Sunday, February 28, 2010

....Pocatello’s first circus takes turn for worse....

This is the story of the first circus in Pocatello, as told by Judge D.W. Standrod. Standrod was a district court judge, lawyer and banker who came to Malad from Kentucky, and from Malad to Pocatello, in the early 1890s. He died in Pocatello in 1942. This story appeared in the Pocatello Tribune on Oct. 2, 1927.

In 1884, I was assisting Harry Bennett, who was then prosecuting attorney of Bingham County, and we had just closed the term of court at Blackfoot, the county seat. Having heard that the Sells Brothers Circus was showing at Pocatello, we decided to attend the event.

The circus was advertised to be given in a tent, but when the spectators arrived, it was discovered that there was no top on the enclosure that housed the attraction, and all were exposed to the hot sun. Soon the crowd began to murmur and complain, and demands were made that a cover be placed over the tent. However, no attempt was made to remedy the condition, and the spectators became more vociferous.

Finally, the management of the circus decided to begin the performance at once, in order to subdue the protesting, but as soon as an actor appeared within the circle, the hooting and yelling would burst forth from the audience. Finally, it was thought that a clown would have some subduing effect upon the dissatisfied spectators, but instead of this, the guffawing and jeering increased until, with a subdued smile, the clown retired. The audience then immediately climbed down from the seats and left the enclosure.

Some of the outraged spectators went to the old Pacific Hotel, which was then the main rendezvous and comprised in itself the greater part of the town, searching for Samuel F. Taylor, who was then sheriff of Bingham County. We all joined in trying to discover some way whereby the people who had paid for admission to the circus might get some satisfaction for the outrage.

A complaint was hurriedly made out against the circus company for obtaining money under false pretenses. A warrant was issued for the arrest of the circus crew, and the sheriff started to search for his prey, but without results. However, a representative of the circus was located, and he finally agreed to return the gate receipts on condition that the prosecution be stopped. This was done, and money to the sum of several hundred dollars was turned over to the sheriff.

The sheriff was unable to determine what should be done with the money, so he climbed to the top of a railway engine that was standing close by and announced that he had collected so much money, and called for a suggestion or motion as to what should be done with it. Several voices in the crowd shouted that it should be given for a public school in Pocatello. The sheriff called for a vote, and with a great yell from the crowd the motion was unanimously carried.

The people, however, did not seem wholly satisfied with their apparent victory, and standing on the station platform as the circus trained passed by they voiced their disapproval of the personnel to the occupants of the different cars in a continuous stream of very forceful epithets.

It was many years thereafter before the Sells Circus appeared again in Pocatello.