It happens every spring
Sleepless from St. Paul (in Minneapolis) has sent us “an interesting spring-training tidbit I came across a few years ago:
“The St. Paul Saints of the American Association once held their own spring-training camp in Florida. Unfortunately, the article has been misplaced. I am certain this map appeared in a mid-’30s Pioneer Press or Dispatch.
“As you can see, the pre-Twins held spring training in Orlando that year.”
The highfalutin diversions
Virtual Jigsaw Puzzles Division
In Tuesday’s Bulletin Board, OTD from NSP asked if Bulletin Board’s photographer/readers had considered making their pictures into online jigsaw puzzles at jigidi.com.
Just coincidentally, we were simultaneously hearing from intrepid puzzle-maker Poet X of PDX, who sent us a slew of new offerings:
“From my trip to St. Louis last April, taken from atop the Arch, game in progress. I went to the next day’s game: https://www.jigidi.com/solve.php?id=OUA7ZDV5&utm_source=e.
“From the same trip: https://www.jigidi.com/solve.php?id=6Y08FL4X&utm_source=e.
“The zoo in St. Louis has a large group of razorback gorillas:
“Also called silverback gorillas: https://www.jigidi.com/solve.php?id=YQEI4AL0&utm_source=e.
“Great old courthouse in St. Louis; this is the rotunda: https://www.jigidi.com/solve.php?id=UG7WI0AK&utm_source=e.”
There! That should keep you occupied!
The Permanent Family Record (responsorial)
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Tuesday’s Bulletin Board included Peggy T.’s recollection of a time when a ‘dinosaur’ turned out to be an iguana. As I read it, I recalled that Monday evening I had seen this item on Page A13 of Sunday’s STrib:
“‘Firefighters rescue 20-pound iguana
“‘Fire crews slipped an oxygen mask over the face of a 20-pound iguana after rescuing the creature from a house fire in Pendleton. Crews removed the iguana from the heavily damaged home and gave it oxygen. Improperly disposed smoking material caused the fire, officials said.’
“Is there such a thing as a fire-breathing iguana?”
OTD from NSP: “I got the e-notice of my 2017 Ramsey County property taxes.
“There is no extra charge to pay by mail, but a $1.00 charge to pay electronically. Not a lot, but why? I would think paying electronically would reduce the amount of work someone at the county had to do.
“I plan on saving the $1.00 and mail a check in. Plus, I may be saving someone’s job.
“Just have to find my checkbook. I think the last physical check I wrote was last year for property taxes. All other bills, I pay electronically (and no one else charges me extra).”
Another circus memoir from Tim Torkildson: “The mad German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said: ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’ And with it, at least in clown alley, life was always noisy and off key.
“Hurling back the years like a cape that gets in my way, I recall the acoustical eruptions of my brethren in buffoonery as earnest and upbeat, if not exactly classical. There is music in the soul of every clown, even if it’s expressed only with a kazoo. I myself studied the violin as a child, under the belief that I could eventually wring laughter out of it the way Jack Benny did on TV. But my aspirations did not match my discipline, I rarely practiced, and eventually my mother returned the instrument to Schmitt Music to save the $15 monthly rental fee.
“By the time I reached clown alley in late 1971, my instrument of choice was the Irish tin whistle, on which I was wont to play ‘Yankee Doodle’ or ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ with such panache that the other clowns begged me to take my talent to Carnegie Hall, or anyplace else far away from their aching eardrums.
“During all my years with Ringling, the holy grail of clown alley was a center-ring lampoon of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake.’ Producing clown Mark Anthony made pink inner-tube tutus for himself, Swede Johnson, Prince Paul, Dougie Ashton, and Lazlo Donnert. Bandleader Bill Prynne rehearsed his brassy minions in a selection of waltzes, mazurkas and pas de deux from the celebrated ballet. The idea was to throw each other around the ring, bouncing on the inner tubes like rubber balls, and then have Dougie don a pair of foam-rubber swan wings and be hoisted high up into the rigging, where he would drop his tutu to reveal red-and-white-striped Jockey shorts.
“But artistic differences prevented this wonderful gag from ever being performed in public. Specifically, Lazlo wanted to be the one to go up into the rigging for the blow-off. But he weighed twice as much as Dougie, and the roustabouts balked at trying to pull such a heavy load up so high. Or else the inner tubes developed slow leaks and had to be constantly patched, which was very time-consuming for Mark, since nobody else would help him dunk the inner tubes in a tub of water to locate the pin-prick holes. After a while, Mark refused to do it all by himself, and the flaccid rubber tutus languished in the clown prop box, unloved and unused.
“Spike the clown played the slide trombone, with a large boxing glove on the curve of the slide so he could deliver knockout blows with it during serenades in the ring.
“Dougie Ashton was quite skilled on trumpet. He warmed up in clown alley with endless choruses of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’
“Lazlo Donnert was a dab hand at the flugelhorn. He worshipped the classics, playing themes from Mozart’s horn concertos with a distant look in his eyes — dreaming, no doubt, of his days at the Nagy Cirkusz in Budapest. His son Lotzi played the flute.
“Rubber Neck (so called because of his marvelous double-take and fade-away, which rivaled that of movie comic James Finlayson in numerous Laurel & Hardy films) picked up a banjo in a pawn shop and learned to strum a few wild chords on it. During come-in, he would sit on a ring curb and ‘play’ his banjo while yodeling like a Swiss banshee. The rest of us clowns would then bombard him with various objects, such as rubber chickens and beach balls, to encourage him to migrate backstage.
“After hearing Lou Jacobs play the musical saw, I determined to become proficient on it myself. Lou was rather closed-mouthed about the whole subject when I asked for pointers; he preferred to be the only one under the big top to perform that particular musical specialty. But good ol’ Mark Anthony told me I could send away for a musical saw with lessons from the Mussehl & Westphal company out of East Troy, Wisconsin. I did so, and spent the next several months driving everyone crazy on the Iron Lung train car, where my roomette was located, by practicing day and night until I could manage a lilting rendition of ‘Aloha ‘Oe.’ (The company is still doing a thriving business today selling musical saws and lesson books!)
“The one song that is never played in clown alley, or anywhere else on the show, is John Philip Sousa’s ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ This tune is reserved for emergencies only, when the building or tent has to be evacuated immediately. It was played during the Hartford Circus Fire disaster in 1944, when 167 people died under the Ringling tent as it collapsed in flames. The tune is considered sinister and bad luck by all circus personnel.
“Ringling expected a clown marching band from clown alley each season. The traditional song attempted was always ‘MacNamara’s Band.’ Prince Paul led our motley group, twirling an outsized baton that was twice as big as he was. He was followed by the Little Guy, Steve Smith, on snare drum. Then came everyone else, tootling and banging on whatever was handy, including ocarinas, tambourines, and a large assortment of glockenspiels that had been ordered for a Spec production by the show but had been nixed at the last moment; the show was going to throw them away until boss clown LeVoi Hipps persuaded management to donate them to clown alley. Once I learned to play the musical saw, I always brought up the rear of the processional, holding my saw and bow in one hand and a chair in the other — I would sit and start to play, then notice with a start that the band had marched on, so, hastily picking up my chair, I would scamper after them. It was a mildly amusing sight gag.
“At the end of the season, to end the last show, the ringmaster would always announce: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, we have come to our journey’s end for another season. We thank you all for your attendance this evening, and wish you godspeed back to your hearths and home. And may all your days be circus days!’
“And with that, the band would strike up ‘Auld Lang Syne.'”
Band Name of the Day: The Flaccid Rubber Tutus
Website of the Day: “The I.O.U.” — a newly discovered short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald