THE CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN
From the DAWN OF ISLIP TERRACE AND VICINITY
Islip Terrace News; March 1989
Frieda Munn Keinath
Early in 1914 the circus came to town. It was a glorious adventure for the children to watch wild horses and ponies being broken by the two tall sons of one of the circus owners, Mr. Pietram. His partner's name was Desvald. One of Pietram's sons was the tallest person for miles around. The sons trained the horses and performed with them.
They also presented acts with trained monkeys and with seals. The animals were trained and kept in back of the old hunting lodge which was once occupied by the Speilman family, and later by the Frank Schmaeke, Sr. family. Constance Munn (Roth) remembers the time a monkey sprang to the end of his chain and nipped her leg. The bareback riders were very popular.
Other animals trained were elephants, dogs and a goose. Exciting things were always happening.
There were tight-rope; juggling and acrobatic acts, clowns and comedians provided much mirth. The circus people boarded whenever necessary at various homes in the settlement. One of the homes was the Wandres home on Carleton Avenue (the old Squires house). The Wandres family remembered fondly the circus people, and told of one unfortunate occurrence. The circus group which was to perform an act where the man stands alone and then a pyramid of girls was formed by them jumping, in turn, upon his shoulders, and so on. However, the gentleman had gotten a terrific sunburn, especially on his shoulders and back, earlier in the day. He went through the entire act in agony.
Strategically placed lanterns, oil lamps and flares furnished the lights for the evening performances in the huge tent, of which neighborhood kids sometimes lifted the flaps and sneaked in.
Some of the boys (now men) who used to carry water for the animals still remember those happy times. They also remember using a bicycle pump to provide more air to the carbide and water tank to provide gas for the lamps in the great, corrugated tin barn which was painted dark red. Some of the
gas lamp flares were pulled up on poles outside the building which was located on Fischer Avenue between Carleton Avenue and Charles Street.
One couple who performed acrobatic and tight rope acts and trained dogs for other acts were Mr. & Mrs. Anton Baliot (real name Riedler). They boarded at the Engelke home on Carleton Avenue before buying a home on Lincoln Avenue.
Baliot taught several young people in the area to perform with his troupe as acrobats. Some of these were; Anna Ziegelbauer, Christel Werberig, Constance Munn (Roth). Miss Frieda Gebelein was another member of Baliot's troupe.
Imagine what a place of wonder the circus provided for youngsters in "Germantown," which settlement had only just been dignified with a name of its own, and that unofficially. There were few cars and no radios or TV sets. Few youngsters ever got to see a movie in East Islip. There was no local post office, firehouse, or even a nearby school.
The circus lasted from 1914 until 1918 when the Pietram sons went off to serve their country in the armed forces. The other partner-owner and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Desvald, bought a house on Main Street, East Islip, and lived there while raising wolfhounds in a big barn on their property.
Old-timers remember the big show put on by the Baliots in October of 1914 when the Carleton Improvement Association sponsored the Benefit Performance to raise funds. Desvald Circus gave a splendid performance. The late Henry Ritz told of another Benefit Performance, this one for the Germantown Hose Company by the same groups. It was held on Fairview Avenue, east of the Walther home, for two days.