by Margaret Clipperton
All four of us girls asked that at once as we described what we had seen. A line of Ringling Bros. Circus trucks drove past our place with pictures of all kinds of animals painted on the sides. One truck had a real elephant with its trunk waving out a window. Ads had appeared in the Sault Daily Star for the circus so we were not surprised to see the circus pass through Walford (before the highway by-passed the village).
Our mother, Mrs. Grace Walford, got an idea and shared it with the local Post Mistress, Mrs Emma Thornton. They each wrote a letter to the circus and asked if they would stop in Walford on their way back. Mrs Thornton received a telegram from Ringling to say they would be passing through our area about 11am Sunday morning and would stop at the post office to show off the animals. Word was transmitted via our ‘party line’ telephone system and at the postoffice/ store. A good sized crowd showed up.
The drivers and performers opened doors on the sides of some of the trailers to show us the jungle cats. There were tigers, lions and several other fierce animals. The elephants were set free in the yard at Whalen’s blacksmith shop. They romped like children enjoying freedom for a few minutes then one discovered the pump on the well and wrapping its trunk around the pump handle it pumped water. The other one sucked water up its trunk, had a drink, then blew water out its trunk to our amusement. When the drivers decided they had to leave they told us to wait for Ferdinand, who would be along soon.
Later a car drove up pulling a small horse trailer with "Ferdinand the Performing Bull" painted on the side. Ferdinand was a big beast. He could do tricks like a dog or a horse, shake hands, stand on his back legs, beg, roll over and count by stomping. The handlers took out a washtub and he sat on it then raised his front legs to wave. My Dad, Herbert Walford commented quietly, that he was no longer a ‘bull’! But we kids did not know what Daddy meant. He seemed to enjoy performing and the handlers of all the animals were kind and gentle.
The circus people handed out flyers for their shows at Stanley Stadium in Copper Cliff. Our parents took us and two friends to see the show. We had four people to each seat in the car, with no seat belts at that time and a bench seat in the front was accommodating. Our biggest regret was that they arrived just as the Catholic Church service started, and of course everyone in Walford went to church, no matter what the local distraction. They did get out on time to see Ferdinand but not the elephants and cats. I think the year was about 1945 or 46.
This ongoing blog is a collection of articles and photos written by volunteers, staff and you, about the history of our region!