Behind the Victory Flagpole – Rainy day blues at the circus


“Rain, rain go away – come again some other day”

That is what a young man was wishing when he had an unusual experience back in 1916 when he was a freshman attending North High School. His name was Meyer Cooperman and this is his story as written in the 1916 Polaris Yearbook.

Quoting him: “The Big Barnum & Bailey Circus was coming to town the next day so my big sister decided to take me with her to see the lions, tigers and bears.

The next morning we arose early, dressed and started down town to see the circus parade. It was a very warm day and if it rained it surely would be a bad day for a circus, but would make the day much cooler and refreshing.

The parade came down the street headed by mounted policemen and then the usual participants, which make up a circus, followed. After the parade ended, we took a car for the circus grounds and arrived there in twenty minutes. There, already, were many people on the grounds surveying the various kinds of animals. It began getting windy, so we bought tickets for one of the side shows. There were many interesting sights to see, the fattest woman in the world, the smallest man, the largest horse, and a hundred and one others equally good.

After taking in all the side shows we cared for, we paid admission to the main tent where there were many thrilling aerial feats exhibited. Jess Willard, cowboy, champion heavyweight boxer of the world sparred a few rounds. By five o’clock the circus ended, so we left the tent for home.

It was raining fiercely, and also thundering and lightening severely. We started to run for a streetcar but suddenly a fearful, shuddering thunder shook the earth, and at the same time a stroke of lightening flashed across the sky. It dazed me, and I yelled aloud, but no one seemed to hear me. It was raining blindly. I could not see my sister, so I ran to the other side of the street. Half way across, I stumbled and fell unconscious in front of a streetcar.

The next thing I remember was a nurse bending over me. She told me to lie still and not talk. I inquired for my sister and was told she was lying in the next room, having a serious attack of nervousness. My parents visited me the same day and told me I could go home with them immediately. So I dressed and bidding my sister goodbye, went home. The next day my sister came home.

That night we all seated ourselves around the dining room table. My father told us that when I was crossing the street, a flash of lightening stunned me and left me unconscious. Two men carried me into a nearby drugstore, and then I was taken by ambulance to a hospital. My sister suffered, he told us, in the same way I did, but she was taken to the same hospital in a different ambulance. We were all very thankful that we were not hurt severely, but to this day, I can remember that sunny circus morning and that dark circus evening.”