Before You Even Entered The
Last Sunday, an American Institution died a premature death when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus gave its last performance. After 147 years and literally thousands of performances, before millions of “kids of all ages”, “The Greatest Show On Earth” is no more than a wonderful memory. But what memories it leaves behind.
My father loved the circus especially Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. As a result about every other year, he would gather the family in his car, drive to Philadelphia where we all attend a matinée performance of “The Greatest Show On Earth”. These trips to the circus resulted in many pleasant memories. Now that Ringling Bros. is a thing of the past, I will over the next week to ten days try to record as many of these memories as possible on the “WE REMEMBER” blog.
After you purchased you ticket and went through the turnstiles, you went into the menagerie. Housed in its own separate large tent, the menagerie was Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s large traveling zoo. The interior of the menagerie tent was laid out in the form of two concentric ovals with a large, hay covered walkway in between for spectators to walk to and see up close the rare and exotic animals from around the world.
In the outer oval, most of the less ferocious animals were tied to stakes in the ground and displayed behind simple rope barriers. This is where you could see, pet and feed the bison, the horses, the zebras, camels, and rare ostriches. Ringling’s huge herd of elephants was and of course was on display. The Ringling elephants over the years had become quite proficient at begging peanuts from the circus goers. Coincidentally, there just happened to be stand across from and on both sides of the elephant area selling, of all things, small bags of peanuts.
A large portable cage was setup in one area of the menagerie’s outer oval to display the show’s giraffes. Another cage housed a large and varied collection of monkeys. They entertained spectators by swing from ropes tied to the top of the enclosure, making faces at visitors some of whom made mimicking faces back. When not doing that the monkeys occupied themselves retrieving peanuts thrown to them by visitors or by sitting on their perches picking fleas from their bodies or from their mate’s skin.
The circus’ entire collection of cage wagons was arranged around the inner oval of the menagerie tent. These cages displayed lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, bears and even pythons. Other cages had tubs and pools for the rhinos, polar bears, hippos and seals displayed within them. One large, air-conditioned wagon with glass windows served as the home for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey main animal attraction Gargantua who was advertised as the ‘largest, most ferocious gorilla in captivity”.
As you were finishing touring the menagerie, a series of bugle calls would sound calling spectators and performers alike to the Big Top for the next performance of “The Greatest Show On Earth”.
Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows
“THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH”
Click on link below to see other Memories Of “The Greatest Show On Earth
Misc. Memories of “The Greatest Show On Earth’ #1
Posted by Frank Fleming
In Loving Memory of
1936 – 2016