Eyewitness to Tillie’s Funeral

Tillie and John G. Robinson 4The following is an  eye-witness account of Tillie’s funeral, from the oral history of Frances Verkamp.

(I:interviewer  F:Frances)

I: Fran, please give me your full name and date of birth.

F: Frances Verkamp   3/18/1923.

I: Okay Fran, where were you born, city and state?

F: I was born in Cincinnati in Madisonville.

I: Who were your relatives that lived in Terrace Park?

F: My father, Hoyt Malsbary.

I: When you lived in Madisonville, did your father ever bring you to Terrace Park?

F: Oh, yes.  He loved Terrace Park.  And he used to cut grass here when he was a little boy for some people.  I don’t know who they were, but when he was little, he would cut through the back field and go down and see the elephants.   Every time we’d go through Terrace Park—‘that’s where I lived when I was a little boy.’

I: Okay, so, how old were you when you said you came to Tillie’s funeral.

F: I was nine, yes, in the third grade.

I: And where were you in school?

F: In Madisonville.

I: And tell me about how you came to come to Terrace Park to Tillie’s funeral.

F: Well, Mrs. Caroline Meurer who lived in Terrace Park was my third grade teacher and I just adored her.

I: Yes, she’s the daughter of Charles Meurer, the artist, is that correct?

F: Right. And my father wanted me to go to that funeral, so I told Caroline that I wanted to go.  She says, “I’ll let you off of school.”  So I went up to the funeral with my mother who was pregnant, carrying my brother, and watched the funeral, and a week later, on March the seventh, my brother was born. So we stood there in the rain and watched the airplane go over and they threw carnations down from the sky and I was just a little girl.  That was so beautiful to see and I was so shocked to see Tillie there and they just had her head.  I don’t know if she was completely submerged in the ground, but the only thing that I saw was the head and that’s where the stone was put.

I can’t tell you anything else except I do remember when they used to take the elephants down into the sort of a valley over by the bridge and on Sundays and weekends you would have lines for an hour ride or something like that.

I: Did you or your mother or father  have any more stories about Tillie or the circus or Terrace Park?

F: No.  All I remember is that big head looking up.  People would go crazy when I told ‘em I went to an elephant’s funeral.

ED. Note: the complete transcript of Frances  Verkamp can be seen in the Archives of the Terrace Park Historical Society.