are given. Anyone who can help to identify them will earn the gratitude of the rest of us.)

Barnett Bros. #2

Barnett Bros. 2, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Barnett Bros. #3

Barnett Bros. 3, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Barnett Bros. #4

Barnett Bros. 4, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

(Someone might be able to identify the year this photo was taken from the sideshow artwork.)

Barnett Bros. #5

Barnett Bros. 5, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

The lead elephant is identified as "Big Alice."

1903-18 Sun Bros. Circus
1919-31 Johnny J. Jones Carnival
1932-39 Barnett Bros. Circus
1940-43 Wallace Bros. Circus
1944-59 Beers-Barnes Circus
(Died in Quarters winter of 1959-60)

From Buckles

Barnett Bros. #6

Barnett Bros. 6, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Barnett Bros. #7

Barnett Bros. 7, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

(The lady seated in the howdah is either a local VIP or a well-upholstered elephant empress!)

Barnett Bros. #8

Barnett Bros. 8, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Barnett Bros. #9

Barnett Bros. 9, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Barnett Bros. #10

Barnett Bros. 10, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Barnett Bros. #11

Barnett Bros. 11, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Barnett Bros. #12

Barnett Bros. 12, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Barnett Bros. #13

Barnett Bros. 13, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Friday, May 28, 2010

From Richard Flint #1

1 - arrival, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

The Ringling red unit arrived in Baltimore this past April 5 for its usual two-week engagement. Coaches were spotted beginning at 6pm, step stools placed at each car, and trash bags were attached by the vestibule stairs well before the cut with the flats arrived in the yard, shown here at 7:05 in the evening as it pulls in for unloading.

From Richard Flint #2

2 - haircut, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Life quickly emerged from the coaches and soon activities of daily life as in any community were under way. Here Laura Martin from wardrobe earns a little extra money cutting the hair of acrobat Roman Gorbunov.

From Richard Flint #3

3 - wardrobe, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Laura’s job on the show normally finds her in men’s wardrobe but here we see her repairing some capes in Central Repair. The Ringling wardrobe department is divided into three parts: men’s and ladies’ which each have there own private room or curtained area and a third part known as Central Repair—two roadboxes that are usually located at different points along hallways or other open areas backstage. In Baltimore, however, the building setup results in Central having its own room as seen here. At some arenas adequate rooms are not available for dressing rooms and so metal piping and curtains create what is known as “curtain city” backstage. Seen in the background is Rebecca “Becca” Williams of Central Repair working by her road box with its green interior and home to a sewing machine, fold down work table, and plenty of supplies.

From Richard Flint #4

4 - assisting, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

In some cases, the wardrobe department assists performers with their costume as in the case of the fairy wings seen here which travel in their own road box.

From Richard Flint #5

5 - wardrobe, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Also at her road box (with its fashionable purple interior!) is Lolis Vargas, head of the red show wardrobe department. Eight people work in wardrobe: two in women’s, two in men’s, two in central, one for the clowns (on the red show that is Laura Parker whose parents have long been Hanneford show staples), and the eighth person handles all the cleaning of the show’s approximate 300 costumes worn by 99 performers during the two-hour, twenty minute show. Also seen are some concession department uniforms of white shirts, yellow vests, and black pants awaiting repairs as they hang on pipe racks in front of a gray roadbox.

From Richard Flint #6

6 - wardrobe, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Lolis, whose husband Alex is head of the animal department on the red unit, was born on her parents’ show in Mexico but grew up in San Antonio. She’s fourth generation circus and her family, the Osario’s, spent many seasons with Carson & Barnes. Here we see Lolis, a former flyer along with her husband, working on a new costume to match one used by a member of the high wire act.

A series of ring binders—“costume bibles” as they are known and so identified—line the upper shelves of Lolis’s roadbox near her light. There are binders of measurement charts, costume sketches, vendor catalogs, and one just for shoes alone. Below, against the back wall, hang some personal snapshots of her husband, grandchild, son and daughter, and other family members.

From Richard Flint #7

7 - wardrobe, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Each mirror has to be individually hand-sewn and along with sequins and spangles represents many hundreds of small but ornate pieces that decorate each Ringling costume.

From Richard Flint #8

8 - wardrobe, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Here we see Becca again ready to use her sewing machine to stitch a part of the costume.

From Richard Flint #9

9 - in the show, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

And soon, a matching costume will outfit a performer re-joining the high wire act.

From Richard Flint #10

10 - old B&B wardrobe001, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

And finally, here's a glimpse at what is believed to be the Bridgeport winterquarters about 1910 showing work being done to prepare spec costumes for the coming season. There are about 65 people at work in this image for which I would welcome help to precisely date. We need to know more about the history of show costumes and their creation. For many years, of course, from at least the beginning of the John Ringling North era, major New York costume companies such as Eaves and Brooks-Van Horn have produced the elaborate creations of designers hired by RBBB. Throughout circus history costuming has been an important component but little of its story has been written.

Dick Flint


Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Friends and Fellow Floridians...........!

Scan12987, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Just read an editorial in our local free weekly "The Pelican Press"

I often agree with their positions on local matters but that is aside the point

The last paragraph of today's article caught my eye

"Are we the only ones who see the problems here?
Since the city commissioners didn’t clean house months ago, we implore them to do so now.

It’s not too late to restore to city hall the image of decisive, positive action instead of continuing

to allow it to look like the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey clown house."

We always seem to take it in the neck

I guess it's like what David Merrick said years ago

"I don't care what they say about me as long as they just keep saying something"


"This photo from the depth of my archives. Very deep."

From Laura Stansell

From Jerry Digney #1

RBBB_TRADE AD2, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

1972 trade ad for RBBB listing Allen Bloom for bookings. Show was then colorfully headquartered at 18th & K St. offices after moving from Connecticut Ave.

From Jerry Digney #2

RBBB_TRADE AD1, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Early 1980's Trade ad by Felds touting "Disney on Ice" premiering 1981. by this time offices had moved from 18th & K Sts. to New Mexico DC.

From Jerry Digney #3

1, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Ad for La Toria, "now playing" at Circus Krone

From Jerry Digney #4

2, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

RBBB European Tour, '63, ad for help (?)

From Jerry Digney #5

3, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

RBBB European Tour talent line up

From Jerry Digney #6

4, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Talent agent Bedini's trade ad for RBBB Europe (before Trolle
Rhodin there was Bedini scouting acts)

From Jerry Digney #7

5, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Galla Shawn, aka Tiny Gallagher, the little gal from Hugo, OK,
who became a terrific circus performer...her husband, Santos, was a wire

From Jerry Digney #8

6, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

From Jerry Digney #9

8, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Newspaper Ad, 104 (1974) edition of RBBB Blue, Providence (this
was the new Civic Centre)--note ticket price, $4, $5 and $6; this was
the year I joined RBBB as PR.