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A Look Back: When the Circus came to town

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Looking back to when the circus came to town, usually at least once a year. There would be parades of elephants, camels, giraffes, zebras and more as the circus train rolled into Springville and set up. So I started to research to see what I could find out about them and was surprised at all the different circuses that came into town and thought I would share them with you.
In July of 1845, the Welch, Mann & Delevan Circus came to town, comprising of 100 men and horses along with brass bands, wild Indians, the rubber man from India, a break dancer and, of course, clowns. In 1848, the American Circus, with G.R. Spaulding as proprietor, came to Springville with horses and bands of its own.

By 1908, the Ringling Brothers Circus passed through the area. That year marked the 25th anniversary of the Ringling Brothers, and it was a circus to outdo all previous circuses. There were acrobats, bell ringers, and burlesque dancers. Mr. Wormwood had his trained bears, pigs that skipped rope, even a contortionist.
A double somersault in mid air made by a heavy automobile with Mile La Belle Roche, a young French woman at the wheel. The car would dash down a steep incline from the dome of a tent to an abrupt up-curved ramp that sailed the car high above the audience where it completed two revolutions and then lands with a crash on a narrow speedway.

In 1915, the Hagenbeck & Wallace circus came into town. Unloading from the train, they formed a parade. Godard Hall was where it was to be, guaranteeing to be a real circus. For 10 to 15 cents, you could come and see all.
In 1924, we find that the Christy Brothers Circus stopped by Springville, claiming a remarkable and complete collection of trained wild animals, including leopards, elephant, lionesses, sheep and dogs, among others. Thoroughbred horses danced and did various tricks.
Little Nemo came in 1928, when the Dorsey Brothers Circus were in town. Nemo was the smallest educated performing elephant in America. Nemo did tricks from playing a mouth organ to that of a marching soldier, carrying the American flag.
Trained ponies, dogs and monkeys were also there as well as clowns, acrobats, tumblers even a chilling feat by Mr. Coriell who ascended a steel cable erected from the ground to the highest pitch tent of the big tent, with only his outstretched arms for balance.
It was 1929 that had Ketrow Brothers Circus in Springville and they had “Lucy,” the world’s greatest dancing elephant. Lucy was the granddaughter of the renowned elephant named Jumbo. Along with the sideshow acts, and clowns, it was a joy for all that attended.
Lithographs told of Cole & Rogers Circus coming to town in 1930. Circus animals came from tiny “Peewee,” the smallest perfectly formed horse — weighing only 40 pounds and being 26 inches high — to the ponderous elephants.

Oh, what joy was had when the circus was looking for a place around here for winter quarters. They did indeed lease the DeMarco farm on Tefft road, and the elephants, camels, horses and wild animals will be farmed there for the winter months.
Circus Day on June 22, 1937, was when the Dan Rice Circus came to town. Real elephants, monkeys, tigers, lions, fire eaters, clowns and sideshow attractions were performing in one of three rings that were set up.
An aftermath of the circus was a Wild West show and a wrestling match where Stangler Tiger Togeson — the world’s lightweight champion — stated that he would meet any and all comers on the mat for a 10-minute match. Chester Krolikowski, known as “Iron Man Chet” to his Springville followers, answered his challenge and for nearly 10 minutes the two muscular men grappled before Chet was declared the winner!

The Lewis Brothers Circus was here in Springville in 1938 at the Athletic Field on Eaton Street.  There were clowns, whose life is spent making us laugh, but they seldom are seen with a smile; a great death defying wizards of the air, that float through space on trapezes up high, defying the fear of danger; tigers, lions, elephants, beautiful horses, ponies and dogs, to say nothing of the great herd of trained goats.
To get inside the tents to watch any of these great acts cost 25 cents for children and 40 cents for adults.

Throughout time when the circus came to town, you could forget your troubles and laugh or be amazed at what you would see within the tents.  The adults became kids again and the family came together to watch the parade and see these acts.
You can read more about these circuses that stopped by Springville by stopping down at the Lucy Bensley Center located at 23 North Buffalo St. on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Share your circus stories with us. What was your favorite act? Let us know! You can email us at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com or call us at 592-0094.

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