Bareback Riders by W. H. Brown
By Bob Weaver 2004
Grantsville and Arnoldsburg used to draw huge crowds to circuses and
carnivals, full-fledged shows. Summer events that came to Sunny Cal
starting about 1900.
Grantsville's customary spot was what is now the old football field.
Arnoldsburg used the nice bottom land near Speedy Mart and other
outfits used the Molasses Festival site.
Joy Morgan Stevens told us about the annual coming of the Spahn
Family Circus to Arnoldsburg, can you believe, a recollection from her childhood.
The Spahn's brought their three elephants and lots of horses down
Sickle's Hill, walking them up the West Fork to the circus site with the
animals grazing along the way, she recalled.
Cecil Sturms, a well-known Arnoldsburg man, said those with
cornfields near the road had visits from elephant trunks.
Cecil said they had an alligator that would wrestle anyone who would
take him on, the winner getting cash and prizes. Husky farm boys
would prove their meddle by wrestling the varmint.
He remembered the alligator's mouth was tied, but one time it freed
itself and took a plunge in the West Fork, which had deeper holes of
water back then. The handlers managed to get the critter back to the
Joy Morgan Stevens said the shows had horses with riders standing on
their backs, a real thrill for kids of the time. Following the show the
Lynch boys, Edgar and Delbert, went back to the farm and re-created
the horse riding antics, standing on their horses and doing all the
things they had seen.
Admission was 5 cents with "Babes in Arms Admitted Free." Joy said
"My two oldest sisters, Imogene born in 1909 and Audena born in 1911,
each paid nickels and carried my two brothers Bob (born in 1911) and
Owen (born in 1917)." The ticket master told the girls to put those "big
boys down on the ground, they're big enough to walk." They didn't, so
they got in free.
Cecil Sturm said his friends got in free by taking the elephants to the
creek to drink. The elephants, sometimes, laid down in the creek and
refused to get out and the boys had to get their handlers.
Bob Knotts said that one year when the Spahn Family Circus left
Calhoun, they headed toward Smithville and had a wreck on Smithville
Hill which killed the father of Gertrude Little Propst of Mt. Zion.
Dozens of circuses and carnivals came and went for over 50 years, but
by the late 1950s the attractions faded as favored entertainment,
passed to the electrified box with a small screen.
Now, a carnival comes to the annual Wood Festival.