Sonia And Fifi In
Scanties Brave Maine Cold For Circus Career
Sonia, Queen of the
reptiles, emerges (left, about under the deft brush of Clarence
C. "Cad" Hill soon to grace the outside of a road show tent.
Hill and Charles F. Ross, out on the Blackstrap Road in
Falmouth, do much of the banner art work for the Country's
leading circus. Ross is shown in the Insert, pausing a
moment with his brushes. At right Ross prepares Fifi, the
Beautiful Sheep-Headed Girl, for her forthcoming trip to the
World's Most Amay-zing
Of Freaks Found On
But They're On
Canvas Painted By Maine Men
Charles Ross And
"Cad" Hill In Little Woodshed Workshop Prepare Nation's Circuses
For Glittering Season.
Fifi didn't contact
pneumonia, although the photographer kept her leaning in the
doorway for a good five minutes while the chill April breeze
raking Blackstrap Hill whistled about her scantily clad form.
Oh scantily clad,
indeed: Fifi wore but the filmiest of whatchamacallits, form the
waist down; from the waist up, only a sunny smile.
But Fifi - the full
title is Fifi, the Beautiful Sheep Headed Girl - smiled with
good reason: soon, now, she'll be off to warmer weather than the
kind that breeds on Blackstrap Hill, for they're sending Fifi
down to sunny Texas, to queen it over the other gals in
the midway tents of the Texas Centennial.
Behind her, when she
bids adieu to the Farmouth hilltop, Fifi will be leaving Sonia
Queen of the Reptiles, and certain other exotic characters
(including the playful boa constrictor looped around the lissome
Sonia's alabaster neck, The frog Boy, and the Parisian Dancing
Girls), all of them stranger creatures than you'd find in a
day's march anywhere else among the rural Cumberland hills.
This is no hashish-eater's dream
reader. It's just one of
the boys work on the typewriter
after the City Editor said: "Hop
on your bicycle . . . Blackstrap
Road . . . Couple painters doing
posters for circuses."
Which lets the cat out of the
bag. Fifi, Sonia. The Frog Boy
and the others are just figures
on canvas. But, Laydeez
and Gentlemen. Each and
Every one is The Most Amay-zing,
The Most Fascinating, The Most -
Oh well, leave that to the
barkers. The circus will
be coming to town soon now.
And with it will come the
dancing girls, the
sword-swallowers and ad the
other amazing people Charles F.
Ross and Clarence C. ("Cad")
Hill of Falmouth have been
putting on their monster canvas
banners since snow began to fly.
Widely Known In Show Business
Well known to show people all
over North America since the
turn of the century. Hill
Charles Ross and Cad Hill joined
forces in 1912, have employed
one another turn and turn about,
and worked in partnership ever
since Ross even as a New painter
in Lewiston, painted his first
show banner in 1897 for old Ezra
Stevens of Bryant's Pond, who
operated an early road show in
Maine. Ross was born in
Mechanic Falls in 1879.
Hill, 65. native of Sandwich. N.
H. got his start in the late
Eighties in Lynn Mass, area as a
sign painter and scenic-art
In 1890, Hill did his
first show work painting a
number of advertising posters
for the lobby display of a Lynn
theater-museum. He did
this off and on for three or
four years. Meantime he
was getting acquainted with show
people-performers in fairs and
road shows of all sorts making
brief stops in Lynn.
Worked At Stone's Museum
By 1894 Cad Hill's work was so
well known around Greater Boston
he was hired in Austin Stone's
Museum the site of the present
Gordon's Olympia. He
worked there for seven years
painting posters for lobby
display and meeting circus
people playing at Stones during
the "Lay-off months: of late
Fall and Winter.
The circus men noted Cad Hill's
work and liked it. And in
98 when the boys were sent
off to fight the War with Spain,
Cad took his biggest assignment
to date, painting his banners
for the John H. Sparks, Walter
L. Main and Pawnee Bill Wild
He went to New York, painting
more posters in the layoff
months for Barnum and Bailey,
Buffalo Bill and the old 101
Ranch. Coney Island was
booming, And Cad Hill was hired
on for posters of freaks and
dancers and jugglers for Luna
Park and Dreamland.
Banner After Banner
The wanderlust caught him
then and he journeyed to San
Antonio Texas, and the
California coast, turning out
banner after banner for all
sorts of shows and circuses.
The name of Cad Hill was a by
word in show circles all
over the Country.
Remember the Ubangi natives
those African woman whose
lip were expanded by dishes from
childhood, hung down to their
chins, Cad Hill painted the
banners advertising them in an
incredulous world of circus
The first freak picture Cad Hill
ever painted was one of
Millie-Christine the Siamese
Twins for the old museum in Lynn
back in 1890.
Sine then he's painted banners
of "Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Russian
Boy", various and sundry Wild
Men of Borneo, The Korean Twins,
Siamese giants. Fat Ladies,
midgets troupes and freaks and
monstrosities of every
He's been at it steadily, ever
since 1890. Even after the
accident which robbed him of his
legs. For four years he
sat in a wheelchair - but worked
just the same, with his crayon
Ross after several years as a
sign painter and advertising
painter in Lewiston, felt the
call of the road too. He
went westward with his paints
tackled man-size scenery
designing and painting
assignments in Buffalo N. Y. and
where he did the scenery for the
then new Hippodrome. He
painted scenery for Lewiston's
Empire Theater. For years
as a sign-painter and half-owner
of one of Portland's major
outdoor advertising firms, he
did much of the poster workd and
scenery for Keith's Theater
Recalls Old Timers
Ross recalled some of the
old-timers he knew in those
early years: Harry Wren,
Jack Mann, Max Greenberg,
Greenberg, originally for
Lewiston, today is a leading
scenery man for Paramount
Pictures on the West Coast.
Ross employed Hill in the
Lewiston sight business back in
1910 Later, Hill preparing down
in San Antonio tuned the tables
by hiring Ross to work with him.
For years thereafter, they took
turn and turn about as employers
and assistant, until Ross.....................................................................................................................
was to that door because the
kind of mousetrap they build is
the best that ever be built - or
"It's all in having friend,"
they explain. The friends
Ross and Hill made in their
early years in show business
probed steadfast: because of
those friends. the partners find
they have just about all they
can do season after season to
keep one jump ahead of the flood
Rowboat Making Hobby.
Ross for instance, likes to make
rowboats. It's his hobby.
He had one half finished early
in the Winter.. but the orders
began pouring in so heavily he
had to hang the boat on a rafter
in the woodshed-studio, and get
busy with his business.
That was months ago and the
boat's still unfinished.
"In San Antonio" said hill, "we
need to start painting in
December and work steadily until
Starting on posters for Al G.
Barnes, Sells-Floto and others
big Western shows.
But here in the East, the shows
don't seem to get started until
much later in the season.
That's when the partners are
finishing up a big order for
Boekus and Kilonis of Manchester
N. H. the only circus with
headquarters in New England.
This show will play Portland in
a few weeks. Ten 10 by 14
banners and 21 by 14 putout
entrance banner for the Hill and
Ross workshop will help the
barkers pull the fans in.
A week ago the two shipped 15
big banners to the Conken and
Garett Canadian shows.
Only recently the finished off a
big order for the Rice Brothers
Circus. Just now the
Boekus and Kilonis order, and
another for the Texas Centennial
- where Fifi the Beautiful Sheep
Headed Girl, soon will be wowing
the delegates - are keeping them
hard at work. Mrs. Montle
Lowell, a near neighbor, in
seamstress for them.
Ross and Hill specialize in soft
front banners prized by road
showmen, because they can be
folded compactly without damage.
Only Thursday, already as busy
as any two men ought to be, they
receive another big order.
Article courtesy of Robert
Portland Evening Express -
Portland Main - Friday April 10,
1936 - by Edward H. Carlson
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