Sideshow In Madison Square Garden


There was no set time for the sideshow to open at Madison Square Garden. We all had to be there by noon and be ready. It would depend on how may people were gathering outside of the Garden, when the sidewalk got full then they would open the doors and let them in, that's when we opened.

What they would do is have someone upstairs,  I don't even know who it was that did it,  but as soon as they would let the people in they would blow a whistle.  When we would hear the whistle (it was like the one the equestrian director would use) then somebody downstairs like the head of the animal determent would blow his whistle then all the animal men would get into position and we would also get into position by the time the people started down the stairs.

We would get tremendous crowds down there because there wasn't any admission to the sideshow or the menagerie if you came into the Garden then you were automatically entitled to the sideshow and the menagerie also as well as your seat upstairs.

We would work, let me use myself as an example, I would do the Ventriloquist thing, segue into the magic, and then make the sell.  As soon as I could sell everything that I could I would start all over again.  Everybody would continue to do this until the whistle blew. As soon as the whistle blew it didn't matter what you were doing, if you were in the middle of a sale, if you were in the middle of the act, if you were just starting an act it made no difference, what ever you were doing when the whistle blew you would say "Now ladies and gentleman it is time for the circus to start, we thank you for attending the sideshow please take the stairways up to the seats." That was it, you just stopped right there, because they wanted everybody out of there.

They paid us a set amount for the sideshow plus we got to keep all of our pitch money. Everybody down there sold something.  I sold the magic packages which were the most lucrative, next to the rings, the giants rings, they were the best selling pitch down there.

I would say the giants rings, the magic tricks and next to that would be the miniature bibles that were sold on the midgets, after that was probably the sword swallower. I did something different with her, I had a special picture made of her were she was just holding the sword not swallowing it. She had her head back with her mouth open, I would have them punch a hole right there where her mouth was and she would have these little cocktail swords, they were little gold cocktail swords we would buy them by  the gross.  She would say here is my picture and I will swallow a sword for you anytime you wanted. Then she would take the sword and put it in her mouth in the picture, she sold a lot of those.  I don't know if she sold more of those or little Pete, Poohba sold of his pictures.

Anyway Little Pete Terhurne, Poohba as he was known, was made up as a clown and we had a sign up behind his stage it said "meet our lovable little clown and get his photograph for only ten cents."

When he came in right at first we had him walk the sword latter, around the second day Nate came to me and said "you better take out the sword ladder." I asked him "why, what’s Pete going to do?"  He said that it was taking up too much of his time and he couldn't sell his pictures.  Pete would sell between twenty five and thirty five thousand pictures there every spring.

I want to tell you something about little Pete.  As I was telling you he worked in clown make-up. Pat Valdo who was a fine, fine gentleman, had been the talent scout so to speak.  He hired all the performers for the circus.

One day he had somebody bring him a chair and he set over by the end of one of the cage wagons where he could watch Pete. He sat in that chair for the whole hour and a half.  When the whistle blew, I was over on Pete's stage and we were counting up his money when Mr. Valdo came over and said "I'm Pat Valdo, I don't know if you know me or know who I am."  I said "Oh Yes! Mr. Valdo we certainly know who you are."  He said "I have just been sitting over there for the last hour and a half watching this little clown and I will tell you he is the best clown we have in this entire circus."  I said "why would you say that Mr. Valdo"?  For that hour and a half he never quit smiling.

He then turned and said to Pete "wouldn't you like to perform upstairs with the rest of the clowns in the arena." Pete said "no Sir I wouldn't", Mr. Valdo said "why not," because he figured he would jump at the opportunity you know.  He said "well, why not?"  Pete looked at him and said "the clowns don't get to sell pictures."  Valdo just smiled and he said "I thank you!"


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