No circus that includes exotic animals would be considered complete without the lion tamer! Of course, even the arguably greatest circus man of the twentieth century has a story. Today, we would like to tell you a little bit about Gunther Gebel-Williams. Gunther was born in Schweidnitz, Germany (now a part of Poland) in 1934 under far from ideal conditions. An abusive father, World War II on the horizon, and his family always strapped for money. As a teenager, he stumbled upon the Williams Circus, and found himself a surrogate family there. His birth family readily left him, and he began his new life as an animal trainer, and added the name Williams to his own.
Gunther Gebel-Williams gained fame in the European circus until 1968, when the Ringling Brothers Circus in the States was looking for a new face to rekindle their own success, and Gunther's became that face. Within a short time, he was a superstar in his second continent, continually wowing audiences with his dynamic manipulation of large animals. The poster on the right, just like one in our Toy Box, celebrates Gebel-Williams' farewell tour, which ended in 1990. November 18th of that year, he gave his 11,697th performance in the United States (not including his years in the Williams Circus). He made occasional appearances after that, but passed away in 2001 because of a brain tumor.
QUESTION: When Gunther moved to the United States, he made what city known for their waterways his home?
A) San Antonio, TX
B) Venice, CA
C) Providence, RI
D) Venice, FL
ALOHA! On this day in 1959, Dwight Eisenhower signed a piece of paper. Sounds simple enough, but his signature meant quite a lot because it made official that there would be a fiftieth state. Yes, Hawaii would enter the Union officially on August 21st. Tiki bars, hula dancers, surfing and the luau would be even more American than ever. Way to go, Ike!
SANDWICH MAN! And to top off today, who better to celebrate than our 22nd AND our 24th president, Grover Cleveland! Born in 1837, Cleveland is the only man born in New Jersey who would hold the highest office in the land. Even more exciting, he's also the only president to hold nonconsecutive terms. If you find yourself in Albany, New York, take a few minutes to visit his final resting place, wish him a happy birthday, and thank him for his noble service.
QUOTE: Honor lies in honest toil. - Grover Cleveland
ANSWER: D) Venice, FL. There is a statue honoring Gebel-Williams on display at the Rollins W. Coakley Railroad Park honoring him in his full circus regalia in Venice, FL