Ann Margret Montemayor
Sam Bachman collects programs and ticket stubs when he goes to the circus to remind himself of fond memories of his days working for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Ann Margret Montemayor
May 24, 2012
For 15 years, Sam Bachman worked with a bunch of clowns, beasts and show-offs.
It wasn’t your regular desk job at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and there were always a few dangers.
Bachman’s main job was to care for three horses, but he also set up props and helped with general circus setup. One of his most dangerous tasks was when he had to lead three horses into the ring for their performance. After releasing the two horses on either side of him, he had to jump out of the way so he wasn’t trampled by the third coming behind him.
Although he always made it out of harm’s way in time, he was dragged by a horse while training one day.
“I was black and blue and sore for a while after that,” he said.
Bachman, Osawatomie, started working for the circus in the early 1960s when he was 19. He traveled by train to 49 states, Canada and Mexico, getting the chance to sightsee and meet celebrities everywhere he went.
“I liked traveling around and seeing things,” he said.
While in Seattle in 1962, during the World’s Fair, he met Elvis Presley while Presley was filming “It Happened at the World’s Fair.” During his travels, he also met Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Sonny and Cher, and Harland David Sanders, better known as KFC’s Colonel Sanders.
Sanders was filming a commercial with the circus, and afterwards, he bought chicken for the entire crew, Bachman said.
“I saw him in advertisements ,and he looked so good in that white suit,” Bachman said. “I didn’t know if he looked as good in person, but he did.”
Life in the circus was always exciting, but Bachman frequently found himself in precarious situations, like the time he was rigging lights just a few feet from the ceiling of the Astrodome in Houston.
There were always lions, elephants, zebras and tigers — one so tame Bachman could reach his hand in the cage to pet it. A friendly two-headed zebra also caused a stir, Bachman remembers.
“You could go up and pet it just like it was a horse,” he added.
Audiences loved the animals, but the high-wire act was the biggest hit while he worked in the circus.
Hearing loss and medical issues caused Bachman to leave the circus, but he still goes to watch it every time it comes to Kansas City.
Bachman lost all of his personal photos from his circus days in the 2007 Osawatomie flood, but he helps keep the memories alive with the ticket stubs and programs from each performance he attends.