My Own Circus (Kathleen’s Memoirs of The Great Depression)

circus parade0002

Illustration by Kathleen Swain.  Story by Linda Bethea.

One warm spring day as the sun beamed brightly in the open window, Miss Billie read a story about Billy Boy and the Buffalos.   I loved to hear her read but was distracted by a couple of flies who had slipped in and were buzzing a vase of daffodils on the ledge.   Almost hypnotized by the droning, I caught an inkling of faraway music on the breeze.  The preacher’s wife must have her radio on with the window open. The rollicking music came undeniably closer.  Something’s going on!  Something’s coming!  As one, the class jumped from their chairs scrambling for spots at the windows.  Even Miss Billie put her book down, moving to the window, drawn in by the music. As the miracle of a circus parade was spotted in the distance, kids burst out the front door, vying for positions along the schoolyard fence facing the road.  They were followed by the teachers and principal, all in a holiday mood.

Clowns led the parade, accompanied by dogs pulling tiny carts. A poodle in a tutu trotted alongside, periodically hopping a few steps on her back legs. A monkey wearing a cowboy hat rode a huge dog trotting alongside the tiniest clown in the lot.   A clown on stilts towered above them all. Beautiful ladies clad in tights and sparkling satin dresses stood on the backs of huge white horses pulling colorful striped wagons bearing a calliope playing the Circus March!

Acrobats did somersaults in the midst of all this wonder.  The Ringmaster, in his red and black jacket, called out through  his megaphone,  “See the circus tomorrow night, for just one thin dime.”  Several striped wagons followed, bearing monkeys, lions and tigers.  Last of all came the elephant, a true wonder.  The huge gray beast trudged wearily behind the parade, completely disenchanted by all the excitement.  He’d clearly been a part of this too many times to care.  We were mesmerized.  The circus had come to town!

As the elephant passed the edge of the schoolyard, Mr. Kinnebrew spoke sharply.  “Back to class!”  We filed back in.  Miss Billie picked back up with her story.  Business as usual.  Of course the parade was on my mind.  I read stories of circuses but never dreamed of seeing an actual circus parade.  I’d have loved to see the circus but knew we couldn’t go.  Fifty cents was a lot of money.  At least I’d gotten to see the parade.

When school let out, I burst out the door, determined to beat John home with the news of the circus.  I was stunned to find workers and beasts, setting up the circus tents in our pasture!  We were centrally located with a pond, everything the circus needed.  Best of all we got ringside seats along with the pleasure of watching the circus set up!  I was the richest kid in town!


24 thoughts on “My Own Circus (Kathleen’s Memoirs of The Great Depression)

  1. You come from an extremely talented family, and rich in wonderful memories. I know I’m basically a carnival baby, but I like circuses as much as the next guy. Thanks for the memories.


    • Make sure you visit the area that was the entertainer’s winter home. It is an artist’s village now. Really quaint little “cracker houses” three rooms in a row. Really, really worth a visit!


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