Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Ogden loses another legend--Karen Waters RIP

I guess I'm at the age where folks I covered are now dying, but it is never fun to see.

Karen Waters is -- and should remain -- a legend along Ogden's 25th Street. As much as anyone, she played a key role in revitalizing Two-Bit Street.

Her small initial cafe, located under where the City Club is now, was small but comfortable, with great food and a constant crowd. Wednesdays were the hardest to get in because that was when they had meat loaf or pot roast, alternating weeks, and you were wise to call ahead and reserve your portions of those two commodities.

She always celebrated Elvis' Birthday by serving up free fried peanut and banana sandwiches. She had a thing for Elvis that would have made her husband jealous if Elvis weren't allegedly dead. One time I was talking to her about him and she started fanning herself, admitting that she was getting just a titch hot and bothered talking about him.

Karen fought numerous battles with the city in order to stay open. She had to struggle just to keep barrel-half planters in front of her store. It seemed as if zoning and building inspectors just didn't want her to be there some times, but she persisted.

Her cafe was what a cafe ought to be--hot coffee, good food, a steady stream of regulars who'd hang out, kill time and joke with the wait staff. Those included the odd (yes, very odd) journalist, who missed no opportunity to write up the place. Hey, everyone needs a publicity agent and, no, I never took free meals.

Local politicians were also regulars -- I need to dig it out, but I did one column when a local lawmaker died who'd been a friend. She hung his cowboy hat on the wall in his memory, I thought it was nice and wrote about it, and she hung the column next to the hat.

That hat and column followed her down the street to her new, much larger, cafe, and always hung there. I felt honored every visit.

Karen's key role in 25th Street exploded when she opened that new place -- it is now Jesse Jean's Coffee Beans -- in the 100 block. She was right next to a newly opened Ogden Blue in buildings the city had just put up, and she lived in an apartment upstairs.  The place was jammed from the word go and the whole street took off. Meat loaf, pot roast and her famous crummy chicken were always there.

Karen's new cafe was filled with memorabilia of her family -- family pictures were imbedded into the plastic of the counter, and it breaks my heart to think of them all tossed out when the interior was demolished.

But all things come to an end. Karen's health declined, and she just couldn't keep up the business. Restaurants are hard to run, you need to be healthy to fight the battle, and after a while it just didn't work any more.

All things change, but it's sad when they do. I hope Karen's afterlife is filled with fun customers to talk to, lots of that amazing meat loaf (I'm guessing the recipe died with her) and, every now and then, some thoughts about Elvis, just to keep her warm.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Murdered, Missing Dad Found In Ogden 45 Years Later


I got a note on facebook on Father's Day from a lady in Minnesota asking for help finding her dad.

"My name is Tamara Hergert," she said in one of those little Facebook message thingies which just showed up. "And you don't know me. I was speaking to someone who has lived in Ogden, UT. all her life and she pointed me in your direction.

"In January 1973 my father, Willard Thomas Hobart, was murdered on 25th. He was stabbed in the lungs, which resulted in his death."

And that was all she knew.

I didn't know Tamara from Adam, and have no clue who referred her to me, but if there's one thing I enjoy it is a hunt. Dead people aren't usually very hard to find either; they tend to stay in one place. But this was complicated by the facts of the case -- there was no immediate family in town when Hobart died, he seemed to be a transient, so the county would have buried him, perhaps?

Perhaps.

Tamera said her dad had a very troubled 46 years of life. He left home at an early age after his mother married a second husband who told his mother she had to choose between her children or him, and she picked him. Willard and a brother and sister all jumped a train to California.

Her father joined the Navy during World War II, married afterwards, had a child, divorced and ended up in Denver, where he married Tamara's mother.

"1958 was a tough year for him," she said. "A lot of changes. Married in January, a father again in December, " and then to have that child, a son, die accidentally.

"And he also suffered from serious shell shock, PTSD as we call it now. It was too much for him and he drank to cope."

When drinking, he'd disappear for long periods, then come back. He struggled, but the addiction won. "One day he went away and never came back again."

"We don't know how he wound up in Ogden. It's the final piece to a puzzle I will be working to put together for some time. But he wasn't a bad man. Just a human being who got lost in the pain of living."

She found out he was in Ogden by putting his name into Google, which turns up a news story in Standard-Examiner from Jan. 6, 1973.  Willard Thomas Hobart, that story says, was found stabbed in room 2 of the Helena Hotel, which still stands on 25th Street. Police arrested a suspect, Hobart died at St. Benedict's Hospital.

What happened to him next? My first thought was the cemeteries.

I went to the Ogden City Cemetery because I figured a pauper's funeral might be held there.  No dice.  The sexton there said Aultorest did a lot of those too, try there?

I did. No dice again.

Meanwhile, I'd asked Police  Chief Randy Watt for help. By some miracle did they still have the police report on this crime?

Folks: Miracles happen. Yes they did. On Microfiche.

Randy said the report indicated that Lindquist Funeral Home took the body to the medical examiner's office, and assumed that they'd handled things after that. They were next on my list, so I visited their offices.

Sure enough. A quick search of their records -- which are on paper files in the basement -- found that Lindquist had, indeed, taken care of Mr. Hobart. Their files indicated that they'd found enough ID with him to get his Social Security and veterans information, but had been unable to locate his immediate family.

So, using $253 from Social Security, and $250 from the Veterans Administration, he was cremated and interred.

Did they know where? Sure: A quick run to Washington Heights found him in Greenlawn 2, space 138 A, right next to Washington Boulevard.

There is no marker on the grave, but I was able to walk right to the spot. It has a lovely view looking east. The cemetery folk said it would be their pleasure to help Tamara put a marker there.

Tamara sent me a logbook of her dad's ship in the U.S. Navy, the USS General Leroy Eltinge (AP-154), a transport that had a brief career. In includes full crew photos and there's her dad in Division H. He's got what she describes as a "goofy smile" on his face and looks a lot like her own children. It is, she says, the best photo she has of him.


Why did he end up in Ogden? As I told Tamara, Two-Bit Street then was the classic Skid Row. Ogden was a national rail hub, so no matter where Hobart was going, if he was bumming rides on trains he would have to go through Ogden. The Helena was one of several low-cost places on the street.

His final moments were tragic. The police report, and news accounts, are pretty spare on detals.  Apparently nobody felt a strong need to go into detail about the death of a transient.

The police report says the officer on the beat was called to the Helena because of a stabbing. In Room 2 he found Hobart laying "on his back across the bed with his feet on the floor. His shirt had been removed by an unknown person. Victim was unconscious and a would giving the appearance of a knife would was apparent on the upper left. Wound was bleeding heavily."

Two other men were in the room, but both were drunk and not much help.

A suspect, James Hare, was apprehended nearby. He had a hunting knife on him and, the report says, "freely admitted stabbing victim with malice and forethought."

Subsequent news stories didn't say much more. Mr. Hare eventually pled guilty to a slightly lesser charge and was given five-to-life.

Tamara is making plans to visit Ogden this summer. She wants to visit her dad and put a marker on his grave. I am very happy I was able to help her do that.







Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Government enforced racism: Nothing new. Just ask Chinese

Listening to racist rants in the daily news, it would be easy to think that we're rapidly declining in civility, but an argument could be made that we're actually just standing still.

Even the language has stayed the same. The same tape gets played over and over.

Consider the Chinese.

Those poor sods built the railroad, filling in the gaps of a massive labor shortage on the West Coast to dig tunnels through the Sierra Nevada mountains and across the dry flats of Nevada and Utah. They came here hoping to find work, a life.

And what sort of thanks do they get? The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, renewed a decade later and not finally repealed until 1943.

The act itself was pretty mean, but it reflected massive hatred and fear of an entire ethnic group. Chinese were viewed as (and this ought to sound familiar) bringers of disease, poverty, low wages and crime.



They were hounded out of the country, discriminated against, robbed by officials and, in more than one occasion, slaughtered.

The slaughter occurred right next door to Ogden, over in Rock Springs.

The Rock Springs Massacre, in 1885, started because the Union Pacific Railroad had hired a bunch of the Chinese at lower wages than they were paying white laborers. The whites resented losing their jobs, and resented the lower sages their jobs were paying, and attacked the Chinese.  In the end 28 were killed and more than 70 of their homes burned. Federal troops had to come in to quiet things down.

(This sort of game playing by corporations is not at all unusual. In the book "Grapes of Wrath" John Steinbeck describes the tactic of California fruit growers who tell poor farmers in Oklahoma there's lots of work to be had in California. Driven by their homes by the Dust Bowl, those farmers -- the Oakies -- flood California, driving down wages and earning resentment by locals.

(It always interests me that people don't blame the corporations who are playing this game instead of the poor sods who are so desperate for work they take the lower wages. Anyway ...)


What got me thinking about this was wandering through some old Ogden Standards on microfilm this morning and I happened across a story about the Chinese Exclusion Act, defending it and making it clear why the act was needed.

As you might expect, the language is not legalese, or even diplomatic. To pass a bill that is blatantly racist and fear mongering, you have to use language that appeals to those instinct. The folks you are excluding have to be dehumanized, made evil, made undesirable.

And so it is.

This particular story, which ran in the Ogden Daily Standard on March 5, 1891, reports on debate in a Congressional hearing about the progress of the Act,  and the question of whether to renew it. It was approved nine years earlier and was set to expire.

Numbers of Chinese are decreasing, the congressional committee is told by this report, but not as fast as they'd like "this being due to the difficulty in enforcing the law."

It seems Chinese are sneaking in across Puget Sound from Canada. Once here, they have the temerity to use the courts to get out, "dwelling particularly upon the practice by Chinamen of getting out on writs of habeas corpus and giving worthless bonds as security."

"The report expresses the opinion that if the present law was strictly enforced it would not be long before the Chinese race in the United States would be extinct. The Chinese quarter in San Francisco is spoken of as a pest breeder which should not be tolerated in any American community. Chinese are inveterate gamblers and their lotteries, the report says, flourish to such an extent that it seems impossible that such a state of affairs could exist except with connivance with the authorities.

"The Chinaman is described as having his good qualities and being industrious, but the committee is of the opinion that to rescind the Chinese act would surely result in the whole Pacific Coast being overrun with Chinese with resultant serious labor troubles."

The act stayed in force until 1943. It is interesting we were finally allowing Chinese to enter at the same time as the country was herding all its Japanese residents -- immigrant, citizen,  or native born or whatever -- into concentration camps based solely on their race.



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Roots of Racism Are Deep in, yes, Ogden too.

Last year Weber State University hosted a series of community conversations on race. I forget which of the seemingly regular disastrous racist incidents sparked it -- black people being shot by police happens a LOT -- and it probably doesn't matter.

The point is, to get the problem of racism out in the open. And, yes there is a lot:  A discussion on my facebook page by a former Ogden councilman, and a current one, and several others, is eye-opening in its bluntness. I will quote them farther down, so bear with me here.

So, despite these panels, we have a long way to go.

One of the speakers on the panel last year was Ogden's assistant chief of police who said, very simply, that when his officers are approaching a situation "they don't see black or white," or words to that effect. Race, he said bluntly, was never ever a consideration.

I was sitting alongside almost the entire sociology faculty of WSU. Sociologists, you should know, study why people do what they do, and why they think what they think, and can talk for  hours about how a person who is brought up a certain way is pretty much hard-wired to think that way, unconsciously, without intent, it is just the way the world is.

(And I freely admit that, as a mere journalist, there's a lot to the phenomenon of being socialized that I don't understand. Take a course in sociology from one of the several fine faculty there to learn more.)

And in American culture, of course, we are all brought up to think of the different races is some pretty stereotyped ways. I was, you were, so was everyone else. It is who we are and to say Ogden's police are immune from this?

Well, the eye rolling from the sociologists -- one of whom is my wife -- was almost audible.

And this is not to say OPD's finest are racist. I refuse to believe they are. However, if because of how they were brought up in America means that, in their minds, a person of color is slightly more suspect, or even just slightly more capable of being suspect, than one who is white ... well, there you are.

We keep seeing daily reminders that race is a factor: As I type these the Starbucks coffee chain is preparing to shut down 8,000 outlets for a day to have training on racial awareness. A couple of black men entered a shop, asked to use the rest room, were denied because they hadn't bought anything, stuck around and refused to leave, saying they were waiting for a friend.

The manager called the cops. I guess a fair question is, would he have called the cops if two white guys came in and sat down, calmly waiting for a friend? Apparently not, because the CEO has personally apologized to the two (who were polite through the whole affair).

And I guess I have to wonder why the cops arrested them. Why not come in, look around, tell the manager "you called us for this?" and leave again. 

Again, what if they were white?

I recently linked a story on Facebook about another incident: a 14-year-old kid in Michigan slept in, missed his bus, got lost and knocked on a door to ask how to get to his school.

The kid is black. The door was opened by a white woman who screamed at him, accusing him of trying to break in. Then her husband ran up with a shotgun and opened fire. The kid was not killed only through luck.

Who told the truth? Well, the homeowners have surveillance video and everyone -- Mayor, Sheriff, everyone else -- says the kid was just asking directions.

The post brought a lot of interesting comment, including this from one friend:

"It’s a sad commentary that most white Americans, don’t or won’t see. My first marriage was to a Native American. And my beautiful beautiful mixed race children have been stopped and harassed by the police on so many occasions here in Northern Utah, it’s funny/not-funny. We just call the crime “Walking while brown.'"

That comment reminded me of a conversation I had two years ago working on the campaign of Luis Lopez, who was elected to the Ogden City Council.

While strategizing house-to-house campaigning, we were warned by former City Councilman Jesse Garcia to be careful. Right here in Ogden, he said, a person of color walking door-to-door in neighborhoods east of Harrison Boulevard will get the cops called.

My reaction was "Really? No!" But he said yes. They will call the cops. 

Our host, Eulogio Alajandre, whose house is - yes - east of Harrison, said definitely yes. Hispanics aren't seen, by many, as belonging east of Harrison. He's been working in his own front yard, he said, and had white people drive by, stop, and ask if they could hire him to do their yard too.

Jesse added a comment on Facebook too:

"Charles I remember that discussion and just wanted to prepare you and Luis for the negative encounters . I could write a lot about negative or racist encounters for the last 60 plus years . 

"For example the first time my canvassing team walked through east of Ogden. Plenty of stares no real comments but an officer drove by slowly. He said 'Oh councilman it's you.' I responded "some of those people walking in the neighborhood, huh?'

"He smiled shook his and drove off. That same campaign while at our headquarters on 12th and Monroe, some of my volunteers were yelled at with racial remarks along with go back where you came from. 

"My years on the council were pretty rough with racist calls throughout my 16 years to many to mention . My children were also targeted by one of our police officers who stated 'I don't care who your dad is if you do anything wrong I'll be watching you.'

"My years in Junior high and high school were no different. Almost on a weekly basis I would hear you should go back to working the fields because you will never amount to anything. 

"I feel hurt and angry about the atrocities against the community of color. It is my belief that these actions are much more overt now because they seem to be sanctioned by too many of our national leaders. Our media doesn't help much either. Better stop now becoming a bit upset. Trying to keep those bad memories tucked away but it is not easy."

Luis Lopez, who won that election, said he remembered that conversation, and walking the neighborhood with me, very well because of one guy who opened the door in particular.

"I remember walking the neighborhood and encountering the guy with the gun on his hip....I was actually pretty nervous...I kept thinking I wanted to leave his yard and wanted nothing to do with him."

Yeah, that guy was weird, and only two blocks from my house. As I recall, he was angry at Mayor Caldwell for something. But, yeah, he had a gun on his hip. It looked as if that was his normal dress around the house.

Lus said "I have been the subject of many racial aggressions in my 21 years living in the USA. 1) adjunct professor from WSU told me and a group of friends while in the elevator we should not speak Spanish in public. 

"2) When I used to be an HVAC installer, former boss told me not to bother wanting to start a business claiming I would never do well because people don't trust Mexicans. 

"3) UHP trooper pulls me over on the highway (I can't even remember why) and asked if my social security number is legal. 

"4) I told a woman I worked at a Middle school and she responds "are you a janitor?". 

"5) Man calls me spic at work when I used to deliver roof shingles. 

"6) Ogden cop pulled me over because my license plate was dangling off by one screw, asked me to get out of the car and frisked me without cause."

Luis said he's never been shot at. He said he feels "very sad for this young man and for any other human being who is subject to racial injustices and discrimination. We have to keep our head high and plow through, believing that society will change over time. If I keep improving my self and setting an example for my community, I believe this is the best contribution I can make."

Yes it is, but it will also help if police officers admit that, yes, in their minds they see people of color differently. Not with any bad intent, but just because -- only then can they say "OK this is happening in my mind, and it is wrong."

Until that happens, expect more of the same. 

And if you don't believe it, go find a Hispanic friend and take a walk east of Harrison Boulevard, right here in beautiful Ogden. 







Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Indian Fighting Then And Now: History Reported, History Revisited

The fun part of looking through old newspapers is the stories you just stumble on, and this one in a Jan. 25, 1879 edition of the Ogden "Junction" had an appealing headline:

"DESPERATE INDIAN FIGHT" it screamed.

Hey, I'm all about a good fight story. I was brought up watching TV westerns, after all.

But then I saw the subhead:

"A Victory for the Soldiers, with Several "Bucks," Squaws and Papooses Killed."

Say what?

No editor would approve language like that today. It's paternalistic, insulting, demeaning, the sort of thing racists wish they could say these days if only they weren't forced to be "politically correct."

And there it is in a headline, although admittedly one from 140 years ago.

The story reports what is actually a reasonably famous battle, part of a larger campaign that occurred in November of 1878 through February of 1879. Native Americans were struggling against advancing Americans overrunning their lands, part of  the larger decades-long "war" between the US Army and Native Americans although the term gives the Native combatants more respect that they got at the time. This was a time when there was serious debate whether Native Americans, like blacks, were even human.

In January of 1879 a band of Northern Cheyenne, led by Dull Knife, which had been forced to a reservation late in the previous year, fled north. Part were captured by the U.S. Army and returned, but a small band, 32 including 18 men and boys and 14 women and children, had to be hunted down.

On Jan. 22 they were found dug in in a ravine near Fort Robinson, Nebraska, by a company of 150 soldiers, led by Capt. Henry Wessells. The soldiers attacked and killed most of the Native Americans.

The story spares no expense to praise the heroism of the soldiers and make it abundantly clear that they are risking death every second against this band of bloodthirsty savages.

Reading through this story, you can get the feeling that 150 soldiers completely surrounding a couple dozen Native Americans in a gully really are engaged in a "desperate fight." Their valor is constantly praised, the savagery of the Native Americans constantly condemned.

The soldiers' massive advantage in manpower and firepower does not mitigate this.

The Indians are dug in in a gully, so the four companies fan around them, surrounding their position and then advance. The Indians open fire and "despite the dreadful volley poured into the troops, they steadily advanced and when within seventy five yards of the savages' position, fire was opened on all sides with dreadful effect."

Colorful adjectives make it clear who the author of this story feels is in the wrong.

Captain Wessells receives "a slight scalp would from a pistol in the hands of one of the bloodthirsty Cheyennes." His lieutenant, seeing the captain fall, carried him to safety and then "dashing to the head of his own company gallantly led them to the very edge of the washout where they fought the enemy with unabated fury."

Wessells came to his senses and tried to stop the firing after seeing the ground littered with dead Indians. "But the latter stubbornly refused, rushing the troops with their formidable hunting knives, having expended all their ammunition and determined to surrender to death only."

The language tells the tale: Soldiers are "gallant," while "savage" Indians attack with "formidable" knives. It sounds more like a turkey shoot today.  The dead Indians included 17 "bucks," not men and boys, four "squaws," not women, and two "papooses," not babies. Only three women survived unwounded.
"The Pit": Frederick Remington painted the aftermath

Three soldiers were also killed, and one wounded.

History has taken a different look at this incident. The larger story -- the whole tribe's several-month journey to escape the reservation, cost between 32 and 64 killed, 23 wounded and 78 captured. The Army lost 11 soldiers plus one Indian scout and another 9 wounded.

The incident in the story is called "The Pit," because of the geographical reality that the Indians were stuck in a gully, surrounded, and shot pretty much like fish in a barrel.

A Wikipedia article on the incident reports that General George Crook investigated the massacre. Several Native Americans were charged with murder, and in 1901 the U.S. Supreme Court denied any US Liability but called the "shocking story...one of the most melancholy of Indian Tragedies."

Up to the time the Cheyenne were fired upon, it said, "they had committed no strocity and were in amity with the United States and desired to remain so."

The Indians were struggling against being forced onto reservations by what they saw as an invading army. Who can blame them?

But it was a time of Manifest Destiny, America was spreading across the continent and anyone already there was, obviously, just in the way.

What is now known as "The Northern Cheyenne Exodus" in such books as "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," and "In Dull Knife's Wake: The True Story of the Northern Cheyenne Exodus," was seen, at the time, as just war against savages, nothing more.

When I visited the Little Big Horn a number of years ago it was good to see that, among the many monuments to soldiers of the 7th Cavalry who died, there are now a few, widely scattered, markers that show where Native Americans, too, died.

The soldiers's markers say they died serving their country, as certainly they did.

But the Native American's markers say the man killed there died "defending his homeland and the Sioux Way of Life."










Thursday, February 8, 2018

When Was America Great? When Socialists Were In Charge

Yes, you read that headline right.

I spent lunchtime perusing a delightful little volume called "The Prairie Traveler," by Randolph Marcy, a former Captain in the U.S. Army. It was written in 1859 to aid folks traveling west in wagon trains. Capt. Marcy had considerable experience both in guiding such trains, and in traveling the west in his military duties, so he got the job of writing a "how to" guide for western pioneers.

You can buy this book today, by the way. I found a copy in the gift shop at Capitol Reef National Park, and many park gift shops carry it. You can also find it on-line. New editions are still in print.

It is a fun book, with all sorts of advice on the proper rifle to carry (definitely breech loading), where to camp (near a river with good defensible land around it) and how to fix a broken wagon wheel. Many routes are discussed, types of gear to carry and on and on.

 But the most critical stuff, right at the front, is how to put together a company of folks who can make the trip and expect to arrive alive.

Marcy lays out some very blunt advice: Do this or die.

Do what?

Work together. Take are of each other. Have community property. Share.

And you can call it socialistic if you like, because it is, but it's also the sort of stuff that makes people nostalgic for that long lost America, when folks worked together, took care of each other and realized that community rose or fell depending on how everyone in it did.

In short: When America really was great.

And I don't care who you are, you like the idea of your neighbor helping out in tough times. This crap about how helping folks puts them in a charity trap, makes them dependent, ruins their morals, would have been laughed at.

Travelers west had to form a community, he said. Right at the start they had to pick a captain, someone to be in charge.

Not only should everyone agree to obey their selected captain, he says, but "they should obligate  themselves to aid each other, so as to make the individual interest of each member the common concern of the whole company.

"To ensure this, a fund should be raised for the purchase of extra animals to supply the places of those which may give you or die on the road; and if the wagon or team of a particular member should fail and have to be abandoned, the company should obligate themselves to transport his luggage, and the captain  should see that he has his share of transportation equal with any other member.

"Thus it will be made the interest of every member of the company to watch over and protect the property of others as well as his own."

Why? Because, Marcy makes clear, a united body of travelers has much better chance of dealing with trials than a pack of individual who all just happen to be going the same way.

"The advantages of an association such as I have mentioned are manifestly numerous," he writes. "The animals can be herded together and guarded by the different members of the company in rotation...this is the only way to resist the depredations of the Indians and to prevent their stampeding and driving off animals; and much more efficiency is secured in every respect, especially in crossing streams, repairing roads, etc. etc."

Some groups did try to travel without such organization, he said: Rugged individuals, all being ruggedly independent and free, every man his own master, the whole mob heading out.

It never went well.

"I have several times observed, where this has been attempted, that discords and dissensions sooner or later arose which invariably resulted in breaking up and separating the company," he says.

Sound at all familiar?

And that captain who everyone has to obey?

"Sometimes men may be selected up, upon trial, do not come up to the anticipations of those who placed them in power," he says, while others do. "Under these circumstances it will not be unwise to make a change, the first election being distinctly provisional."

Or to put it in today's language: "Throw the bum out."

This book is available for about $10 from Amazon, or you can download an ebook of it from Project Gutenberg.  Free is good, and it takes up less space that way.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Days the Circus Came To Ogden Were Amazing

Read “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury and you will yearn to experience the sort of traveling circus and carnival it described.

[caption id="attachment_5547" align="aligncenter" width="577"] 1916 Circus Parade Down Washington Avenue in Ogden. Charles McCarthy photo.[/caption]

Oh, how exciting! A traveling show comes to town in the dark of night. Young boys sneak out to watch the roustabouts set up. Town’s activities come to a halt as performers, freaks and wild animals take over. Camels and Elephants down Main Street were just the start.
Magic is everywhere. And it all used to happen, right here in Ogden, just as Bradbury describes.
Circuses were part of life 100 years ago. They came through town several times a  year and it was a huge event every time.
There was nothing new, even then, about circuses, per se. They were, and still are, just performances in a ring. Think “Circus Maximus” in Rome, where Christians ended up as lion kibble. Or Cirque du Soleil, still playing Vegas all the time.
Circuses came to Utah with the pioneers.  I find newspaper references to the Great Rocky Mountain Circus, playing in Salt Lake City, as early as 1858.
But those were smaller, stationary affairs. There were traveling shows too, they were limited by how much a wagon pulled by horses could carry.
Then came the railroads.
Circus trains could haul hundreds of workers and performers, wild animals and massive tents. They could travel fast: A circus’s multiple train sections would arrive before the dim breaking of dawn, overwhelm the small city with magic and diversion, and then disappear.
One, the Great Pacific Railroad Circus, reportedly traveled with the Union Pacific railroad as it built its way towards Promontory in 1869. A single article in the Deseret News later that year refers to it, but I can find little mention of it elsewhere.
Ogden, a small but centrally located railroad town, was ideally situated for rail-traveling entertainment. A story in the 1917 Ogden Standard said Circus Day was a great holiday unheralded by calendar makers, but no less exciting or festive.
If you’ve ever watched the Disney film “Dumbo” you know the drill: The circus pulls in, workers haul out tents and set them up on a convenient local empty lot or meadow. Then all the performers dress up and the entire circus parades through the central part of town, attracting one and all to the two shows they were about to put on.
Everyone came. This was a western farm area, with no TV, no Internet, no nothing except local church and civic entertainments. An exotic show from the circus would attract everyone.
When done, the workers would pack it all up and head to another town the next day, and they wasted no time doing it. I went to a tent show in Roy a couple decades ago where they were starting to take down the tents while the final acts were still in the rings.
In 1880 the Cole’s Circus came through Ogden and got extensive coverage in the Ogden “Junction.”  The reporter’s language caught the mood:
“This morning early, crowds of people commenced to arrive from the settlements round about Ogden, not only to attend Cole’s Circus but to witness the GLORIOUS PAGEANT which took place at about 10 o’clock this morning. The procession was one glittering line of equipages, cages of wild animals, snakes, etc., gaily caparisoned animals and spangled riders.”
A subsequent story talked about “the fine trapeze and horizontal bar performers, the ‘funny business’ by the clowns,” and so on. Performing stallions, bicycle tricks, and even electric lights, if you can imagine.
I’m not sure there’s an accurate count of how many circus shows were touring the country at any given time, but it must have numbered in the dozens. Looking through newspapers just from 1916 through 1919, however, I found seven different circuses that visited Ogden: Ringling Brothers, Cole Brothers, Haggenbeck-Wallace, John Robinson Shows, Barnes Circus, Sells-Floto Circus and Buffalo Bill’s Original Wild West Show, and Barton-Bailey World Celebrated Shows.
You can read up about all those, and more, at this web site, a complete (so it hopes) history of circus in America: (link).
What was it like? Actually, we do have a few picture. (And it is darn frustrating that we don’t have more. Hundreds of folks in Ogden had Kodaks back then and must have snapped shots. Where are they?)
On July 7, 1916, an Ogden man named Charles McCarthy was in an upper story office of the Eccles Building, 24th and Washington, when the circus parade of the John Robinson’s Shows went by.
Mr. McCarthy was an inveterate photographer — he left hundreds of negatives to Weber State University’s Special Collections. His granddaughter, Jan Puckett, Ogden, has found hundreds more, personal stuff, among the bags and boxes he left.
While scanning them in, I found these amazing shots: The John Robinson’s Circus Parade, heading south on Washington to the circus grounds located at 27th Street And Washington Avenue.  Camels pull a wagon, and elephants walk by in single file, draped with banners from local businesses who, no doubt, paid for the ad space.
[caption id="attachment_5545" align="alignnone" width="570"] Charles McCarthy photo of 1916 Circus Parade down Washington Avenue.[/caption]

One of the city’s street cars is standing, waiting, and rows of newfangled automobiles line the street. The circuses typically organized local marching bands to take part in these festivals, and he shot several of those as well.
But all was not festive. While Mr. McCarthy was having fun on 24th Street, a tragedy was unfolding just a block north.
In 1916 public transportation involved a lot of cars, yes, and even a motorcycle is visible. But horses and wagons still did a lot of work.
Malcolm A. Keeter, a teamster working for the Weber Lumber Company, was going south on Lincoln Ave. with a team of horses pulling a lumber wagon. He turned west onto 23rd Street just as the circus elephants were making their way down that same street prior to turning onto Washington.

According to witnesses, Keeter “had gone only a short distance when his horses caught sight of he pachyderms and became frightened. The animals dashed wildly down the road, but by dint of hard  pulling and cool headedness the driver kept them and the long lumber wagon from crashing into automobiles filled with the people viewing the parade.”
He almost made it, too. Near Wall, by the Scowcroft building that still stands, the horses swerved, “throwing a front wheel of the wagon against the rear of an automobile belonging to Henry Gwilliams.”
The collision threw Keeter to the ground. The wagon tipped and crushed him.
Keeter’s wife,  Lois, sued the circus for neglect and won a judgement of $16,675. Whether she ever collected is unknown — the circus was in winter quarters a thousand miles away and never responded to the suit.
Such disasters were sadly common. Circuses usually had workers go ahead of their animals in city streets, warning people to keep skittish horses away.
When Ringling Brothers came to Ogden in August, 1904, a Mrs. Lofgren, Huntsville, hitched her horse to a buggy and went to town to watch the parade. She stood at the corner of 22nd Street and Washington.  Her horse stood quietly enough as all the animals passed, but spooked when the steam calliope at the end of the parade cut loose.
As the Standard reported, “the horse leaped into the air, broke from the buggy to which it was attached, and dashed behind the lead team on one of the circus vans and frightened the team of six horses so that the animals swung around and into the great crowd of spectators standing on the corner, and in the stampede that followed many persons were trampled down.”
Six adults were seriously injured including one, Amanda Flynn, 76, who suffered a broken hip and wrist and, because of her age and already poor health, was not expected to recover.
Ringling Brothers was found not liable in the incident, but gave cash compensation to the injured anyway. It even paid their medical bills.
There were lighter moments, too.
When the Cole Brothers Circus came to Ogden in 1880 folks were
[caption id="attachment_5541" align="alignleft" width="208"] Ad for Campbell Brothers Circus coming to Ogden.[/caption]
so excited that some got a little crazy.
Says the newspaper, “it is stated that the other day a resident of this city went to a store on Main Street, bought a sack of flour on trust, took it to a place a few doors away and sold it as a sacrifice for cash, to take his wife and children to the show.”
Then there’s the story of “A young fellow from Hooper,” who discovered just how efficiently a circus can pull up stakes and get out of town.
The newspaper says this man “came to Ogden yesterday, determined to see the circus. He got pretty full of ‘bug juice’ and after being in the circus a few moments, last evening, went out. This morning about 3 o’clock he woke up and found himself lying where the outside ropes of the ‘big tent’ had been.
“But the circus had vanished like a beautiful dream. So had his $5 hat and a pair of good boots. When he arrived at Hooper, about 4 o’clock, hatless and barefooted, he felt awfully cheap. And well he might.”