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Sunday, January 22, 2017

The "The End Of 'The Greatest Show On Earth'" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got off the phone with my friend Jerry who I call every Sunday evening; unless I forget!  Tonight we talked about our week's activities and then Jerry asked, "Did you see the news about the circus?"  Wasn't sure what he was talking about so I asked.  Seems that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end "The Greatest Show on Earth" this coming May after a 146-year run.  Wow!  When Jerry was younger his dream in life was to work on the circus tour.  I'm sure it's no longer on his bucket list, but geez, if it is he only has a few months in which to get going so he can cross it off his list as having done that.  
Jerry's "Circus Train"
He already has made an entire HO train with about a dozen cars as well as an HO sized circus with a tent and the whole works.  I'll tell you, it's really neat and extremely realistic.  I've taken photos of the train and miniature circus more than once while visiting him and posted the photos in stories I've written.  
A closeup of one of the train cars holding circus wagons.
Back in 2010 Carol and I visited with Jerry and Sue at their home in State College and our main reason for that visit was to go to the Bryce Jordan Center to see the same circus that will be history soon.  We arrived early and were allowed to be on the arena floor and visit with the entertainers and performers.  
LDub as part of the entertainment at the circus.
Even had a performer put a bathroom plunger on my head and spin a plate on the handle.  It was back in the 1800s that showman Phineas Taylor Barnum partnered with ringmaster James A. Bailey to entertain the public with an animal exhibit and human oddities.  It was during this same time in history that the Ringling family from Wisconsin had their own touring variety act.  They eventually merged and the result was what we know as the "Circus".  They toured from city to city for decades by train, setting up their big-top tents in towns of all sizes.
Jerry's miniature circus complete with "Big-Top",
sideshows, sleeping quarters for entertainers, etc. 
 I can remember visiting the circus with my dad when they came to Lancaster in the 1950s.  So why is the circus pulling up their tents for good soon?  Seems the railroad is getting too costly as well as the many battles the circus faces with animal rights activists.  Circus goers want to see the elephants, lions, and so forth, but recently the circus has had to operate without them due to court battles charging the circus with animal cruelty.  
Jerry's detail is remarkable!
Their accusations must have been document- ed, since the animals seemed to have disappeared from the circus and who wants to see a circus without the animals.  Another reason for the demise of the circus is a multitude of movies, video games, television and internet that seems to have captured the youth of today, leaving the circus without the visual impact it needs to survive.  
A closer view of the "Big-Top" at the Herr Bros. Circus.
At one time in history the circus was so important to our society that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave Ringling Bros. special permission to use the rails during World War II.  Its going to be a sad day soon when the huge colossal canvas city will no longer track across the country and entertain kids of all ages; myself and Jerry included.  But, I guess every good thing must come to an end.  Future generations will only have miniature representations set up in HO train yards to see what the circus was at one time in history.  Certainly the smells, sounds and excitement of the circus will live on only in our dreams.  So sad!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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