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As It Was: Tom Mix Circus Experiences a Series of Snafus in Medford, Ore.

The Tom Mix Circus came to Medford, Ore., on May 5, 1936, for a one-night stand.  A series of incidents made it memorable.

It drew a large crowd despite another, larger circus scheduled to arrive the next day.

A mattress caught fire in one of the circus travel trailers, but Fire Chief Roy Eliot put it out.  It was convenient that he was there and parked cars had fire extinguishers.

A bungled rope trick by film star Tom Mix lassoed a man in the standing-room section of the audience instead of a horse.  Gold Hill miner Harvey Deck, fell and the horse trampled him.  At least that was what 77-year-old Deck said happened when he sued the circus and its owner for $10,000.  The suit was settled out of court for an “undisclosed, substantial amount.”

The circus regretted its bad luck in Medford, but overall, it had a good year, driving its 156 trucks and cars over 12,000 miles, and becoming the first motorized circus to travel from coast to coast and border to border. 

Sources: "Fire Chief Fails to Obtain Rest Even at Circus." Medford Mail Tribune, 6 May 1936, p. 4. "Miner Sues Mix for Damages in Circus Accident." Medford Mail Tribune, May 1936, p. 5. "Accord Reached in Tom Mix Suit." Medford Mail Tribune, 1 Dec. 1936, p. 3. "Official Souvenir Route Book Commemorating the History Making Transcontinental Tour of the Tom Mix Season of 1936." Tom Mix Circus, Circus Historical Society, 1 Dec. 1936, www.circushistory.org/Pdf/1936TomMixRoute.pdf. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.