Doc Bailey’s Old Time Medicine Show



          Seventy years ago most little towns were visited by traveling “Medicine Shows,” during the summer and fall months. They consisted of a flatbed truck with plenty of signs all over the fenders, doors and panels announcing “Doc Bailey’s Medicine Show, with free entertainment of magic, music, jugglers, and mysterious sights never seen before by human eyes.” What they didn’t say was that Doc Bailey had concocted a mess of sugar water, cake coloring, alcohol, and various spices, bottled and labeled with an impressive list of uses “Guaranteed to cure ingrown toe nails, rheumatism, head aches, sore mussels, sleeplessness, mumps, measles, and anything that ails mankind.”  The Doc and his crew would set up in a vacant lot as close to the town square as the Sheriff would allow, and about dark began their spiel. Loud music was the sirens call to us town folk, and we came in great numbers to see and hear the sights.

          We laughed at the clown, applauded the musicians, and marveled at the contortionist. The magician was a favorite, and how he put the pretty lady in a box, stuck numerous swords, through openings in the box and she came out unharmed, still puzzles me today.

          But the best thing on the bill of fair was the announcement that a local talent show would begin right after “Doc Bailey’s Elixir Medicine” pitch and sale.  And the “medicine” sold fast at only fifty cents a bottle.  Many folks swore it was the best cure-all they had ever used, and kept a bottle handy at all times.

          Us locals signed up for the talent show early.  Well I didn’t for they had no category for playing hooky from school.  But guys and gals signed up for hog calling, high jumping, singing, and playing the harmonica.  They all did their “Thing” and we enjoyed them all.  One Pretty Little Blonde girl, with cowboy hat and pink boots, picked the guitar, and sang “Red River Valley,” to uproarious applause.  Then my Grand Pa came on stage, with his baggy wool suit, run down shoes, and shaggy beard, to do his offering; an Irish Jig.  I think most of the family was a little embarrassed with his act, but he did a good job.  What the rest of the family did not know was he had enlisted all his grandsons and grand daughters to be at the show and applaud loud and long.  It came down to a run off; the Pretty Little Blonde Girl with her guitar, and Grandpa and his Irish Jig.  Doc Bailey had the Pretty Little Blonde girl do a verse of her song, and then Grandpa a few seconds of his Jig.  He then called for applause from the audience for each one in turn.  The Pretty Little Blonde Girl’s response was long and loud.  Doc then called for an audience response for Grandpa’s Irish Jig; the applause was longer and louder thanks to all the grandkids and other assorted family members.  Then Doc Bailey announced the Pretty Little Girl as the winner! 

        There was a little fuss but Grandpa took the loss with grace and good sportsman manner.  In fact, I think Grandpa liked her talent presentation better any way.



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