The Calgary Elephant Stampede
Calgary was already used to spectacle. It had been, after all, the home of the Calgary Stampede since 1912. The city, however, always embraced new star-studded shows. The Calgary newspapers were busily trumpeting the arrival of the world's second largest circus on August 2nd, 1926. Direct from Edmonton the trains of extra-long 70 foot steel Pullman-manufactured cars pulled into Calgary at 8:25 Tuesday morning, August 3rd. Among the special cargo were three herds of elephants, one for each of the three circus rings. Each herd was worked by a separate young lady. In the centre ring was the circus fashion plate, Miss Irene Ledgett. At one end of the big top Miss Effie Rairden worked her herd, while Miss Rae Bailey, a dainty lady of unusual charm, worked four huge bulls at the other end. The parade had been cancelled and calm in the elephant herds was expected.
However, at 9:00 a.m., with a large crowd of onlookers gathered, "fourteen ponderous pachyderms" broke loose from their keepers as they were unloaded. Spotted on the 9th Avenue sidings east of the Calgary C.P.R. sheds, the animals, led again by "Mad Mary" (as she was now popularly named), stampeded down Ninth Avenue with keepers grasping their ears and frantically trying to gain control. The streets echoed with the trumpets of the bulls and the shouts and screams of men, women and children as they scattered out of the way of the onrushing tons of flesh.
The "bull men" were able to turn the herd after about a block and they came careening up the street again, into the crowd of onlookers that had formed behind them. Adults and children scattered as chaff in the wind. The main herd was halted by the frantic keepers just short of the transport cars. Three big bulls, however, broke away again and tore around the railway yards for another fifteen minutes while circus personnel scrambled to remove horses and circus paraphernalia from their path. Eventually the Sells-Floto lead elephant man, Jimmy Dooley, along with two other keepers was able to bring the three bulls under control.
In spite of the dust-up all of the elephants were finally led to the circus grounds at Victoria Park. There they were treated to a luncheon of baled hay while the circus tents went up around them. The shows went on as scheduled and the elephant herds performed as if it was just another normal day at the circus.
The circus publicity people, including press representative A.G. Wiseman, began to speculate as to the "minor difficulties." "It must be the altitude," said Mr. Wiseman