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1977197819791980198119821983198419851986198719881989

WHEN CIRCUS CAME TO TOWN IT WAS A BIG DAY IN FOSTORIA
Thursday, June 1, 1978


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PIX #1 - Elephants file off the railroad cars

PIX #2 - Big top goes up with a little help from pachyderms

"The circus is coming to town!" That was the exclamation on the lips of Fostorians...both young and old, many years ago. It was a big event...an all-day event...and they were BIG circuses that hit our town, then. The billboards, telephone poles and business windows were plastered with signs weeks in advance, announcing the dates for the extravaganza.

At the crack of dawn on the big date, circus lovers would be on hand at the railroad yards to see them unload. Railroad yeard?...yes, the circus with all its paraphanalia, animals and people came by train...their own cars, too, all except the railroad's engine that pulled them. There were many flat-cars for animal cages, specially built cars for the elephants, sleeping cards for the performers. All cars were decorated and labelled with the circus' name and colors.

UNLOADING AND SETUP

It was a great spectacle to see, and a cheer went up when the train was sighted coming down the track. Watching the circus unload was just the start of the full-day's event. The fans then made their way to the field where the circus was held...to watch the big tent go up...to see the elephants move the wagons and cages into position. Dads watched too until it was time to go to work.

The rest of the family stayed on until set-up operations were completed... munching on snacks...looking at all the animal cages...the sideshow banners, proclaiming the world's smalled human...the fat woman...the doy-boy...dancing girls...and lots more. All this was free, but it got the onlookers steamed- up to return for the afternoon and evening performances.

THE BIG THREE

Young and old alike know the name Ringling Bros...it's the only big circus left from the old days. Back when I was a boy there was Barnum and Bailey, Ringling Brothers, and Hagenbeck and Wallace. They all showed in Fostoria, because of the railroad facilities here. They could arrive and leave Fostoria from all directions and it was a natural terminus north, south, east and west.

Fox field, on west Lytle at Independence road was one of the spots where circuses setup years ago. A farm field farther werst on Findlay road was also used as well as the show grounds on south Main Street.

I REMEMBER

One summer one of the Big-Three came to town. I don't remember which one, but it may have been Hagenbeck and Wallace. Whichever, it unloaded at the New York Central years in the vicinity of east Tiffin and Center Streets. Naturally, all of us kids in that neighborhood were on hand bright and early to watch the unloading operation. when it was time for the performers to leave their sleeping coaches wer were on hand to see them too. When the "Fat Lady" came down the car steps, Joy Huss, one of our gang yelled "what do you east to make you fat", she replied, good naturedly, "strawberry shortcake". That brought a big laugh from the by-standers, both young and old. Joy Huss, the younger brother of Mrs. L.E. Kinn, grew up in Fostoria and became a doctor in Toledo. He is now dead.

WORKED FOR TICKET

I believe it was that same time and the same circus that I wanted to attend so badly, but money wasn't available. Of course, I saw the noontime parade down Main Street. The circus parade was always a big event. The parade route would be packed with spectators to hear the steam calliope and band... to see the brilliantly decoreated cages with the wild animals, pulled by teams of six or eight horses...pretty girls riding on elephants...clowns with big, wobbly feet, red noses and bald heads...and so much more. But after that particular parade I was downcast because I wasn't going to the circus.

A year or two later, when I was bigger and older, I carried water for the elephants at one of the circuses that came to town, and helped set-up the bleachers in the big tent, to earn a pass for the show.

Another time I worked in the mess tent where the circus laborers ate. I'll never foget how they devoured the large bowls of boild potatoes and fish, bread and coffee that us kids carried from the cook tent. All for a pass to see the big 3-ring show.

CIRCUS MUSICIANS

Musicians in circus bands, at least in the old days were not drifters and low-rate. Many were excellent, as Dr. J.N. Kiebel would verify if he were living today. "Nick" as he was known to his Fostoria friends, was an avid circus fan, and never passed up an opportunity to play his clarinet in a circus band. He played more than once in the Ringling circus band whenever it was in this area.

The big tent circuses are gone. Yes there will still be circuses, but not to match the old days.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The photos accompanying POTLUCK today were taken many years ago when ringling bros. and barnum and bailey combined show probably made its last appearance in Fostoria. The location was the Fox field. Photos all taken by either the editor or a family member.

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