BARS #2: ROPIN & DOPIN
As for what was applied to the bars, it was referred to as “dope”, and in the early days it consisted of resin, & mutton tallow,(sheep fat), cooked together to form a sticky substance to give a better grip on the bar, most acts had several different batches, that they could choose from according to weather conditions. Of course working in the rain was out because if the bars got wet it was not possible to maintain a grip. In later years the tallow was replaced by petroleum jelly, the Merkys mixed resin & gasoline.
The dope was applied in a line along the top of the bar and a piece of ¼” cotton rope was wrapped twice around the bar and the ends pulled alternately as it was moved back & forth across the bar spreading the dope evenly. It was applied before every show, usually by the “straight man” as he did the “big” tricks, he would then put covers, made of rubber hose over the bars to protect them until time to work.
ROPIN THE BARS!
PUTTIN THE COVERS ON.
The bars were covered outside, or inside, and even when stored, they were "doped" periodically to keep them from drying out.