Tom Brother’s memory of a circus in Sturgis

Several years ago, Mary Lou Falkenstin dreamed of compiling a book of train memories and sent out pleas. So far the book has not been written but the Sturgis Historical Society has a small stack of memories submitted. Here is one of those memories written by Tom Brothers and submitted to the Sturgis Historical Society in 2017. These photos are of Clyde Beatty Railroad Circus that came to Sturgis on Sept. 1, 1953. According to Sturgis Journal archives, the Hagen Brothers Circus was in Sturgis a month earlier on Aug. 6, 1953, brought in by the Rotary Club.

Tom Brother’s memory:

Most of all I remember Mama. Mama was home and home was Sturgis in the early ‘40s. What a grand and glorious place to be. Of course, at the time we didn’t realize what a wonderful place it was.

We lived on North Clay Street close to the intersection of both railroads. The north-south, east-west lines were a mere two blocks away. As a result I have many memories.

The circus comes to town

One summer news quickly spread that a was coming to town.

The circus was coming to Sturgis by train!

Can anybody understand what that news meant to a boy of nine years old? Nothing could have been more exciting.

The morning of its arrival the tracks were lined on both sides from Clay Street to Nottawa Road with cheering people. In some places they were five and six deep. Some were waving flags, others had welcome signs and, of course, everyone had on their Sunday best. In those days you didn’t go out in public in just our daily clothes. Everything was an event and, heaven forbid, your neighbors see you without you making a good impression. It was just proper.

As the train pulled into the station and stopped, the crowd seemed to hold its breath. It was suddenly very quiet. The anticipation was overwhelming. Nothing moved, and for this boy, it seemed like an eternity.

Then suddenly a whistle blew and the still, quiet train cars came alive. Doors on box cars flew open and, oh my, brightly colored wagons, circus people whom I later learned were called roustabouts, crawled out from under the train cars and from under the wagons.

It was an explosion of workers. Everyone had a job and in short order the wagons were unloaded. In them were lions and tigers and things I had never seen or even heard of. Then came the camels and horses. The horses were beautiful and their coats shone in the morning sun.

Did I mention all of this happened at daybreak?

Then the last cars open and what do you suppose?

Elephants! Huge elephants! What a glorious animal.

All the animals were fed and watered. The empty train was moved out on a siding. So that was that and we started for home feeling all sorts of feelings.

Could I go away with them when they left?

What could I do in the circus?

Then someone said it was time for the parade. Parade? In our town with circus animals and painted wagons.

How could this day get any better?

The parade went from the train depot down to Main Street, through town and out to the field that had been prepared for it.

The Big Top was set up. There was an opening parade around the three rings. A person couldn’t sit still. Then the acts started. Three rings of them to watch – what a spectacle.

Why they had cotton candy and caramel corn, things this youngster had never seen.

Finally the big day was over. I went to bed knowing this had to be the best day of my young life and tomorrow I would go and do it all again.

Morning came and the circus was gone. Tents folded, animals loaded and everything was back to normal.

The only thing left by the depot was a pile of dry ice, which led to more mischief.