When I heard about the end of the Ringling Brothers Circus closing this spring is was very saddening to me because being “old school” I feel like a trip to the circus is a right of passage for childhood.
Now I realize there is still the UniverSoul circus that comes to Washington Park every autumn.
But for many of us our first experience “under the big top” was a Ringling Brothers circus.
For me it was 1982 or 1983 back when Ringling Bros was still coming to the old Amphitheater on 43rd Street is when I made my one and only circus trip.
So one weeknight, my mother and I came home from school and my late my father had circus tickets and stated “We are going to the circus tonight”.
There was no debating the old man, not even on a school night.
So we quickly ate some dinner and took off north from 123rd Street to the Amphitheater, knowing my dad he probably took Halsted Street all the way there and he didn’t believe in paying to park (now you know where I get it from), so we parked on some side street on Back of the Yards and hoofed it to the Amphitheater.
I will never forget the aura of walking up to the Amphitheater that night, there were lights, music, people, it was literally electric.
Now remember I’m 6-7 years old and had never attended anything like this before. We didn’t have stuff like this in West Pullman.
As we got closer to the circus you could smell it, the food, the excitement, the animal excrement, it was all there.
We finally get there and its bright lights and something you’d see in the movies with performers practicing, people buying food, little wide eyes kids like myself and babies screaming.
Dad got us good seats and we sit down and it was non stop action, animals, performers, the ringmaster. I think we got popcorn and some other unhealthy snacks, probably candy corn, dad and I loved candy corn especially from the old Sears on east 79th Street over near St Lawrence.
When I was little my dad worked a lot, swing shift and we didn’t get to do a lot of cool stuff till a few years later, we didn’t have a reliable car either, so this night was special.
I asked my wife last night was the idea of a circus antiquated, with technology, animal rights, updated zoos, is a traditional circus relevant?
More so would it mean the same to my toddler son?
I want my son to experience all the great stuff I had back in a simpler south side but avoid all the drama.
Not possible right?
Still I’m all about tradition but I know things change and we move forward, so with that goes the “Greatest Shown on Earth”, though we will never forget.
Filed under: Chicago