That Time I Almost Joined the Circus

My Real Memoir

As kids, we knew we could become anything. It was just a matter of deciding what. And that was usually determined by which Disney movie we’d most recently seen. After my buddy Jeff and I saw Walt Disney’s Toby Tyler: 10 Weeks in a Circus (starring Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran of Old Yeller fame), the handwriting was on the wall.

Unlike other professions, e.g. being an accountant or a superhero, for which you had to, 1) be an adult and, 2) have superpowers, to be in the circus you simply had to run away and join–but as a kid. So there was no time to waste!

Being a trapeze artist was best because you got to fly through the air and catch beautiful vaguely-European girls in leotards. But we didn’t have a trapeze, or leotards, or a beautiful vaguely-European girl. So we opted for the next best thing: tightrope walking. And we even had a tightrope! Sort of. It was the chain link fence in Jeff’s backyard. Which was pretty much the same thing, right?

Every day for a really long time, like maybe a week (!), we’d meet, talk circus life, and practice walking the fence. Problem was, I’d already learned how to skateboard and how to stand on a moving bike seat, so fence-walking was, well, kinda easy.

Plus, real circuses never seemed to come to our town.

The closest thing was the L.A. County Fair. Dad would take his best paperboys as a reward every year, and I always brought along Jeff or Rory. After a cursory viewing of prize-winning jello molds, and petting a few sheep, we’d head for the almost-a-circus Fun Zone.

Sadly though, my circus aspirations ended abruptly the day I threw up on Judy’s Egg-Beater. Clearly designed by a sadist, the ride consisted of egg-beater-shaped cages dangling from geared shafts. As the whole ride spun around, each cage would additionally spin in the opposite direction! A pimply teenager (clearly the sadist’s son), would lock you in your cage, then hit the start button and gradually increase the speed. He’d shout, “Faster?” The horrified kids would scream, “No!” And then he’d giggle maniacally and push the speed lever forward.

Once pretty much everyone had hurled their corn dogs and funnel cakes on each other, and watched in horror as the remainder circumnavigated the interior, he’d finally turn the ride off, and wash the cages out with a bucket. Ah, the glamorous life of a carny.

I knew then I needed to stay in school.

However, I did throw a ping pong ball in a bowl and score a pet goldfish. He lived for months in my room, before I finally dumped him in our backyard pond. I found him a year later, now roughly the size of Flipper, and wondered, “Would that happen to me if I moved into a bigger house?” If so, I might eventually develop superpowers, after all! Which would open up…

A whole new range of career options.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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35 Responses to That Time I Almost Joined the Circus

  1. I never wanted to join the circus, but my father wanted to join the circus and from time to time he would suggest that we both run away and join the circus.

    He never actually took me to see a circus – they rarely came to town, but we went to the county fair every year.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. marthadilo3 says:

    Lol yep I get it! I never saw anyone turn literally green until my son went on the spinning cup ride. The carny started talking to me and let the ride go on and on. When they wobbled off it was the end of spinning rides!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Funnel cake. Now that’s a memory worth savoring.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. capost2k says:

    I don’t think you would grow proportionally to a bigger house. You have to live in the backyard pool for a year, just like anyone else who want to develop superpowers. Any you cannot have eaten any funnel cakes for at least ten years prior to moving into the pool. Follow the science. 😄

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Harshi says:

    Watching the 1952 American Drama – The Greatest Show on Earth, was my first experience of a circus. It was followed by reading Enid Blyton’s detective tales and adventure stories. It so happened that there was a series titled Circus which aired on the national channel when I was a child and it was good to view the concept in an Indian context.

    I was fortunate to experience it in reality during my teens and much later take my daughter to visit one as well. However, what makes me sad is that no one funds them anymore. The crowds have dwindled. This however doesn’t stand true for the likes of Totem, a touring show by Cirque which I saw in Singapore.

    Last year, I read the book – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s such a captivating tale and I do hope that it’ll be made into a feature film.

    Wow Mitch! Your post really took me down memory lane.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. K.L. Hale says:

    Mitch, I was waiting to read how the egg beater fit in all of it! I couldn’t stop laughing. And the goldfish to Flipper~crack me up! I like being a small fish in my small house. Lol We have a carnival every year in the small town where I was a Middle School Principal (and still attend this!). If there was anything close to a circus, it’s this fair! Corn dogs and funnel cakes spew around the swinging single seat ride zipping faster and higher as it goes. A few of us always fear who’d run off with a carny! Thank you for the memories and laughs, Mitch. I wonder where you’d be HAD you joined?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. One of my elementary school teachers read my class pages from the Toby Tyler circus book every afternoon before we left for the day. I loved the story, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A most ignominious end to your circus dreams

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Oh, to be a kid with all the options there plus the imagination. Remembered so well!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Gary Fultz says:

    Ya I’m kind of reliving a memory here (thanks), I lost my appetite for the circus rides and the food after a young stranger covered the whole cab inside the tilt-a-whirl (cousin to the egg beater?). He must have had every food sample available.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Your giant goldfish reminds me of a story I read to my fourth graders about a frog named Jumparoney who grew so big his owner had to transport him around in a wagon. Such a well-written and hilarious story! The first time I (tried to) read it aloud, I laughed harder than the kids and could hardly get the words out. I think I even cried. That made the kids laugh all the harder. . . We were a mess. ‘Wish I could find that story again. . . You didn’t happen to write it, did you, Mitch?! Now that you’ve reminded me, I’ll have to poke around the internet and see if I can find Jumparoney!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I’m writing about my great grandfather, Sherd Goff, who wanted to join the circus. He and his brother practiced all sorts of handstands and cartwheels. Sherd’s grandkids would ask him to do them, so he would. He took them to every circus and county fair he could find. (I was, much later, thankful to learn that my own son wasn’t crazy about rides at Adventureland. One ride in the teacups made me dizzy for the rest of the day.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dawn Marie says:

    I aspired to train the bears!! We’d wearing Matching tutus, which of course I would sew. The cutest circus act of them all. 🐻

    Liked by 2 people

  14. usfman says:

    All I remember about the circus was it seemed to make made people happy and could potentially involve a day to miss school.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. My older brother never took me to another circus after the lion tamer stuck his head in the animal’s mouth and I just about screamed the tent down.
    As for rides though, I used to work in school holidays at a Luna Park (which included a Coney Island section). We’d get 60 complementary tickets for the various rides and I’d take them to school and sell them for 50% of the gate price. That was a nice little earner for a while 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I had the maniac in the cage WITH me. My friend acted all nervous and said, “Is it OK if I hold onto this bar?” I figured, whatever made her feel secure, and said “OK.” The moment the ride started, she gave a maniacal laugh and pulled hard on the bar, spinning us fast and incessantly for the entire ride. I never trusted her again.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. murisopsis says:

    I think your talents would have been wasted as a circus performer or a super hero! I would however like to see that goldfish!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. gpavants says:


    Ah yes what memories of childhood. Anything was possible. How it changes.

    Thank you,


    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: My Final Summer with Grandpa | Mitch Teemley

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