I have always, as far as I can recall, had a fear of clowns. Maybe that is why they also fascinate me.
One of the earliest memories I have of this fear/fascination is being in the Big Star grocery store in Spartanburg, SC, where my Daddy worked and Mr. Peanut (of Planter's Peanut fame) was there. Now I know it was just a man in costume, but for a small girl (maybe 4 years old) this was a scary thing. For some reason Mr. Peanut was giving away prizes. Maybe this was a "grand opening" for the store or some other promotion by Planter's. I remember my Daddy urging me to go up and get my trinket, so finally I did. It was the tiniest harmonica, about 1/2 inch wide and 1 1/2 inches long, maybe a little smaller. Anyway, in today's world it would definitely be a choking hazard, but in the early 1950's it was OK for any small child. This experience definitely has stayed with me. I remember being glad to get the harmonica and very relieved that I could get away from this huge Mr. Peanut.
I find it interesting that I loved watching Howdy Doody and thought Clarabell was great....on TV! I also watched a show called The Big Top (or Sealtest Big Top) and part of its opening showed the words "The Big Top" written on the top of a clown's head. This clown was portrayed by Ed McMahon, the future Johnny Carson sidekick. Needless to say, there were lots of clowns on The Big Top and I enjoyed watching them. I also watched BOZO the Clown when his show was on television.
In the mid 1950's we moved from Spartanburg to Greenville, a town about 30 miles away. In the early 1960's, my Daddy was transferred from the Colonial Store on Pendleton Street to a brand new Colonial Store on Laurens Road at Hwy 291 in the "modern" Pleasantburg Shopping Center. I remember one time there were clowns in the parking lot. Maybe it was another "grand opening", but I also recall on occasion there were small carnivals that came through and set up in an area of the shopping center parking lot. My Mama and I were in our car leaving the parking lot and a clown came up to our car window and wanted to give me a balloon. Scared me to death and I was about 10 years old then. I didn't take the balloon!
I am currently reading a book about the Howdy Doody Show and on this first day of 2010, it made me search on the internet for information on Bob Keeshan (who once was Clarabell on the Howdy show). I was looking for information "Tinker's Workshop", a show he did after leaving "Howdy". I didn't find much, but one thing led to another and I ended up looking for information on Sealtest Big Top. I found some video on YouTube. Here is one of them.
In my early childhood I had a tray puzzle which featured the clown that Ed McMahon portrayed on Big Top. I don't know what happened to it, but I remember it and the clown's big red & white striped square glasses very well. A few years ago at an estate sale, I found another tray puzzle featuring the Big Top clowns. I added it to my "clown collection".
On a wall in our computer room, this collection stares at me. I guess I put it there to face my fear every day. So far, it has not helped.
I even have this bumper sticker, but won't put it on my car, it might attract those crazed clowns!