When the circus came to town

To the editor:

My memory is fading … it may have been early March 1964 or 1965 (I can’t recall exactly.

This was the year the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus came to Steubenville via the Pennsylvania Railroad. I remember the day it arrived was cold, blustery and spitting rain and sleet. Myself; my cousin, Jim Rinaldo; friend, Mike Egan; and several others cut high school classes to stand in the cold at the PRR Railroad station to wait the arrival of the circus.

The train was supposed to arrive at 9 a.m. Of course, it didn’t, was delayed and did not arrive until after 3 p.m. But wow, it was worth the wait. The precision of the circus roustabouts unloading animals, cages, tents, equipment, vehicles, etc. was masterful. It was eye-opening to see the working side and faces of the circus. For free tickets, kids were hired to help police the grounds and do odd jobs To my knowledge, nobody ran away with the circus.

I remember a youthful onlooker poked at a caged tiger with his umbrella and had it snapped in half with one swipe of the bengal’s paw. So it went until dark and then for some time after. The circus set up shop near the current Herald-Star building near the old PRR Depot Building and lot.

Later that week, the circus paraded through downtown and to the Diocescan Arena with the elephants leading the parade. Local TV host Stan Scott sat astride the lead elephant to the applause of lines of people all along Market Street through Sunset Boulevard.

It was a long and tiring walk for the elephants who were not used to climbing hills.

The circus ran for several days at the arena to packed crowds.

It was a time when live events like the circus were anticipated and appreciated. It was indeed a time when life was viewed up close and personal instead of through an iPad or Xbox.

Jim Vallone

Crofton, Md.