YESTERDAY'S TOWNS

HOWDY, MY NAME IS BILL STRONG, I'LL BE YOUR "24 HOUR MAN", ROUTING YOU INTO THE PAST TO SEE WHAT THE CIRCUS WAS IN DAYS GONE BY. IF YOU'RE LIKE ME, AND MISS WHAT IT USED TO BE, THEN COME ON ALONG AS WE GO DOWN THE ROAD FOLLOWING THE ARROWS BACKWARDS, TO "YESTERDAY'S TOWNS"! IF YOU HAVE CIRCUS RELATED PICTURES YOU WOULD LIKE POSTED, SEND THEM TO,,,,yesterday1@verizon.net,,,,AND WE WILL TRY TO FIT THEM IN. "24 HOUR MAN" WILL HAVE THE FINAL DECISION ON POSTING.

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Location: GIBSONTON, FLORIDA, United States

Three years at CWM made me a real traditionalist, and I keep remembering Bob Parkinson saying, "I want the people to see what the circus used to be, not what it is today. That's what this site is about!

Friday, September 07, 2007

EXTRA, EXTRA::::FROM PAUL INGRASSIA

“WITH IT AND FOR IT”…IF ITS FREE

Paul Ingrassia

With this column, I am trying to make an important point about and for the OABA Performing Circus Animal Fund. It is a cause dear to me and to almost everyone who reads the predominantly circus themed publications, that will carry it.
In the mid sixties, I was working as a volunteer in the tented Lakefront office of the major outdoor circus event that was then called Old Milwaukee Days. It was sponsored entirely by the Milwaukee based Joseph E. Schlitz Brewing Company. The event was one big free gift to anyone who wished to attend this old- time, entirely horse drawn, parade of circus wagons from The Circus World Museum in Baraboo and the three days of continuous free circus themed entertainments at the Lakefront. Some of the working acts which my leaky memory remembers are cat acts by Pat Anthony, Jose Barreda and Julius Van Uhle, an Edmondo Zacchini Cannon, Tony Diano’s animals including the giant tusker Tommy and a bevy of acts constructed by the very young, energetic and flamboyant John and Mary Ruth Herriott with their family and friends.
As you would imagine, this giant free entertainment drew lots of people daily. In those days our few concessions were mostly Schlitz friends and any profit supported their many philanthropies. As they paid all the costs that Circus World Museum expended, it was also in our best interests to protect the potential revenue the event generated. For reasons best known to him, then parade and museum director C.P. Chappie Fox, decided my services would best be employed in keeping “pirate” vendors, of which there were many, mostly locals, off our grounds and away from the pockets of our guests. The terms “trailers” and “lot lice” were introduced to me by one of the show guys with us, so I with the help of the many local police, who were enjoying the cushy duty, seemed to get the job done.
One unforgettable “butcher” comes to mind and is really the point of this story. He was a big, smiling fat guy with a cloud of beautiful rubber balloons on sticks. It was a beautiful spread and he was turning them fast and then returning to the car he was working and apparently living out of at a nearby curb to renew his supply. After asking the guy to stay away from our gate and grounds three or four times, and always getting a big smile, immediate compliance and almost as immediate return to the spot as soon as we left, I discovered the guy to be genial, fun to talk to and full of the kind of circus talk that I really enjoyed hearing. When I tried to suggest that he was clipping some of our circus museum’s money, he made what I recall as the most sincere apology I ever heard but kept on chatting his way through the sale of more balloons. When he returned to his car to re load he asked me to join him for a cold drink and I was so charmed by the guy I did and actually while enjoying the drink, unconsciously helped him sort his goods. It turned out that I really never got rid of the guy and we sort of became “friends”, a fact that he used with every cop that tried to move him. This guy loved circus and was strictly “with it and for it”. He asked if he could visit CWM and perhaps even donate to it as he was sure a lot of his life had been spent around much of the stuff we had in our vast collections. Of course, he disappeared when the customers for his balloons did. He did love all things circus, but… .
I have thought of this guy often as many of the people we approach to help the cause of keeping circus animals with shows tell us, like the “rubber” guy, how important the cause is to them BUT somehow the check never seems to hit the mail. The OABA, The Outdoor Amusement Business Association of America, is again attempting to raise several thousand dollars to carry their programs of opposition to the so-called animal “rights” supporters. We know of course that the opposition has and will continue to receive six and seven figure gifts from individuals, who almost always are completely ignorant of the true facts surrounding the care, training and presentation of circus animals. However, oddly enough, our few thousand dollars, wisely spent by well-informed and largely unpaid experts and show folks, does make a difference! Additionally, the OABA convenes regional meetings of trainers and exhibitors, polices the multitude of laws and agencies assigned the business and employs specialists in support of many pro circus animal programs. None of this happens without money. The complete cost of the campaign, its symbols, advertising and distribution is paid by those of us who are involved in creating and conducting the fund raising.
We do have allies, many who prefer a low profile and some, like the Feld organization and many exotic animal exhibitors and breeders, do heavy financial service to their causes. This year as we begin to again ask for help, we have adopted a symbol of a performing bear for our donors pin and publicity. Certainly many of us can recall the joy and thrills of seeing acts by the likes of Albert Rix and Ursula Buttcher. We felt this an appropriate reminder to our potential donors that unless our fund raising succeeds, seeing elephants, exotic cats, monkeys, seals and certainly bears perform, will be no longer possible, at least in American shows.
Please join us with a few bucks. Our list of potential interested friends could number ten thousand, based on the number of people our ads reach. Sadly, our list of donors is much smaller and largely fan dominated with a few show producers making token contributions. If we get the money, we can do some good. Please don’t stand on the edge of the lot. Don’t acknowledge the importance of the cause and then like the balloon guy fail to show your support by lending your name and your money to it. Now is the time! See one of our vendors or mail a generous check to, The OABA Circus Fund, 1035 S.Semoran Blvd, #1045A, Winter Park, FL 32792. Give us anything over fifteen bucks and we will mail or hand you one of the 2007-2008 pins.

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