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!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

SNAPSHOTS: HOXIE BROS. CIRCUS, LONG TIME AGO

This is late '60's or early '70's.

CARMEN DEL MOLINO


PAULINE DUKE TOTH, JOYCE BRIDENBACH CANESTRELLI, & CHONA EASTWOOD

1 Comments:

Blogger Noel said...

My Interactions with this Circus: A True Story by Noel Levan
Harrisonburg Virginia
noel_levan@hotmail.com

In 1972 my wife Mary, Joy (our dog) and I were living in a small, quaint (translate that as drafty enough to see the wind blow the curtains when the windows were closed) farm house in the rolling hill country above the Susquehanna river, outside of Pottstown Pennsylvania; a tiny community known as Birdsboro. I was working at the nearby Pennhurst State School and Hospital where 1,700 individuals with mental retardation and physical disabilities lived.

That year our football field served as the site for a traveling circus. The early July day was already very hot when the Hoxie Brothers circus wagons rolled in to set up. A single big-top tent was erected by midmorning and staff began bringing the walking residents from the many buildings, down to the playing field tent in large and small groups. Those in wheelchairs would be brought in just before the show began; and only a very small portion of the 500 plus wheelchair using residents would get to see the show at all.

After I’d brought my Building 9 group and gotten them seated and supervised by other staff, I was free to watch the performance with the kids and adults or leave; as long as I returned to escort them to their buildings when the show was over. I’d seen other circuses over the years; even this one in another town and I was more interested in a behind the scenes view of it all on this day. So, I wandered among the travel trailers, wagons and trucks which carried performers, roustabouts and all their equipment from town to town. Speaking my broken Spanish and listening to their broken English, I discovered that most of the performers were from Argentina and Paraguay and that they most often traveled among their extended families. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and many younger, school-aged children shared all the work and they felt it to be a good life. They sat outside their mobile homes in their costumes, awaiting their call to perform in the tent. They talked with one another in small groups and several children practiced their juggling and acrobatic routines.

The road manager had evidently decided it was too hot to force the jungle cats to perform. Lying in their individual wagon cages, lions, a tiger, and a black leopard each moved only to swish flies with their tails. Though partly shaded, they panted heavily as the all-too-bright sun created mirages over the silver or black, tar-covered wagon roofs. Heads lifted, eyes closed, nostrils flaring, only at the slightest, cooling breeze.

I approached one of the lioness cages and although there was a series of two-foot-tall posts with rope strung, I stepped over the slack barrier and came within arms reach of the lioness' head. She was beautiful. She lay with the top of her head against the bars; her long body stretched out across the cage into the shade. I spoke quietly to her, saying I understood how hot she must be and couldn't the owners do something to keep the flies away.

She didn't seem to pay me the slightest attention until I reached my hand near the steel bars and tentatively scratched the crown of her head where it protruded between the bars. She immediately made a small though clearly audible purring in response. I slowly scratched around the top and the back of her head and then got closer to her ear. She evidently enjoyed my efforts because she turned ever so slightly, so that I could reach her other ear, which she'd been lying on. As I continued, I observed her as she made an unsatisfying effort to rub her shoulder blade on the cage bars. I moved to rub and scratch at her shoulder. She turned so that I could reach even more of her shoulder and neck; her purr growing a little louder; a little deeper in her chest. The circus music played faintly from the big-top, the sun blazed without the smallest clouds' shadowy relief and I stood with the length of both arms to the pits in the cage, happily communicating; enjoying this massive feline and myself.

What had begun as a sympathetic word and a little scratch on the head had turned into a full body massage. My hands worked her muscles gently and firmly. She responded by turning so that I could reach her back and flanks. I wasn't thinking of her as a wild, ferocious animal who could take my arm off with a swipe of her clawed paw; not at all. And I watched with a clear, presence and alertness as, in her pleasure, those claws repeatedly appeared and withdrew into her paw fur exactly the way house cats demonstrate their appreciation for similar attention. Only later did I realize I'd spent forty minutes with this lioness. I stopped only because some member of the troupe came walking by the next wagon and asked me whether I knew that I had my arms in a lion’s cage? Though I felt some embarrassment, I was indeed aware. I took the comment as a sign, slowly withdrew my arms, and bid the lioness a fond farewell. I returned to the big top to help return our residents to their wards.

9/15/2008 6:12 PM  

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