Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Cole Bros. Circus 1946/ Train wreck #1

You may recall my recent pictures of the 1945 Cole Show train wreck in Brainerd, Minn. this one the following year in Redding, Cal. was not nearly as destructive but much more dramatic.
The train pulled into Redding on a Sunday afternoon and had stopped right down town where the road engine was disconnected and a yard engine came to spot the various sections where they would be unloaded.
Taking advantage of the situation my mother and I stepped off the train which was near a restaurant and theater. During the movie we heard an ambulance pass outside but thought nothing of it but later after exiting we saw a commotion and large crowd a considerable distance down the tracks. Someone then told us that the elephant car with all 13 elephants had been tipped over on it's side. The yard engine while moving a section of flat cars ran them onto tracks already occupied by another section. The elephant car and a flat car with animal cages were slid into each other and fell on opposite sides of the track belly to belly.

Cole Bros. Circus 1946/ Train wreck #2

Ace Donovan is seen cutting a hole in the roof while someone wets down the elephants. My father is kneeling at right, Bloomer English above and "Mysterious Whitey" Lindaman at left.
It just so happened that there was a bridge almost directly over the wreck site which immediately filled up with people who would count and cheer as each elephant was led out.
My mother and I arrived just in time to hear the final cheer. There were plenty of scratches and scrapes but no serious injuries among the elephants however Ted Myers who was riding on top of the car at the time received a broken leg

Cole Bros. Circus 1946/ Train wreck #3

Two railroad cranes are returning the bull car upright.
Years later my dad mentioned that while this car was being rebuilt the show leased two System baggage cars and loading the elephants the next night was a battle royal.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sells-Floto Side Show #1

There's no doubt what the Floto Show featured in the Side Show.
I don't have a date on the next two pictures but this would be 1914-15 when Bufalo Bill Cody was featured.
They even had a double banner for the "cooch broads". Lounging around the bally platform appears to be an assortment "Pitch Men" and "Lucky Boys" discussing the events of the day.

Sells-Floto Side Show #2

You will notice the "Fighting Lion" banner to the left of the doorway. After Clyde Beatty left the Cole Show they never had a cat act as long as Zack Terrell owned the show. While we were there they had an act of this sort in the Side Show, actually it wasn't an act at all but more of a "bally". From the midway you could see a large cage wagon inside with a male lion pacing back and forth. Arthur Hoffman would say "Look thru the doorway! Where the man fights the lion and the lion fights the man!" As soon as the tip (audience) had entered, a curtain was drawn across the doorway and the Side Show band would beat out something from "William Tell" while Capt. Dwight Nyfong would enter and roust him around the cage, that was about it.
I think the name and rank came with the job, being a grind show sometimes the Captain would have to wake up the lion before he could proceed with his exhibition, one day he decided to prod him with boot and was grabbed by the ankle and bitten pretty good. Arky Scott had to fill in for a few days.

Sells-Floto Side Show #3

This is one of my favorite circus pictures of all time.
I would love to see the expression on the face of the boy at right. I'm sure he is in a state of

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ringling Circus World 1977/ Dalilah and Barbara

Ringling Circus World 1976/ Dalilah and Shannon Woodcock

At Ringling Circus World they started a clown make up concession and practiced on our kids.Good Grief! this picture is 30 years old now.
Today they both live here on Tampa, Shannon works for Brighthouse solving customer's computer glitches over the phone. He says the first two questions he asks solves a lot of the problems, "Is the machine plugged in?" and "Is the power turned on?".
Dalilah has worked for Verizon almost 10 years now and serves as a "Fixer", she charmingly reads back the fine print on contrtacts that complaintants have signed.

Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus 1978/ Dalilah

How about these Don Foote costumes? Today they are shipped in from Conobbio Tent & Awning.

Big Apple Circus/ "Peggy" and "Toto"

This picture was taken sometime in the late 1980's, we were with Big Apple for 19 seasons, playing almost the same route every year so to me the programs are jumbled.
At left is Karen Williams (Chico's wife) and Dalilah at right.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

William Woodcock Sr.

In either 1950 or 51 we were showing the Chicago area with Kelly-Miller when one morning Tom Parkinson came to the lot and took my dad downtown to the Billboard Magazine office where he was interviewed and this picture taken. On the back of this copy he wrote "Student of Circus History, Elephantology and Side Show Oratory".
On the front cover of the Jan.-Feb. 1964 Band Wagon Magazine this picture appears as well as the Billboard info in his obituary.

Rhoda Royal Circus 1920/ "Victor" and "Helen"

My dad would often talk about the four young elephants with his first circus the Rhoda Royal Show. It wasn't until later and he had been around others that he realized how well trained they were.
Here we see "Victor" and "Helen" pulling a "gilly wagon" . A puzzling picture since this is the type vehicle used with 2-car shows that could be taken apart and reassembled to move the show back and forth to the lot.

Rhoda Royal Circus 1920/ "Muggins" and "Carrie"

Here are the other two elephants "Muggins" and "Carrie" (named after Carrie Royal).
Some of you may remember "Carrie", she was later owned by Andrew Downie, from him to 101 Ranch Wild West (the Ranch herd), then Cole Bros. Circus and was with Hoxie Tucker as late as 1972.

Robbins Bros. Circus/ Bill Woodcock and "Ding"

When Fred Buchanan first took Robbins Bros. Circus out of Granger, Iowa he leased a three act from Hall "Tommy", "Ding" and "Boo" (Baby Baraboo) this is my dad with "Ding" I think about 1925. She was one of his favorite elephants over the years but unfortunately perished in the Cole Show winter quarters fire in Rochester, Ind. Feb. 21, 1940.
He worked for "Highpockets" while on the Robbins Show and later with Sells-Floto 1930-32.

I received an anonymous question asking if I had any info on some James Patterson elephants being poisoned in Michigan in 1912. I only have one elephant listed for him that season "Big Modoc" who was later featured with the Ringling Show and died in Sarasota the winter of 1956-57. Patterson did have other elephants earlier and I have no knowledge of their final disposition so there may be something to the inquiry.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

An extra added attraction

Anonymous Greg asked how my father learned to train elephants which launched me into yesterday's novella. As you may know these pictures are entered from bottom to top so in order to make sense, you have to tell the story backwards.
Yesterday I ran into a glitch and had to wait until Shannon came by after work before I could get the story's opening installed.
So today everything is in order and in appreciation of your patience and understanding, this bonus photo has been included.

Friday, August 26, 2005

William Woodcock Sr. #1

My dad wrote on the back of this picture "Charles Woodcock, born in England, died at Hot Springs. Ark. 1919, father of Bill Woodcock Sr." and that is the sum and substance of what I know about my grandfather. As you can see they were not "touchy-feely" people.
Oddly enough, most of what I learned about my Hot Springs relatives came from a High School teacher Mrs. Beasley who turned out to be related and told the story of how as a little girl she had locked herself into an upstairs bathroom and my fathed climbed up and thru the window to unlock the door,
When I was a year old I became very ill and my mother whisked me away to Hot Springs where my grandmother nursed me back to health. Her name was "Matty" and my father was very devoted to her.
Upon her death she left us her home which was retained until I got out of school then we moved to the Good Christian State of Oklahoma where both my parents are buried and we will shortly follow.

William Woodcock Sr. #2

I was 20 years old when my father casually mentioned that he was an adopted child.I was stunned, here he is in his early teens posing with his blood father Clarence Messer who was a Luthern Minister. The story goes that the Messers were in the Territory of New Mexico to establish the Lutheran Church and while in Portales my father's mother died giving birth to him leaving Messer with three sons on his hands.
Charles Woodcock suffered from an asthmatic condition and would spend part of each year in Portales for health purposes where he was also part owner in a haredware store. Being childless
he and his wife Matty adopted my father.
The picture above was taken in Hot Springs on a brief occasion when Messer and my father's two older brothers were traveling East and stopped so the boys could meet and he never saw any of them again.

William Woodcock Sr. #3

This defiant pose pretty well tells the story. As a child he could remember with exact detail all the traveling shows that came to Hot Springs. This picture was taken when he worked as a stage hand at the Opera House. His favorite stage productions were the "Ben Hur" troups that would often bring in horses that actually raced on a treadmill.
The inevitable finally happened, he took of with the Rhoda Royal Circus in 1920 at the age of 16 but was promptly returned and sent to a Military Academy in Bellbuckle, Tennessee however the die was cast and before long he was back on the road taking care of two camels with Ringling Bros-Barnum $ Bailey Circus.

William Woodcock Sr. #4

Here we find my father in a much more wholesome environment and about to enter the Wonderful World of Elephants

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Wm. P. Hall Farm 1926/ "Sidney" and "Wilma"

There has been quite a bit of chatter on Circus Vern regarding the Beatty Show elephants "Sidney", "Anna May" and "Hattie" that appeared in the movie "Jumbo". Even a voice from "Elephant Free" Cole Bros. Circus which I thought was odd.
The reason it took three elephants was because the script called for an elephant to carry someone and drop him into a tub of water ("Sidney" and Benny White), then another to do a dance number with top hat and cape "Anna May", etc.
The picture above shows Bill Woodcock Sr. and Bernie Houston making a gig with "Sidney" and "Wilma" in 1926. I might add that these two elephants were named after Hall's daughters.

Wm. P. Hall Farm 1927/ "Anna May", "Nellie" and "Tessie"

In 1962 the Beatty Show supplied the performance for the Palisades Park Circus however the elephant acts had to leave early for the Comack, L.I. opening. We brought in our elephants to finish out the date along with Oscar Cristiani.
Rex Williams had been hired to take over the Beatty Show elephants while the movie was in progress and had never seen the elephants in question or for that matter, met Benny White. He was anxioius for their return since he needed enough harness elephants that year not only for the Beatty Show and King Show but the new Sells & Gray Show.
The picture above is George Stretch and Bill Woodcock at practice in Lancaster in 1927. The cannon and flag are part of the "Military routine". After firing the cannon "Anna May" would lower the enemy flag and raise the Stars and Stripes.

Clyde Beatty-Wallace Bros. Circus 1943/ Bill Woodcock and "Anna May"

This is my dad again with "Anna May" about to take her into the arena for Harriet Beatty's riding lion and tiger act.
He liked this elephant so well that later he would name another elephant after her and that
"Anna May" would become a member of our family for over fifty years.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Barnum & Bailey Circus 1907

Baby Thelma

This is another Eric Beheim photo and I must say, a tasty dish to set before the king. On the back is written "Good Luck, Baby Thelma 22 years and 585 pounds.

Circus Wedding/ Date unknown

This one has me stumped. A wedding with one or more of the cast members involved. A rather bizarre setting with American and Japanese flags on the quarter pole, a jungle back drop and the ceremony conducted in the sawdust ring. That's a very pretty blanket on the elephant.
Looks like several members of the Doll family, Harry on the left and Daisy holding the train.
From what I hear, this is about what the format for the 2006 Ken & Nicole Show will look like but with not so many performers of course.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Parker & Watts Circus 1938/ Big Top Interior

This is the Parker & Watts Circus co-owned by my old friend Ira Watts. Not bad looking at all, I think this tent is as big as you can get without having to use two rows of quarter poles. Maybe 100' across with three 40' middle pieces. At right is the back door and band stand, flanked by two sections of "star backs" seats with small flaps that fold up and for an additional fee were available to the public. The seats in the far end of the tent are the bleachers (blues) constructed of soft pine and at left on the front side, might be a chair grand stand, if so, this is where high society would be seated.
The thing that impresses me the most is the number of banners hanging from between the quarter poles. The show's "banner man" would spend the morning soliciting the local merchants to have their businesses advertised during the performance. Something Watts would be good at. They seem to have hung them completely around the tent this day.

Parker & Watts Circus 1938/ Inflatable

The show must have some sort of tie-in with Sinclair since this inflatable traveled with the show.Way ahead of it's time, with a few modifications they could have kids jump up and down inside.

Parker & Watts Circus 1939/ Elephant herd

Lined up for parade, I don't recognize any of these elephant men.
Elephants are Maxine, Vera, Thelma, Mabel, Ena and Mona.
Again the banner man has been at work, even the banner painter did a good job.

Parker & Watts Circus 1939/ Side Show Band

Eric Beheim sent me this picture of the Side Show band. My first impression was that they were a cut above most bands of this type but it may have been those two leggy dancers that influenced my decision.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson Circus/ "Jumbo"

I was looking thru a folder of menagerie animals and came across this, I had forgotten how sensational "Jumbo" must have been.
This is a picture everyone has seen but I wonder how many realize that it was a photo-op taken at Regents Park Zoological Gardens in London shortly after his purchase by Barnum. In the foreground is his keeper Matthew Scott and behind him holding the basket is the Barnum elephant man William "Elephant Bill" Newman wondering "What in the Hell have I gotten myself into?"
"Jumbo" arrived in New York City April 9, 1882 and was killed by a locomotive at St. Thomas, Ontario Sept. 15, 1885.

Ringling-Barnum Circus/ "Gargantua"

Aside from "King Kong" the most famous gorilla of them all.
My mother and I saw the Ringling Show in 1948 at Minneapolis and it was one of the great experiences of my youth. One major disappointment however was viewing the most "Terrifying creature that lived" he was curled up sound asleep and he appeared as tho someone had tossed a rug in the corner of the den.

Al G. Barnes Circus/ "Lotus"

Ringling-Barnum Circus/ "Goliath"

This is an odd picture showing Ira Watts with the elephant seal "Goliath", I can't imagine what their connection might be.
Watts was on the Kelly-Miller Show in 1950-51 when I was there as a candy butcher, I didn't like him at all, he was referred to as "Paddlefoot". Us seat-butchers had to put up the horse top (menagerie) each morning and just as we would finish the side wall he would arrive to set up the big top connection so he could defraud the public with his "seat check" scam. More often than not we would have to take down a section of side wall and put it back up to accomodate him.
I made the "Paddlefoot" crack in front of my dad one day and got a pretty good ass-chewing.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Mighty Haag Show 1901

I came across this picture and all my dad had written on the back was "1901 Winter Quarters- Haag Shows".
I think the Haag Show came out of Shreveport at the time. In any event this is quite an estate.

Mighty Haag Show 1918/ Everett James

This is the James family with the "Mighty Show" that traveled overland. Everett James was the band director and was later with the Christy Show for many years.
Seen here holding his son Harry who was destined to become one of the most celebrated musicians of the Golden Age of Dance Band music in the 1940's.

Christy Bros. Circus 1922/ Harry James

Harry James started off on the right foot by deciding to be an elephant man but was later forced to become a musician. George Christy's first two elephants came with the name "Babe" so this one's name was changed to "Nero" and was originally imported by Trader Horne.
One of the perks of working elephants, as Gee Gee Engesser put it "Those gals smell the elephant shit on those guys and go nuts!" however being a musician didn't seem to interfere with James future love life in Hollywood.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Sells-Floto Circus 1918/ Cook house blowdown #1

I hate it when the cook house blows away. This is the Floto Show on the 4th of July 1918 in
Walla Walla, Wash.
The table cloths have just been replaced and surveying the ruins at right wearing a bow tie is
the show's manager H.B. Gentry.

Sells-Floto Circus 1918/ Cook house blowdown #2

What a mess, the ground looks completely dry tho, must have been another one of those dust storms that come out of nowhere.
The tent in the background survived so the storm couldn't have been too bad. As a rule the marquee and cook house are the first things to go.

Sells-Floto Circus/ Cranbrook, B.C.

This is unrelated but I happen to like the picture. Actually it just might be 1918 as well and shows the menagerie at right with the midway in the background. The cages have just returned from making parade, the horses unhitched and an elephant will spot them into the menagerie tent for display.
Bob Couls once told me that his first job with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was to climb up on the cage wagons and place the flags on each corner then remove them after the parade.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ringling-Barnum Circus/ Donna Gautier

This is Axel's wife Donna, a very nice lady that we see on occasion.

Michael and Kevin Gautier with "Targa"

Mills Bros. Circus 1954/ Axel's parents

One day Axel handed me this picture, took it back and wrote on the back "my mother and step-father on Mills Bros. Circus 1954" his father Louis Gautier was a well know horse trainer who had died while on the Ringling Show. The gentleman in the picture would be Count Bekatow. Hugo Schmitt was on the Mills Show 1950-53 so this would be Axel's first connection with him.
One winter at Circus World Axel dropped by saying that he and Donna had just returned from a brief European vacation the show had paid for, his cousin Trolle Rhodin even had business cards made up and directions on whom to see, especially Circus Krone with which he was also related.
In Munich he found that the show was in rehersal but was directed to Karl Sembach's secretary who led him to the great man's office, Axel was ordered to wait outside and watched as the secretary approached this portly, gray haired gentleman seated behind the desk and presented him with Axel's business card. She returned saying "Herr Sembach is busy today but offers you this" it was a program. We both had a good laugh.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

RBBB 1963/ Axel Gautier #1

I first went to work for the Felds in October of 1973, I came into Venice Qtrs. to replace Hugo Schmitt who was retiring and I took over the 18 elephants destined for the Ringling Circus World Park in Davenport, Fla.
In November the Blue Show came in and went right into rehersal for the new show and in December the Red Show returned making a total of 54 elephants on the grounds.
We never left for Circus World until February so I got to see both units come and go, as well as a good look at how a new show is put together.
Pretty heady stuff for a mud show guy such as myself.

RBBB 1963/ Axel Gautier #2

Over the years I was around both Axel and Gunther quite a bit and got to know Axel very well and Gunther as well as anyone, which meant not at all.
Axel had heard that I collected stuff and gave me a lot of pictures including these shown today.

RBBB 1963/ Axel Gautier #3

This is a young elephant "Kernaudi" named after one of the original five elephants brought from Sweden by Hugo Schmitt in 1947. The other small elephant is "Roma", they were replacemants for the large African male "Diamond" that had been retired to the Knoxville Zoo after the previous season.
The reason Axel is working the center ring act at this time is because John North was trying to frame a European Unit and Hugo would be sent abroad from time to time to help put a three ring display together.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Adolph Del Bosq and "Seranado"

As mentioned before my knowledge of horses is nil and these pictures were collected by my mother who had been a menage rider.
Here we see "Serenado" playing the sleigh bells with either the Polack Show or Gil Gray.


No idea who this lady is but she certainly is in control of the situation. All twelve horses are up.
In my lenghty career I have found that most alibis and excuses came from the Equestrian Arts
until lately they seem to come from a source closer to home.