Joe E. Brown admits to astonishment, he says in his autobio, when he first discovered he might be able to get “paid for flying through the air”. For acrobatics, he was certain, was the life for him.
His best school buddy, Alec Reuben, had declared for the trapeze, and together, the boys learned that 12-year-old George Jones, a boy also of their Toledo neighborhood (referred to as “The Hill”) had been hired by professional acrobat William J. (Billy) Ashe.
Joe E. relates that he endlessly practiced cartwheels, handsprings, and walking on their hands in George’s presence, hoping to win him over to put in a good word with Ashe on their behalf.
At nine-years-old, Joe E. convinced his father to let him speak with Ashe about employment, and he was successful in getting an audition, to practice with George at Ashe’s headquarters at the old Valentine Athletic Club gym. “That was a conversation I’ll never forget,” he says.
On a humorous note, Joe E. says George didn’t know what a “kinker” was at the time, and it was another six weeks before Joe E. himself discovered the term was a description for an acrobat.
While most of the acrobats in the United States were foreign born and trained in Joe E.’s time, Ashe was born in Toledo to a performing circus clown.
By the time Joe E. was 10, his father signed a contract with Ashe, who had agreed to take Joe E. on and pay him “the princely sum of $1.50 a week”. Joe E.’s statement was sincere. Payment of $1.50 a week was very good in 1902.
At the age of 10, in 1956, living on a farm just East of Joe E.’s birthplace in Holgate, I was writing little short stories for school assignments, as well as for my own pleasure on weekends when school wasn’t even close to a thought in my head.
I wasn’t close to earning any money from my writing endeavors, either. My time was far removed from Joe E.’s, during which helping with the family income was dear to the hearts of many young boys and girls.
I didn’t see my first writing job until I was 18. But I did know writing was my passion.
Ironically, my second passion, which sometimes overrode my first, was athletics, particularly baseball, for that also was Joe E.’s second ambition.
It made perfect sense, then, that Joe E., an entertainer, would later make several baseball-related movies, while I would write stories of baseball heroes.
Top Photo (dollar bills) courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com
Second Photo (farmhouse) from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg