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Monday, 1 February 2010

Captain Fritz Schulz - The last of Alfred Court's Trainers

The following is a response written by my father to a post on the excellent "Circus NO SPIN Zone" blog by Wade Burk. Fritz Schulz died on 1 February 2010 at 7am in Australia at 99 years of age. He was a celebrated and highly talented trainer who was once employed by the legendary Alfred Court, the man who inspired my father's circus career. The response my father dictated to me was at the request of Wade to give more details on this exceptional trainer's life. Please note it was written for a circus historian and trainer audience. However, it will serve as the basis for the obiturary we will write together for the "King Pole" magazine:


This was very sad news. He was the last of the "Alfred Court Trainers". He joined Court from Circus Sarasani on a recommendation by Max Stolle, where he had been presenting a group of 12 tigers. He took Court's best mixed group over from Louis Kovac (not to be confused with Harry Kovar). It consisted of six male lions, two tigers (one spare tiger), three leopards, three polar bears, two Himalayan black bears and two Great Dane dogs. Occasionally it included a jaguar as well, but this particular animal moved from group to group, so it is hard to keep track of it. It was in the Harry Kovar mixed group when they opened with Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, as Court took the leopards out of two of the groups to put into his mixed panther act.

By the time Schulz's act reached USA there were only two leopards working, as he lost one, Lisha, in 1939 when working for Circus Scott, Sweden. His booking with Circus Scott was a sudden decision based on an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Switzerland in 1938 when he was working for Circus Knie. Although the disease didn’t affect his animals it curtailed the tour for Knie. The assistant for the act was Joe Walch who later took over one of the mixed groups. Walch was also billed as Zappell.

The picture showing the sit-up was taken in 1939 in the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus winter quarters. You can see a Himalayan bear standing up on the far right. This was Violetta. The other Himalayan bear that stood up next to her was killed in a fight upon arrival. The other bear was substituted by an American black bear, as they couldn't find any Himalayans in USA.

Schulz was interned in 1943 along with the other famous German trainer, Erik Hagenbeck at Fort Meat outside Baltimore. Schulz was eventually released in 1945, but never returned to Alfred Court. He went to Australia to take over from May Kovar on her recommendation. She was working a group of male lions and was having problems and wanted out. Harry, her husband, had already died as a result of the Hartford fire.

The captain corresponded with me during the mid '80s when I started making my first big mixed group. He was a great help. He even contemplated coming over, but it never happened. I was planning to visit him this year, which is something I now wish I had done earlier.

Alfred Court had a very high regard for Schulz's work. He was impressed when the act had opened at Blackpool in 1938. He asked Schulz if he could try to train one of the tigers to roll over. By the time he returned it was already doing it in the show! In those days the roll over trick, just with one animal, was quite an achievement.

I intend to write a full obituary for the King Pole magazine in the UK. We will post this up on the blog www.jamieclubb.blogspot.com

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am Harry and May Kovar's Granddaughter.

I realize you are not the direct author of this post, but I want to correct a few things. I also posted this information on the Circus No Spin Zone.

Harry Kovar DID NOT die as a result of the Hartford Fire. May Kovar DID NOT leave Australia due to any type of problems.

PLEASE get the facts correct or do not post comments.

I would prefer that you just deleted that paragraph completely from the post.

Thank You

Jamie Clubb said...

Hello,

Thank you for getting in contact and I am sorry if we have offended. My father is the famous wild animal trainer, Jim Clubb. He has a special interest in Alfred Court and his trainers. He corresponded with the late Fritz Schulz. Fritz told him that he got the job in Australia on a recommendation from "Mrs Kovar". According to Schulz, she was working a group of all male lions and was having problems with one of them and wanted to go back to America. I am only repeating what he told us and didn't see any controversy. I take a pride in being meticulous in the research of my facts, but also in giving new information a fair chance.

With regard to Harry Kovar's death, I was always under the impression that he died from a heart attack due to the traumatic event of the Hartford Fire.

My father would love to correspond with you because he is writing this new book. My grandfather, Richard Chipperfield Snr., knew your grandmother very well and often spoke of her. As did many other English people that he knew. Please send your email address.

Anonymous said...

I'm researching family geneaology and came across you blog. Harry and May Kovar are my two of my children's great-great grandparents and I have very little information on either. Perhaps you can relay or connect me with the responder who commented on the accuracy of your post with regards to the Kovars.

justasocalgirl4u@yahoo.com