Photography by Martin Garfinkel

The Circus and the Church on the Hill

In Abandoned by Roadside Gallery0 Comments

The story of the abandoned Church on the Hill.

In a time before there was any thought of mass media entertainment, all any family had been just the radio. Usually, on Saturday night, every one grabbed a chair and sat around every size and shape radio to listen to the mysteries unfolds, or the comedy shows give their best comedians air time.  Or to appreciate the Big Band sound in their living room. Some families had room enough to dance so, they ‘cut a rug’ right there, in their own living room.

But the real excitement happened when the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus came to a city or town close enough to travel to. Here was a time to remember. One saved up for several years for the opportunity to attend a nightly performance under the Big Top. The standard for the large circuses was three giant Rings laid out for various acts. In one, there might be a horse dancing, in the other a clown skit and in the other a dog act. Of course, there were the main events that had you clinging on to your seat, tight rope walkers that walked in the air above the audience, swinging trapeze duos exchanging position in midair. The No Net acts were charged with tension and wonder. But following next had everyone wide eyed, the lions and tigers with their deep growls paraded before the gazing crowds to work their magic. Whips flew, as the trainer commanded these wild majestic animals to jump for one object to the other.

For the circus performers, a season was long and tiresome work. It definitely, had its financial rewards, if you were a Main Bill Name on the Circus Boards. But, for most of the men and women, the work was grueling. The circus might only be in town for three days and then everything must be packed up and loaded onto trains; tents, bleachers, platforms, performing equipment, large cages for the animals, costumes and entire kitchens and mess halls tents all loaded by every available hand.

The circus season began in the spring and carried through some of the summer, to resume in the fall. During the hottest months, the circus went to Ringling Montana, to weather through the hottest summer months. This big time circus was able to purchase land and build a town large enough to accommodate all of their circus performers and work hands. Rest was essential for everyone. Too many mistakes and, even deaths, occurred when people were too tired. The Ringling Brothers could not afford such publicity, so treating everyone, who worked for them, with concern and respect made for happy and content workers.

When Ringling was laid out everyone was taken into consideration. There were special restaurants built to cater to certain taste. Many of the workers were Italian, so there were two wonderful Italian places. Many of the other workers were of Polish and German descent, so there was a great beer hall and a cafe, which had the best baked breads and desserts in town. There was a bowling alley and theater, plus various recreational parks. For those who went to church, there were a total five different churches built. Only one still remains standing today. No one is sure of its denomination, but it is referred to as the Church on the Hill.