Wednesday, October 21, 2009


No one goes through a war unscathed.  My dad's sister, my aunt Joanie, told me once that dad walked the floor night after night in emotional agony over his experiences during the war.  He eventually worked it out and went on with his life.  Maybe having a family and a new baby son, helped.

On October 17, 1946, my brother, Robert Wesley Martin (Butch) was born.  He was to become the first of five sons my mother and dad eventually had.  Mom told me once, that it is a good thing I was born first, as they seemed to have lost the pattern after that.  My brother, Butch, was killed in a bad car accident when he was only 49 years old.  A major loss to my parents and myself.  He and I, as the two oldest, grew up together and were very close.  Dad took it very hard and mom did not live but a few years after that.  My feelings are that because dad took it so hard, he could not go to the place in his memoirs where my brother was born.  Thus, they ended after World War 11, but his amazing life did not stop there. We have many stories and maybe I will get with my brothers and tell more of them.

He had so many life changing experiences by the time he was only 20 years old, that it would seem as if after that, it was all less than interesting..  That could be further from the truth.

When he returned to the U. S. after the war and my brother was born, he went back to school on the G. I. Bill and completed his education.  He became a Marine Engineer and Naval Architect.  While he was completing his education, my mom, my brother and I lived in Miami, Fla with his mother and her second husband, Charles Shumard.  I don't remember much about that time,with dad, except he was not around much.  Then again, he was going to school and working, so he probably had his hands full. I remember the house in Miami and different people around, but it was mostly mom and dad trying to establish a home and a life for us. Most of my interaction was with mom, Uncle Charles, my grandmother, and the people across the street.

After dad got his degree we lived in Miami for awhile. After that, I remember living at a lake resort called Kingsley Lake, where my brother and I had the run of the place. Dad was the manager and we lived in one of the small cabins on the grounds and I went to school in Stark, Fla. We  then moved to Green Cove Springs, Fla where he was working for a Greek shipyard owner named, George Laris.  It was an interesting time for me, and mom and dad and Butch and I lived in several different homes in Green Cove, until we moved to Jacksonville, Fla.  Where we eventually settled.  When we moved to Jax, I was in the fourth grade so most of my friends are from that time.

Dad worked for various shipyards in the Jacksonville area and at one time owned his own small shipyard. During that time, he built a glass-bottomed boat named "The Arlene Francis" and the reason I remember that boat so well, is he got a call in the middle of the night one time, that the boat had "launched itself" into the river. He also worked for several ship yards in Jacksonville until he went into business for himself again.

Dad eventually became self-employed as a Marine Surveyor and worked for the Navy and various shipping line, including the Norwegian Caribbean Lines.  Mom and dad were very social and there were always a lot of interesting people from all parts of the world around the house from time to time. Everyone from Norwegian ship captains to a former Russian Count.  His work involved estimating repairs or damages on a ship and overseeing the repair work.

While living in Jacksonville, Florida the rest of my five brothers were born.  Jack in 1956, Daniel in 1957, David in 1958 and the youngest, Scott in 1961.  Thus completed the Martin family.  Of course with six kids, they ended up with many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren that at least dad, lived to see.

At one time dad, took a lifeboat off a ship and converted it into a pleasure craft and there are many stories about their ventures on "The African Queen."  Which traveled up and down the St Johns River at about 5 MPH.

Mom died in March of 1998 from complications of congestive heart and leukemia.  I was alone with her when she died and held her hand until the end.  I had promised her I would be there, and I was.  Dad died just 5 days before Christmas in 2004.  He had been ill for many years with emphysema and the disease robbed him of an active life in his later years. I think life finally took its' toll on him, and his heart just gave out one day.

My dad lived a charmed life after all, in spite of the tragedies he had to endure.  Which, all of us, if we live long enough, will encounter at one time or other on this journey called life.         


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rescuing the Dutch, and Delivering a Baby.

One of the problems we faced when the fighting stopped was assembling people from other countries into their own respective groups so they could be transported back to their own countries.  These people had been mostly slave labor in Germany and had been through hell.  They were thin, tired and sick with very low self-esteem or self-respect.  Some of them had been slave-labor for years.  There were both men and women in these groups.  When I arrived at what was called "The Holland Bunker," which was an apartment complex with a large courtyard in the center, there were perhaps 50 to 60 Hollanders who had moved in, with many more on the way.  Dutch people were everywhere in Germany. 

Kitchens, fresh or sanitary water, food, and clothing had to be gathered and some kind of order established.  We needed names, where they were from and where they were to go.  All this had to be recorded. Beds had to be found, along with bed covers.  There was so much that was needed and one of the first things was to set up a first-aid station as most of them required medical attention on arrival.  After a few days, the number of Hollanders increased to about 200, with more coming everyday.  As people arrived, they were asked if there were any medical problems that could be taken care of?  To my surprise, a good many of the men had the clap (gonorrhea).  Some were ready to admit it, but others were not. I was not about to let these men go home with the clap. They were all lined up for a surprised short arm inspection one morning.  Then I knew how much Penicillin to have the doctor bring.  As far as the women were concerned, the doctor would have to talk to them, I had no idea how to determine if a woman had it.  As everyone began to feel better and more rested, they began to realize they were really going home to Holland.  The atmosphere was on the upswing.  As time went on, the bunkers kept growing and soon rumors came that transportation was being arranged to Holland. 

Romance was in the air. We had formed our own band, with dances a couple of times a week.  We were able to have wine and beer shipped in, and there was plenty of good food to eat.  The "Holland Bunker" turned out to be one of the happiest and served as a model for others to come. 

When I had to leave, the Dutch people gave me a big party, with lots of hugs and kisses, a few tears, some of which were mine, to see how fast these people had recovered from the hell they had been through.  Life, for them, was sweet again.

I was back with my outfit again, awaiting orders and out on night patrol with fellow soldier in the Jeep, on a cold dark night, but we were happy.  We were both only 19 years old, still alive after fighting in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and on into Germany.  To keep warm, we had a bottle of German Rhine wine (the best in the world) that had come out of a very deep wine cellar.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, came a young hysterical girl, 8 to 10 years old.  She was in a panic for us to come with her.  He aunt or sister was in trouble and had to have help.  She could not explain what was wrong. The girl seemed honest and true, but we knew we had to be careful, as there were still plenty of nuts around.  We took her in the Jeep to the place she directed us - an apartment building.  We followed her into an apartment on the second floor.  Inside the apartment there was screaming and hollering between two older women and a younger woman of about 25 or 30 years old.  The younger woman, who was very large boned and looked strong, was in bed trying to give birth.  The older women would not help her.  The old women were sent into the  kitchen to boil a couple of pots of water.  What the water was to be used for, I didn't know, but it got the older women out of the bedroom.  The woman in the bed said the old women were a couple of bitches and she called them something else that I did not understand, but I'm sure it was not good, all because they would not help her have the baby.  This woman was in terrible pain.  She said the top part of the baby's head was showing, but that was a far as it would go.  She had been stuck at this point for over an hour and could not go on any longer. She said she had a baby prior to this one, with no complications.  The pain was getting the best of her.  She needed help, so I sent my buddy, with the younger girl, to find a doctor.  The girl having the baby said doctors would not come, and I told my buddy to bring one back, no matter what the doctor had to say.  So, off they went to find a doctor.  Time was passing quickly, and that baby had to be moved. The birth mother was screaming now for me to do something.  I knew she had to have help and the baby could not wait for the doctor, and I had no idea if the doctor would even come. I had to do something and now.  I took one look and said, "Oh, Shit!"  The baby had already started out with the top of the head showing as she had said.  I tried to get her to push more, nothing happened.  She was crying now with pain, asking me for help. It was time to do something, right or wrong.  I told the woman to hold on, I was going in after the baby. I gathered up clean towels, and sheets. I knew there was going to be a mess of some kind. I had watched a cat have kittens and a dog have puppies, so really, how much different could this be?  I was about to find out!  Now, all set with her legs up and positioned right, I slipped a hand in on each side of the baby's head, went a little farther and felt the neck, then the top of the shoulders.  I got a firm hold, being as gentle as I could, and started pulling.  She was screaming and pushing, then she went silent and limp.  I think she passed out.  The baby was sliding out now, I kept pulling and the baby kept sliding.  All at once, "he" was out and crying. He was so large, it looked like he was two years old. There we were, just the baby and I, but there was this cord-looking attachment that was from the baby's stomach to back inside the mother.  What do I do with that?  Then, I remembered about cutting the cord when a baby is born, but where do I cut it? Just to be safe, I cut it about 12" out from the baby's stomach and tied both ends of the cut. About this time, the mother is coming around and she starts to push again, but this time out comes what looks like a two or three pound hunk of liver with the other end of that cord attached.  This is called the after-birth. I didn't know this came with the baby and for a second, I thought it was twins. The old women came in, and took the baby, cleaned him up and brought him to his mother, who was feeling better now.  She was very happy with her son and the two old women acted like they had a new doll to play with. They had a complete change of attitude, and even helped clean up.  I will never understand women..

Then, through the door came my buddy with the doctor at gun-point.  He had not wanted to come. He looked the situation over then realized he was not being taken out to be shot or robbed.  The doctor examined the mother and baby, then cut and placed the cord properly. The doctor was well pleased with the way everything was accomplished and told me I had done a good job, not perfect, but good.  He said he would check on the mother and baby later.  As the doctor was leaving, he asked the mother what name she had for the baby?  The mother looked at me and asked my name.  When I told her, she said,"OK, his name is Bobby."  So somewhere in Germany, is a 56 year old man by the name of Bobby.

About this time, the U. S. government came out with a point system to start sending our soldiers back home. The more points you had earned in battles and combat, the sooner you could be sent home.  The ones with the most points went first.  I felt I would be one of the last to leave, as I had only been in Europe about eight or nine months. Some of the men had been there for years.  When my points were totaled, there were enough due to battles and combat, for me to head home then. 

While in Marseilles, France, where ships were loading to take troops home, the Army had asked for volunteers to make one jump in Japan, hold the position until regular troops replaced and relieved us, then we would be put on planes, flown home and discharged.  This sounded like the thing to do, as the war in Japan was still going on.  The group of us that volunteered, all with combat experience, was loaded onto a waiting ship and headed for the Pacific.  Two days out of Marseilles, word came over the loud-speakers that Japan had surrendered.  The war was over!! Our ship turned and headed straight for Boston in the good old USA.  That was one happy ship!  We disembarked at Boston and went on a train to Camp Grant, Illinos.
While on that train ride, I looked out the window at our country, and I cried like a baby when it hit me, I was going home, alive, to my wife and loved ones. There is always the question combat veterans ask themselves, "Why did I get out alive and so many did not?"

To be continued......The Epilogue.




Monday, October 19, 2009

The War in Europe

I left for Fort Benning, Ga, about the 27th of October, 1944. (19 yrs. old)  and sailed to Europe first class on the "Queen Elizabeth," which had been converted to a troop carrier.  I boarded the ship the 3rd of November, and arrived in Europe on the 10th, somewhere in Scotland.  We then were transported by plane to England.  It was rumored that most of us would be sent to the 101st Airborne as replacements for the men lost on D-Day, when France was re-taken and fighting was still going on throughout the country.  D-Day was June 6, 1944.  I am not sure what area we were sent to fight in, but learned this was for real, where a man could get killed and never know what happened.  I remember walking dirt roads, alongside wooded areas, with cold and snow making walking difficult, not to mention carrying rifle, ammo, and a back pack.  An officer kept yelling, "Spread out, one shell will kill you all!"  When the German shells began coming at us, we knew what the officer was saying was very true.  We finally had to move up into the wooded area and take cover. The shellings were coming steadily.  We were ordered to dig in.  The men paired off and dug two-man fox holes.  It was not easy.  The ground was frozen down to at least 12."  Fox holes were dug a couple of trees back from the tree line.  Holes were dug in record time, as all the men wanted to be down in the holes for protection from the incoming fire.  I'll never forget the whistling sound the shrapnel from the shells made when they exploded in the trees near our fox holes.  We were also getting small arms and machine gun fire coming at us.  Then came the tank mounted 88's.  We held our position for several days, but were losing men faster than they could be replaced.  The Germans would put up a bright flood light at night so we could not see past the light and therefore could not see what they were doing.  If we shot at the light, they could see where the shot was coming from and all hell would open up.  It was better not to shoot at the light.
We found we were on the edge of the Ardennes Forest on the border between Belgium and Germany.  At one point, we had Germans directly in front of us and beyond them Americans were dug in.  Behind us were our own troops.  After days and nights of this, we started thinking it would be nice to get out of this war.  So, if you and your buddy shot each other just enough to draw blood, you might get out.  Then we would consider we could both bleed to death there in a fox hole, and the idea would pass without a second thought. We had tried making small attacks out of the woods, but were driven back each time, sustaining heavy losses.  We had to leave the dead lying where they dropped.  My fox-hole buddy and I pulled a wounded man into our hole, but he died before a medic could get to him.  We had to keep his body in the hole with us for awhile, before we could get him out.  Things were getting worse every day.  One morning we were told Headquarters wanted a German prisoner form the German lines in front of us.  My buddy and I decided just before daylight that we would creep along a small creek bank that would give us some cover.  There was a thin coat of ice on the water and we, by being quiet could get behind one of their machine gun emplacements and surprise them while they were still half asleep.  We were almost around them when they saw us, but they were not minding their emplacement.  They were crawling towards the creek.  With my gun, I motioned for them to get up ahead of us and go towards our lines on their hands and knees.  Half way back we stopped to rest and one of the German soldiers said there were a lot of German soldiers wanting to surrender.  I asked why they didn't?  He said that if any soldier wanted to surrender, they had to first get by the out post that had orders to shoot anyone trying to surrender.  I asked how they managed to get by the out post without getting shot?  He said, "We are the out post."  About that time, we were laughing and small arms fire was coming at us.  Up the creek we went, breaking ice,  as we went on our hands and knees , delivering the prisoners as ordered.  The next day we made the attack and pushed the Germans way back.  I don't think there were more than a dozen or our original group of approximately 150 left.  Our remaining men were scattered out among other outfits.  I do remember fighting for a bridge, but don't recall what company or division I was with at that time.  It was now the end of January 1945.  The Battle of the Bulge was over, and Germans were fighting their way back to their homeland.  I was sent to Paris for a rest and then back to England.  In England, we trained with gliders. One morning we were snatched up in a glider by a tow line from a larger aircraft.  In our glider we had a fully loaded jeep trailer, rifles, ammunition and five men, plus the glider pilot.  We were to land over the rivers and in the center of a German parachute training camp at 12:00 noon, to catch them having lunch.  Believe it or not, it happened just that way and we caught them by surprise..  When we were landing in the glider, I was up front with the pilot as the glider was coming down.  He said to me, "Shall I go over this first fence and hit the next, or hit the first one?"  I said, "Go over the first and maybe we will stop before we hit the second fence."  A sudden stop would have brought the fully- loaded trailer forward on top of us.  When we rolled to a slow stop, I told the pilot to 'look behind him.' He saw the trailer that could have crushed us and said, "Thanks for being there." We unloaded the glider and secured our area.  The Germans did not want to put up much of a fight.  There were a couple of die-hards but the rest surrendered. 

As we moved on across Germany, we were meeting some resistance, especially from Nazi troops.  They were just plain mean. We had stopped in a first-aid station set up in the barn area of a farm.  There were men lying all around on stretchers, both American and German, all being cared for by our medics.  The medic told me the men on stretchers were being shot every once in a while by a sniper, but he could not find him.  From looking around, I knew the only place a sniper could be, was in a loft above the ground floor.  Waiting until things were still and quiet, I slowly climbed the ladder into the hay loft.  Once in the loft, in a loud, stern voice, sounding like a German officer, I said "Hinda Ho!"  and from the far corner of the loft, a young Nazi stood up.  I brought him down and took his gun away.  I asked him why he was shooting helpless men and he said he was trained not to surrender and to kill all others.

After leaving the first-aid station, we had taken the top of a hill overlooking a village below.  There had been some tough fighting by other Americans to gain this hill, but they had not been able to take and hold this hill. We came right behind the first Americans and they had been able to weaken the Germans so we re-took the hill fairly easily.  As I came up on top, there were bodies of our American soldiers lying where they had fallen.  Something pulled me to one of the bodies.. When I looked, it was Jerry Knight, after all these years, it still hurts just to think about it. 

By now, the German soldiers were all ready to surrender.  On top of a hill, I looked down to the road and there was a whole division of German troops carrying white flags.  I went down, accepted their surrender and went up front of them and marched in approximately 1500 prisoners, all by myself.  I felt like I had won the war. 

While in Duisburg, Germany, in 1945, after the fighting had stopped, our outfit was in the process of organizing a temporary government.  This was a fairly large city with thousands of people who had been hit hard by the war, which left them short of food, water, and housing. There was no city governing organization.  It was up to our U. S. Army to bring some kind of order and authority into power to govern the city and preferrably this would be accomplished with their own German people. At the time, all was confusion with American G I's in charge, not knowing who was who, or which people could be trusted, or what lies were being told by residents against each other in order to gain favor with American G I's.

One story that was reported needed immediate investigation.  The story was that a mass killing had taken place a few days prior to our fighting to capture the city.  A group of the city people directed our men to an area a short distance from the center of town.  There on the side of a small hill was evidence of fresh turned earth.  This gave proof to the allegations of mass killings. What we learned from this group of angry Germans, who were residents of  the city, was that 20 to 30 people, dressed in prison stripes, were brought
to the side of this hill, given shovels and forced to dig a trench 20 to 30 feet long, about 4 ft wide, and 6 ft deep.  They were then  forced to line up on the hill, just above the hole, and the prisoners were then shot.  Most fell into the grave, those that did not were thrown in on top of the ones that had fallen in.  Not knowing if all were dead, the trench grave was covered with earth by a bulldozer.

The group of angry citizens claimed this was done by the Nazi's who ruled things under Hitler and the prisoners who were shot would not do as the Nazis had ordered.  They would rather die first- and they did.  

Within a very short time, some of the strong Hitler followers were gathered at the grave sight by our American soldiers.  There were perhaps 20 men.  They were given shovels and under armed guards, forced to unearth the bodies, clean them off and place each one in a wooden coffin, take the coffins to the town square, where a separate grave was dug for each coffin.  The graves were covered and a marker placed at each grave sight with flowers. 

With me during the re-burying ritual, were three Russian soldiers whom our unit had freed from a prison camp.  They requested to stay with our unit.  Originally we were to be the first to Berlin, and they would leave us there.  "Victor." was the oldest, well educated and he spoke good English.  He was perhaps 30 years old and mild-mannered.  Victor was a strong church man.  "Nikolai." about 25 years old, was Mongolian Russian, short on education, and nothing disturbed him, but he know how to laugh.  The third man was "Waseal," he was tall, blonde, well-built and a 22 year old farm boy.  He had a fair education and was a nice guy. He was also a church man.

While Victor and I were standing and watching the digging to remove the bodies from the mass grave, with American GI's holding guns on the diggers, Victor said, "Bob, you Americans are not much better than the Nazi's, forcing this to be down under threat of death."  That statement has always bothered me. Victor was right.  We had let anger blur out better judgement, but anger was one of the reasons we were fighting this war.

Not long after the all of this happened, the fighting had stopped in Europe.  Word came that all Russian soldiers were to assemble in designated areas and told what to do after they were assembled.  Victor explained that a Russian was sworn to keep one last bullet for himself, and not to be taken as a live prisoner by the Germans.  Should they, as Russian soldiers, not kill themselves, they would not be accepted back to Russia.  So they felt there was no going home, as they were men without a country.  When we arrived at the designated area, there were thousands of ex-Russian soldiers, all alive.  I told Victor he was not the only chicken in Russia.  He didn't think that was funny.  All the Russian soldiers were in the same boat. Small groups were forming and there was talk of banding together to form a small army to overthrow the Russian government.  They even asked me to join them.  Luckily, about that time, word came form Mother Russia that all was forgiven, "Please come home."   That is where I left three happy friends. I learned many things from those three, especially concerning world propaganda.  We, as common people, are really nothing but sheep.  We are told what to do by the ruling authority.  In Russia, it was Stalin. In Germany, Hitler.  In Italy, Mussolini.  Now in the U. S., it is the IRS.  That is unless, of course, you have the money to hire high-priced lawyers, then you can get away with anything, even murder.  My biggest problem is with tobacco companies who are allowed to manufacture cigarettes.  Having emphysema as a result of smoking cigarettes, since I was age 9, I am not in favor of smoking.  But when you're are hooked, you're hooked, but enough  of my preaching, back to the story. 

To be continued.... Rescuing the Dutch, and delivering a baby. 


Saturday, October 17, 2009

World War 11- Learning to be a paratrooper

This story is World War 11 in early 1943, when Hitler was fighting on all fronts, winning some, and losing more often. The German U-boats had won a battle in the Atlantic by sinking 27 of our merchant ships. North Africa was a hot bed of war between our 1st Armored Division and German Panzer Troops. On May 13, 1943, German and Italian troops surrendered in North Africa, but France had been taken by the Germans, and Paris was now under an armistice with the Nazis. Denmark, Norway, France, Belgilum, Luxembourg and the Netherlands all had been defeated by the German Nazis' war machine and the Germans were now bombing England. All of Europe, along with Russia, was into the fighting and bombing. At the same time, the USA was fighting a war with Japan that was brought to our shores on December 7, 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The world had been turned into a living hell, and cities were burning and people were dying everywhere. Up to that time, the only area of the United States hit by bombs had been Pearl Harbor and we meant for it to stop there.

Betty and I talked about the situation the world was finding itself in. We agreed unless everyone put forth 100% effort, we very well could be living under German Nazi Military rule. With my going into the army, Betty felt it would be better for her to stay with the circus until I was in place at whatever location the Army would send me for training. Then she would join me until whatever was going to happen, took shape, then we could plan from there. We definitely needed a plan as our first child was due in December. Betty was in excellent physical condition, and as long as she wore loose -fitting clothes, her pregnancy did not show. Betty felt she would rather keep working while I was being moved around by the Army.

I was shipped to Fort Benning, Ga, home of the U. S. Army Parachute School, and arrived by bus on August 30, 1943. We were lined up and marched to the barracks area and told to find a bed. There were approximately 30 men to the barracks. Next morning at 4:00 a. m., we were lined up and marched to the new clothing warehouse, where we received new uniforms, then marched back to the barracks area. We were lectured on how we were to do as were were told, without question. We learned that when the word "jab" was said, we were to strike our left breast with our right fist, hold the position until the word "recover" was said; or, if the word "jab" was said, again, you were to strike your right breast with your left fist over your right arm that was still in the first 'jab" position. From a double "jab" position, the only word given could be "recover." I don't know what the "jab" was all about, except to keep everyone alert. Missing a "jab" command could mean push-ups.

The lecture of doing as you were told, without question, and this silly thing with the "jab" was not sitting well with me. I had been able to think for myself since leaving home at 16, and I wasn't there to play games. That kind of thinking was about to get me in big trouble. All of the men in the group I was in, had come from other Army divisions. They had been through basic training, which for some reason, I had not been, then had volunteered for parachute school. They then would be "paratroopers," the elite of the Army Airborne.

There I was, straight off the Ringling Brothers Circus, free as a bird, never any kind of strict discipline to prepare me for military behavior, stuck in one of the toughest outfits for military discipline, with some of the roughest and most hardened men ever assembled in one group.

Waiting for more volunteers ito arrive so the class would be of proper number, approximately 200, there was nothing to do. Things got a little testy among the men and officers in charge.
One of the young officers decided one morning at 3:00 a. m. that everyone had to pee. He went through the barracks hollering, "Everyone up for pee call." and to "fall in ranks in the company street!" I, for one, stayed in bed. I did not need to pee. I felt the young officer was just being an asshole and showing off his rank. When he came into the barracks to make sure everyone was out, he found me still in bed. He pulled the covers off me and pulled me out of bed. That was his mistake. I came up fighting and knocked him out the door. He landed on his ass in the company street in front of the men lined up there for 'pee call.' I turned and went back to bed. I could hear the men laughing and the officer making threats about what he was going to do about my striking an officer. Sure enough, 10:00 a. m. the next morning, word came for me to report to the Company Commander on the double. Never having been in the Company Headquarters, this was something new. I went in the door, told the Sergeant I had been requested to report to the Company Commander and my name was 'Martin'. From another office, a strong stern voice said, " Yes, I have been waiting for you Martin, get in here!" I walked in, went up to his desk, put my hands on top of his desk, and asked what he wanted to see me about, as if I didn't know. The Captain came out of his chair, stood looking at me, not seeming to know what to say for a few seconds. Then he asked me how long I had been in the army. I told him, "under two months." He asked if I had basic training of any kind? I told him," I had not. They had sent me there from the Induction Camp in Michigan, where I had been through the physical and evaluation examinations, sworn in, then shipped to Fort Benning to the Parachute School." The Captain pulled my file, sat there reading, then began laughing. He told me to sit down and relax, the Army was at fault by not sending me for basic training prior to Parachute School. The Captain said he would send me for basic training. When I finished, I could volunteer for Parachute School. He said he would like to have me back at the School, as an Instructor. This sounded good to me. I asked about knocking the young officer out the door. "Was I in trouble?" The Captain said, "No, just apologize and I'm sure he will accept your apology. That incident will help him to be a better officer."

Sometime during the next few weeks, papers arrived sending me to Camp Robinson Arkansas, 'set back in the hills that never stopped,' but near the city of Little Rock. That was another world, with natural gas heated cabins and up on top of the the hills at night, every star in the sky could be seen. I really enjoyed going through basic training there in the mountains of Arkansas.
As hectic as times were, there seemed to be a little time to sit back and figure what life was all about and to try to work out in my mind, the path I hoped to be on with the ones I loved. After completing basic training, I received a call from Betty that it would not be long when the baby would be ready to make its' entrance. Betty was staying in St. Petersburg, Florida with her folks. She felt more comfortable being there during the last part of her pregnancy. The next call was to inform me that Betty was on the way to the hospital. I contacted my Commanding Officer and received a five-day pass to be with Betty and the baby in St. Pete. By the time I arrived at the hospital, Betty had already delivered a beautiful baby girl, and named her Connie Lee, after her two best friends in the circus. With the five-day pass about to run out, and all was doing well in St. Pete, I headed back to Arkansas, where I was told on arrival, that I would be heading to Fort Benning, Ga to the Parachute School. Having completed basic training, I was now to go through Jump School. At the beginning of Jump School, there is a week of "Pre-A" stage, where the training is extra rigorous, with calesthenics and a five-mile run every day. They would increase the speed of the run each day. If the volunteer student cannot keep up with the class and drops out, then the student is washed out of the parachute troops and sent to regular Infantry. By doing this, the government saves the money and time it would take to put the student through the school and then have them drop out.

Having passed "Pre-A stage," you then moved on to regular Jump School starting with "A" stage, with more physical fitness to make the body stronger and withstand the shock of landing by parachute when loaded with 50- 60 lbs of gear. "B" stage and "C" stage is more of the same. "D" stage is the last week of school, learning to pack your own chute. Five jumps are required to graduate. One of them is a night jump. At that time "C-47's" were being used as jump planes. It was necessary to stand up, hook up and go in turn out the door.

During one night jump, it had just stopped raining and the wet black-top looked like a small river. During jump school, it was taught that if it appeared you might land in water, you should get free of the parachute straps, and let the parachute go prior to landing in the water. If you didn't get rid of the parachute, it could come down on top of you and you could drown. Several jumpers looking down saw the black-top and assumed it was water, so getting free of the chute , they dropped free about twenty feet above the road. Can you imagine hitting that road, thinking it was going to be water?

That night jump produced several learning experiences: be sure it is water before dropping out of your chute; and how to help your buddies with broken arms and legs. The base hospital was busy that night. I am sure nothing like that happened again. Going through Jump School was like being back on the circus, learning new tricks and acts. I was lucky my body was tuned for this type of life. I really felt sorry for some of the men, who thought they were in good physical condition, but had no idea what was really necessary to become a paratrooper.

While going through "C" stage, I goofed. The Sergeant giving the class said, "Martin, let's do some small arm circles." Which was a type of physical punishment to teach you not to goof again. The thing about it is, that if an instructor gives it as punishment, he has to do it with you. Most of the instructors are in superior physical condition and can really make you hurt, so that your arms will not stay up. When they think you have hurt enough they will stop. The instructors had built up strength in their shoulders and were masters at small arm circles. When this certain instructor ordered me to do small arm circles with him, he had no idea what he had done. I never said a word, and started doing small arm circles - holding my arms straight out to the sides at shoulder height and turning my hands and arms in small circles, along with the instructor. After a while, the instructor felt I should be tired, but all I did was smile. We kept going, and I could see he was tiring and his arms were getting heavy. I just smiled. After a while longer, I could see the instructor was struggling and becoming flustered. He then told another instructor to take his place. The replacement was about worn out, when the first instructor stopped us. He was laughing now, as we had gathered an audience to see this battle of the small arm circles. The Sergeant in charge of all the instructors asked, "Who the hell are you?" Laughing, I told him I was a circus performer, acrobat and trapese artist. He smiled and said, "No wonder!" From then on, we were the best of friends.

By the time Jump School was completed and my five jumps finished, I was now a Qualified Paratrooper and Rigger and had been assigned as an instructor in the "Pre-A" stage. Now was the time to find a place in town where Betty and Connie Lee could join me. I had gotten to know most of the cadre. One of the men, Hank Akers, was in charge of the base swimming pool. He was married and lived in town in a four-bedroom house and was looking for some people to share the house and expenses. Just what I was looking for. I called Betty and told her to come on home. We both knew it would not be for long, but at least we could be together for a while. Being in love and being apart is one of the worst things a person should have to endure in life, especially at this time in history. No one can honestly say what the world would be like one year from now. Even now, we ask ourselves, will the earth still be here? With all the weapons and fire power that is being developed, it could all end with one big bang. This is a fear we all have, but don't talk about.

When Betty and Connie Lee arrived, it was a new world. It didn't take long to get settled in. We had a large bedroom and bath and the kitchen and living areas were shared with two other couples. Hank and Jenny Akers, and another couple who were a little older. They preferred to keep to themselves. This worked out fine. He was also an instructor in the Jump School and they loved to baby-sit. Hank Akers had been a professional swimmer prior to joining the army. He had doubled for Johnny Weissmuller in some of the Tarzan movies. He would do the cliff dives. He also swam in Billy Rose's "Aquacades," a movie with Eleanor Holmes. Hank was a fun guy. He claimed to be the the seventh son from an Irish family, and he would drink to that, to prove it. His wife, Jenny was as pretty and sweet as an Irish lass could be.

We all enjoyed the house in Columbus, Georgia. Lots of parties and good friends, plenty of hard work at the school. One afternoon at the Jump School, a note was handed to me. It was from Lt. Knight wanting me to give him a call. I called him back and found that he was the same Jerry Knight who had been a knife-thrower with the Ringling Brothers Circus , then a police officer in Sarasota, Florida. We had run around together a bit during Winter Quarters. Jerry was now an officer in the army, not in the paratroopers, but in the regular army. Jerry travelled in a well-to-do circle of friends. He insisted that Betty and I join him and his girlfriend at various social functions around town and on base. Both Jerry and I knew that officers and enlisted men were not allowed to socialize, but this never bothered Jerry. Then he received word that his army division was being sent to Europe. We hated to see him leave, but Jerry was happy to be getting into combat. He felt the sooner we could get into the fighting, the sooner the war would be over. (More about Jerry later).

Life was kind to Betty and me. We were living as a family. We had no idea until now what real love was all about. There was nothing I would not do for Betty and she felt the same about me. Whenever we looked at each other, a wrm smile came on our faces. That's real love. It never ended and will last for eternity.

Things were not going well with the wars in Europe and Japan. Here at home in the United States, ration books were needed to buy almost any item: meats, gasoline, tires or anything that was needed to be used for the war effort. It all was rationed. Everyone was willing to do without, just to get this war to end. The whole world was affected. All America was feeling the desperation. The effort to win the war was 100%. There was now no way to plan even six months or a year ahead. Betty and I agreed that I would ask for overseas duty. Betty would take Connie and go to Detroit, Michigan, to live with my mother so Betty could work in one of the defense plants, while grandmother watched the baby .

to be continued.... To Scotland and the war in Europe.

Friday, October 16, 2009

On to Nashville, More Stories Under the Big Top

After we were under canvas and on the road, Ringling Brothers came to the realization that the show was short of working people such as ushers to set up the stands, place the chairs and seat people. Management then asked for volunteers from the performers to help other departments. A few of us younger fellows pitched in and set up the stands and placed the chairs. Some of the older ushers were there and showed us how to make a few dollars for ourselves. By lapping each chair one inch over the one next to it, you would have room for one extra chair in each row, which there would not be a ticket sold for. So, with approximately 30 extra chairs, that you sold for $3.00 each, which was less than the ticket price, you made $90.00 per show. When we went back to the dressing tent to get ready for the show, and the "old-timers' saw all that money we were making, they all wanted to volunteer to help. I don't think the ushers were paid, and that's how their money was made.

While playing small towns under canvas, there is not time for the work crews to go into town and sight-see or just enjoy leisure time. Consequently, crap games develop around the trains at night. A six by six piece of canvas was laid down on smooth ground and lanterns places at each corner. A houseman furnished the dice and bank roll, and the game would begin. Late one night I wandered down and got into the crap game. All I could do was win. I made several trips to the 'virgin car' to give Betty the cash I was winning and then I would go right back and win some more. About the time I believed I owned the circus, the houseman called the Pinkerton security people, who traveled with the show. He had them watch me. The Pinkertons took over the running of the crap game and it wasn't long until they had the circus back, and, all the money I had given to Betty to hold. I don't know how they stopped my lucky streak, but I wasn't fool enough to ask or complain.. With the Pinkerton's this was very serious business. My lesson learned, was that there is always someone luckier or smarter than you think you are.

A couple of days prior to playing Nashville, Tennessee, a meeting was held in the men's dressing tent by a group of the older clowns. It seems that in Nashville there were some bordellos that were favorites of the old timers and they felt a party would be in order. However, they wanted the money to be handled by one man, due to past experiences. So, one of the Bulgarian bar actors was elected to pay for everything. Each man gave $50.00 the day we arrived in Nashville. There were clown, actors, acrobats, midgets, dwarfs and so on. Probably close to 30 men.

At the first Bordello, when the Bulgarian bar actor tried to settle the bill a huge brawl erupted.
The police were called to break it up. One of the policemen asked what had caused the fight? The madam said, "The Bulgarian only wanted to pay half-price for the midgets and dwarfs.
She wanted full price. The policeman said it would be settled very easily. He told a dwarf to drop his pants. When he did the policeman said, "Pay full price!" There was no half-price warranted. A good time was had by all.

On hot summer days between shows, we would gather up a group of the younger performers and have the show bus take us to a local swimming pool. the show bus did not have a sign on it that it was the circus bus, so the local people didn't know who or where the 20 or 30 of us came from? After a few minutes of letting the local guys and gals get their eyes full and all excited, we would go into a few acrobatic routines and then start in on the diving boards. The local people had no idea what was happening . If they had paid $100 each, they would not have seen a better show than a group of young circus performers trying to out-do each other. Naturally by the time we left the pool, we had made many new friends, which made for a large crowd for the night show.

Speaking of trying to out-do each other.... I can remember when the circus train would be stopped for an hour or two. The performers would become restless and walk along the stopped train cars and visit with each other. Some of us young fellow, Christianni's, Zerbeines, Ivanos, Eddi Kohl, Billy Thompson and I would make bets as to who could do the most forward gains when doing a back somersault from a standing position on a railroad track. What we were doing was far more dangerous than anything we did during the show. We would have been in big trouble if any of our bosses had seen what we were doing. If I can remember correctly, the most I could gain was 2", but the Christianni's could all do better than 4".

One of the more uncomfortable experiences that would occur quite often while traveling on the circus train, was the very rough handling and moving of the performers' railroad cars. Every so often the engineer driving the locomotive with the performers' cars attached would bump and bang the railroad cars so badly that you would literally be thrown out of bed and knocked about on the floor. Eddy Ward, a catcher in the trapeze act, was trying to shave one day. This was after the cars had been bumped and banged for three days by the same engineer. The day before, Eddy had gone up and talked with the engineer about handling the cars more gently. The engineer gave Eddy a smart remark like, "Can't you take a few bumps?" This morning was all Eddy could take. His face was bloody from trying to shave and being bumped. He threw down his razor, jumped out of the car and ran up to the locomotive. He told the engineer to stop the train and come down on the ground. When he did, Eddy hit him square in the nose and asked him how he liked being bumped? When Eddy came back to our car, the car porter said to Eddy, "That was an awful thing to do" Eddy's reply was, "Yeah, but I sure feel a lot better." We had same engineer for another week, and we could hardly feel the train move.

What most of the performers did enjoy was what we called a "Dukie Run." It was a 2 or 3 day run over a long distance. The 'dukies' were the box lunches that everyone received. The 'Dukie Runs' were a social time for us, a time for for card games, stories and dreams. During these runs, the trains would have to stop, by law, every so many hours to feed, water and exercise the animals. Of course the performers took advantage of this law. The train was stopped in a very small town that only had a drug store and a movie house for local entertainment. We talked the
the movie house owner into opening up and showing a movie while we were stopped. In the middle of the movie, the circus train blew its' whistle and that meant it was leaving, and it did. Some didn't make it on time and had to hire a taxi to catch the train at the next stop. After paying one of those taxi cab bills, you learned to not wander too far from the train.

During the 1942 season, the circus was hit hard by the war. In 1943, it was almost a disaster, due to the labor shortage of all the crews. Even the circus band converted to canned music. In March of 1943, I turned eighteen and reported to my draft board in Detroit, Michigan. Within
a few months, I was told to report for induction at an army camp at Kellog, Michigan. The next few days were spent taking tests and physical examinations. After the tests, and examinations, the officer in charge asked what I did prior to coming into the army? I told him I was an acrobat and had been with the Ringling Brother, Barnum and Bailey Circus. He said, "I have just the right job for you. Here sign this!" If course, being young and stupid, I did. He said, " You are now in the United States Army Parachute Troops." The next day they shipped my butt off to Fort Benning, Georgia, which is a whole new story.

To be continued....... World War 11

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Christianni's and the circus fire.

Some of the couples in the book by Connie Clausen, "I Love You Honey, but the Season's Over," were couples put together by Professor Love. Connie Clausen is the Connie after whom we named our daughter, Connie Lee. Connie Clausen was one of the sweetest and most intelligent girls in the show. Connie knew how to make you feel great just by talking to you. She was honest and not afraid to say what she was thinking. Connie and I talked quite often, and her love life was in turmoil. She was going with one of the Christianni boys. The Christianni's were a large Italian family doing several acts: bareback riding, acrobats, teeter-board and most of the production numbers. Connie's boyfriend, of course, lived with the family in the Christianni car, where mama Christianni did all the cooking and rode shot-gun over her brood. Mama Christianni knew about and had to approve of whatever her kids were doing. That kind of put a damper on what Connie and her boyfriend could and could not do. What kept Connie in a state of frustration, was the boyfriend was pressing for sex and Connie knew the moment she gave in, Mama Christianni would know about it through her other children. Connie preserved her virginity for what seemed to her to be a lifetime, but on the other hand, she was relieved as her boyfriend was a wild man and that somewhat frightened her when it came to the act of losing her virginity. Knowing her fears and because her boyfriend and I were good friends, I got him alone and without his knowing that Connie and I had talked, I let him in on a few facts of life and how to treat an American girl. A few days later, I talked with Connie and she was relaxed, smiling and happy. I never asked if she was still a virgin, but she and her boyfriend were together the rest of the time, until the end of the season. Thus, the title of her book, "I Love You Honey, but the Season's Over."

Speaking of love. During the show number of "The Wedding of Toto and Gargantua," in which I had been selected to be the bride Toto. Gargantua, the groom, was one of the Bulgarian bar performers. We were dressed in gorilla costumes, of course. The routine of the wedding was the gorilla bride and groom were brought into the center ring and married there by a preacher. Then a horse-drawn 'wedding carriage' was driven into the center ring and the happy couple seated themselves in the carriage for the trip around the hippodrome track for everyone to see the newly-married gorilla couple. That gorilla wedding number was advertised prior to the circus arrival in each town, which may have led some people to believe that real gorillas were being married. Of course, with our costumes on, we did look like the real thing. Those costumes weighed 40-50 pounds each. As we were being displayed around the hippodrome track, we could hear the comments of the under -canvas audience, such as "They're not real!" or "They're fake!" These under-canvas audiences were closer than other audiences, such as in New York or Boston, where we would not have heard their remarks. After hearing the people's remarks a few times, I decided to find out if the audience really thought we were fake. As the carriage came close to the bleachers and I could hear the doubts being voiced about the gorillas, I made a fast jump, as if I was coming out of the carriage into the audience. There were screams, screeches, and cries of fear, as the audience near the carriage vanished. As some of the crowd looked back to see if the gorillas were after them, I would throw them my wedding bouquet and act shy. That worked so well, and was so much fun, that I was told to keep it in the number. The audience enjoyed the scare and looking foolish afterwards. The music for the wedding was Harry James, "You Made me Love You." To this day, when we hear the song, my wife looks at me with those bedroom eyes and winks.

As the season rolled on, everyone was gaining more confidence with their acts and each other. Betty and I were startled late one afternoon to hear "Modoc," one of the lead elephants, crying and moaning in the center ring of the Big Top. We went in to see what was going on. Walter McClain, the boss elephant trainer, was standing next to Modoc, making her do headstands over and over. Poor Modoc was crying because it hurt and she knew she was being punished for not doing her number correctly during the show. Now there were four of us with tears in our eyes, Modoc, Walter, Betty and myself.

Walter McClain was not a mean elephant boss or trainer. The men and elephants all loved him and he loved them. A surprise electical/wind storm hit late one night. The elephants were in the tent with a chain around one leg, with the chain attached to a wooden stake driven into the ground. As the storm increased, the elephants, about 15 of them, became uneasy and began to trumpet and sway. The more the storm increased, the more the elephants worked themselves into a frightening state of mind in which all they knew to do, was pull their stakes out of the ground and run. The bull hands in the tent could not stop them. An elephant stampede started, and the elephants were running and trumpeting. To see a scared and stampeding herd of elephants heading off the circus lot and towards a small town is enough to give a strong man weak knees and a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

As the elephants all joined in the stampede, Walter McClain came running and as loud as he could, he hollered, "Ruth Stop!!" As Ruth was the lead elephant, she put on the brakes and the herd behind her stopped. Walter went up and talked to Ruth and she turned around and led the herd back to the elephant tent. The punishment Ruth recieved was a love pat from Walter. The elephants were following their natural instinct: when in danger, run, but the elephants knew that Walter would take care of them and protect them. Their respect and love for Walter saved many lives and a small town from destruction that day.

One last story about elephants. It happened during a fire in Cleveland, Ohio. The menagerie caught fire between shows. The circus lost many horses, camels, cats and other animals, including elephants. Their hides were burned and falling off in chunks. They would just stand there and cry, they were in so much pain. Some animals died in the fire and others had to be shot to set them free of pain, since there was no chance of their surviving. Circus and city crews worked late into the night with large cranes and trucks. Bulldozers had to be transported out into the country where large holes could be dug to bury the many burned and dead animals. That was one of the saddest days for everyone in the circus family.

Betty lost her elephant, "Cass." in the fire, which hit her hard. Betty had become like a mother to Cass and her best interest was foremost in Betty's mind. Elephants have a way of returning your love, so losing Cass, was like losing a member of her family and she was heartbroken. She had worked with Cass starting back with rehearsals in Sarasota. Betty would bring a loaf of bread each day so that Cass would permit the hair to be burned off her hide in the areas where Betty sat during "The Elephant Ballet." If this elephant hair was not removed, it's like sitting on needles.

An elephant hand or groom, whichever one wishes to call the elephant caretaker, was sitting in a bar one afternoon having a beer. He was dirty and covered with wet elephant dung. The bartender asked him what he did for a living? The man replied that he was with the circus. He did many jobs. He loaded and unloaded the circus from the trains, and he was just promoted to Elephant Hand First Class, and he took care of the elephants. He fed and watered them, and when they were constipated, he would get a ladder, climb up and lift the elephant's tail, reach in the hole under the tail and remove the blockage. When he did that, the dung and water would rush out and cover him and that's why he smelled like he did. The bartender said, " Good gosh man, why don't you quit and find other work?" the elephant hand replied, "What, and leave show business?" That's an old circus story, but how true it is.

One number that was fun to do was the "Popcorn Gag." When the juggler, Mosey Milliano Trutsey, was about to go on in the center ring, I would get a seat in front of the center ring about half-way up the aisle. During the juggling act, the juggler would throw a ten inch ball into the crowd and the ball would be thrown back to him and he would catch it on a knife he held in his mouth. On about the third throw into the audience, the ball would be thrown to me. I would be sitting on an end seat and would step out in the aisle to catch and throw the ball back. As I would throw the ball, a popcorn vendor with a tray of popcorn-filled bags held in one hand, high above his shoulder, would try to pass me in the aisle. The ball would hit the tray of popcorn and popcorn would fly everywhere. This always brought a laugh and of course, the popcorn vendor and I would have an arm-waving discussion about who was going to pay for the popcorn? The juggler paid the vendor and me $5.00 a week to do this gag. But what he didn't know, was that the people in the audience would feel sorry for the vendor and would give him money for the popcorn that was spilled. Between the vendor and me we made more than the $5.00 per show, by the audience's paying for the popcorn. I can see Mosey Milliano Trutsey's face now, when he discovered how much money we made, and he didn't get a penny of it. He was so tight he would ask if we could use the same popcorn twice.

to be continued....On to Nashville and more stories under the Big Top.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Traveling under the Big Top

Philadelphia was our first date for the circus under canvas. Another first: we would be contending with rain, wind and lightning, floods, cold and hot weather, which, while performing in Madison Square Garden and Boston Gardens, had not been a consideration, as both buildings had been enclosed. One of the worst to contend with was mud. We have seen elephants stuck in mud up to their bellys, and tractors would have to be used to pull them out. I really think the elephants enjoyed being stuck, as they seemed to smile when pulled out. If one elephant was hooked up with pulling gear and went in the mud while pulling another elephant out, they would both seem to giggle about having to have a tractor pull them out.

Now under canvas, the full circus goes into operation. The advance men would go ahead and pick out the towns, the lot's location (not too far from a railroad sidings), make the deals, do the posting and advertising. In general, they would lay all the ground work for the circus trains to arrive. There were four trains: the first train carried the land clearing and leveling equipment, along with some workmen and the elephants, canvas, rigging, ropes and stakes. These were all loaded and packed in wagons which had to be moved from railroad cars to the circus lot by trucks, tractors and elephants. The second train brought more canvas, rigging, wagons, trucks and tent erection crews. The third train carried animals, the sideshow, buses, cook-tent, power plants, performers' rigging and seats. The fourth train held the performers, wardrobe, office wagons, office personnel, the band and instruments. The circus was a traveling city, all within itself.

In 1941, the U S Army made a study as to how this was accomplished. It has been my good fortune to see and experience a lot of what this world has to offer, but to this day I am amazed at the remarkable efficiency with which Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, could move that city of 1,500 people and four trains, the Big Top, and all the other tents, maybe 15 to 20 of them; power plants that furnished lighting for all the circus, the horses, lions, tigers, gorillas, elephants, the feeding of all those animals and the hands that cared for them. The trains, erection, tear-down, canvas crews, along with all the front office personnel and the performers. All of that could be moved from trains, set up, two shows perfomed, all of it torn down, packed, loaded on board the trains again and moved to the next town, and within a 24 hour day. I don't believe the U S Army has been able to reach that kind of efficiency even yet. Keep in mind, the circus made a profit and as it left each town, that town could hardly wait for it to return the next year.

While playing in Philadelphia the first week under the canvas tent, the Wallendas fell while doing a high-wire routine, with four or five of the family involved. The worst one hurt was Joe Wallenda, who suffered a broken leg. He was taken at once to a hospital where the leg was set and a cast applied. Joe was in pain and he was told to stay off his leg for a few days. That night, for the evening show, there was Joe up on the high-wire, doing the act as if the leg cast did not exist.

Remembering the Wallendas that first week under canvas: Carl Wallenda and I had become friendly by dong little things to help each other. One particular day, Carl was up on one end of the high-wire, where there are small platforms that hold the bicycles and balancing poles. Carl saw me walk into the Big Top during tween-shows and he called down for me to come up and please give him a hand. It looked to me like he was having trouble with part of his rigging. So, up I went to help. When I reached the platform, Carl said, " get up on my shoulders, stand and reach up, and loosen a twisted rope." That I did, then Carl turned with me still standing on his shoulders , picked up a balance pole and off we went across the high-wire to the other platform. Never having been on a high-wire before, this scared me so badly, I could not move or say anything. On reaching the other platform, Carl said, "Now reach up and untwist the same rope as on the other platform." That I did and came off Carl's shoulder, still so shaken that I didn't speak. Carl said, "I knew you were not frightened by height, so anytime you would like to, come work with us. " Little did he know that it was him that frightened me. He did things that were far too dangerous and were not necessary to keep up the good name of the Wallendas. Carl died while walking a high-wire between buildings in Puerto Rico. A strong wind blew him off the wire. Carl was aware that the wind whipping between the buildings was a danger. If Carl had been younger, he would not have fallen. His mind knew to grab the wire, but at his age, his body did not react fast enough.

The Wallendas were a fine and proud family, and Betty and I became close friends with them. Carl was married to Helen, Herman was married to Lee and Joe was single. At that time, there were only five people in the act. Our daughter, Connie Lee, was named in part for Lee Wallenda, who was a beautiful, gracious, and fun-loving woman. She was also named after another friend of ours in the circus, Connie Clausen, who I will talk about later. Lee and Herman later divorced and Lee replaced the Kirmrist girl when Vera was badly hurt in an auto collision.

In the dressing tent and across from my trunk was the German fellow who did the act of piling tables one on top of the other. Then, at a height of approximately thirty to forty feet, he would sit in a chair placed on top of all the tables. He would rock the stack of tables back and forth, back and forth, until the angle of falling was just about reached. He played this angle of fall back and forth, keeping the audience in suspense. With each rock, the tables would almost fall, with him still in the chair on top. He did this act well, and when the tables finally fell, he would hit the ground and and roll to a standing curtsy. The audience loved him.

One morning early, I came into the dressing tent, and he was at his trunk with a pile of women's clothes beside him. With a large pair of scissors, he was cutting each piece of clothing into very small pieces. I stood there watching him. He did not say a word, just kept cutting. Finally, I got up enough nerve to ask him what he was doing? He said he had caught his beautiful young wife talking with a young man. He would not have that kind of action by his wife, so he was getting rid of everything he had given her. He must have destroyed thousands of dollars worth of clothing. I offered the opinion that he may be a little hasty with what he was doing. It turned out that I was right. In a couple of days, they were back together and he had to buy her a completely new wardrobe. He told me later he wished he had stopped when I said he was being hasty. Of course, his wife learned how to acquire a new wardrobe.

Further across the trunks, and in another line, several clowns all had their trunks placed side by side. Most of the gentlemen had been Broadway and burlesque performers and just loved the
show business so much that as long as they could perform some kind of act, they would not give up. There were a few that were famous from the clown characaters they created, such as Lou Jacobs, with his small automobile that held at least ten clowns. Paul Jung, with papier-mache heads he created for the clown numbers. Almost all of the fellows kept in their trunks a tap-board, a board of half-inch thick plywood. It was 18 inches wide by 24 inches long. When placed on flat, level ground, it became a floor for practicing tap-dancing steps. One of the joys of the older fellows was teaching tap steps to us younger fellows. We were known as the "first of Mays" that being our first year on the show. Of course, the way to get back with them when they called us that was to say, "I'd rather be a first of May, then the 'Last of November', " but when you said it, you'd better be running.

One of our favorites was the clown Johnny Tripp, known in the circus world as "Professor Love." As soon as the season started, Professor Love went right to work matching up all unattached people. Sometimes if he was having problems finding matches, he would spend hours talking to individuals about other individuals to try to work out a happy match. Often, during the season, couples would seek out advice from Professor Love to keep together the match he had engineered.

to be continued.....The Christianni's and the circus fire UA-11301203-1