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Friday, January 14, 2011



I don't know about you, but I love a good coincidence.
Last Sunday, as I was manning The Museum of the San Fernando Valley's table at the Campo de Cahuenga reenactment event, I met a gentleman from the Native Daughters of the Golden West booth next door. As we chatted, I discovered that Henry Crowell, now into his 80s, once made his living in a traveling circus.
At the age of 11, Henry ran away from home to join the Wallace Brothers Circus out of York, South Carolina. His first job was cleaning out the cages of the big cats, not exactly encouraging. He went on to work with other big top events, including the world famous Clyde Beatty Circus. (Clyde is buried in Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills above Burbank.)
As we talked, he asked me where I am from.  I explained that I was born in a little town called Mexico, in Missouri. "Well," Henry announced, "I remember Mexico, Missouri very well. It is the place where I got this tatoo."  Up rolled his sleeve and proof of his adventure in my hometown was there to see. "I was just a kid, when I was in the circus there," he said. "And this is my souvenir."
There is just one more aspect to Henry's story, and that comes from one of my very earliest memories.
When I was very little, my family lived on the outskirts of Mexico near the County Fair Grounds. And, I recall, on vaguely, being lifted up by big brother Jimmy to see giant elephants go back, and cages with the most fearsome cats imaginable. Could Henry and I have seen each other for just a second all those 71 years ago?
 Henry Crowell displays his tatoo - Photo by Gerald Fecht 2011 for the Archives of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley.
Henry and Dolores Crowell came to the Campo de Cahuenga reenactment event from their home in Littlerock, California. It's a small world, after all.

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