Showman’s Rest-Part 3

“To Each His Own”
1925 – 2003

cem-loter2cem-loter1Frances Loter Padilla of Hugo, Oklahoma performed in circus sideshows with an act not many would be brave enough to attempt. She and her “co-stars” are immortalized in a ceramic photo on her gravestone.




cem-ikirt3Kenneth Ikirt was a circus showman for 30 years. The World War II army veteran is said to have been especially good dealing with elephants known to have bad tempers. At various times he toured with the Kelly Morris Circus, Ringling Brothers, and John Pauling’s Great London Circus. He was cem-ikirt1also the elephant trainer for the Miller family shows.

The back of his grave marker exclaims, “Boss elephant many for Carson-Barnes Circus, Largest Elephant Herd in America.”

1908 – 1979 and 1907- 1978


C. L. “Tex” Clayton was the “24-hour man” for Al G. Kelly and Miller Brothers Circus. He traveled a day ahead of the show, making final arrangements for the 30 or so vehicles and approximately 100 circus people. A former rodeo man, whose home was Hugo Oklahoma, never saw the circus road show performances, as he was always ahead of the tour on the road. The last time he would see the acts was during dress rehearsals in the spcem-clayton2ring.

His wife Lucille was a juggler and had a huh wire act with their young daughter, Mary.
The circus wagon etched on their marker bears their initial “C,” and the slogan “With It and For It” is emblazoned across the bottom of the stone.

1945 – 2001

Cem-turtle1 cem-turtle2

Ken “Turtle Benson” was an elephant man with several shows, but spent his last years with Roberts Bros. Circus. He was so dedicated to the shows that he left a VA hospital in his last days to return to the Roberts Bros. Circus. He passed away shortly afterward.

1933 – 2008

cem-doyle1 cem-doyle2

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate any information about Lillie Jean in old newspapers or circus publications.
She was certainly a lovely lady, and many admirers stop by to look at her photo.
If you know anything about her life or career, please share it with us.


cem-Perez3 cem-Perez2 Cem-Perez1

Samuel was a member of the famous Perez Family from Mexico City, who perform with the Kelly Miller Circus. He was a dynamic trapeze and acrobatic performer whose act included jumping rope on top of a spinning wheel known as the “Wheel of Death,” shown on the back of his marker.
He suffered an untimely death due to illness. A piece of acrobatic equipment had been left on top of his marker along with the beautiful floral arrangements.

1888 – 1966


A long-time animal superintendent, Dutch was famous for showing his “blood sweating hippo” from the River Nile, named “Miss Oklahoma.” A hippo has to be a big (pun intended) part of your life to feature her on your tombstone!




Kennedy Swain was born in a railroad show car and brought up on show business. He performed in vaudeville and stage and including being a comedian in Plunkett’s Variety Show.
His wife “Snooks” came from a long line of famous circus people, the famed Plunkett family, and was drummer in the circus band. Their son followed them into the business.circus-9
“Kennedy Swain and his Musical Mavericks,” featuring Kennedy on trumpet, performed opening music for the Harley Sadler Tent Show.
The World War II Air Force veteran also worked as a sideshow manager for the Al G. Kellcircus-10y-Miller Brothers circus and the announcer for the Carson and Barnes Circus.
Zenda’s talent is proudly displayed on her marker next to Kennedy’s.

1923 – 1998

circus-monkey copy

Born and raised in Indiana, Bonnie “Jean” loved her work with Chimpanzees so much that she is forever depicted with one. She died in 1998 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.circusChimp

1907 – 1988

circus-14 Flo-and-Grace-McIntosh-761x1024

“Flo,” was a circus performer with a number of shows including Barnett Bros., Clyde Beatty, King Bros. and Kelly-Miller. She died at age 81. Just imagine the stories she could have shared with us!

1915 –

circus-16 Grace is a businesswoman who was ahead of her time.

She was raised by bareback rider Elizabeth Romig, a fcircus-15amily friend. Her mother had died when she was young and her father, a circus baggage stock handler was on the road with Sells-Floto.
She became a trapeze artist at age 12, and later married circus superintendent David McIntosh, circus superintendent. After her husband’s death she purchased the M&M Circus with Charles Marine. When Marine passed away, she ran the circus alone.
This beautiful marker is still waiting, because she still has things to do.

1926 – 1980


John Carroll, known as the “Elephant Man,” was a famous elephant trainer and handler.

At age 15, he was a cage boy for Terrell Jacobs, then joined the Kelly-Miller Circus around 1948. He died of a heart attack at age 54 while in Jacksonville, Texas with the Carson & Barnes Circus.
His funeral services were held in the spotlighted center of a circus tent.
circus-5Carroll left his life savings to establish the “John Carroll Showmen’s Rest Trust Fund, to provide gravestones for show people who could not provide their own.
Several of the markers in Showmen’s Rest are inscribed with the fund’s name.

1927 – 1999

circus-13Ted Bowman started his circus career with the Terrell Jacobs Wild Animal Circus in 1949, and also worked for Royal American Shows, Fairyland Circus, Gil Gray Circus, and the Al G. Kelly – Miller Bros. Circus. He served as the general manager of the Carson & Barnes Circus for 17 years.
His unique marker at the front of the Showmen’s Rest section depicts an old-fashioned circus wagon wheel, with the poignant inscription:

“There’s nothing left but empty popcorn sacks
and wagon tracks…the circus is gone.”

Happy San Jacinto Day!

20150104_125252_DSC_6258Oscar Farish was born on December 18, 1812, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and emigrated to Texas in October, 1835 to pursue his profession of land surveyor. He joined Captain McIntyre’s Company of Col. Sidney Sherman’s Regiment, and participated in the Battle San Jacinto. He was one of the last surviving veterans.Texas-arial-monumentleftside

In 1837 he was elected engrossing clerk of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas. Mr. Farish was elected to be the first Clerk of Galveston County in 1856 and was holding that office when he died May 25, 1884.

Farish and his wife rest in Galveston’s Old City Cemetery, one of
locations included in “Galveston’s Broadway Cemeteries,” releasing in July from Arcadia Publishing, and available for pre-orders on Amazon.

Circus Train Wreck Victim and Other Circus Folk

Showmen’s Rest – Part 2
Circus Train Wreck Victim
Ted Svertesky
1954 – 1994

DSC_9523Just after 9:00 in the morning on January 14, 1994, a 53-car Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus train headed northbound from St. Petersburg to Orlando for their next show. Rolling along at 38 mph, many of the 150 performers inside were still asleep or just waking up after the previous night’s show when a wheel on one of the passenger cars broke, sending 13 passenger coaches and three flat cars off the tracks. Five of the cars were thrown on their sides.

As the survivors wandered out of the wreckage into the morning fog, they discovered that two of their own had lost their lives in the accident, and fifteen more were injured.Ted
Ringling officials called the train accident their worst in more than 100 years.

Theodore ”Ted” Svertesky, a 39-year-old elephant trainer was found dead in a sleeper car.

Ceslee Conkling, a 28-year-old clown from Fort Worth, Texas, was also killed. She was missing for four hours before her body was found.

None of the 60 circus animals, including lions, tigers and elephants, was hurt. They were traveling in cages at the front and rear of the 53-car train, which broke in the middle.

Ironically, a news helicopter crashed while covering the accident. A photographer received minor injuries, and the pilot was admitted to a hospital with neck and back injuries.

Born in Connecticut, Theodore H. Svertesky was fascinated with the circus and elephants from an early age. As a child he would talk about it, dream about it and build circus models. When he was only 13, Ted ran away from home to join a circus only to be returned the following day by his parents. Four year later at 17 he joined a circus again and this time stayed.

Ted started off doing odd jobs with the elephants, and took every chance to learn about the creatures from the best trainers in the business.

By 1994 Ted headed the Ringling Elephant Farm, a research and breeding facility and oversaw the breeding of Romeo and Juliette, two yearling Asian elephants that were headlining the show. This was Ted’s first road trip with the circus as the presenter of the elephant act in the show.

“It’s kind of a way of life more than a job,” said the 39-year-old trainer from Bridgeport in an interview the week before he died.trainwrecklarge

Ted’s wife Patty Zerbini, who helped oversee the 10 elephants – including babies Romeo and Juliette, stayed with the show after the accident. She and her two sons, Anthony and Christopher, travel from town to town in their mobile home.

Terry Fenne
(1959 – 2006)

terryTerry Fenne always told people that if they ever stopped by Showmen’s Rest to “Stop by and have a seat on me.” True to his word, his marker is a beautiful bench, engraved with his signature, photo and the logos of some of the circuses he worked for through the years.

I apologize that, due to the fact that it was raining quite hard when I took these photos the engraving on top of the bench doesn’t appear clear.


Fenne literally ran away from his home in Madison, Wisconsin to join the circus at age 14. He worked for six different circuses including: Fisher Brothers Circus, Circus Genoa, Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus, Roberts Brothers Circus, Kelly-Miller Circus and Carson & Barnes Circus.

terry4Known as the “Mud Show Elephant Man” he trained elephants and drove the elephant truck across the country for many years.

The last few years of his life, he operated an umbrella hot dog pushcart in downtown Paris, Texas, and became a fixture of the town.

Dudley Warner Hamilton
(1929 – still living)

dudleyHamilton grew up in west Texas, the youngest of eight children. He served in the U. S. Air Froce and worked for the Texas Highway Patrol.

Avid circus fan, and a longstanding member of the Circus Fans Association of America. His attendance at the CFA annual conventions led him to Hugo, where he me the Geneneral Manager of Carson & Barnes. He took early retirement at age 54 and joined Carson & Barnes as a booking agent. He became so successful that for the next 20 years he trained other booking agents

He was also press agent and ran the pie car when needed

He moved over to Kelly Miller, and eventually became Winterquarters Manager. He was know for volunteering his time to help others, especially young circus people. He gave tours of Showmen’s Rest and served on the Circus City Museum and Park Board.

JAN 12, 1929

Dudley Hamilton is currently the winter quarters superintendent of the Kelly Miller Circus. He was an agent for both the Carson & Barnes Circus and the Kelly Miller Circus.

Dudley’s monument features an impressive elephant long mount which was taken from a Carson & Barnes Circus poster with four showgirls. The monument also has a large shade tree which Dudley said he thought would add to the scene and the words
on the front of the gravestone and the logos of Kelly Miller Circus and Carson & Barnes Circus on the back of the monument.

Joe Wallace Cooper
(1937 – 2000)

p.txt-3Joe Cooper was a circus agent who worked for Allen Bros. Circus, Culpepper – Merriweather Circus, Carson & Barnes Circus and “was on the road” contracting for the Kelly Miller Circus when he passed away. He was the nephew of circus agent Dudley Hamilton, whose stone is featured above this one.


On the front of the monument are the words: “Big Top Circus Agent,” and the sentiment “He gave with world a smile each day is engraved on the base. The back of this colorful stone features the logos of all four circuses with whom he associated.

Next week I’ll wrap up with a few amazing markers from Showmen’s Rest before moving on to share some beautiful stones from one of Texas’ most historic cemeteries. I hope you’ll join me!

Showmen’s Rest – Part 1: Even Their Final Resting Place is Entertaining

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Hugo, OklahomacircusG

Recently I was thrilled to be able to visit one of the famous cemeteries on my “visit one day” list: the Showman’s Rest section of Mount Olivet in Hugo, OklahocircusFma.

Hugo has been the winter home of traveling circuses since the 1930’s and the retirement place of many performers and others associated with the circus/carnival profession. It’s known as “Circus City, USA.” Hugo is also home to “The Endangered Ark Foundation,” the nation’s second largest herd of Asian elephants.

It’s fitting that many who have moved on to the big top in the sky find their final resting place in the local cemetery, in a special section bordered by elephant statues on granite pedestals.

The day I visited the cemetery it was raining quite hard, but I refused to be deterred. (Thank heaven for rain ponchos!) The water did affect some of the photos and the clarity of some lettering on stones. It also prevented me from gently cleaning some stones as I normally would, since I was concentrating more on protecting my camera from the rain.
Conditions aside, it was an exciting visit filled with imagery I had never seen on gravitons elsewhere. The statues and photos bring back fond memories of carnivals from childhood.

I’ll share some of my favorites with you in my next few blogs, and hope yo enjoy them as much as I did.

Jack B. Moore
1919 – 1969

circusDOne of the first headstones visible as you enter Showmen’s Rest is a three-dimensional replica of a circus tent. Moore was born in Marshall, Texas and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. dimensional replica of a circus tent.

circusEAfter the war’s end he launched a small show conducted under a canvas tent. The Clyde Beatty motion picture show was enjoyed along with a trained chimp, wrestling bear, pony show, a singing and dancing number by his daughter Wanda, and Happy Hanks hillbilly Show. It must have been amazing to many of the small towns they visitedCarsonBarnesRoute.

As the years passed, the show evolved to include larger and more exciting acts. The name changed as well, to Banner Bros., Jack Moore’s Tex Carson Jamboree and eventually to the Carson & Barnes Circus.
By 1961 the show needed 20 trucks to move the show that included 5 elephants, a moderate sized menagerie, and a Big Top that was 100 ft. round with three 40 ft. middles.

Herbert Weber
“The Great Huberto”
1914 – 1991

circusB Huberto-1-819x1024When Herbie, the son of a Czech-German family in Ohio, saw a wire act at the age of eight, he immediately knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

As the “Great Huberto” he performed his thrilling wire act around the world with slicked back hair, distinctive South American theme wardrobe and dramatic Latin music.huberto2

He also performed with his wife as “Los Latinos”(which is engraved on the back of his grahubertove marker) – first with Chatita (Chata) Escalante (1911-1985) then his second wife Maricela Sanchez Hernandez.

circusCHe spent a few years working for Hollywood movie studios, performing his tightwire stunts to circus-theme movies and working as a stunt double for the stars.

Thomas Edward Sink

If the Thomas Edward Sink I found in my research is the correct one, he had a bit of a troubled life in his earlier years. Regardless, he reinvented his life into a beloved figure who brought joy and laughter to crowds as Popcorn the Clown.

DSC_9414It’s impossible not to smile when you see this clever marker, isn’t it?

These are only a handful of the amazing markers in this cemetery. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you in the days to come.

Coffin or Casket: What’s the Difference?

While I was at a museum the other day, one of the archivists asked me a question that I hear often:   “What is the difference between a coffin and a casket…or is there one?”

Victorian-Coffin-PlaqueI was glad I had the answer to share with her. Yes, there is a difference although we tend to use the two terms interchangeably.


3-PineWooden coffins, which came into use around the early part of the 16th century in the western world, typically have six sides, and the lid lifts off completely. Once the deceased was placed inside, the lid was nailed shut. Think about the classic Halloween decoration or old black-and-white vampire movies, and you have the idea.

The silhouette is wider at the shoulders and narrows toward the feet. The only handles, if any at all, would have been functional loops of rope to carry it to the graveyard.


You may be surprised that this was a term originally used for jewelry boxes. When the Victorian sensibilities of proper mourning and tribute came into fashion, the word “casket” began being used for the burial receptacles as well. It makes sense I suppose, since it would hold something precious and certainly sound kinder to the ears of those left behind.

The casket is different in shape as well, being elongated and four-sided.

Some caskets feature a split lid to allow for easier viewing of the deceased. This would have been impractical with wooden coffins. The lid of a casket is also hinged, so it is hover entirely detached from the lower portion.

Lined with metal on the interior, unlike coffins, caskets also usually feature six metal handles for pallbearers.

Bits of Related Trivia:

bask1001bThe Greek word “kophinos,” meaning basket, refers to the fact that wicker baskets were used in days gone by. There is a new interest in utilizing them for “green burials.”

Ancient Greeks often buried their dead in a sitting position in clay pottery.

7afdbc54dc8e55dab501e2277596efed “Fittings” or “coffin furniture” were/are external details such as crucifixes, handles and name plates. The local mortician would often offer “rental” of such adornments which would then be removed immediately before burial.

“Trim” was a term used to refer to fabric used to line the interior of coffins.

When a coffin is newPall2-1used to transport a deceased person it is called a “pall,” hence the term “pallbearer” for those that carry it. The word can also refer to a cloth used to drape over the coffin.

I hope that you found this posting interesting…and not too morbid.

What bit of trivia do you have to share about the subject?