KALAMAZOO CIRCUS!                Written by Allan Holden    All rights reserved

            The following artical is from the Kalamazoo Antique Bottle Club's newsletter that I also write. Mark Churchill is an old friend of mine, and he is one of the best detectorist that I have ever known. Many people in the bottle digging hobby will tell you, that with a bottle probe in his had, he is magical! When an extreamly old site is probed, by a dozen people, with no success, bring in Mark and he will find the privy!

        One day I was suppose to meet up with Mark for an afternoon of antique bottle digging. Mark recieved permission to dig at an ancient Greek Revival style home on the east side of Schoolcraft. I turned my van down the street, and there was Mark's truck. I drove by the house looking to see where Mark had found the first privy. I didn't see him anywhere. As it turned out, Mark's dirt pile was hidden by a huge old tree and Mark was hidden because he was underneith the ashpalt driveway! I'm telling you, this guy is good! Many times Mark was able to locate privies benieth garages!

        Mark and I go back a long way. When I first met Mark and his father, they came to me to buy metal detectors. At that time, I sold the detectors inside my father's R.V. business. I am pretty sure Mark was still in school at the time.

       Mark and his father, Jerry, are the type of people who, when they get interested in something, they don't go in halfheartedly--- they jump in with both feet!

       When it came to metal detecting, that's exactly how they were! While most guys would take their detector to the park, the school or the beach, you know, the usual places--- these two were different. How so? They did their homework! It wasn't just "metal detecting" to them, it was treasure hunting! Their metal detectors were just tools used in the quest for treasure!

       I think metal detecting was an important first step into more successful bottle digging for Mark, because that is where he learned how to be comfortable asking permission to hunt on private property.

       Mark and his dad really did their research and among other great locations that they discovered, they located the oldest circus grounds in Kalamazoo County. When they discovered the old circus grounds, they were glad to find them mostly vacant, which they are to this very day.

      Mark and his dad secretly hunted them during one summer with amazing success. They hunted these old historic grounds with the deepest seeking detectors available and they used every trick to be more successful.

      Their method of hunting and their equipment gave them great results. After they had pretty well hunted the area out, Mark wrote about it, and his story was published in one of the national treasure magazines. In the articles, Mark offered pictures as proof of their success. In his article, Mark listed nearly every single coin, as I recall, and it was mind boggling! Nearly every denomination of early and mid-eighteen hundred coins were found, and in great quantity!

     How many times in my 55 years have I said, "Why didn't I think of that?" Well, I'll tell you--- too often!

     Here is an original thought! Keep it to yourself and don't tell a soul! I can picture those old circus grounds with the big tents set up! In my mind's eye I can almost see the crowds and hear the calliope's steam whistles tooting out a welcoming circus tune to the arriving patrons.

        In those days, a big part of the circus was the small booths spread throughout the grounds with pitchmen selling everything from imported tobacco to the world's most magic medicine. The most glorious claims were made for each product and they were hard to resist. People came to expect to learn about the newest and greatest products and cures from around the world at the circus! Here you could count on finding the latest products to heal whatever your problem!

      The products available at the circus were not available everywhere. Unlike the local merchandise, these products came from all four corners of the earth and were endorsed by kings, queens, and heads of state from far away lands!

       One of these products of great wonder was presented to the masses with undeniable truth. This rapidly selling product was the world- renowned Seven Sisters Hair Grower! The famous singing seven sisters, Sarah, Victoria, Isabella, Grace, Naomi, Dora and Mary boasted a total of 37 feet of beautiful hair!

        The circus traveled by rail in those days. Parked on the rail spur, on the far east end of the grounds, were some of the most colorful freight cars and animal cage cars that you could ever imagine! Even though they were simply essential transportation, everything was decorated and were part of the magic.

       Staked out near the circus cars and feeding on fresh hay were the giant trained elephants. Just behind the pachyderms walked a giant of a man with wobbly legs wearing red and white vertically striped pants.

       Located on the west side of the circus grounds were rows and rows of hitching posts. This was the customers' parking lot. Young boys with large wooden wheelbarrows and shovels picked up the area to keep it clean. Families flowed in aboard buckboards, buggies, wagons and on horse back, as well as on foot.

        Way in the back, away from everything else, were the much needed privies, and there were very many of them. Discarded or accidently lost into the outhouse pits were a large variety of circus trinkets, coins, and of course the usual soda, whiskey and beer bottles and even medicine samples.

        Could it be? I'm certain they didn't rent porta-johns. With the grounds used year after year I'm sure they needed such facilities. Yes they are undoubtably there somewhere, probably loaded with an unbelievable variety of collectable treasures.