The Gypum Brothers Circus began in Springfield in 1928. Brothers Arnold and Stanley Patch of 38 Crescent Street were the promoters. In 1928 Arnold was 10 years old and Stanley was eight.
My father told me many stories about the circus. One story I remember was a tame black bear that walked around on its hind legs. The bear did basic tricks for treats.
My father played the trumpet and guitar as well as vocals. He provided much of the musical entertainment for the Gypum Brothers Circus. I remember my father telling me that even though it was the height of the Depression they made over $100 each in later years.
The first couple of years the circus was mainly animal exhibits with juggling acts and magic tricks. Eventually more events were added, making for an all-day-and-night event.
At the Springfield Art & Historical Society are original copies of “The Springfield Reporter.” Below are a few entries from those papers.
August 5, 1932: “Arnold Patch Manager, Stanley Patch Treasurer. Raymond and Robert Hitchcock as lion tamers, camel drivers. Among the attractions are an eight piece orchestra, side shows and eats. The main show consists of ten or more acts with fireworks at night. Moving pictures will be shown at an additional cost of three cents over the general admission of five cents.”
July 28, 1933: “Gypum Bros Circus robbed! Gypum Brothers Circus absolutely the greatest show on earth as far as Springfield is concerned defied the Depression and the elements to register the greatest triumph in its five years of showing. Although a sorrowful note crept into the voice of Stanley Patch when he revealed that some rascal had pinched between five and seven dollars at the gate. Patch stated, ‘we know who it is and we’ll get our money back.’”
July 27, 1934: “Over 800 persons attend the Gypum Bros Circus at Patch Flats. ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ according to Springfield residents. Among the performers: Arnold and Stanley Patch, Junior and Roger Hunting, Sylvia and Jane Wellwood and a dozen more.
Howard and Harold Magwire served as ‘cops’ during both performances, performing a task made extremely essential by the rush of spectators and the enormous size of the audience. Some of the feature vaudeville acts were: Tap dancing by that expert Lester Beaudry, songs by Evelyn Beaudry, three acts by the clowns of the show Raymond and Steve Zaleski, Dominick Gosselin on the flying trapese. The Gypum Brothers Band led by Arnold Patch followed by fireworks.”
July 25, 1935: “Gate Crashers Disciplined. Only one incident occurred to mar the show and that when a group of young boys tried to slip in under the tent, they were given the bums rush and retaliated by tossing a green apple which hit a fair bystander. Manager Patch refused a demand for police protection on the grounds saying that he and his gang of razorbacks could do their own policing, which they proceeded to do in a prompt and effective manner and to the discomfort of several would be gate crashers who are said to be nursing discolored eyes today.* Patch also allowed to call the cops would raise the town tax rate, and besides he did not know what Officer Parker might be searching for someone’s dog which had temporarily disappeared.”
“Well stocked Menageries: Anymles from all parts of the world were on display at the zoo. A flying squirrel from the jungles near the railroad yards; one large and seven small rabbits; a mud turtle, taken at great risk of life from the Black River; a white rat and several stray dogs completed the menagerie.”
*I can attest from personal experience that it wasn’t a good idea to make Arnold mad.
Marshall Dutton told me a funny story about the circus. Marshall had a large dog that was a Collie/Saint Bernard mix. They shaved the dog from the rear end up to the neck, leaving what looked like a mane of a lion. The tail was also shaved leaving a ball tip.
I don’t have a photo of the Gypum Brothers Circus so I include one of the Aug. 29, 1903, Circus in Chester.
The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7pm, upstairs at Chester Town Hall. All are invited.