In 1959 I
had the sideshow on Al G Kelly & Miller Bros. Circus.
There were four Grind shows (called
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.....
old days, which we will never see again.
Historical Memories, Ward Hall