Circus Elephants Get A Police Escort In Los Angeles May 6, 1953

Elephants In The Streets Of Los Angeles

credit: Los Angeles Daily News 1953

Elephants in the streets?

It must be for the circus and they’re transporting their pachyderms to a show site.

But this is Los Angeles where movie magic can be the reason behind unusual happenings.

The 11 elephants on loan from the Cole Brothers Circus were going to be used in scenes for the Elizabeth Taylor film Elephant Walk.

The police escort seen here turning the corner of the 300 block of Olive Street was needed to get the elephants safely from their trains and then on to trucks to get them to the Paramount Studio lot.

The Associated Press covered the arrival:

Is it true that elephants never forget?

Paul Jones thinks so, and he’s been working with ’em for 29 years. He is here to help direct 11 pachyderm actors thru a Hollywood movie.

“Sure, they remember,” says Jones. “Why, I was in the service for five years during the war. When I got back, the elephants remembered me just the same as I’d been there yesterday. I’ve had elephants remember me after 10 years or more.”

Further evidence: When the Cole Brothers Circus elephants arrived here for their debuts, they were paraded thru the Los Angeles streets. Then they were’ loaded into trucks to be brought to the studio. Three of the beasts balked. They had been in a highway accident – five years ago, and they refused to tangle with the treacherous L.A. traffic.

The trio walked all the way to the studio. This delighted Paramount, which is featuring them in a flicker called “Elephant Walk.”

Jones is a rugged big-top veteran who reacts somewhat disdainfully to the eager queries
of non circus folk. But he speaks with affection about his elephants. He ran away from
his Erie, Penn., home to join the circus. He started working with the elephants right away,
“because they always fascinated me.”

Not only do they have good memories, he said; they’re also the smartest animal,in the circus. They may all look alike to you and me, but Jones can tell them apart.

“They all have different faces, same as humans,” he explained.

“You get used to seeing them. It’s a funny thing—the pony trainer knows all his animals by name, but can’t tell my elephants apart. I know the elephants, but I couldn’t recognize his ponies.”

Despite his many years of close contact with the bulky beasts, he has only been seriously hurt once.

“That was in Bangor, Me., in 1939,” he said. “I was walking along the left side of an elephant that had only one eye. Unless you talk to her, she’ll take a swing with her trunk at anyone who comes up on her blind side. I got a broken jaw from her.”

Jones said that most circus elephants are females. The males do not train as well; they are unpredictable and can go on rampages. Then they have to be destroyed.

Their main diet consists of about 100 pounds of timothy hay per day. As an added taste-teaser, they get a 30-pound mash of oats and bran. They consume amazing amounts of
water, but Jones has never measured how: much. Like a horse, elephants can sleep lying
down or standing up. They sleep about the same length of time as a human.

I watched the elephants go thru a scene in which they were supposed to be trampling thru a plantation home. The only trouble was that the animals kept grabbing the tail in front of them as they filed thru the scene. “Drop that trunk,” the handlers bawled.

There’s that memory again.

One unrelated side note: if you have ever tried to park in downtown L.A. you know parking can be expensive. In the background of the photograph: the Center Garage’s rates seem very reasonable for 1953 at 25 cents per hour. Across the street at another garage the rate is even better: 75 cents for 12 hours.


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