Once upon a glorious season, when big tops drew all of America inside.
It was a most traumatic time, if you were a circus fan, especially a very young one, to live through. Two years before, John Ringling North had declared the tented circus - his own - "a thing of the past."
The nation reacted as if the circus itself had died.
At John Strong's Circus, Circa 1950s
Shows under canvas continued to draw crowds, big crowds in the wake of Big Bertha's sudden shut down in Pittsburg, PA, on July 16.
I remember going to circuses, no matter the size, and purposely finding reasons to like and appreciate them all.
At Kelly Miller Circus, 2010
Here in his letter to me dated Novebmer, 22, Don addresse the issue to a circus fan about 20 years his junior:
"Yep, I took think that the circus will be around for a long time. In fact I just wonder if there will always be a circus. For I'm sure they can never kill it completely and we who live in congested areas like this [S,F. Bay Area] might not see only indoors shows playing in our arenas, but I'm sure that for the small out-of-town cities there will still be lots and circuses of some sort to play on them. I had a long talk with the fellows from Trapeze Bros. and they think that the small tented circus is here to stay alright enough. They think that the show should give a good show, have as small as possible a price and that they can pull the people. I'm with them all the way here."
Fifty five years later, due in here next week are Ringling indoors and Vargas under canvas. Cirque du Soliel will play San Francisco this fall.
The Pickle Family Circus, Circa 1977.
Circus Bella, San Francisco, 2010