CIRCUS MEMOIRS
 
In Foreign Lands - 2

 

In Melbourne, Australia, while we were showing on the banks of the river Yarra Yarra, something happened to the eels in the river, and thousands of them were seen dead, floating on the river. That night, while the people who came in carriages and hacks were in looking at the show, some of the town boys on the outside thought they would have some fun, and I think they put dead eels on the seats of every carriage that was waiting around the show. They had no lights for the carriages and hacks, and when the people came to sit down they found themselves sitting on these slimy, dead eels. I can assure you that things were very lively around there for a while, between the screaming of the women, the swearing of the men and the laughing of the onlookers. The papers in Melbourne said they thought the death of the eels was caused by the noise our steam calliope made.


It was in Australia that I first met Harry Keller, the great magician, who has retired and is now living in Los Angeles.


I also met Will J. Davis in Australia, and I am pleased to say the three of us have been good friends ever since.


We had a funny experience in Australia. In America circus men have no hour for meals. If the outfit is delayed its just hustle until the doors are open. In Australia we were late one day getting in to one of the interior towns and had to hire a lot of extra men to unload and get up the tents. Imagine one day when they all sat down to smoke for half an hour. I thought Mr. Bailey would go crazy. The idea of them taking a smoke when we were so late was a new thing for him.


Before the present plan of cook tents the management and performers stopped in the hotels, the proprietor generally in the best, the performers in the next best, etc. When Bailey & Cooper engaged James Robinson, the rider, to go to Australia he was the only one available so he dictated his own terms regarding price, etc. He got $500.00 per week, work or play, and all his expenses for horses and family. Robinson also insisted on inserting in the contract that he was to be put up in the same hotel with Mr. Bailey at which Mr. Bailey was annoyed. So Bailey to get even with Robinson, stopped at boarding houses all the time. He said he was sure to have the contract framed.


While in Australia we were told about sand storms but never saw one until we were showing up the country from Adelaide when one came rolling along in our direction. When it reached us you could not see two feet and when it passed on then came a cloud burst and soon the streams were out of their banks. Our tents were washed away. Some of the people in the town did not seem alarmed for the saloons kept on doing business though the water was two feet deep in the saloons and the folks standing in the water up to the bar drinking away. We did not get our stuff together for several days.


Jos. K. Emmet was playing in Australia while we were there and he, like many others, once in a great while got too much aboard. It was announced that the Governor-General Sir Hercules Robinson was to attend his performance this night and Emmet was not in condition to appear, and to the surprise of many Emmet's business was capacity afterwards; the curiosity to see the American actor who had the nerve to disappoint when the Governor-General was to attend filled the house as long as he stayed.


We were much amused while in one of the interior towns by a black woman who was carrying her baby in her arms. Our curiosity to see the black baby was great, and looking at it very closely, we discovered that she had mixed some grease and charcoal and given the baby a coating of it. It was a very warm day and the heat of the sun had caused the black grease to run off the baby, which showed the child to be half white. It struck us that the mother was ashamed of having a mulatto baby.


Mr. Cunningham, whom I knew over there, had occasion to bring some aborigines over to the Barnum show the year I was with it. He told me in crossing from San Francisco to Omaha they encountered a snow storm. These natives had never seen snow and of course, were much surprised, and in trying to make Cunningham see that they knew what it was, they gave a motion of the hand as though they were turning a crank. In a short time Cunningham figured out they had experienced turning an ice cream freezer and likened the snow to ice cream.


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