Open Letter to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus
March 7, 2017
The General Manager
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Palmetto, Florida 34221
It is with great sadness of heart that I write to you regarding the closing of the most unforgettable family entertainment: The Greatest Show on earth, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
I am Rev. Dr. Pauline E. Ballard and presently pastor of The Pentecostal Family Prayer Center, a church located in Newark, NJ. My roots have their beginning in Sarasota, Florida where I resided with my family.
My Dad was the proud owner of a “woodyard”. Our home was located 22 West 12th Street in a small settlement named Horton Quarters about a mile from the Gulf of Mexico. As a youngster, I distinctly remember my father speaking of the circus and its owner, at that time, a Mr. John North. Being Black in 1930s and having a business to call your own was indeed a blessing.
The Woodyard (so called) was a fenced area which covered approximately one-fourth of a block located on 12th Street in Sarasota. My father employed fellow Afro-Americans to work for him. As I remember, my father owned one truck. He and his helpers would drive far into the woods and hew down the trees and transport them to the woodyard to be sawed into different sizes to accommodate wood stoves and fireplaces, etc. The wood was sold by cords and strands. Customers were Black and White – predominately white.
Mr. John North, owner of Ringling Brothers circus, would secure the service of my Dad and his truck to transport meat and produce to the winter grounds of the circus for the purpose of feeding the animals. Visiting the beautiful circus winter quarters/grounds at intervals with my Dad was a special treat. I developed a love for the circus. This was a special occasion to see the different animals. I remember the time I was privilege to see Gargantua, the prized gorilla. There were special days when the Winter Quarters were opened to the Black schools and the public.
I do not remember the transition from North to Ringling Brothers but it is etched in my memory when each year when the Greatest Show on Earth (housed in Sarasota Florida) would take to the road on its journey to bring joy and pleasure to everyone on its nationwide yearly excursion.
The circus would always leave Sarasota during the morning hours or noon (perhaps?) Whatever the time of the day, it was always a beautiful sight to behold. The huge engine had a distinct sound. Puffing so loud and so strong, so powerful moving slowly with numerous brightly beautiful boxcars and the animals with their trainers, the living quarters of the entertainers and helpers, so vividly painted with the images of the different animals and trapeze artists, and all of the other performers and clowns on each box car. As that huge beautiful train, painstakingly exited Sarasota, the entertainers, the sideshow artists would return our waves, smiling.
The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus was on its way to bring joy and gladness to everyone. We would watch and wave until the caboose was out of sight!
Who can ever forget under “the Big Top”, the ringmaster’s cry, “Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages, we welcome you to The Ringling Brother Barnum and Bailey Circus, the greatest show on earth!”
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the one wholesome exciting, spirit-lifting entertainment for the family. You have made us laugh and cry tears of joy. For a moment in time, the cares, problems of the day were forgotten. In this beautiful world of make-believe and entertainment, we simply forgot about our diets, etc. We just enjoyed cotton candy, popcorn and let’s not forget the good old American hot dog and soda pop. We were so lighthearted with glee that the gastronomical discomfort did not dare to occur.
For the scripture says, “a merry heart doeth good like medicine.” Proverbs 17:22
We are living in a time when there are some of our fellow human beings will accept the prevalent ills that blight our society and attack anything that they do not understand or trust wholesome entertainment. They will make concerted
efforts to remove anything good – that is structured as good family entertainment.
So sad – something could have been resolved but no – what will it be next? Baseball, basketball, tennis, etc. What will be the replacement, smut-drug-induced entertainers? The indecent applauded? etc. and now United States of America, you have hit the Jack Pot! How will they deal with this. Did America sell their birthright ??? I thank God for freedom of speech.
Ringling Brothers. Barnum and Bailey Circus so sad to see you go. I will always cherish the memories. I have often spoken to my congregation of the memories as a child of the circus.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, CHILDREN OF ALL AGES
WE WELCOME YOU
TO THE RINGLING BROTHERS BARNUM AND BAILEY CIRCUS
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH
I will remember you all in my prayers; be blessed, you and your families,
With a Sad Heart.
Rev. Dr. Pauline E. Ballard