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WWUH to Present a Special Anniversary Rebroadcast of “The Hartford Circus Fire: An Audio Recollection”


Posted 06/24/2010
Posted by David Isgur

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On July 6, 1944, during a matinee performance of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, the main circus tent, known as the Big Top, became engulfed in flames. Between 7000 and 9000 people were inside the tent when the fire broke out. Most would escape, but as a result of the fire, 168 people died, and hundreds more were injured. It was the worst disaster in the history of Hartford, Connecticut.

WWUH Radio (91.3 FM or online at www.wwuh.org)  will present a special program commemorating the 66th anniversary of the Hartford Circus Fire Tragedy on July 6 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. This 90 minute documentary, which includes an interview with Don Massey, who co-wrote the book A Matter of Degree the Hartford Circus Fire and the Mystery of Little Miss 1565, as well as survivors talking about their memories of that day. Originally broadcast in 2004, this documentary has been revised to include nearly a half hour of archival radio broadcasts from 1944 courtesy of WTIC Radio NewsTalk 1080. The program will conclude with a reading of the names of the victims of the fire.

Among the archival newscast audio clips are: WTIC's 6 p.m.newscast on July 6, 1944, in which announcers George Bowe and Bernard Mullins describe what they witnessed on arrival at the circus grounds, just minutes after the fire; an address by Connecticut Governor Raymond Baldwin urging people to remain calm during the aftermath of the disaster. This was broadcast by WTIC the night of the fire. It is one of at least 3 similar recorded addresses he made that day; and an address by Governor Baldwin from WTIC's studios, made nine days after the fire, detailing the community's response to the disaster.

The opening and closing music for the show is from "The Day the Circus Came to Town" by Mike Kachuba, from his album It Happened in Connecticut.

For more information on the program, contact John Ramsey, general manager of WWUH Radio, at 860.768.4703 or ramsey@hartford.edu.