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Re-discovered treasure

Posted April 02, 2014 in Adel, Community Featured
A poster from the Orton Brothers Circus connects Linda Emehiser to her mother’s past.

A poster from the Orton Brothers Circus connects Linda Emehiser to her mother’s past.

Most everyone agrees that we live in amazing times. For instance, consider the information highway, better known as the Internet. It has made it possible to track down old friends we once thought lost to the four winds. Ancestry research is on the rise, and we’re discovering astonishing facts about blood lines, both good, and sometimes not so good.

Last week, however, Linda Emehiser of rural Adel uncovered some bygone information about her mother the old fashioned way: by cleaning out the garage.

After moving aside layers of useless articles, Emehiser spotted a familiar old box. She pulled and tugged until it once again saw the light of day. Crouching, she brushed off the cobwebs, lifted the lid and re-discovered a collection of her mother’s memoirs of life as a child performer in the circus.

Adding to her amazement, Emehiser caught sight of a faded, make-shift sign leaning against the wall, bearing the name of a town that no longer exists: Ortonville.

In 1921, Emehiser’s mother, Evelyn Velma Orton, was born in Ortonville, Dallas County, near Dallas Center of today. She was the youngest of nine children, all performers in the Orton Brothers Circus. She and her siblings were trained as acrobats by a one-armed man of Japanese descent, who cobbled matching wooden shoes for each child during a long Iowa winter. Interestingly, almost the entire troupe spent the wintry months in a sort of “compound” which was aptly named Ortonville.

Time slipped by and Emehiser realized she’d been sitting on that dusty floor for two hours, engrossed in her family history.  Encircling her were pictures, circus posters, newspaper articles, obituaries and personal letters.  Gathering together these precious items, she promised herself a safer mode of preservation. She would wrap them in acid free tissue paper, purchase a plastic container with a tight fitting lid and keep them in a safer place in the house she shares with her husband, Dennis.

The Adel Historical Museum houses a collection of Orton Brothers Circus memorabilia but Emehiser feels a connection to the items she can now study at her leisure. She remembers her mother’s stories about being 6 years old and standing on bareback ponies as they trotted the circumference of the ring. And there was also something about a giant of an elephant named “Hero” who had gone mad.

Emehiser can’t wait to sit down with a cup of tea and pore over her re-discovered treasures.

Contact Darren at 953-4822 ext. 304 or to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”


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