As I’ve said before, we love seeing new sights but more than that, we so enjoy meeting all these fascinating people and listening to their stories.
Enter Jerry and Pat who hosted us at their home just north of Springfield, MO.
These folks are retired educators, Pat having been a school secretary and pre-school age teacher and Jerry a math and physics teacher, principal and ultimately a school system superintendant.
But far more interesting than their “real” jobs was their retirement career.
They joined the circus!
Jerry, while perusing the newspaper, was caught up by a classified ad .. and that’s what newspaper ads are supposed to do, right? The ad sounded too good, it read something like “get paid to travel the country .. earn a living meeting people” or something like that.
To make a long story a little shorter, Jerry and Pat ultimately met with the circus owners and came to an agreement on how their job responsibilities would look.
The circus (based in Oklahoma) covers the whole country in 2 years. They travel ideally no more than 100 miles each day and cover the eastern half of the country one year and the western half the following year.
The 100 mile limit gives them just enough time to tear down the circus tents and pack up all the animals and props, move to the next town, unload and set up the tents, bring out the animals and props and put on the next show. And then do it all over again the next day!
And sometimes I dare to think that WE have a hectic travel schedule? HAH!
All we have to do is pull in the slides, turn the key, and roll on down the road .. ok so there’s a little more to it than that, but not much. After hearing Jerry’s description of how the circus has to prepare to travel each day, I’ll never complain again!
Our host’s job was to serve as the advance team traveling the planned route about 3 months ahead of the circus’ planned cities and villages.
They would solicit local civic organizations and service organizations and sign up one of them to act as sponsor of the upcoming circus. Profits from the circus would benefit the local community organization and of course the circus would get their share as well.
The local organization .. be it the local Lions Club, YMCA, library, or volunteer firefighters .. although excellent at what they do and worthy of the community support that would be realized by the circus coming to town .. are typically terrible marketers.
This is where Jerry and Pat come in. They help guide the sponsor organization as to where and when to advertise and share the circus’ expertise on how to enlist the aid of others in the community to make sure they get the biggest crowd possible.
This all happens 3 months in advance of the event. Then at the one month mark, Jerry and Pat came back to town as “Professor Carson and Barnsey the Clown”. (The circus company is Carson and Barnes).
Because they were both retired educators, they keenly understood that they would not be allowed to interrupt learning to “hype” the circus in the schools.
They developed the “Magic of Math” routine which accomplished both the goal of marketing the upcoming circus to the students and teaching the kids at the same time. It was a win-win for the local organization, the kids participating in the “Magic of Math” show, and the circus!
Jerry and Pat “worked” for the circus for years traveling in their RV and moving from town to town sometimes having 3 or 4 shows scheduled in one day! A crazy schedule that they eventually retired from and only RV “locally” now visiting family and close friends in and around Missouri.
Jerry encouraged us to visit Hugo, (OK) someday to see the home of many circus companies including Carson and Barnes. He promises us it would be an interesting visit where the circus folks would welcome us as they encourage visitors to stop on by.
He told us that when we go to Hugo, we should be sure to visit Travelers Cemetary. Jerry went on to explain that “the old man” (I’m not sure if that was Old Man Carson or Old Man Barnes) saw the need for a final resting place for the nomadic circus employee. And since the circus is really a family, why not offer a place they can all call their “final show”.
To that end, The Old Man bought some acreage and started the TRAVELERS CEMETARY. Jerry tells us the fence posts around the cemetary are topped with ornamental circus animals. Tombstone monuments are decorated with images representative of that persons position/job in the circus be it a juggler, animal trainer, trapeze artist, or other position.
We’re gonna put Hugo, Oklahoma on our bucket list!
And Jerry and Pat’s driveway on our “return visit” list!