Sunday, September 16, 2012

The biggest little show on the planet!


By - Steve Mezo

My wife and I had taken a trip to the mall one day just to get out and we're glad we did. As we walked in the main entrance we met a man named Andy Hendrickson and saw he had a display of a Circus.

 Sorry Andy we didn't realize that you blinked...

As we were looking at everything we saw the sign that said he was part of a Circus Model Builders Group (John Pugh's Ring #96 to be exact). And found out that members from at least four states were also in the mall and displaying their creations for people to see and enjoy. 

Okay I know "Tattooed Steve's Storage Unit of Terror" is the name of the site and everything I type about has to have some kind of horror or monster tie in. Well if you're in the mood for reading a little this is the article to do it with. 

I always thought the Circus was boring, but I'm all about The Circus Sideshow. And I'm really in love with Circus Mystique!!! Yeah I know scratching your head at this point... 

I know the performers spend exhausting hours perfecting their craft and allot of times risk their lives doing it, but it just never connected with me. But the endless avenues for all kinds of spooky tales and horrific stories are my attraction to it! 

Like Killer Klowns From Outer Space

And who didn't want the kaleidoscope tattoo sleeve that Mr. Dark had from "Something Wicked This Way Comes". 

Then there's the ease of keeping your secrets with a Traveling Circus before the days of Television and Computers.

This features a scary surgeon in hiding while on the road. 

And I do owe The Circus a huge thank you for introducing me to my two loves. The Circus Sideshow and it's offspring's The Carnival and The Boardwalk.  

Which were also huge inspirations for the creepy and unknown.

I have a whole writeup on it's own about The Circus Sideshow,
 but I'm saving that for another article. And I got a little sidetracked from my main subject which is Circus Model Builders and their creations.

My wife and I love model kits and miniatures, if we had the money and the room we would have all kinds of themed setups everywhere we could create them. We would have everything from detailed doll houses from her to Star Wars scene recreations from me. Not to mention train model scale set ups of entire sections of towns and cities complete with Godzilla and King Kong.

Speaking of Godzilla and other giant monsters think of all of the talented model building artist that built entire cities with as much detail as possible, just to have them smashed and blown up. 
When we saw these scale models of circus's it was two of our favorite things literally put together. When we saw the detail that Andy Hendrickson (Pictured at the top) had put into his models we started up a conversation with him. He had shown us how (Like most of the builders) he had taken available train cars and modified them to become circus cars. He went as far as to cut the heads off of pins to turn into rivets that were glued to the cars individually.  He even went as far as hand making tent poles, wooden ramps and saw horses as well as wooden details to the train cars. Then when the builders select a scale they want to work with they use train model figures, animals, buildings, vehicles and scenery to create their scenes.   
These were scratch built wagons with added adornments
   The Chimp escape was a nice touch. 
The part that really blew us away was their attention to the detail. Not only do they pick a favorite circus troupe to recreate they go as far as picking paint schemes from a particular point in time. 
The degree of the skill of the model builders varies, but they all share the same love of the circus, model building. Even the areas that the set ups cover varies. 
Some are happy with collecting building and detailing small scale wagons, carriages and train cars.
Another cool detail we found out was how varied their backgrounds are. Like we found out that John Karpus was a video editor for CBS for thirty seven years. And he had fell in love with the circus and as he said "Got sawdust in his blood" from when he was editing on location at a circus for one of the CBS shows. Then he told us a great story about how when he was in the editing trailer during the night working he had to use the bathroom. The only problem was the bathroom trailer was somewhere on the grounds in the dark. He didn't have a flashlight and when he opened the door of the trailer he was in he heard the elephants trumpet and a lions roar really close. And he said he wasn't about to feel his way around to the bathroom trailer in the dark. 

Then we met and had lunch with another collector named Robert Houston who owns "The Philadelphia Museum of The Circus Exhibit". Not only was he on the game show "To Tell The Truth" with one of his circus model sets where hen stumped the panel of celebrity judges, and an inductee to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's African American's Legends Hall of Fame for his historic circus collection that includes African American artifacts. And he's a Civil War Reenactor.  

Then we had met W. A. Bushey
 who is a generational builder and member.   
We found out from Mr. Bushey that his mother had hand sewn the circus tent fifty years ago and his father had hand carved the circus wagons. Then his father had sculpted cast and poured the wagon horses individually with different head poses instead of doing it the easy way and just re-pouring one casting. 
  Some were more into the Circus Sideshows like myself
This set up was a favorite of ours because the builder had went as far as building the Restroom Trailers because that's the first thing his wife looks for when they go to the circus.
His setup also included crew, equipment and animal trailers.
Then we met a builder by the name of Sheldon Endy Jr. who was a diesel mechanic teacher and built a large display inside of a ten and a half foot trailer he had also built for transport for shows.
Sheldon had scratch built allot of the buildings as well and modified existing kits. There are so many details and extras that he had made and pointed out that it would take a ten minute video to show all of it.
Another favorite of ours was Donald Kowell's
  "Hoxie Bros. Circus" display.

The thing we liked about it the most was this was one of the troops we had seen when we were kids in that era. And was the first time I had ever seen any kind of Circus Sideshow. 
For more information on Circus Model Builders
 check out their website with the link below.