Thursday, February 6, 2014

Run away and join the circus!

This is a brief rundown of part of my life. There are stories within this story and blogs will be written about them at a later date. But I thought it would be a good idea to give you a quick glimpse into a part of my life which has led me to where I am today.
       (The RBBB Circus Animal Cars during winter break in Tampa Florida)
Many people have wanted to run away and join the circus, but very few have actually had that chance. I was about 13 years old at the time, My dad had been raising me by himself since I was about 2 years old and at the time he was driving trucks overland for a company out of Indiana, He would take these box trucks like the UPS and Fed-Ex trucks and deliver them to wherever they needed to go. One of the summer's I was out of school and he took me with him on the road. We had put literally thousands of miles behind us, From New York to Los Angeles, Chicago to Houston and about everywhere in between.

        One day we were in Houston Tx. We had got thru with a delivery of trucks and Dad called dispatch to see if they had anything headed back home. Of course not but.... They did have a truck to transport from New Orleans to Shrevesport and would eventual lead us back to Houston, So we left our little Isuzu there at a pay to park place in Houston and hopped a bus to New Orleans. These were the facts as I knew them, Later when we arrived at the Superdome I would find out who we were transporting the truck for. It turned out to be one of the stock trucks for Sells Floto, The merchandise division of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

        I literally almost had a mental meltdown upon walking into the Superdome and seeing all the rigging in the trusses, all the props for the show being packed into their crates. I can still remember the way my heart was pounding as we walked backstage for the first time. What a experience all the performers were getting out of costume and all the vendors still packing up their merchandise. We checked in with the Sells Floto manager and was told it would be a little bit before we could take the truck so basically just hang out till then. We walked around for a bit and looked at a bunch of different things. Then we found the cotton candy stand.... I ended up walking out of the arena with a black industrial sized trashbag full of cotton candy !! Oh it was a great trip for dad, on our way to Shrevesport at last.

     We got there ahead of the show and got a hotel room dropped off the truck and it was a week worth of waiting, Once sunday rolled around we went to get the truck and take it to the next stop, After we got there my dad had  a meeting with the manager of Sells Floto and was able to get a job running snow cones up and down the seats. Which is by far not a easy job in the least if you goto the Circus and have any dealings with these guys give them a break they deserve it! Then he moved up to running a Table which is basically a small merchandise stand mainly for selling the snow cones and cotton candy. and a few of the novelty items. By this time we were out of the hotel rooms and living on the train oh what a experience this was. I was still traveling with my dad overland I hadn't got the chance to ride the rails yet. the rooms were about 5' x 7' if you got lucky and didn't have a single. After we got onto the train and dad was working for Sells Floto I got my first job on the Circus, working in the pie car. Pie Car Bob was my first boss on the show Andy (sorry I cant remember any last names really) was the Pie Car manager and allowed me to work with Bob on the mainline (dinner time) for the crew of the show. since I wasn't old enough to actually work for them and all I really did was clean the train car and wash dishes I got paid in tips. And during the day when I wasn't working in the Pie Car I would be at the Arena putting the batteries in the light swords and spinning globes you could get at the novelty stands. I was making some great money doing these jobs that noone wanted to do. and a couple weeks I made more than my dad selling things.

       My time in the Pie Car was the best part in my opinion though. Pie Car Bob taught me so much about cooking and baking, serving and customer service. His thoughts about which were don't F*** with the cook or his help. I worked in the Pie Car and "made lights" (putting the batteries in them) for about 2 years (being 15) I guess the guys figured I could take on more responsibility which in turn meant more money in my pocket so I wasn't complaining. I was allowed to help Jay with the Sells Floto stock trucks that came in. unloading them and also helping in the container cars where the merchandise was kept. And though I was still being paid under the table is was great work. Also I was allowed to help muck out the animal cars on the train. Yeah it was a nasty job and after shoveling nearly 2 tons of horse, camel, and elephant poop you really learn the value of a dollar. Which had to be done every week...

        I was also lucky enough to become friends with the animal handlers and was able to help them on the animal walks (from the arena's to the train and vise versa) These odd jobs continued until i was 17 at which time I was filling in for one of the program operators in Philidelphia Pa. after that I worked my way up to Program 2 I was in charge of stocking the tables with Programs, Video's, And Coloring books of the show also selling the programs at the front gate yes I was one of the guys that stood in front of the building hollering and trying to get you to buy a program. It has been 4 years of traveling on the circus. By this time I had visited every state except Alaska and Hawaii. I had seen parts of the country that anyone who wasn't traveling by would never see. And experienced things that alot of grown adults still haven't experienced. but those are all story's for different blogs.

      I hope you have enjoyed reading this one and I look forward to hearing all thought's and comments. I will be posting another blog as soon as I can with some of my experiences traveling in the Greatest Childhood On Earth.