The purpose of this blog is to share stories from the road of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown Alley. With this resource we can relive those days and have a better understanding of the transitions within Clown Alley over the years. I feel historically it's important to share these stories for future generations. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Henry and my 50 dollar car

 It was my third year on the road and I decided I would by a car. It was a little Toyota station wagon that I paid $500.00 for. 
 As we left Venice everything went well. We got to Miami and I needed new tires and figured I would get them there before we really got going out of Florida. I decide to get some good Michelins  that would cost me $200.00.
 From Miami we would start the trek up the east coast working our way up to New York. This was always the worst part of the tour. Miserable cold with that wet snow up through the Carolinas into Virginia and then Baltimore. 
 We left Miami towards Greensboro and my distributer on the car decided to blow up. I had to be towed off the highway to a shop. The towing plus the repair was $500.00.
 After that every thing was going good until the trip to New York. On that trip one of the cylinders on the engine quit working but I was able to limp into New York City. We had a lot of Polish people on the show at the time and, they were all good at mechanics. 
 One in particular, named Bogden was really good at rebuilding engines. He told me since we would be in New York for 12 weeks he would have time to do it for $800.00. I was bound and determined I was going to have a car so I said go ahead. We finished New York and my car was done. After 12 weeks in one place I was ready to drive. 
 From there it was Philadelphia and then the three day drive to Oklahoma City and on to Phoenix. This marked the beginning of warm weather  and sunny California just around the corner. It was the trip to Phoenix when it happened. 
 They call it the high desert out there because of the surrounding mountains. Going across the mountains in the desert my engine started to get hot. I didn't know what to do! I saw a sign for a town twenty miles ahead and thought I would just keep driving. I didn't have much choice as I was in the middle of nowhere. 
 Just as I finished reading that sign my car stopped running. I tried to start it to no avail. What was I going to do?  I stood there trying to think of some way of getting out of this mess. Out of nowhere here comes Henry Schroer. He was Gunthers right hand man.  
 Gunther had a trailer he would use as a dressing room at the buildings, and Henry drove it from town to town with a beautiful van. It was a black van with tigers and leopards painted on the sides. You couldn't miss it coming down the road.

 He pulled over to see if he could help. I told him what happened and asked if he thought he could tow me. It was only 20 miles to the next town and I would get it fixed. He said yes but we had nothing to tow it with.

 I looked across a field and out about a half a mile out I could see a tractor. I thought there might be a chain on it we could use, and when we got my car fixed I would return it. So I walked out to it and sure enough there was tow chain sitting on it. I dragged it back, we hooked it to the car and off we went. 
 We had gone about three miles and ran into a road block. When we stopped we could see an old farmer standing with the police. They told us that the chain belonged to the guy and he wanted it back. He had seen me go out and take it off his tractor and called the police. He would not press charges as long as we gave it to him. They left us there and told us we would have to figure out some other way to tow it.

 Thats when we decided to cut the seat belts out and tie them together. We started down the road and Henry started to go pretty fast. Remember we had a van pulling a trailer and my car behind the trailer! Well from my car moving back and forth and me hitting the brakes the seat belts kept breaking. We would stop tie them together and go again. Each time they would get shorter and shorter until I was only 2 feet away from the trailer. 
 I think Henry may have forgotten I was behind him, because he  started to go about 70 mph. I was holding on for dear life! My knuckles turned  white from holding the wheel so tight. We both had CB radios and, in panic I would yell at Henry to slow down. When I did he would come back with, "What? I cant understand you. Your talking to close to the microphone." Or he would say I was talking too loud. He kept repeating this over and over as I tried to get him to slow down. 
 We finally made it into this small town with a junkyard that did repairs. The man told me I had cooked the engine and it would cost me another $500.00 to fix it. I asked him if he wanted to buy the car from me.
 He said if I had the title he would give me $50.00 for it. I took everything out of it and put it in Henrys van. I looked in the glove box for the title and couldn't find it. He gave me his card and said if I mailed to him he would send me a check. We got in the van and headed for Phoenix. 

 No, the story doesn't end there.... I went to my train room and looked for the title and couldn't locate it anywhere. Two years later I got a new room on the train and while moving into it I found the title in a bunch of papers. I still had his card in my wallet, so I mailed it to him and got my $50.00!

No comments:

Post a Comment