405 East Sixth Street
Blue Earth, MN 56013
507-526-5421
Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from
10 to 12 and 1 to 3 or by special appointment.

Growing Up Years

In the FCHS genealogy section we have a personal description of Roscoe and Rollo Hunts' "growing up" years in Blue Earth. They were the sons of Dr. F. N. & Ida (Cadwell) Hunt.  While they were not twins, they started school together and graduated together in 1901.  After a brief stay in California, Dr. Hunt settled in Blue Earth City and resumed his profession as a physician. He built a home for his family at 209 West Fifth Street where they lived for nearly 20 years. The following are the memories of Rollo as he remembers those exciting Circus days. The above postcard is dated 8-23-1915.

The most important event in a boy's life was the coming of Ringling Brothers' Circus. It came to Blue Earth every year, for a good many years. Just why it came to Blue Earth instead of the larger towns within a hundred mile radius nobody seemed to know. At that time it was the whole circus. Since then it has been divided up into sections which show in different parts of the country. The Ringling Brothers themselves were with the circus — one of them led the parade in an open buggy. The parade, long since given up by circuses, was a glamorous affair. There were several fine bands on gaudy wagons. A clown band, negro band, and there were great high wagons on which they sat and blared forth their circus music. There were great wagons where the wild animals were. Some of the cages were open. Others were closed. From the latter, ugly growls could be heard which caused consternation among the crowd. At last, but by no means least, in the parade was the calliope. It was an omate contraption, spouting forth steam and smoke from the engine which furnished the power. The player sat behind and played music on the keyboard. There is no other music quite like it — nothing as spectacular.

Not the least of the attractions were the horses. They were perfectly matched teams of various colors — four horse, six horse and eight horse — handled by drivers way up on the wagons with both hands full of lines. These horses would move around for hitching to the wagon like a machine, never stepping over a tug or causing any trouble. There were bareback riders - beautifully costumed ladies riding horses side-saddle, high stepping thoroughbreds. There was a line of some fifteen or twenty elephants, gaily blanketed and with dark complexioned girls, partly dressed, sitting on top of them. Each elephant had hold of the tail of the one before him by his trunk. The camels came with Arabic riders. There were herds of colored ponies, zebras hitched to wagons and clowns working back and forth throughout the parade line.

The show itself was a real exhibition of riders, performers, both people and animals. There were the high-wire performers, and usually last the wild animal act where the trainer was in the cage with the tigers and lions. The show ended with a grand chariot race, which was a fitting finish. Following this, the visitors went out through the animal tend and saw the animals fed.

The activity of boyhood at circus time started at about 10 to 11pm on the preceding evening. From midnight on, every few minutes, word would go around that a whistle had been heard and that the circus train would soon be in. It would prove to be false, but a good time was had all night and usually about seven or eight in the morning the train arrived, in several sections. The unloading and hauling to the circus grounds (began), and putting up the tent was about as wonderful as the actual performance. Four and six-horse teams moved the heavy wagons back and forth. The elephants hauling some animal (wagons) were very interesting sights. The elephants were chiefly used when there was mud, and there was usually plenty of mud, and the horses were unable to move the wagons. Putting up the tent was a real sight! The crews of six men working together would drive a stake, striking it in turn as accurately as the tick of a clock. The presence of negro roustabouts was an unusual sight for (this part of the) country. Boys got jobs doing errands and carrying water for which they received tickets to the show.

Such briefly was the circus of yesterday, which hasn't existed for many years, and never will again.