Rails to asphalt: Ahead of its time? Downie Bros truck circus
Multi-ring zeal -- some would call it insanity -- once ruled the land of red white and blue: Here's author Earl Chapin May writing up the advantages of a truck circus, "Swift Motor Trucks Put Circus Back on Road," reporting for Popular Science Monthly, April 1933.
“A circus must have three rings to attract paying patronage. Americans disdain a one-ring show.” Oh, how times can change, over time!.
“Most of these motorized circuses move as rapidly as railroad shows ... A motorized circus, paying only for motor licenses, except where in a few instances special licenses are required, lands on the lot, exhibits, tears down and goes directly to another pitch. Valuable time and money are thus saved.”
"A Reporter Penetrates Into the Mysteries of Circus Life," from the Sacramento (California) Daily Record-Union, September 7, 1880, on W.W. Coles circus:
“Do you fear these fellows?” [the lions]
“Well, yes and no,” answered George Conklin, “I must make them fear me, or I need to fear them.”
“You perform with them?”
“Twice a day.”
“You treat them kindly?”
“Not by a long shot. They have been conquered by the application of red-hot iron bars, and finally by the loaded whip. Any one of them would catch me up at any time but for the fear they have for me, and that fear I keep alive by blows and punishment. The affection and kind-hearted theory wouldn’t save your life two minutes.”
Leaps! -- from twelve twirling men, among them Harry Long: “They fly over horses and elephants in great numbers, and turn in midair and alight with wonderful agility.”
Takes me back to that wonderful summer afternoon in Santa Rosa, when my mother took us to see King Bros Circus, and under my first big top. I would remember acres of white canvas over green grass, side show banner lines reaching clear up to heaven. Most of all, the magic of tumblers scampering up a long runway to do essentially what is described above, into the air and over the elephants ... nothing like it!
This is the issue that also gives us William Taggart’s account of the 1955 season.
The Bandwagon, a very expensive ride, as much a photo gallery now as a periodical, is chock full of lore, color, fun, rich history. Even accidental leaks of unpleasant truths.