Bandwagon, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Apr), 1945. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included.
The Christy Bros. Circus - traveling under the above title wintered in Gavelston, Tes., and opened as a two-car circus. Opening was made at Rosenberg, Tex., on March 1st and the closing date was Freeport, Texas, December 29th, 1919. This constituted the longest circus season I ever had.
Everett James was the Band Leader and his son Harry, was then three years old. Mrs. James did iron jaw, a sailor perch act and a black face act in the concert. Fay James did a ring act, Contortionist, swinging ladder and single trapeze.
Jake Friedman had the side show and featured Mlle. Carmen Du Coin along with F. M. Farrell, who is now [a] CHS member. The side show carried the usual attractions.
On the opening stand at Rosenberg we day and dated the Dixie Minstrels. Owing to the extreme heat we gave very few matinee performances through the southern part of Texas. At Brownsville Tex., the entire show spent Sunday across the border in Old Mexico.
Admission to the big show was 75 cents and Geo. W. Christy has made the assertion many times that he had twenty nine days of a thousand dollars each, which in those days was an exceptionally good day.
I rode my white Arabian Horse up town with the band and sang two numbers in Concert, This ride up town, replaced the usual parade on this show. Louie Mittendorf was the solo baritone and "Night in Juno" was always featured.
At Lordsburg, N. Mexico, Mr. and Mrs. Hinkley joined the show. Lee as cornet in the band and his wife on banners. On May 26th Fay James and Albert Johnson were married.
On June 2nd we crossed the International border into the Dominion of Canada at Cardston, Alberta. On June 21st Jerry Martin joined. At Wilkie, Alberta we visited with Campbell Bros., Circus.
To show the unusual incidents that presented themselves on the tour, might add that we arrived at Hudson Bay Junction at 10:30 at night, on June 27th. The railroad yards were black with local folks who had kept track of our progress, through the local freight agent, who was an ardent circus fan. With the help of the spectators and customers the tents were erected and a show was started at one minute to midnight. Just as the last act finished; a terrific storm hit and the top so hastily erected, immediately blew down. However, no one was hurt and we continued to Le Pas, Man. At that time the last named station was the end of the railroad. From there on, dog teams were the method of travel.
We Sundayed at this town and Mr. & Mrs. Christy chartered a boat and took all the members for a trip up the Saskatchewan River. July 19th was "Peace Day" at Morden, Manitoba and was the banner day of the season. On July 23rd we left Canada at Bossavain, Man. entering the U.S.A. at St. Johns, N. Dakota.
On August 17th, we started over the Moffett Road, out of Denver, Col., for a week's stand. At Lindsley, Okla. on September 14th we met the Gentry Show.
Thanksgiving Day was spent at Anderson Tex., Christmas Day was celebrated at Brazoria, Tex. Gifts were exchanged. "Dad" Nelson - clown was Santa Claus and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings was served. This was a circus that had chicken every Sunday in the Diner, where all meals were served.
The circus had a ten piece band. We owned the only horse on the show, but there were eight head of ponies. Performers were the Rodges Family; Joe Doebeck; Mae's Dogs and Cats; Bobby Zenero; Powers Posing Horse and dogs and Art Whitler. Bobby Zenero did a tooth slide from the peak of the tent to the ground for the Grand Free Outside Exhibition, until the wire broke and he fell and broke his leg at Del Rio, Texas.
I am sorry that I cannot tell you the size of the tops or more about the animal acts but I was not so interested in them at that time and I do not have anything written down on it and I would not want to quote from memory as I night get it wrong.
It was in 1911, that Mugivan and Bowers, owners of the Howes Great London Circus, bought the Dode Fisk Circus and changed the name to Sangers Greater European Shows. It was early in the Spring of 1913 when I was showing Hancock, Maryland with the Wyoming Bill Historical Wild West Show that the Sangers show was billed to follow us in, several days later. It was there that I picked up a herald of the Sanger show and I still have it in my circus collection.
This herald reads in part as follows:
“Resplendent with gold and glitter, triumphant, picturesque, The World’s Show Beautiful will soon be here, in all its glory.” A few features mentioned on the herald are Sangers Great Herd of Gigantic Performing elephants. Famous on two continents, trained beyond compare. Real aristocrats of the elephant world! The Great Orton Family of bareback riders - Supreme. The beautiful Miaco Sisters, Queens of the Air! The Strange Aztec Marimba Band from the wilds of Central America. The Wonderful Bells in thrilling flights through space. Gardella Sisters the human butterflies. Dashing male and beautiful female riders, four horse, carrying, menage and high school horses. Somersault riders!
Do you want to laugh? Here is a bunch of the funniest fools that ever frollicked for fun! Billy Lightfoot the irresistible clown and twenty others. Joe Pentland and Rube and Rastus with their comedy mules. Hi Hoose, the original farmer from Hoop-pole Township. Soo-sees clown Band. A troupe of trick house comedy acrobats.
Lest you forget - Sangers Greater European Shows will visit your city, soon at the peep o’dawn, the special trains of palatial railway cars will roll in town, bringing their endless paraphernalia, their acres of canvas, their hundreds of people, horses and strange wild animals from faraway lands.
From Maine to California it has been an ovational, inspiring, triumphal tour. Do appearances count? They do! Take note that everything around and about Sangers Greater Shows is finer, costlier, more artistic and attractive than you have ever seen before. From the arrival of the Finest Show Trains ever Constructed, down to the last detail of equipment, you will see this surpassing quality maintained.
Grand Free Street Parade daily. (This show exhibited in Hancock, Maryland on Thursday, May 15th, 1913)
In the fall of 1913 I was showing in the South with Jones Bros. World Toured Shows (having joined that show in early Summer). And the Sanger show was also making town in North & South Carolina, where we were showing.
During the Summer of 1913 Mugivan & Bowers bought the Famous Robinson title from Danny Robinson who operated the Famous Robinson on 20 cars. The Sanger Greater European Shows showed a town on Saturday, and on Monday, the show was in another town as the Famous Robinson Shows. I don’t recall the name of that town, where the change was made, although I did know it at the time.
Might add that in 1916 Mugivan and Bowers bought the John Robinson Show title and the Famous Robinson Show became the John Robinson 10 Big Shows.
Charles Gelach, of Buffalo. He played cornet and violin in concert with the Adam Forepaugh Shows in 1889, ‘90 and ‘91. In 1892 he was with the Barnum and Bailey Band, and with Sautelle, Welch Bros., Hargraves and other circuses in the nineties. Mr. Gerlach also was with Hi Henry’s Minstrels a long time and from 1907 to 1910 was musical director of Sun Bros. Circus. Season of 1911 was Bandmaster of the original John Robinson’s Ten Big Shows Combined, which was his last trouping with the circus. Since 1918 he has been leader of the band and orchestra with John Stowe’s “Uncle Tom” troupe. Chas. Gerlach was a splendid arranger and capable musician in every sense of the word and what he does not know about old trouping days is not worth knowing. While leader of the 12-piece band on the Sun Bros. Circus they played such numbers as Caliph of Bagdad and Albion overtures, Pinafore and many others, such as Lutspell and Light Cavalry. Played quadrilles for riding acts, tuneful intermezzos, polkas, Spanish dances.
A number of circus band leaders who were noted and successful in the old days that Charles remembers. Joe Gorton, Sr. with the L. B. Lent Circus; Geo. Sutton, O’Brien Circus Royal; Jim Robinson, P. T. Barnum; Menter, Forepaugh; J. G. Bates, Van Amburg; Harry Armstrong, Batchelor & Doris; H. H. Whittler, Welch Bros.; Harry Crigler, Gentry Bros.; Beech Parrett, Gentry Bros.; Woody Van, Andrew Downie; Park Prentiss, Sells-Floto; Tom Ogden, Sipe & Blake; Charles Gebest, Robinson; John Gill, Walter L. Main; Adam Gillispie, Al F. Wheeler; Theo Long, French’s. They were all real musicians and always had good bands and knew how to put it over. Charles Gelach, up to three years ago gave music lessons on cornet and violin, but had to give that up because of his health. He is now 77 years.
From CHS Ray Choisser, veteran calliope player of how the Lee Bros. Circus got its title. Ray writes that the Lee Bros. show in 1925 was a 15 car show with parade, and was owned by G. W. Christy of Beaumont, Texas, who also was owner of Christy Bros. Circus, a 25 car show. The Lee show was the old Golden Bros. circus re-christened. Christy bought the Golden show in 1924, and operated it for 8 weeks under the Golden title, then changed to Lee Bros. Christy wired the Doanldson Litho Co. of Cincinnati for a line of stock paper, and when asked by Arch Donaldson of this company (also, according to Choisser, the owner of Bilboard), what title he wanted on the paper. Christy wired back and asked Donaldson the name of Donaldson’s porter, who had once shined Christy’s shoes, and on receiving the answering wire to the effect that it was Homer Lee, Christy immediately wired the Litho Company to title the paper “Lee Bros. Circus” for luck, and writes Choisser, “we got nothing but money in western U.S. and Canada that year. Louis Chase, formerly asst. manager of Sells-Floto and also Hagenbeck-Wallace shows when American Circus Corp. owned them, was manager of the Lee circus that year. Bandwagon, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Apr), 1945, p. 9.
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Last modified November 2005.
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Last modified November 2005.