THE GIRL WITH
SENSITIVE SYLVIA AVOIDS CONTACTS, KEEPS TO ROOM
spectators share with open mouths as Sylvia goes into her act
at Chicago's Riverview Amusement Park, "I like the show for
the experience of traveling and the interesting people I meet.
But I would rather do something else."
A FEATURED CIRCUS
attraction, "Sylvia the Elephant Girl" is ballyhooed by
sideshow barkers as the strangest sight in the world."
A mystery even to doctors,
she draws "oohs and aahs" and occasional outeries from the
thousands who see her act.
Sylvia, who has consulted
many doctors, still has not received a satisfactory
explanation of her strange condition. At first, doctors
diagnosed her case as elephantiasis, a chronic disease of the
skin. This diagnosis has been deputed by other doctors
who point out that her malformation could not be elephantiasis
since it has existed since birth.
Of late, Sylvia has
despaired of quick medical
cures. Says she:
"Only God knows the why and the when."
Shy, in spite of
her circus experience, Sylvia lives a quiet, simple
life while traveling the circus circuit. She
avoids social contacts and keeps to her hotel room
where she reads (mystery stories and Richard Wright)
a plays solitaire. "I don't get out much or do
anything much" she says, "because I have sort of an
inferiority complex. I hate for people to
stare at me on the streets."
Impromptu audiences like these Chicago children snicker
when Sylvia walks down the street. Sylvia who spends the
off-season in Mobile with her sister, says people there do not
stare and poke fun at her when she walks down the streets.
husband, George Jackson, Sylvia relaxes in her hotel room
after carnival show. Sylvia and George married in 1952.
They met in Canada when George, a circus porter, found her
alone and offered to go out and bring her some food.
HUGE FEET NO HANDICAP
TO SYLVIA WHO DRIVES,
1928 when a shocked midwife delivered her one could
December day, Sylvia has known the anguish of being
a freak and a human curiosity.
"When I was
small," she recalls, "I used to have a fight
everyday. The children at school used to tease
me until the teachers started punishing them.
The teachers were real nice about it."
Sylvia also found
understanding within a sympathetic family circle.
Unfortunately her mother died when she was only five
and her father died when she was 11. Looking
back, Sylvia recalls that her mother and father
worked hard to provide her with adequate medical
care. "We didn't have much money," she says, "but
they did all they could."
As a youngster,
Sylvia led a full social life in Mobile where
sympathetic neighbors never stared at her feet.
She, therefore, felt more at ease with her friends.
She wheeled about on bicycles and learned how to
jitterbug and drive a cr. She had her share of
boy friends, too. Says she; "There were always
After her father
died, Sylvia quit school and started to work.
At 13, she was working as a short-order cook in a
cafeteria and then got a job as a maid. When a
circus scout offered her $40 a week in 1944, she
accepted eagerly, explained later, "I had never made
that much money before."
full-fledged circus attraction, Sylvia intends to
remain in show business. With few exceptions,
her experiences on the circus circuit have been
profitable and enjoyable.
"A lot of times,"
she says, "people come up and give me their
blessing. Some people are nasty, though.
Once I overheard a lady say people like me should be
taken out and disposed of. I ignored her, I
was so mad. The way I figure is that everybody
means something to somebody, if nobody but their
mother, and she had no right to say that."