EDWARDSBURG, Mich. — It was pure excitement when Jerry Stoner got a one-day job to help construct a circus tent.
He was only 14 and lived in Osceola, Ind., when the circus came to town in 1954, just like this Friday when the Kelly Miller Circus comes to Edwardsburg on U.S. 12 East.
There are two shows, one at 4:30 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m. Jerry is taking his wife, Nancy, to the circus. She has never been to a circus, and he went as a child.
Jerry and his school friends, who were in the seventh grade at Osceola Junior High School, wanted to go to the circus, but they didn’t have the money. They were thinking of sneaking in but never had the chance. He ended up going to the circus grounds by himself.
When he arrived on the grounds, he was asked if he wanted a job. He said yes with hopes of getting the free ticket. He was able to meet his buddies, however, and the three of them began working. Their instructions were to help put up tents.
“They showed us what to do and checked on us. They had their own work to do. No one was mean to us as they needed the help.”
At the time, Jerry was excited to see a tiger, a lion, elephants and the horses, riders and trapeze artists. One thing that brought much laughter, though, was a car filled with clowns.
“There were eight or nine clowns that just kept coming out of a car.”
There were also people who threw knives at showgirls.
“No one knew for sure if they were real knives or cardboard ones. They were sure professionals though,” Stoner said. “No one got hurt.”
He also liked that the ringmaster, who wore a tuxedo, was tall and wore a tall black hat.
Despite his work for the circus, he never got paid and never got to go to the circus. But he had a great time.
Jerry, who is now 74 and lives in Edwardsburg, is looking forward to Friday night’s circus sponsored by the Edwardsburg Lions Club. Onlookers are invited to watch early Friday morning when the animals arrive with elephants, which are used for muscle power. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children.
“It’s a service to the community,” said Dan and Cookie Bailey, Lions Club members.
Proceeds are used to help pay for eye exams and provide wheelchairs to the needy.