Sunday, 8 February 2015

When The Circus Came To Town

Bob McNea’s interest in clowning was sparked by a picture of a clown that he saw in a tabloid magazine.

(left to right) Bill, Shirley, Bob McNea 1937
Photo courtesy of Sumfun Productions Inc.
All rights reserved.


“When I was about 9 years old, I saw a clown picture of Felix Adler that really hooked me. Perhaps the reason I was so taken by a picture of a clown is that I was looking for something happy for a little boy as the great depression was playing all over the country."  









Felix was known as the "King of Clowns", performing for more than 20 years on the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey show. Years later, Bob bought a suitcase full of Adler's old clown boots clown for $20.00 and wore them whenever he performed!   



St. Thomas was a railroad town. The McNea family lived a short block south of the main line where the New York Central passed through.  Further to the north lay the tracks of the Wabash and on the other side of town to the south was the Chesapeake and Ohio rail lines. On top of all these tracks, the London and Port Stanely (L&PS) electric trains cut across each of the main lines.

During the 30’s strangers were often seated at the McNea family dinner table for a meal; many of these people were “riding the rods” (hitching a ride on a freight train). Often little Bobby’s mother would make up a sandwich or two for anyone else who knocked on the door because they were hungry.

Many of the major circus shows had been travelling by train since the early 1800’s with crew hands changing shifts in the town. During the stop overs, mud shows would set up their big tops and perform for the residents, a common event that everyone looked forward to.


On September 15th, 1885 P.T. Barnum’s famous elephant Jumbo was unceremoniously hit by a train and killed at a busy St. Thomas railway junction. Jumbo was the star attraction of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus, which was performing a stopover show that day. Folk lore has it that Jumbo's demise was the result of him courageously attacking an approaching locomotive because it was about to hit another show elephant named Tom Thumb.

A local photographer Thomas Scott took a photo of the carcass as it lay by the tracks the next day, which was published worldwide.



Townspeople have always been fascinated by this event. There was a “Jumbo Ice Cream Parlor” back in the 30’s were folks bought a 2 scoop cone for 5¢. 

Local retailer Edger H. Flach, owner of a popular jewelry store in town, witnessed the train collision with Jumbo when he was a little boy. Every year on the anniversary day he would decorate the store window with black crepe and display one of Jumbo’s toe nails, which he claimed to have retrieved at the scene.

In 1935, the town was abuzz with the announcement that there would be a 50th anniversary event in honour of Jumbo. Local politician and one time boxer George Lang commissioned the St. Thomas Metal Signs Company to design 125 signs depicting Jumbo to be placed on each lamp post along Talbot Street during the upcoming summer “old home week” celebrations at the beginning of July that year. Town residents were excited to learn that the limited edition signs were going to be available for the public to purchase for $1.00.  

The signs were erected during night on Tuesday June 15th, however, by day light the following morning, 22 had been stolen. Over the next few days all the signs disappeared and by Thursday morning, every pachyderm in the herd had vanished!! Bob had the opportunity to touch on of these green “hot” metal signs 50 years later on the 100th anniversary of the demise of Jumbo in 1985. The vendor was asking $125.00 for it.  

To this day, if you enter St. Thomas from the west end of town and drive up the Talbot street hill, look to your right where an enormous cement statue of Jumbo was erected in 1985.  The view is reported to be the same sight the freight train engineer saw 100 years ago.


Saturday, 7 February 2015

Guess what????

Oopsy Daisy!! 23,432 blog views to date world wide!!! Check out www.facebook.com/Oopsytheclown for more photos and fun!

Oopsy Daisy, Happy Saturday!

Here we are, back on track with all things Oopsy!! Please make sure you check out our new Facebook Fan page - lots of great photos and comments! go to www.facebook.com/Oopsytheclown. Like the page and add your comments! Have a terrific day everyone! 



Friday, 24 August 2012

Hello Oopsy the Clown fans!
WOW! Almost 11,000 views all around the world! Thank you!

There are so many wonderful stories about my dad, Bob McNea  (the one and only Oopsy the Clown) to share with you. He would have been so proud to know that you, his incredible fans, want to hear the story of his incredible life.

Please Stay Tuned!
K

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Bob Elnicky joins the cast of Oopsy Daisy

Bob Elnicky joined the Oopsy Daisy show in 1968, co-designing Squiggly Wiggly Worm, Kernal Popcorn, Miser Mouse, & Henrietta Peck.This incredibly talented puppeteer moved on to to another local tv show called "Hot Fudge".

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Man Behind The Greasepaint

Oopsy's creator, Robert (Bob) J. McNea was born in St. Thomas, Ontario Canada in 1929. By the time he was 6 years old the Great Depression had swept through the country. Times were difficult and happiness seemed illusive, even for a small child. While paging through a magazine hecame upon a clown photo of Felix Adler. From that moment on Bob knew he wanted to be a clown in show biz! At 15, he ran away with the circus.








Bob's first television appearance was in the late 40's promoting the Michigan State Fair Grand Stand Show on WXYZ-TV in Detroit Michigan. He became fixated on becoming a TV celebrity.


By 1954, he had his own summer “replacement” show called "Moppets” produced at CKLW-TV in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.At the same time he was a regular character actor on several local court shows including "Night Court", "Up for Appeal", and "Juvenile Court".

Early television was broadcast LIVE in black and white including commercial breaks. Bob became the Wonder Bread spokes-character for the “Mickey Mouse Club” (WXYZ) in 1959.

Then fate stepped in...

Bob McNea won an audition at WWJ-TV Detroit, Channel 4 to portray"Bozo the Clown".




It quickly became one of Detroit's favorite kids show televised in a 1/2 hour live-to-air format 6 days a week in front of a studio audience for the next eight years. 

His family was very happy!
In 1965, WWJ executives strategically determine not to renew the licensing for Bozo. But gave Bob the chance to live his lifelong dream by filling the time slot with his own clown character

"Oopsy Daisy"




Every morning, as he had done since a teenager, Bob painted his face with white and red greasepaint, snapped on a big red nose, changed into the lime green jumpsuit, floppy checkered
boots and glittering green top hat embellished with daisies to become a KID icon in around the great lakes  foranother 12 years until Bob negotiated a deal which relocated production to the Canadian CTV affiliate, CKCO-TV in Kitchener, Ontario.




Through Sumfun Productions Inc., Bob, his wife Frances Kaydaughter Kathy and son Michael wrote, produced, acted and developed the show for years to come.



Bob and Frances Kay also produced “Big Top Talent” with Oopsy as the on camera host. It showcased amateur talent of kids from cities, towns and rural areas surrounding the towns in Southwestern Ontario.