It’s time to wrap up my visit to Showmen’s Rest in Mount Olivet Cemetery. There are still plenty of tales to tell from this enchanting place.

The Great Huberto

Herbert “Herbie” Weber (1914-1991) and his wife, Chatita Elodia “Chata” Escalante, were known as Los Latinos, a dancing act. But Herbie was better known for his high wire walking over the years, and headlined as the Great Huberto that practiced his “slide for life”. This involved Herbie walking up an incline wire to the top of the circus tent and then sliding backwards to the bottom.

Herbie’s resume is quite impressive because it crosses over entertainment genres, not just the circus world. He appeared on Broadway in Orson Welles’ adaptation of Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” and “The Big Circus”. He also performed in the movie “Until the Clouds Roll By” with Judy Garland. He appeared on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show as well. In addition, he served as actor/dancer Donald O’Connor’s stunt double for several years.

Herbie wore baskets on his feet when he walked the high wire.

Herbie was a creature of habit when it came to his own act, I’m told. He would walk, run, jump, and dance across the wire wearing baskets on his feet. To excite the crowd, Herbie would attempt a jump and dramatically fall from the wire. Audiences would gasp, then the ringmaster and Chata would run to his side and beg him not to try it again. Herbie would insist and complete the jump on the second try, bringing the audience to their feet cheering.

Herbie performed with many circuses over the years, including Ringling Brothers, Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers, and A.B. Barnes. Herbie also produced his own show, Circus Flamante, for several years. Chata died in 1985 and Herbie remarried to Maricela Sanchez Hernandez in 1988.

While better known for his highwire act, Herbie Weber and his wife, Chata, performed as a dance act called Los Latinos.

Herbie died on Dec. 8, 1991 in Texas. He was 77. As far as I know, Maricela is still alive.

Queen of the Bareback Riders

The grave of Zefta Loyal includes a picture of her wearing her circus finery. She was one in a long line of Loyals that worked in the circus world over the decades. The Loyal-Repensky Troupe is regarded as one of the best equestrian acts in circus history. They have a memorial “wheel” at the Circus Ring of Fame in Sarasota, Fla.

Zefta’s name is spelled “Zelta” on this photo that is attached to her grave marker.

Zefta was born in Italy on Sept. 23, 1916. She performed with her family in Europe before they came over to America in the 1930s, occasionally returning to tour the Continent. She was a tiny woman but performed her bareback riding with skill and style alongside her family members.

Poster for the Loyal-Repensky (spelled Repenski here) circus act when it performed for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

The Loyal-Repensky family came to America for the Ringling show and subsequently performed in many American circuses. The Repensky name came from Jules Loyal’s mother’s maiden name, and was used for its impressiveness. There were never any performing Repenskys — only Loyals. Jules was Zefta’s father. The Loyal family’s Ringling act was marked by an unusual seven-man pyramid based on five horses, with four Roman post riders and three top-mounters.

Zefta came from a long line of celebrated circus performers.

Zefta married twice and had two children. She died on April 26, 1996 in Longview, Texas at age 79.

Popcorn the Clown

You can’t have a circus without a clown and there’s at least one buried at Showmen’s Rest. That would be Thomas Edward Sink, better known as “Popcorn” on the front of his grave marker. He entertained circus goers for over 30 years. While his initial dream was to be a magician, he ended up becoming a clown. He said he just had a knack for it.

Thomas Edward Sink performed as Popcorn the Clown for decades across the United States. You can see a few clown noses at the base of his marker.

Popcorn entertained people, young and old, throughout the Midwest for more than 30 years. You can listen to an interview he did with the American Works podcast series before he died. He said he stole his name from someone he knew that wasn’t a clown.

This photo of Thomas “Popcorn” Sink is from a June 27, 1997 article in the New Herald of Port Clinton, Ohio when he was performing with the Kelly Miller Circus.

Popcorn settled in Hugo after he retired. He died on June 30, 2012 at age 72.

Mister Circus

The inscription on the base of Ted Bowman’s grave is reflective of his life as a man of the circus.

“There’s nothing left but empty popcorn sacks and wagon tracks— the circus is gone.”

Ted Bowman spent more time in the office than the center ring but he loved collecting materials about the history of the circus.

Ted didn’t fly on the trapeze or train elephants. He was in management. But he loved the circus.

According to Find a Grave, Ted Bowman started his circus career with the Terrell Jacobs Wild Animal Circus in 1949. He also worked for Royal American Shows, Fairyland Circus, Gil Gray Circus, and the Al G. Kelly – Miller Bros. Circus. Ted usually held treasurer and management level positions. He was general manager of the Carson & Barnes Circus for 17 years.

Ted was also a circus historian who specialized in collecting circus routes. He verified complete and partial routes for thousands of circuses using route cards, route books, diaries, and newspapers. He was known by many as Mister Circus because of that.

Ted died on July 30, 1999 at age 72 in Hugo, Okla.

Wheel of Death

Thank to Kathleen Maca, I learned that Samuel Perez was a member of the famous Perez Family from Mexico City, who perform with the Kelly Miller Circus.

Samuel Perez jumped rope atop a spinning wheel known as the “Wheel of Death”.

He was a talented trapeze and acrobatic performer whose act included jumping rope on top of a spinning wheel known as the “Wheel of Death”, shown on the back of his marker.

The term “wheel of death” is bound to get anybody who is on the fence about attending a circus to purchase a ticket. According to Wikipedia:

The “wheel” is actually a large space frame beam with hooped tracks at either end, within which the performers can stand. As the performers run around on either the inside or outside of the hoops, the whole apparatus rotates. Performers also perform balancing skills with the wheel in a stationary position.

Someone has placed a piece of acrobatic equipment on top of Samuel Perez’ marker beneath the floral arrangement.

Samuel died on Feb. 21, 2001 at age 31 from an illness.

The Showman

The last marker I’d like to share is for a man whose love for the circus started from an early age. His marker includes a quote that I’m sure reverberates with many circus folk.

“We actually live the life that most people only dream of.”

James “Jim” Zajicek was born on Oct. 31, 1961, in Chicago Heights, Ill.

Jim Zajicek had an abiding love of the circus, which you can see in his smile.

Jim joined the Franzen Bros. circus in the summer of 1979 and returned immediately following his high school graduation. There he perfected his juggling skills, performed Rolla-Bolla. Although he had a fear of heights, Jim learned to walk the high wire.

He later joined the Culpepper-Merriweather Show, where he trained and performed with an elephant and was featured on National Geographic magazine in March 1987. He moved on to Hawthorn Farms, where he cared for, trained, and performed with four elephants.

He started operating his Big Circus Side Show and was curator of this unusual show for almost 10 years. Jim’s career took him to all 48 continental states as well as Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Jim died at age 52 on July 3, 2014. I believe he died of cancer.

It was hard to say goodbye to this special cemetery. So many wonderful stones to walk among. But it was time to leave Oklahoma and start heading east to get back to Georgia. But there were still many stops to make before we got there.

Herb Walters was the owner of a number of circuses over the years, including part ownership of the Cole-Walters Circus.