Elephant's trumpet, lion's tired roar. There's family life behind the circus's glittery scenes
Marshfield, Mass. — INSIDE the huge tent, the circusgoer sees the color and sparkle of exotic costumes, men on stilts towering above the crowds, and happy, painted faces of the clowns. Music fills the air, while the deep, resonant voice of the ringmaster commands attention. The sweet smells of cotton candy, popcorn, and animals mingle.
What few people get to see is what goes on behind the scenes.
As dawn breaks, the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus sets up for another performance in another town. The quiet is broken by the resounding, rhythmic clang of stakes being driven into the ground, shouted commands, an occasional elephant's trumpet, and a lion's tired roar.
There's no glitter and excitement now, only work.
Elephants and men work together to raise the enormous red and blue canvas tent, the size of a football field. Roustabouts (laborers) hoist support posts, haul on stout ropes, and unfold the hundreds of seats.
Some of the circus people use the time to tend animals, do chores, or play with their children. Some sleep late after the long night on the road.
As the jobs of the 200 people who travel with the circus differ, so do their lives, their needs, and their interests.
Ora and Fred (Cap) Logan have been in the circus business for more than 45 years, and with the Beatty Circus for 18.
Mrs. Logan, a Cheyenne Indian, grew up in Oklahoma, where her parents worked in a Wild West show. She met her husband in a different circus, where they married more than 30 years ago.
Together they raised eight children while traveling in the circus. Six of their children have remained in circus life - four of them with the Beatty Circus.
All four work with their father, who is elephant superintendent: Walter is assistant elephant superintendent. Lillian, Eileen, and Naomi ride elephants.
Unlike his wife, who was born into the circus, Cap Logan, a Canadian, ran away from home as a youth and joined it.
``My dad died in 1935, and due to circumstances, I just left,'' he says. ``They came and got me, but I went back again. I did everything in the circus in those days. I put the tent up and did anything I was told to do.''
Mr. Logan has been training elephants for 38 years.
``I used to work lions, ponies, chimps, and elephants, but here I just work elephants.''
Ora Logan did an aerial act and rode the elephants her husband trained.
``She used to ride the elephants until she was six or seven months pregnant,'' remarks Logan. His wife is now the wardrobe mistress for the circus and sews her daughters' costumes.
``My girls used to tease me about saving the sequins and decorations off their old costumes, but I was often able to reuse them on the new outfits,'' Mrs. Logan says with a laugh.
She also launders the men's work coveralls, which is no easy chore. She has to seek out laundromats in every town they stop in.
Seated in the comfortable living room of their trailer, discussing day-to-day living, Mrs. Logan divulges her method for finding the best local grocery stores.
``Usually I ask a lady who looks like she's a mother where the best grocery stores and laundromats are. And sometimes the sponsors are very helpful and provide papers that tell you where things are in the area. But if you want to do anything, you really have to plan it in advance.''
Lillian Haverstrom, another circus wife and a Logan daughter, is married to Jim, the music director for the circus. Their son, Kyle, is now 18 months old.
When Mrs. Haverstrom isn't tending to domestic matters and taking care of her son, she rides the elephants and works at one of the concession booths. Her mother, Ora Logan, takes care of Kyle while she works.
The Logans' youngest daughter, Naomi, 18, is the only child who still lives with her parents. Like some of her older siblings, Naomi has been educated through at-home correspondence courses. Her mother supervised her studies.
``I never really missed going to a regular high school,'' says Naomi. ``I imagine it would be much harder. I like being with the circus. Although sometimes I've thought I would like to be a hairdresser.''
Jim Haverstrom, from the suburbs of Long Island, N.Y., did not grow up in the circus. When he majored in music at the University of Kansas and later at James Madison University in Virginia, he had no idea he would become a circus person.
But after college, he applied for the well-paying job of band leader and got it.
``It's a hectic life working seven days a week,'' he says, ``but I enjoy it. And the trailer is certainly more comfortable than some apartments I lived in when I was in college.''
During the circus off-season, Haverstrom plays trumpet in a band at Disney World in Florida and also takes free-lance engagements in Orlando.
Chris Rawles, manager of the Clyde Beatty Circus, has been with circuses most of his life.
Like everyone else, he started at the bottom as a roustabout, doing the back-breaking, unglamorous work of a laborer.
In circus jargon, it's called ``doing Chinese,'' says Mr. Rawles, explaining that the term originated at the time Chinese laborers did most of the heavy work.
Rawles travels with his wife, Maria, and their two children, Melody, 6, and T.C. (Thomas Christopher), 3. Like the other families in the circus, they live in a house trailer that goes wherever they do.
Rawles says his children love being with the circus. When Melody is not in school, she travels with her parents and takes trapeze lessons from the performers. Her smile lights up her face when she speaks of becoming a trapeze performer.
``I've remained with the circus in order to give my children the option of being in the circus when they grow up,'' says Rawles.
T.C., aspiring to be the biggest and the strongest of all performers, proclaims, ``When I grow up, I want to be an elephant!''