James M. Cole Big Circus Sideshow circus 1930s


Behind the Scenes

I am writing a Novel?


Hello!  Back in March, I sent in a question about what life in a traveling carnival would have been like in 1939.  I am writing a novel about women who dance in a sideshow, and need information about life behind the scenes.  The best and most thorough response I got last time was from Ward Hall.  I was wondering if you might be able to give me his e-mail address, or forward some of my questions to him.  He started out in the 1940s, not long after the era that Iím interested in.


 My questions areÖ


-If you were traveling by rail, how long would you stay in each town?


-What was the water and electric access like?  Would you ever get to a town and find it hard to get water or electric?


-How did you get access to a telephone or receive mail when you were traveling in that era?


Thank you very much for your help and for providing this valuable service!




Kate Duva


Kate thanks  for your question, the following is from Ward Hall.


I hope this is helpful?



Sideshow World


Kate: To answer your questions:


When I got into show biz (not returning home) it was 1946 with Dailey Bros Circus a railroad show.  My call was 5 am or when the train got in whichever came first.   Typical of all the big circuses we lived on the train (2 people to a berth, two high.  Ate in the cook house  3 meals per day, very good food. At night when returning the train, snacks at a reasonable price was available in the pie car.  The circus water (tank) truck would come by each department (after the animals were cared for) to fill the peoples buckets, each person was allowed two two gallon buckets which had your name painted on them. 


The shows mailman or in that case mail lady went to the local post office each day and bring back the mail sent c/o'd to the circus general delivery. 


No phone service,  but there were lots of pay phones in business places.


I was on that show for four seasons, 1946-49.  The show people all  respected  each other. The show made mostly one night stands, seldom stayed more than one day and didn't show on Sundays.   Each railroad car had a porter, who shined your shoes at night and in certain towns sent laundry and cleaning out to be done and returned that night.  


 There are many circus books that detail the life with a show and some books on carnivals also.  If you need further information, Sideshow World can advise you of books. 


Cordially, Ward Hall 


PS My biography "WARD HALL- KING OF THE SIDESHOWS" is in the hands of the publishers and should be on the market in a few months.

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