Author Archives: sgolland

A Letter from Czechoslovakia, 1945 part 2

And this, readers, is where the letter gets depressing.  As I read it over again, I wonder where the writer of this letter, Lidka, received information about the Russians.  As opposed to the information that she wrote about in the first part of the letter which she saw firsthand, the Russians didn’t come to her village, so she must have heard this information from the radio, letters, or word of mouth.  It isn’t to say that what Lidka writes about is untrue, but I think that we must apply a layer of skepticism to a secondhand account.

Also, this part of the letter contains a lot of updates about people and their lives which gets a little confusing.  Mixed in with who got married to who and how old their children are are some very interesting pieces of information that are worth reading.  Don’t lose steam if the names get a little daunting!

On the other hand, places liberated by Red Army are not doing so well. It is sad that I have to write about it, but it’s true. They are stealing everything they can. People were hiding in the cellars for days, especially girls and women. They were raping them. They are very barbaric. They are robbing homes. They stole everything they could get their hands on from Slovakia and Bohemia. There is nothing left. They are acting very silly. Some of them are wearing twenty wristwatches, from their wrists to their elbows. When one of the watches stops, they throw it away, because they don’t know they have to wind them up. A few times, they brought a big chime clock to a watch master, and they told him to make them smaller wristwatches out of the big one. They are stealing water taps from homes. They are looking forward to sticking it in the wall, and they believe it’s going  pour them water in their houses. They don’t even know what a toilet is for, they are washing in it. I can write about this only because the American soldier is going to mail this letter for us, otherwise, we cannot write about stuff like that, “they” don’t want the truth about Russians to be revealed in the world. They are dirty, unwashed, stinky men, what they want, they take it, no matter what, if you disagree or protest, they shoot, simply like that. People in Slovakia and Bohemia are saying, they are WORSE then Germans. We’d like to see them  leave our country already, but it seems like they like it here, they don’t want to leave.

Now, I’m going to write something about our families. You already know about Karel. He is still sick. His leg his healing slowly. He had no skin on his leg, that’s why it’s taking so long to heal. Our Mana left her husband. She lives in a one-bedroom apartment. The boy is with her. He is nice.  He attends an elementary school. Her husband has to pay her 800Kcs a month as a child support.  She applied for a job in the factory, I hope she gets it. She is doing much better now, without him. Mother is going to stay at the hospoda (note: a hospoda is a Czech pub.  This one must have living quarters attached)  for now. It’s written under her name. It should belong to her anyway (because of some widower law). At least until Karel gets better. We’ll see, if he goes back to his old job in the office or he retires and take care of the hospoda.  Anicka and her husband are still in Susice, I think they are going to move to Plzen soon. She’s supposed to get a job there. Their boys are studying in Plzen, they can save a bunch of money by moving there. My husband is still working as a bus driver. He got a chance to get a better job somewhere else, but we don’t want to leave Susice. We like it here. We have been living here for the last twenty years.  He is going to be promoted next year. The guy who is above him right now is going to retire in a year. I’m in politics. Just like before the war. I didn’t want to do it anymore, but we are building new republic and we all have to work, otherwise there would be just one party, and that would be communists; we cannot let them to take over the republic. I’m a member of city hall, besides me there is another woman, she is a commy. I’m in a party National-socialist, that’s the  party of our president Eduard Benes. Before he became a president, he used to be the leader of the National-socialists.

I’ve already written something about our girls in my last letter, and they are writing a letter on their own to your Lada. They are looking forward to getting a letter from him. And now a little something about the Kyznar family. Jindra’s been married for 3 years now. His wife is teacher. She is not very happy. As every teacher, she doesn’t want to work, she just acts posh.  They bought new house. It is right next to the old one. It has three rooms and kitchen, a big yard and a garden. Aunt Kacenka likes it there a lot, especially the garden. Ota got married as well. He is a bank teller in Pisek. His wife is nice. Their newborn baby died after eight weeks. Lidka’s husband is teacher. Her boy is 6 years old. Something about Vlasta. Her husband is teacher as well. He is very nice. They have a girl. She is one year old. They live in Cukyne. They had to leave Vimperk six years ago because of Germans. They had to leave everything behind. They found a shelter in Cukyne. They are moving back to Vimperk now. Matilda is with them, she doesn’t look good, she is sick, she’s got  stomach cancer. The Pilars have two children, the boy is 10 and the girl is 3 years old. There was an old store in the house and Franta rebuilt it into a little apartment; a kitchen with one bedroom where Pilar’s mother lives. He also built a new barn. They were doing fine during the war. Everybody with farm had a better life then the people in the cities, they had something to live off of. Mana was writing to Bozena some news about the Zikmunds. Yesterday we went to visit the Zikmund family. My husband drove us there. Aunt Pilar was there too, we missed her for minute. She was at Vasek’s place. We couldn’t stay for long. I wrote them a letter about Bozena’s newborn girl. She was crying when she got the news. She is so happy for Bozena, she’d like to see them once again. She is sending a lot of hugs and kisses to them. The Zikmund’s are going to move in Pucherak’s sawmill. Bozena knows it there. Pucherak is German, he has to leave the country so the Zikmund’s are  going to take over.

Ok, now a little something about Zdikov’s  families (note: Zdikov is a small town in Sumava, and the place that the recipient of this letter, Agnes, lived). Horejsova Emila was collaborating with the Germans during the war. Now she is in jail in Volyne. The Bauer’s house and all their belongings were forfeited. Honza Horejs died last year, cancer in the face. Their son was a Germans soldier. Nobody knows anything about him. We think he died in the war. Finally, God punished her for all the bad things she did to us during the war. Anda Valdrichu lost her husband. He died. She lives in Konopice close to Randak’s forest. She is retired. Bozena Havelka’s son was in a concentration camp for four years. Now he is back at home. Lojza died in a  concentration camp in Terezin. Bozena lives alone, the old Havelkas are dead. Fuks is still alive. Tonka is taking care of him. Hadrava’s grandmother is alive too. All of the Novaks are dead–old Rosa, Roska, and even Novacek. The Harvariks are both dead. Their older daughter Anicka married a German; she was a big German fan during the war. I think she lives in Germany with him. I think Bozena is going to be more interested in this.

Cyril Degneru died, Tonda, Franta and everybody from Jirku are dead. Rataj is running his hospoda, he doesn’t work in city hall though. Pepik Buberle died. Chalupoj’s family runs a hospoda as well. They have a daughter. She married a teacher. Tonka Simkova and Adolf are very old and still hard working, but they don’t work for themselves, they work on somebody else, that is bad. They have nobody to live for now, when their Anka left them and went to the USA. Herman Zdekauer, his sister Marika and her kids died in a concentration camp. I don’t know what happened to their belongings. When the Germans took them away, they locked them up in a barn in Cukyne– all Jews were in that barn. Herman was crying and begging for some food, but they didn’t let anybody to bring them anything. All Vimperk’s Jews you knew and you used to go shopping with are dead. Zamecnikova Nany from Cukyne is dead. We went to her funeral two years ago. Pepicka got the house after her. She sold it at the beginning of the war. Then she regretted it. She let it go too cheap. She was going nuts all war because of that. Sieber died one week after Zamecnikova’s death. They had a house in Malenice. We got the obituary, we didn’t go to funeral though. Old Sieberova is still alive. Ela and Greta got married to Germans during the war. I think they are both locked up. I know nothing about Branc. Franta Pilar would know something. When we get together sometime in a year or two, we have so much to talk about. I left Zdikov 21 years ago. I don’t know anybody there anymore, the old ones are dead, and I don’t know any of the young ones.

I hope I’ve written something new, something you might be interested in. In your last letter, you asked me if we need some help or something. Well, we lost almost everything during the war. I know, you don’t live in luxury yourself, that’s why I don’t want to ask you for anything. We hope times will change for the better. I’d like to pack some dried mushrooms and a vase made of glass and send it to you. I have to ask the soldier if he could send it you. What we need the most is lard. Now, when the war is finally over, it is even worse. Everything we have goes to the Russians. We have to feed the complete Red Army. They have nothing, it’s not like the Americans.

Lidka from Pisek was here. She took your letter you sent us. She wants to read it to everybody in Kamence. Post services are improving fast. We can use airmail. All letters from the USA come to Susice by airmail. You wrote us that Jirik is getting married, don’t forget to send some pictures to our girls, they are really anxious to see an American wedding.  We’ve already have five weddings in Susice where the bride is a Czech girl and the groom is American. Today there was one. The whole city is celebrating these weddings. But what’s going to happen when the soldiers leave, nobody knows. I’ve heard soldiers (husbands) are going home first and their wives have to wait for their visas here, or something like that.

We are looking forward to hearing from you asap, and write us something more about yourselves.


A Letter from Czechoslovakia, 1945 part 1

A number of years ago, I came across a box of letters sent to my great-grandmother (and a few to my great-grandfather) from family in Czechoslovakia.  The letters date from the 1920s through the 1950s, with many covering the WWII era.  There are over 250 letters in the collection, and I only have transcriptions of two.  I can only imagine what I will learn if I ever find someone to transcribe the others.

This letter I find especially poignant; it is written by a woman named Lidka who lived in the little town of Sušice in the southwest part of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) known as Šumava. It describes the end of World War II, German surrender, and the town’s reaction.

This letter is rather long, so I have divided it into two parts.  It was originally transcribed in 2008 by a Czech friend of mine, Josef, and I have left most of the phrasing as he wrote it, even if there are some grammatical errors.

Dear friends,
We’ve received your letter three weeks ago. The American soldier delivered it to us. We are glad that you are all alive and healthy. The soldier sent us a message last week, from Krumlov– it says your Jirik is going home to America. I think he’s going to be there sooner than this letter.

Now I have to write you something about the arrival of American soldiers.  We heard the shooting  in the last weeks of April, day and night.  The Americans were fighting in Sumava’s woods and they were using heavy artillery. That noise was frightening us; all the windows and doors were shaking. Germans were running away from Czechoslovakia through Susice.  They wanted to be captured by Americans rather than Russians. In my opinion, Americans are too nice to them. On May 5th at noon, we were listening to broadcasting from Prague; they were calling for help, they were trying to get people to revolt. At 2 in the afternoon you could see a bunch of people at the Susice square. They established a committee. The committee was negotiating with Germans.  They wanted them to surrender. The Germans didn’t want to at first. But when they found out that all phone lines were cut and they couldn’t call for help, they surrendered. Right after that, the local broadcaster announced that we were finally free. However, after all these years of terror, humiliation, and fear, nobody could believe it’s over. It was not a happy take-over like in 1918 (you can remember that one, you were still in Czechoslovakia.). There was a lot of pain in every family after 6 years of war now. Everybody was crying instead of celebrating, they were thinking of people who were not that fortune and died in the war. At the beginning, it was chaos. Germans were locked up in their apartments, people were putting away German signs. The American army was 20 km away from Susice. The committee sent a messenger to them asking for protection. There were many SS men in the city. They were armed with guns and grenades. We were afraid that they would start to shoot people and destroy the city. We had to wait for Americans until one o’clock p.m. the next day. It was Sunday. When the first American tanks started to drive into the city, it sounded like a big Sumava thunderstorm. People were standing everywhere, they were waiving flags, yelling vivat, throwing flowers. It looked like a huge Sokolsky slet. However, the soldiers were too calm, almost cold to all that. They smiled a little, raised two fingers and continued to ride. We could not understand how come they were so calm when we gave them such a warm welcome. They were driving through the city from 1p.m. until 10 p.m.  It was such a big noise, everything was shaking and we couldn’t yell anymore. Our throats were sore. Soldiers were throwing chocolate, chewing gum and cigarettes.  It was like a fairy tail to us. When the German trucks with soldiers were going through the city before, we were hiding, cussing and cursing at them, this was different, totally opposite. We were yelling; “go to Prague, they need your help.” It was very nice to see a soldier who called somewhere, and told us they are going to be there at 10. But they weren’t. They couldn’t. They could come to Beroun only and they had to stop there. It was said that only the Red Army could liberate Prague. We are so happy the Russians didn’t come to Susice. Because of this order, Prague was bleeding on barricades until Wednesday May 9. Then the Russians came. A lot of blood and lives could’ve been saved if they let the American soldiers help the people of Prague.  They were very close but they couldn’t do anything. It still hurts. It upsets us.

In the evening of the May 5, soldiers came to our house; they were looking for shelter for two American soldiers. We gave them our daughter’s room.  They set up an office downstairs. At 10 in the evening, there were 14 soldiers instead of 2. We didn’t mind at all, we would be happy to see 50 of them for what they did for us. They saved our homes from Germans. The Americans are very social people, the problem was, we didn’t understand each other. We were trying to find a way to communicate, we were using our hands a lot, drawings, and stuff like that. It’s much better now, our English or our communication skills improved a lot, especially the young ones, they are learning very fast.

The next day three American and three Czech priests said a mass.  The soldiers are very religious.  They go to  church every Sunday. General Patton paid us a visit on Wednesday.  There was an army parade at the square. Everybody was in kroj (traditional folk costumes). The Americans were very enthusiastic to see us in kroj. We were smiling and they were taking one picture after another. Our girls gave away some presents to Americans COs, vases, and matches which we make here. They were shooting a movie here, maybe you’ll see it in America. We took some pictures too, but we can’t develop them yet; we don’t have “paper for snapshots” right now. Many Americans promised us that they would send us colored pictures when they get back home. I hope they do. Every night, when everybody was back at our house from their “work,” we listened to the radio or somebody brought a gramophone so we could listen to music; we ate canned food, drank coffee, ate crackers, and lots of other delicious things.  During the war, we couldn’t even dream about things like this. This is like a fairy tail. The last day, the day of their departure from our home, we killed our last rabbit, we made boiled dumplings, (there was one soldier who had Czech parents, but he couldn’t speak Czech at all, and asked us if we are going to have ZELI (a cabbage dish)– that was the only word he knew).  We made a dinner for everybody in the house.  We got rid of every single door in the house–we didn’t want them to be in our way because we were dancing and dancing everywhere. We cried when they left the next morning. We wanted them to stay for a little while, they couldn’t though. Then we got new tenants, three COs. They were different. They didn’t have our sympathy. Unlisted soldiers are much better to deal with. They are not stuck up. Right now, we don’t have anybody in our home. They live in hotels and schools now. One thousand soldiers are coming next week. We’ll see, maybe we’ll get new roommates. Our daughters are enjoying soldiers’ company the most. They play volleyball with them. Funny story, there was this soldier and he was always talking about “papkorn” or something. When he came next day, he brought a little bag of corn. We couldn’t get it at all. We told him that we soak it in the water and feed it to chickens.  However, he was like, no no no, I’ll show you in the dictionary. And he showed us the word “pop”. (Note: they were confused because in Czech the word refers to sounds like shooting a gun or fireworks, so the word didn’t make any sense to them in that context). He still wanted to show us, so we gave him a frying pan, then he showed us in the dictionary what else he needed, and that made us laugh. He wanted lard. The problem was, we were getting just small portions of it, like a tablespoon a month for a person. So, we were laughing and he didn’t know why. Nevertheless, we gave him a little piece. He mixed it up with corn and he started to fry it. In a few minutes, it started to pop up under the lid, exactly as the dictionary says. He got a bucket and he was catching the blooming corn into it. Wow, he was a magician. He could turn a few corns into a whole bucket of…, oh well, “papkorn”. He salted it. It was delicious. That’s just one of many funny stories. They are very kind and nice people. They don’t bother anybody, they are not rude to our girls, they don’t try anything “cute,” if you know what I mean.  One can see the intelligence and the western culture in their behavior.

To be continued

A Happy New Year?

If your idea of a fun New Year’s Eve involves a half naked, pajama-clad pig dancing with a champagne bottle, then I’m not coming to your party.  It sounds more like the makings of a Jan Švankmajer film to me.

Sometimes I like to wonder things like, “What led the sender of this postcard to choose this particular design?”  Was it the only New Year’s postcard to choose from, or was there a rack full of different designs, and this one was “just right”?  Perhaps the purchaser of this postcard found the maniacal pig somehow cute.

Usually, the end of the year is a good time to look back at the past twelve months and reflect, with special attention to everything you did wrong or badly, and plan to be a better person in 5…4…3…2…1.

Sometimes, it is useful to focus on the positive. With that in mind, here’s a completely useless thing that I’ve learned this year, in fact, in the past week: an infrared paint stripper also makes a tasty grilled cheese sandwich.

I am still working on stripping the paint off my door molding, and it won’t be quite finished by the end of 2010.  In the midst of all my hard work scraping off paint, I took a dinner break and tested out the grilled cheese making potential of this handy tool.

Keep in mind that I could have used a heat gun, but I think that it would toast the bread too quickly and not allow the cheese to melt.  This is a test I will have to save until 2011, though.

Infrared paint stripper

Grilled cheese sandwich ready to be toasted

The final product

Happy New Year everyone!


I’ve been inspired by the latest triad of Sherlock Holmes programs on PBS–I find myself trying to analyze my fellow Metra passengers on my morning commute, and even myself (picks cuticles; either bored or nervous, not sure which…).  Last weekend, my family met up for an “attic cleanup” day at my aunt’s house.  I love attics, especially ones that I get to explore.  I excitedly donned a head lamp for the weekend’s activities.

This wasn’t pulled out of the attic, but it has been fun to try to solve this little (very little) mystery:
Here’s a photo of my grandma Ruth Golland’s sister, Mildred M. Koehler.  Mildred died on September 2, 1926 of causes unknown to me.  I could request a death certificate through the state of Illinois, but I haven’t gone that far yet.  I found a copy of the “Saint Benedict Messenger” from 1926, which was likely saved because Mildred’s death was noted on the back page (see upper right of the image below), and apparently she was nine when she died, making her birth year 1916 or 1917.I promised a very tiny mystery, so here it is:  This box with embroidered pillow contained a handwritten sympathy note from a “Sister Seraphica” about Mildred’s death.  Though the note was found in the box with the pillow, does it mean the pillow was made by the Sister as a sympathy gift?

Sister Seraphica’s letter

Heart box and pillow

Heart box lid

Based on the “evidence” pictured above, I don’t think that the embroidered pillow was made by the Sister; it was likely made by Mildred herself.  Here are some observations:

  • The letter has two horizontal creases, which would be expected if it was mailed in an envelope.  After it was folded in this manner, it was folded in half so it would fit into the heart-shaped box, but this is not a hard crease, which means it was probably folded later and put into the box.
  • The letter is dated 9/2/1926, the day of Mildred’s death according to the Illinois death index online.  Apparently, Sister Seraphica was in touch with the family in Chicago, where Mildred died, rather soon after her death if she was able to write a letter the same day.  Unless she was sewing the pillow in advance, it would have been a rather slap-dash effort on her part to sew it the day of Mildred’s death.
  • The letter doesn’t mention anything about the pillow.  If I send someone a gift and letter, I usually reference the gift in my writing.
  • If it isn’t obvious from the photo, the pillow is definitely crudely fashioned.  The sewing is uneven, the seams are unfinished, and the material looks like it came from scraps of whatever was available.  Though it is possible that Sister Seraphica had no clue about the use of needle and thread, I would venture to guess that she was a better seamstress than the creator of the pillow.  If the Sister was writing to a nephew, she must have been at least in her 30s, which would mean she grew up at a time when most girls were taught to sew.
  • The pillow fits very nicely into the box–so nicely, that I would guess that the box base was used as a pattern.
  • Hmm…a heart-shaped box, probably a candy box, used as a pattern for a crudely-made pillow…sounds like a kids craft project to me.  I plan plenty of them at work, so I think I have some expertise in this department.

My hypothesis?  The pillow was made by Mildred, perhaps at a time when she was bedridden, or at least sick at home, and after her death, her parents saved her handiwork and the related letter as a remembrance of their daughter.

Ah, that was fun.  Would Sherlock be proud?


I came across this postcard  while I was sorting through family photos.  It looks like something one of my family members picked up in the gift shop when they visited the Ohrada castle.  The postcard quality is low, but if you look carefully, in addition to several fox taxidermy specimens, there is also a hen, a frog, and some other creature wearing coattails standing at the left on top of the display case. 

Here’s the original description printed on the back of the postcard:
Hluboká n. Vlavou
Lovecký zámek Ohrada z let 1712-1713.  Skupina “Lišáci vaří vejce” je cáští sbírky původních hraček dětí šlechty z roku 1880.

English translation:
Hluboka nad Vltavou (a town located in southern Bohemia, Czech Republic)
From the Ohrada hunting castle, dating from 1712 to 1713. The scene, “Foxes boiling eggs” is part of the collection of original children’s toys from the nobility in 1880.

Humboldt Park

I’ve lived in Humboldt Park for about six years now, and I’m still just as charmed by it as I was when I first moved here.  The park’s naturalistic feel is the product of landscape architect Jens Jensen, whose work also includes Lincoln and Douglas Parks.

These postcards from the 1910s come from the collection of Marie Jelinek, one of my relatives.  I don’t have too many Chicago postcards in the collection, so I was really excited when I saw these.  The pavilion you see in the first postcard is no longer in existence, but its style is echoed in the park’s horse stable building, which is still standing and today houses the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture.

Humboldt Park pavilion.  Postcard circa 1912.

Humboldt Park.  Postcard mailed 7/12/1912

The back side of the above postcard.

Escaped Elephants and a Circus Train Wreck

I’ve had these two postcards for years now.  They belong to a collection of 200+ postcards that were sent to one of my great-grandmothers, Marie Jelinek, who lived in Chicago.

When I first saw the postcards, I was sure I knew what they were; pictures from a famous Hammond, Indiana circus train wreck that happened on June 22, 1918.  The rear-end collision killed 86 and wounded 127 passengers.  The deceased are buried in Forest Park’s Woodlawn Cemetery in an area known as “Showman’s Rest,” which is well known to many amateur cemetery buffs living in the Chicago area.

Before I began writing this post, I finally bothered to take a look at a photograph from the 1918 crash and read more about it, and I think I’ve proven my theory wrong.  First, the train that crashed into the rear of the circus train in 1918 did so at 60mph, and a fire started immediately.  I don’t see any signs of fire in my postcard, though it does appear that one train has crashed into the back of another.  Also, there is a sign that says “yard limits” in my postcard, which probably means that the trains were pulling out of or into a train yard.  The 1918 incident happened at a crossing of rail lines, but not near a train yard.  Regrettably, my cards were never mailed, so there is no post mark to help me clarify the date.

As I continued to research, I found out that there were quite a few circus train disasters around the turn of the last century:

8/14/1885 – Eddyville, Iowa:  Two sections of Adam Forepaugh’s circus collided.  No casualties.

10/4/1885 – Fergus Falls, Minnesota: A John Robinson’s circus train breaks in two on a steep incline, killing five and injuring 30-40.

9/9/1888 – Cincinnati, Ohio: A John Robinson’s circus train is hit from the rear by a freight train.  Four are killed, eighteen wounded.

5/30/1893 – Tyrone, Pennsylvania: An axle breaks on one of Walter L. Main’s circus cars while the train descends a steep hill.  Seven are killed and nineteen are injured.  A news report in the New York Times yields some delicious details about the escaped animals:

The “man-slaying” ape, the most dangerous animal of the whole lot, was luckily soon taken alive, and was safely caged. …

Strange to say, the elephants and camels, the heaviest animals of the lot, were not injured in the least, and were apparently enjoying themselves as if nothing had happened. …

Three lions escaped.  One was quickly caught and caged.  Another was lassoed and tied to a tree by a colored attendant of the show, but a third is still at large, although there is no fear of his escape, as he is the quietest of the three. …

Two tigers belonged to the show, and both got away.  One was caged safely, but the other met his fate at the hands of Alfred Thomas, a native of McCann’s Crossing.  Mr. Thomas is a farmer, and his wife was attending to the milking of the cows at about 6 o’clock this morning when the tiger leaped into the yard, and, seeing one of the cows, killed it.  Mrs. Thomas went into the house and alarmed Mr. Thomas, who got his rifle and killed the tiger.

8/7/1903 – Durand, Michigan: A rear collision of two Wallace Brothers circus trains kills 23 and injures 28.  The report from this accident also mentions the strange calm of the elephants, “led out of the wreck without trouble” even though one elephant was killed in the crash.

My postcards all range from about 1907-1913, which doesn’t narrow down my choices to any of the wrecks I’ve listed above.  My next step?  Contact the research archives at Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  Hopefully I can have some additional information about the postcards in a future post.

For any careful readers, the words to the right on the elephant postcard are in Czech, but the only word I recognize is the second one, which is “elephant.”

Update: Only three hours after I published this post, a reader tipped me off to postcards on Ebay that solve my mystery (Thanks Brian!).  The postcards depict an 8/16/1910 train crash in Babcock, Wisconsin.  A passenger train crashed into the back of a Campbell Brothers circus train, killing one man and several animals, including two elephants.  The moral of the story? Don’t ride in rear train cars, especially if they belong to a circus.  And, if the world is coming to an end, at least the elephants will remain calm.