WRITER TELLS OF “WAXY” PANZER
Describes Him As One of the Most Popular Men in Ringling’s Circus
from the Tripoli Leader, March 20, 1929
A syndicate article appearing in possibly more than a hundred daily newspapers under date of Tuesday, March 19, carried a very interesting story, especially to people living in Tripoli and this community. The story in particular pertains to one of our own Bremer county boys - Lewis Panzer, son of the late August Panzer Sr., who visited here on the death of his father a few months ago.
The story below was written by a writer connected with the Associated Press and is sent out to all their subscribers, so it is impossible here to credit the author’s name. It was while he was looking over the baseball camps in the South that he took a side trip to the Ringling Bros.’ winter headquarters at Sarasota, Florida and received the material for his article as follows.
“While in the southern Florida territory looking over the baseball camps we had the opportunity to visit the winter headquarters of the Ringling circus at Sarasota. They were just getting ready to move out for the new season and for a tenderfoot the trip through the vast plant was an adventure. You will hear much later about a bigger and better circus and you will see some animal exhibits that will make the eyes of your kids pop. But to us the most striking personality of the whole lot is one you never may see. One of those important men in the background, who is never seen by the crowds. And who in this can’t see the crowds.
The head of the harness shop is one of the most important posts in the whole organization in the circus. All the harness, saddles, trappings and rigging that are used in the circus are made in the harness room and repairs are made there also.
The head of the harness shop is Lewis “Waxy” Panzer, a middle-aged man who has been with the Ringlings for years. He is the most popular man on the lot and one of the most pleasant men I have met. And he is blind. Stone blind and has been without his sight for eight years.
His men in the big harness shop call for him in the morning and lead him to his shop. They take him out to lunch by hand, down two flights of steep stairs and take him home at night.
John Ringling, the lone survivor of the many brothers, has sent Waxy to the greatest oculists all over the world, but none have given a hope. His sight just failed. If there had been some kind of an accident that caused his infirmity, science might have done something for him. But they say there is not hope. Waxy has never heard them say it, but he knows it and it hasn’t taken the smile off his face.
There isn’t any charity in the things I have done for “Waxy”, Ringling said. He’s the greatest harness man in the world and he’s earning the salary I am paying him and justifying the interests that I have taken in him outside business hours. He’s the head of the harness shop because there is no man with eyes good enough to take his place. He isa great handler of men in addition to being the greatest mechanic of his line I have seen. We never have any trouble in the harness room. Some of the other departments called for some special designing for a specialty act and Waxy got it out."
It was an amazing sight to see Waxy moving around his shop and sewing heavy leather. It was one that would convince any witness that there hardly is a physical handicap that can crush a man into despair. And certainly that the hard luck we complain about is a joke.
Panzer knows every inch of the wall and the floor in his shop. He knows every little box that hold buckles of certain size and different colors. He knows every big hook from which are suspended leather straps of varying weights and lengths. He can even outline plans for new devices because the loss of his sight hasn’t removed his intuitive skill.
When the circus moves out for the season he goes with them on the road and the family to their summer home in Bridgeport, Conn. And when the weather begins to break in the fall he comes back to his home in Sarasota.
It’s pretty nice when you’re fixed so you can do that, Waxy said.