THE CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN – The biggest news in Bloomington the second week of September 1917 was the arrival of the Sells-Floto Circus. Not only was the circus a big deal in terms of entertainment value in the early-twentieth century, not only did the show feature 5 live bands, scantily clad female aerialists, and an actual hippo but the arrival marked the return of one of Bloomington’s most famous sons, Henry B. Gentry. Gentry, generally known as H.B., had founded the Gentry Brothers Circus in 1885 with his 3 brothers but the family had sold the circus in 1916 to Ben Austin and J. C. Newman. In 1917 Gentry Brothers Famous Shows was still touring under its new management but apparently H.B. Gentry, who had always been the one of the brothers most interested in the circus as a calling was back on the road with a different show, managing the Sells-Floto. With this home town connection, the city gave the circus special permission to set up on the “old circus grounds in the University Courts addition” and the IU chimes were rung in Gentry’s honor. If anyone knows were the old circus grounds in the University Courts addition were and if they were, as I suppose they must have been, a former home of the Gentry Brother circus please contact me. The circus was big enough news for other advertisers to mention it in their ads. Such as the Collins-Woodburn grocery which proclaimed “Every day is show day with us.” Even the tax man got in on the fun, sort of. Rolla F. Walker, the Monroe County Treasurer, took out an ad inviting the tax payers of Monroe County to make use of the tax office on the day of the circus, with a room set up for mom’s and babies (I’ll let you use your imagination), a place to eat their dinner (ice water provided), free toilets and the opportunity to pick up their fall statement. Several people were reported to have come down with “circus-fever” calling in sick on the day of the performance.
In more serious news, Russia teetered on the brink of civil war, Indiana Governor James P. Goodrich was gravely ill with typhoid fever and Bloomington was plagued by rash of burglaries. In local war related news the 150th Field Artillery Regiment (formerly the 1st Indiana) arrived in New York to prepare for departure to France along with 60 Hoosier nurses. Howard Kahn, an army regular from Indiana who was already in France wrote a short article describing his experience there in September 13 edition of the World. “The whole experience is quite different from my border experience. Here I not only feel that I am doing some good, but I like It. Down in Texas I felt that I was doing no good. And I hated it.” He also reported that it took almost too much time for Americans to realize that they were about to get hit by a shell fired to hit a German plane.