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. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Those Freddes Boys"

 As young kids in the mountains of Colorado who would have thought we would end up in Sarasota Florida. Two more opposite places you couldn't find, even if you were looking for them. Snowy Colorado and Sunny Florida! 
 As children we were very close brothers and, this continues today.  We are only 17 months apart so, everything we did growing up we did together. We had the same friends and went through the same experiences together as teenagers. I can't tell you how many times we have been referred to as "Those Freddes Boys" In fact many people thought we were triplets!
 When I went to Clown College and later on to the Ringling show was the first time we would be separated. I never thought how much I would miss them. I just figured it was part of growing up.
 My father had been a very big business man in the state of Colorado. At the height of his career he owned 3 music stores, a recording studio, along with a talent and booking agency.
 In the sixties with the influx of rock and roll he was responsible for bringing all of the top groups of the time into Colorado. It was nothing for me to be backstage hanging out with the likes of Eric Burdon and the Animals or The Young Rascals to name a couple of them. He was also responsible for starting the career of  Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, a popular fifties group of the time. 

  He owned a club for teenagers that had 3 floors with a local live band on each floor. There were even mixed drinks that were non alcoholic. Only people under 18 were admitted and I was the doorman for this club. One thing he served was a six foot sub sandwich called the "Yellow Submarine" after the popular Beatles song at the time. 
 Always an eye for detail he even went so for as to have the bread tinted yellow. Decorating it with olives and various condiments so it resembled a real submarine! If you ordered it they would present it to you by playing the song "Yellow Submarine." My father was always ahead of his time. 

  Our town was built on the military and during Vietnam the influx of soldiers for training really made it into a boom town. We had Ft. Carson Army base just south of town, and the Air Force Academy just to the north.
 In 1975 with the end of the war, and the failing economy it forced my father to close everything. It was then that my mother called me and told me her blindness was getting worse and about the situation for my father. She told me the boys would be out of school soon and wondered if maybe I could get jobs for them on the show. I was excited to think we would all be together again! 
 I talked to the management and it just so happened they could use someone on transportation and, someone in the wardrobe 
department. I called my mother told her the news. They were put on a bus to meet us in Tucson Arizona, as this would be the closest the show would come to Colorado. 
 I remember the anticipation I felt going to the bus station to pick them up. Just like old times. Once again we would be together. 
 Transportation was a job that included transporting anything that had to do with the show including loading the train and bringing in the cats for Gunther. Wardrobe consisted of taking care of all of the costumes and props. Mark went to wardrobe. Matt would be on transportation. 
 You can imagine what fun we had traveling around the country with a circus and being in all the big cities. This was some thing new and exciting to all of us.
 Towards the end of the season Matt met a really nice girl in New Jersey and decided it was time to leave. Mark stayed on and continued working, eventually becoming the assistant in the wardrobe department under Wally Piper. 

 At that time our props were built by a company in New Jersey. Mr. Feld had decided that we should start building our own props since we maintained them on the road anyway. Wally was the one to head up the project. 
 Wally told Mark to stay on the show until he had it going. Once it was up and running, Mark could come down and go to work for him in Florida. Hence, the beginning of what we all know as Hagenbeck -Wallace. 

 Mark was one of the first employees of the company along with handful of others. They were set up in the back of Winter Quarters in one of the bays. With nothing more than a band saw, welder, table saw, and a few hand tools they were able to build an entire show! I believe it was the undersea adventure for the Blue show. 
 Marks first prop was a little red submarine he built entirely by himself and was really proud of. In fact he still keeps that picture and tells people about how it was his beginning. 

 Matt had moved back to Florida a few years later and went to work for Hagenbeck -Wallace. So now the three of us were working for the Feld Family once again. 
 As Hagenbeck expanded they moved it to Sarasota. My brothers went with them. By this time the Felds had acquired Ice Follies and Holiday on Ice and were building all of the shows at Hagenbeck.  
 Sharon Bayer came in 1987 and was hired as secretary to the Vice President of Ice Show operations Dick Haskell. She must have really caught Marks eye. They fell in love and were married in 1990. In 1998 Sharon was offered a job in the Circus Creative area of the company as secretary for Tim Holst, Vice President of talent. 

 By 1979 I had left the circus but not the Feld Family. I went on their first ice show in the concession department. This is were my son Ian was born. I remained on the Ice Shows for several years throughout the '80's    
 I had an older brother Jim who was a painter living in Florida who also went to work at Hagenbeck in the paint department. At one time there were six of us working for the company all with the name Freddes! After a year or so my older brother left and moved back to Colorado. 

 My sister Marybeth still lives there. Never involved in the circus herself she's very proud of her brothers but, vows never to leave Colorado. 
 Mark eventually became Vice President of Hagenbeck - Wallace and Matt became his right hand man. In 2000 I returned to the Red Show. In 2004 I went to the Gold Show. Once again we were working together for the Feld Family. 
 After 30 years Mark retired from Hagenbeck to start doing some of his own projects. Shortly after that Sharon left, and three years later I left the Gold Unit.
 My brother Matt continues to work for the company. He still carries on the legacy of "Those Freddes Boys" 

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