Monday, May 13, 2013

The Circus Comes to Town

In 1964 Gertrude Hoover Wilcox recalled the summer day in 1917 when the circus came to Kalispell. She and her mother set out for the depot to watch the train unload. Her mother was impeccably dressed in a stylish white blouse with rows of tiny tucks, high topped black shoes, a long black skirt that was extremely tight at the bottom, and a black straw sailor hat with a huge cluster of bright red artificial cherries. A black ruffled parasol completed the outfit. Gertrude’s mother had to walk very slowly as the tight skirt impeded her progress along the board sidewalk. They followed the railroad tracks to the depot, and what a thrilling scene met them! The elephants were pushing the circus wagons down the ramp. Horses waited to pull the wagons that held a tiger, a chimpanzee, and a lion. The boxcars held camels and beautiful performing white horses.

Barnum and Bailey printed this poster in 1917, the same year that Gertrude and her mother saw the circus.
Suddenly someone yelled, “Lookout, there’s an ostrich loose!” The big bird headed straight for Gertrude’s mother. They tried to outrun the bird, but the tight skirt slowed them up, and in a flash the ostrich was right behind them, its neck fully extended, its big beak snapping at those red cherries on her mother’s hat. Gertrude’s mother knew she could never outrun the ostrich with that skirt, so every time the ostrich snapped his beak at the cherries, her mother popped him one with the parasol. The men were laughing so hard it took a few minutes for them to surround the ostrich. Gertrude’s mother was so indignant she had nothing to say but “hmph! hmph!” all the way home.

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