History of the Jolly Joeys Clown Alley in San Antonio, Texas
By Kim TUTTI FRUTTI (Oxford) Grice
I had been member of Cheerful Clown Alley in Houston, Texas since 1991. In the fall of 1994, I had accepted a position in San Antonio and knew I would be moving there in the summer of 1995. It just so happens that at the TCA convention in October, 1994, I met two clowns from San Antonio—Rosie Hernandez and her cousin, Anita. I was so thrilled to meet them but became disappointed as I listened to them tell me that there was not a clown alley in San Antonio. There was a group that had met at the Hertzberg Circus Museum, but it had essentially disbanded. I got their names and numbers to contact once I got to San Antonio. They put me in touch with Dorothy SUNSHINE Endicott and her friend, Mary Lou GIGGLES Ricks.
So, in the fall of 1995, five of us, Rosie, Dorothy, Marylou, Anita, and myself had a planning meeting. We met at the office of Marylou’s husband’s business. We made some major decisions, including choosing a name, setting dues, etc. In fact, it is from that meeting that our original alley charter was penned. Essentially, our current charter is the same, a few revisions having been made. So, there were five original charter members of the alley. We all submitted possible names and then we voted and the name “Jolly Joeys” was chosen. Some of the other choices that we tossed around included Alamo City Clown Alley, Alamo Clown Alley, Joeys for Joy Clown Alley, Giggles Galore Clown Alley, Love and Laughter Clown Alley, Bexar County Clown Alley. We chose to have only three elected officer positions, President, Vice President, and Secretary/Treasurer, due to our small numbers. We continued to meet at the same place for several months, but we began to outgrow the space. By now, a few of the lady Shrine clowns, members of the Las Payasas Clown group, had joined us. They included Bettye FLUFFY Floyd, Pat TOOTS Wheeler, Donna HOPESO Oatman, and Flo FLOZO Lester.
One of our very first official alley gigs was participating in Elf Louise in December 1995. Dorothy made an offer to check with her church, University United Methodist Church, to see if they would allow us to hold our monthly meetings there. They said yes, and ever since then, we have met at this same place. The agreement was that in exchange for meeting space, we would supply clowns at certain church events, such as the spring and fall festivals, etc. This continues to be our arrangement. The first officers voted in were President, Kim TUTTI FRUTTI Oxford (Grice), VP, Donna HOPESO Oatman, and Sec/Treasurer, Dorothy SUNSHINE Endicott. In April 1997, we voted to separate the office of Secretary/Treasurer and Aurora BEBOP Krause, a newer member to the alley, volunteered to be the Treasurer, Dorothy remaining the Secretary. We remained the officers until Janurary 1999. I began producing an alley newsletter in January 1997. It was done on a quarterly basis for that first year and then it became bimonthly in 1998. Beginning in June 2000, it became a monthly publication. Originally, I called it “Jolly Jots”, but asked for input from the alley members after a few issues, and we voted to name it “The Jolly Jots and Jabber”—this was the name submitted by Donna HOPESO and we all voted to accept it.
In January of 1997, we applied to become a chartered alley of the Texas Clown Association and were approved. We became TCA alley #19! This meant that all of our officers must be TCA members and that we encourage all our members to also join up. We, therefore, are eligible to receive any benefits subscribed to TCA alleys. One such benefit was that we got a copy of the TCA convention tapes that went into our library every year. We also took advantage of the Artists in Residence program to bring quality educational opportunities to San Antonio.
In April 1997, we participated in our first parade, the Fiesta Flambeau. There were ten of us, including a clown friend from Houston, Pam SONSHINE Perkins. Since then, we have participated in at least one of the Fiesta parades every year, under the direction of Aurora BEBOP Krause.
My father, Bud POPS Oxford, was a true clown at heart and was always very supportive of my clowning and everything the alley did. He had in fact, been a Santa for us each year in our Elf Louise gig, beginning the very first year in 1995. He finally got into the motley for the first time in 1998, when he did the parades with us. He also participated again in 1999. He became ill and was hospitalized in January 2000. He never left the hospital after that and died in January 2001. His clowning “career” was short, but I can tell you that the little he got to do, he enjoyed immensely. He would talk about his experience as Santa and POPS frequently. The alley members voted to start an educational scholarship fund and named it in his honor, the POPS Oxford Scholarship Fund. So, when you hear the treasurer’s report and the total given for this, you will know where it came from!
In July 1997, Aurora BEBOP Krause, myself (TUTTI FRUTTI) and my clown friend from Houston, Pam SONSHINE Perkins, decided to enter the skit competition that was being held at the International Apple Festival in Medina, Texas. The prizes were cash! So, we entered, performed our original skit, “Lonely Boy” and won second place! The prize was $300! We decided to donate our winnings to the alley. When we did, this more than doubled the amount we had in the treasury at the time!
By January 1998, we were growing in numbers, but very few of our new members had ever had any formal training in clowning. It was decided that we would offer a six week clown school. We held it in at the church and TUTTI FRUTTI was the boss clown, but had a lot of assistance from BEBOP and SUNSHINE. We had twelve clowns attend and graduate! Some of them are still active in the alley! They include PAINTBRUSH, PAPA LOUIE, and GALAXEE!
By January 1999, we had grown in numbers to the point that we were able to hold a formal election for officers. The officers elected for 1999 were: Aurora BEBOP Krause, President; Pat TOOTS Wheeler, Vice president; Doreen IMA Gulledge, Secretary; and Kim TUTTI FRUTTI Oxford, Treasurer.
From the time I moved here, the TCA board had been “urging” me to have San Antonio host the TCA convention. Finally, by 2001,we felt we had enough members and more importantly, a good strong core of members, that we could probably pull it off. BEBOP agreed to co-chair it with me, so we were given the 2003 slot. It was almost two years of planning and meeting, but we had a committed group of committee chairs and alley members that were willing to help at the actual convention, so we hosted a very successful 2003 TCA convention! We had about 178 clowns in attendance and we had rave reviews on our headliners, Dave Mitchell and Angel Ocasio. In the end, we made $2,700.00 for our charity of choice, The Children’s Shelter of San Antonio AND we made a profit for our alley as well! It was a lot of work and worry, but I am very proud of the way our members came together to make the convention a success.
The alley has continued to thrive over the years, some ups, some downs. Now, the rest is history!