Pay Him Money…

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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.

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My parents’ home farm, 2013

 

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.

+++++Credit:
Top Photo (dollar bills) courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com
Second Photo (farmhouse) from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

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Entertainment Desires

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(Image retrieved from Pixabay.com/Barni1)

Born to Mathias and Anna Evans Brown, comedian Joe E. Brown first began to entertain people as an acrobat. Acrobatics, he thought, was what he wanted to work at to help with the family income, but by the time he was seven he’d already become gainfully employed as a newspaper carrier.

Five cents, Joe E. related in his 1956 autobiography, “Laughter is a Wonderful Thing”, bought a carrier ten papers, and he’d make five cents if he sold all ten copies. However, he was disappointed not to earn a profit initially and it was a little while into his first business endeavor that Joe E. realized his first earnings “high”. One day, he sold all ten papers, went back to purchase some more, and smilingly presented his mother with eight cents worth of income.

It was during his paper route one day when a less than discreet individual made fun of his face and large mouth. The insults were hard to ignore, he says, but facts were facts, and he later turned career profits on those disappointing experiences, as well.

Joe E.’s newspaper delivery started with the Toledo Bee, then extended to the Blade. He remembers the week of President William McKinley’s assassination to be a very profitable one, as everyone wanted the latest news while the President clung to life for a week.

While continuing his newspaper routes, he also gathered together a shoeshine kit and began to offer shines. Later, a John Robinson Circus poster attracted his attention and that of his best buddy, Alec Reuben. Alec declared he wanted to be a trapeze artist., and Joe E. went flying through the air in his mind. After absorbing the circus poster and taking imaginary flight, Joe E. was certain that he would find satisfaction in becoming an acrobat.

A first true exposure to the art of acrobatics for Joe E. were the talents of a man named William Ashe, who earned actual pay for his performances. Another friend of Joe E.’s, George Jones, began working with Ashe, which inspired Alec and Joe E. to try to impress George with their nimble cartwheels, handsprings, and to practice back somersaults off a couch on Joe E.’s porch.

“I begged and cried and altogether made such a fuss that they (his parents) finally relented” to letting him talk with Ashe about employment, as long as it didn’t interfere with his school work, Joe E. says in his autobio.

Thus began Joe E. Brown’s first venture into the entertainment business. He would quickly learn that it wouldn’t be an easy field from which a newcomer could hone a livelihood.

I had a much easier route to begin to find satisfaction from the craft I chose by the age of ten. Reading was easy for me, and writing stories was immediately my passion as soon as I learned to put words in a comprehensible order. Storytelling continues to fascinate me to this day.