In 1959 I had the sideshow on Al G Kelly & Miller Bros. Circus. There were four Grind shows (called pit shows on a circus) Little horse, snake, giraffe all show owned and a Gorilla (large chimp) in a trailer owned by Shorty Shearer (who was the star of the wild west concert (after show.

 

 In that era it seems to me that a giraffe was a rarer animal in U S rarely seen in the smaller towns played by K-M in the midwest... Since it was widely advertised with posters and in the mailing "Herald" it was a point of destination, with people planning to view the animal before going to the circus, not just an impulse buy after arriving on the lot.

 

Non of this advance notice of the giraffe mentioned an additional admission price. Therefore being pre-sold it generated good grosses for the circus. The semi which transported the giraffe also carried a number of ponies in stalls under the giraffes neck and head. This semi also transported the tent etc for the giraffe pit show, and the equipment for the pony ride.

 

The pit show had a closed front. In side a bally cloth hung on a chain  in front of the animal. An animal man was on duty so though customers could pet the animal and offer it a small hand full of food, from a coin machine, the animal was protected. I know of no incident where any customer attempted to harm the animal.

 

The show had, as I remember., 32 elephants that year and lots of other animals of all kinds in a separate big menagerie tent that patrons walked through on their way into the five ring big top.

 

With very heavy advance advertising, which invited people to arrive on the circus lot in the morning to see the animals and the erection of the tented city.. People arrived early and the pit shows and concessions would be open by 8 or 9 am and remain open until the night performance would start at which time they would tear down.

 

The pit shows all did well. I expect that the nut for the giraffe and the pony ride was usually earned with just the feed coin machines. The main thing to remember is that the advance advertising with photos of the giraffe in the mail herald, newspaper ads and several beautiful color lithographs picturing the giraffe was why it was successful. The other rare animals Hippo, Rhino etc. had their cage trailers inside the menagerie tent before those cages were open, so only ticket buyers had the opportunity to view them.

 

The pit shows all had sound on them. When my sideshow opened all other sound was turned off,  the miseries and big top didn't open there doors until after the sideshow bally and turn was completed.....

 

Those good old days, which we will never see again.

 

Historical Memories, Ward Hall
 


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