COBWEB CORNERS: Traveling shows

By Mel McFarland

       In those days before instant entertainment, there was a mode of entertainment and information that to a certain extent is still quite alive. The railroad was the most common mode to transport these traveling shows. Some of them we can see on cable TV today, and not all are thought of as bad.
       Indeed, there were a dozen or so traveling churches bringing religion to the tiny villages all over the West. They were sponsored by the larger churches in the country - Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, and so on - and they followed a regular route. Their cars often looked like ordinary railroad cars, but at least one carried a portable steeple, and others folded down for shipping. The Baptist and Methodist cars even stopped at the Colorado City Rio Grande depot. It was not out of the ordinary for these cars to remain on a siding long enough to attract a regular following, even the start of a regular church.
       The circus troupes traveled in their own trains, comprised of dozens of cars and all the necessary equipment. There were also traveling carnivals and medicine shows. Like the church cars, they could be seen parked near a station for a week or a day. But the cars looked different, more like baggage cars, with brilliantly colored murals covering their sides.
       Here is one about taking success another step. The John A. Salzer Seed Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, thought it was missing a great bet. Back in 1896, the company's seed show was traveling to Cripple Creek, and it paused here for a day or two. The idea was to introduce the populace to the value of the company's varieties of hardy seeds. Most of the seeds were available right on the railroad car, but a few had to be ordered for delivery at the best time to plant. Most of the Salzer seeds were for vegetables, but wheat and even various flowers were also available. One wonders how many were willing to trying high-altitude gardening. I cannot say I have heard of a revisit of the show!