Does anyone have information or pictures of the Clyde Beatty – Cole Bros. circus blow down in Auburn, NY in either 1967/68/69? I was with them at that time as a prop hand and I know it was in the Auburn Newspaper.
46 years ago today my younger sister and I (both Auburn natives) were in the big top that went down. I was 13 back then and can recollect rather vividly the whole affair. Everything from circus hands attempting to ride the the uplifting tent poles to the just departed elephants. We along with my visiting cousins were able to dodge flying guide ropes and stumbling patrons in the mad dash for safety. It was surely Blowin in the Wind.
I was actually 2 years old and inside the tent with my aunt when this happened, I have no memory of it though, my aunt still talks about it to me on occasion. I have family in NY still, if you still need info perhaps I could ask someone to check it out at the Auburn, NY. library.
It would be best for the inquirer to request the Auburn newspaper on interlibrary loan. Then they could examine it directly. CHS member and historian Paul Horsman resides in the area and perhaps he could also offer assistance.
Fred Dahlinger, Jr., Director of Historic Resources and Facilities, Circus World Museum.
The Beatty/Cole event happened July 9, 1968. An article from the Sandusky (Ohio) Register dated July 10, 1968 noted “Circus Ends In Finale Of Terror” The article noted that the elephants had just left the tent and the acrobats were waiting to go on. The rain whipped off Owasco Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, in gusts up to 40 miles per hour. A mighty gust lifted the huge canvas and the aluminum tent poles toppled like matchsticks. The canvas fluttered down on 1,400 of the 2,000 spectators and performers. Some 300 were sitting in a part of the tent that did not collapse. No one was killed, but the local hospitals reported that about 250 were brought in. The hospitals treated 85 and 24 of them were admitted. Sheriff Robert Sponable and some deputies ran to the tent and cut through the fabric in places releasing the people. Everyone was freed within 90 minutes, the sheriff said. Since this was picked up as a UPI story, I would expect that about every major paper picked it up and it should be available in a local library.
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