Frank and Ruthie's Friends
Over the course of nearly a century of work in Vaudeville, the Circus and the Entertainment field, the name "Engford" became well known and widely acclaimed for its family appeal.
Photos and information regarding Robert Engford's acquaintances in the entertainment field is currently not available (actively performing from about 1905 to 1939). His son, Harry, performed from about 1912 until retirement in 1967. Again, information about his acquaintances in the entertainment field is also currently very limited.
However, Ruthie Engford Clark and Frank Clark have an extensive network of Circus/Entertainment friends. Below are just a few of their friends. Ruthie provides most of the commentary.
Eldon "Buster" Bailey
"Elden (Buster) Bailey, percussionist with the New York Philharmonic for some 40 years, and a very dear friend of ours. We keep in touch with his wife, Barbara, and see her every winter when she comes to Sarasota for a couple months each year. She was a percussionist with the Teaneck New Jersey Symphony for many years. She and Buster actually met a Julliard in NY. Barbara is still an active musician, traveling many times thru the year to play percussion instruments in various orchestras (like "Windjammers", a group dedicated to the preservation of Circus Music)."
Buster took many photos of the Engford Family performances. He filmed Frank and Ruthie's helicopter act a few days before their wedding. He also filmed "The Engfords" performing at Circus World Museum in 1964 as well as Ruthie's "Estreleta" trapeze act. He also photographed Robert's acknowledgement for his contributions to motorized circuses.
Mike & June Malko, Tony Steele, Frank Clark
Tony Steele, Frank Clark, Lily Steele
Tony Steele is universally acknowledged as the best "flyer" of his era. In 2011 Tony in his seventies was still teaching young people how to fly.
Frank says, “Tony and I met in Jamestown, North Dakota about 1953 when I was a catcher in a Casting Act called “The Lopez Trio”. Tony was working with “Flying Malkos”, but was also doing his own single trapeze act on the show. He did a wild and crazy act, full of dangerous tricks. Tony was absolutely FEARLESS!“
Frank and Tony had been on many of the same shows together. During some time off, Frank went to visit Tony in Wapella, Illinois. The Malkos had their rigging set up in a bean field to practice. Frank had come to watch. The Malkos had a contract for the next week in Toronto, but were one person short as their usual 4th person couldn’t make it. Suddenly, Mike Malko yelled down from the catch-trap, “Hey, Frank, what are you doing next week?” Frank said, “Nothing, we’re off.” Mike said, “Can you come to Toronto with us and be our 4th person?” Well, SURE! So, Frank did a trick across to Mike and a “cut-away” dive to the net at the end of the act. He went to Toronto with them for the week and, that's where this photo of the four “Malkos” was taken.
Ruthie adds; "When Frank was working in Paris for the winters of 1964 and 1965, Tony was working in Paris too. Both of them were always nuts for practice and especially flying trapeze. They spent any off-time together practicing! And further, it was actually Tony who said to Frank when he was deciding to come back to America for Ruthie; “Go, Frank!” And he DID!! Thanks, Tony!"
In the 1960's and 70's, Myron Floren, Joanne Castle and other Lawrence Welk Band Stars made personal appearances on Fairs, etc. We worked many times with them. Myron Floren even left his accordion in my care one time, when he went for dinner!
But, on one big Fair where we were together, there was a big parade downtown. It was advertised that Myron was to be in it, too!!! All the performers were on special floats, etc. In all the flurry, those in charge of the parade each thought that the other was taking care of Myron!! Well, here the parade was on its way and Myron was left standing with no float or car for him!!! Well, many "Stars" would have walked off in a huff! Not Myron!!! The last thing in the parade was a tractor pulling something. Myron jumped up behind the tractor driver, waving at everyone, "bringing up the rear" in this parade! The people just screamed and jumped up and down, and the parade organizers fell over themselves apologizing to him!! Take a bow, Myron!!
Photo at right: Lois Engford, Myron Floren and Ruthie Engford Clark.
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans
Roy & Dale, very fine people. Worked with them several times thru the years. I remember the first time, I was 8 years old. Roy Rogers was a very big Star already. "The Engfords" were part of a show held in a huge auditorium in Kansas City. Roy, of course, was the Star of the show. Well, our dressing-room was right next to his. My father, Harry, went out to check our props for the show. The instant he opened the dressing-room door, dozens of flashbulbs went off!!! Photographers, with these big, old-fashioned cameras!! It looked like a lightning storm!! As the flashes subsided, you could hear, "Is that HIM?"; "Is THAT him?"; "No, that's NOT him!" For one blinding moment, Harry was thought to be Roy Rogers!! He smiled, took a bow, and went off to check the props, leaving the photographers to re-load their bulbs!
In the photo of Roy & Dale with Frank and I, this was taken at a huge Fair in Bloomsburg, Pa. We were there for a week with them, and Roy Jr. with the "Sons of the Pioneers". They were very nice people, and very professional in every way.
Emmitt Kelly Jr.
Ruthie provides this information: " Emmett Kelly Jr. is the SON of the original Emmett Kelly. Emmett Jr. was a very good clown, and owned all the rights to his father’s make-up and clown gags, etc. We worked many times with him on his show, and on others' shows. Most excitedly, we worked with him at Caesar’s Palace at Lake Tahoe. Emmett especially liked Frank, as Frank reminded him of his father, he said. He always stood in the wings and watched our act and always did us the honor of taking our entrance capes from us whenever we worked together. Just a few years ago, we were honored to be invited guests , at his table, for an evening of special tributes given to him for all his years of making people laugh and cry. It was a wonderful evening for him. He died just a few months later (2006)."
"Parley Baer was the The Ringmaster at Caesars' Lake Tahoe with Emmett Kelly's circus. He was a very special friend, and a great lover of the Circus. He was married to Ernestina Clarke (no relation), who was a famous lady Bareback Ballerina Rider with the riding act "The Clarkonians" during the 1920's & 30's. She was also a member of flying trapeze act, "The Clarkonians". Parley, in the late 1930's was a Press Agent for Al G. Barnes Circus."
"Both have a long history around the Circus. He was in a lot of movies abd voice-over commercials. You may remember seeing him as the Mayor of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith TV show. Also, he was the voice of the Head Elf in the Keebler Cookie Commercials. He was a very nice person, and we enjoyed working with him. All the comments and announcements about us were HIS. No coaching or "notes" from us!"
Bill & Trudy Strong
Beautiful people and special friends all thru our career. They did a gorgeous aerial act called "The Pharaohs" and we worked many times with them. They also did a feature "Rocket" Act called "Quasars." They also presented a Liberty Horse act, and a beautiful Dalmatian dog act. The last 9 or 10 years of their career, Trudy presented, and Bill assisted, a wonderful tiger act, on a major circus in Germany (Cirque Krone).
"The photo at the end of "Yesterdaystowns" 2007/03/01, certainly is Frank & I with Bill and Trudy. Bill Strong is the one who did "Yesterdaystowns", the last few years of his life. Bill is gone now, and so missed, but we do see Trudy often here in Sarasota at different circus gatherings."
Here was a very nice fellow, fun to work with. We were together a whole week. He worked with a full orchestra, and we were one of several specialty acts who performed during his pre-show and intermission "breather breaks". He not only wowed the audience with his marvelous horn-playing, he wowed them with his famous outrageous wardrobe! He would WAIT for us to come out in yet another super costume, he loved it!! He finally said, we've GOT to have a picture together! So, here it is!
Connie "Consuelo" ArmstrongRuthie says:
"Connie was a very accomplished aerialist, and did difficult tricks with class, ease, and with very pleasing projection. She was a dear friend. She and I practiced our individual trapeze acts together many times, in Chicago, between club dates, fairs, circus, etc. She was my Maid Of Honor at our Helicopter wedding (Francarro & Estreleta) in London, Ontario in 1966. A beautiful person, a beautiful performer."
"These are four photos taken in the 1960's. The one with Eddie Albert is interesting she performed at a special event where he was a guest star. Eddie was always into physical fitness, vitamins and pure foods well, he was just in amazement at the work Connie performed so effortlessly. He asked if there was something they could work out together to perform a special exhibition. Of course, Connie, practiced with him. He hung upside-down on her rigging, and she performed a few strength tricks by hanging from his hands. It was great fun for them both, and resulted in this nice photo of them together. The other three of Connie are publicity photos of hers during this time."
"She also was the feature performer in the ice show for 6 months at the Conrad Hilton downtown Chicago. She was swept out onto the ice by a skater, lifted to her trapeze hung above the ice and, then whisked away by the same skater after her performance. It was beautiful!"
Connie was married to Dieter Tasso (Videos: Deiter Tasso: A Jocular Juggler., Dieter Tasso: A Juggler's Journey to America.) a very famous performer in our Circus world. Tragically, only a few months after their wedding, Connie was killed in a car accident in January of 1969.
This is the only known film of "Consuelo". In the film she is assisted by her father John Armstrong.
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