THE BRIGHTON CIRCUS July 18, 1962
– A proposal was made to the body that a Carnival be held on the Brighton Lodge grounds. After a lengthy and thorough discussion, it was motioned, seconded and accepted unanimously. September 5, 1962
– The Carnival Committee reported that this event would be held during Thanksgiving Week. It was proposed that an Ad Book be sponsored to coincide with this function. November 15, 1962
– The Headline in the local newspaper announced:"CIRCUS COMING TO BRIGHTON – Lions 'n Everything!"
A big indoor circus, believed to be the first ever held in Brighton, would be held for an entire week, complete with five elephants, five lions and a famous clown named Balloono. Brought here by the newly chartered Brighton Lodge of Elks, the circus would be held from Sunday, November 18th through Saturday, November 24th at the new Elks Home (the former Egyptian Theater) on Washington Street in Brighton Center.
The circus would be set up on the dirt floor of what was once the local movie theater. The Elks had remodeled other parts of the building for their Lodge rooms, but the finishing of the main theater was a long-range program. Hence it was highly suitable for a circus performance. There were to be two shows daily, at 5:30 and 9:30 pm including Thanksgiving Day. Children would be admitted free of charge. November 22, 1962
– A 500-pound lioness broke loose in the crowded theater, panicking a standing-room-only
crowd of 400 (other sources say 200) and sending them surging for the exits.
The big cat (the police said her name was Eloise) escaped from the metal-barred chute at the close of the animal act. Trainer Count Nolan of Wrentham was coaxing five lions back to their individual cages, when Eloise leaned against the side of the tunnel leading from the center ring when it gave way under her weight.
It was hard to say who was more startled, Eloise or those watching. Immediately, the lioness made for the spectators and the spectators made for the doors. Several persons were knocked down and trampled but no serious injuries were reported.
As the mob swept toward the front door, a woman had an infant jarred from her arms. The child was quickly picked up by an unidentified man and carried to the street. The mother and child were united.
One of the four women, who were helping the Elks, locked herself in the old ticket booth where she was selling tickets, and refused to open the door to anyone.
Eloise evidently became disappointed seeing her Thanksgiving Eve dinner vanish out the exits, elected to settle for an elephant snack. Bounding into an area behind the main cage where the elephants were chained, she leaped onto the back of one of the elephants, which with a flick of its mighty trunk slammed the lioness to the floor. Eloise had second thoughts about freedom.
At that point, amid the wild trumpeting of the elephants, the snarls of the cats and the screams of the crowd, lion tamer Count Nolan arrived armed with a chair and a pistol full of blanks.
While he was maneuvering the lioness back toward the safety of a cage, somebody dashed into the Station 14 Police Station and blurted to Sgt. John J. Buckley: "There's a lion running loose at the circus!"
Patrolmen Robert Dosch, Gerald McCarthy, Robert Tierney and Remi Kennedy sprinted to the theater. When they saw a clown perched on top of the merry-go-round they knew something was wrong. The policemen formed a flying wedge and those customers still trapped inside the theater were able to escape to the sidewalk.
Even with Eloise securely under lock again, no one connected with the show cared much about discussing the incident. Nolan came the closest. Like many performers of that era, he had appeared on the "Ed Sullivan Show."
"Up until tonight", he said, "that was the highpoint of my career." November 23, 1962
– The populace of Brighton enjoyed Thanksgiving Dinner, happy that they had avoided being one. November 28,1962
– It was motioned and seconded that the Lodge would give a card and a token gift to each of the four ladies who had served at the Circus during the week of November 18th through November 24th, 1962.
The motion passed.Submitted by Tom Hogan