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Clowning Around — And Counting

By Jon Arrechea 

The year was 1965 in Waldron, Arkansas. I participated in a benefit basketball game. Lois sewed an oversize harlequin costume and filled it with balloons. With her mother’s long hat pins, we had a popping good time. A clown bug bit me that night.

I’ve never had any clown training; however Emmett Kelly and Otto Griebling, old time circus tramp clowns did no slap-stick and performed silently. I felt comfortable with this, as I do today.

Everyone loves a parade! In 1970, Joe was four and we paraded at Christmas in Double Springs, Alabama. Joe waved at the crowd and held on to me with his other hand. More family fun!

Moving to Oxford in 1972, I began parading in both Christmas and July 4 parades. I loved parading because I’d fall in behind a school band. The rolling snare drums gave me the needed adrenaline to shuffle and sashay from side to side. I always enjoyed it and hoped the crowd did too.

Over the years, Lois was and still is my make-up artist. She has prepared my face for some 65 parades and also some 140 miscellaneous appearances. I love her for this as she has never said, ‘no more.’

My main two costumes are a pair of red ‘long handles’ and an aged white linen suit that my father, Juan Jose Arrechea wore in the 1920s in Tampico, Mexico. I always have a warm feeling when I wear my father’s suit. I was born at home in Tampico. I also wear either a red or black bowler with a tiny American flag. I also wear a tiny American flag pin on my costume. A large bouquet, from Lois’s backyard, is pinned by a large diaper pin or an old wooden clothes pin, finishes my attire.

Over the years, my five grandsons have clowned with me over several July 4 parades. More family fun.

Oxford’s Double Decker Festival was planned and began in April of 1996. I’m taking this opportunity to thank the person that asked me to clown in this first festival, in the end, I had the time of my life for 15 years.

With just a few props — and without speaking, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. As an example, I tried to deliver a melting block of ice to Mrs. Jones, who had paid in advance. I never did find Mrs. Jones (I’m sure her name was Jones, I had her name on my sign).

I tried to stay in good with the local police. My tattered umbrella had no cloth on eleven metal ribs. H.C. Franklin, former Oxford Chief of Police, was standing in the hot sun, I quickly offered the chief a bit of shade.

Whatever I was doing, I never acknowledged the crowd or those close to me. Once I had an imaginary itch. I pulled up my left pants leg, showed proudness once the culprit was destroyed.

In 2010, I took off my Double Decker outfit and slid it under the bed, hoping I had made a fraction of the crowd feel nice and warm inside during those 15 years.

However, someone mentioned that Mrs. Jones was out of ice and was needing a delivery.

I may have to soft-shoe on down to the ice house and make just one more effort to find Mrs. Jones.

Wish me luck!

I thought at one time my parade legs would last for ever; however, I purchased a 3-wheeled-bike with smaller wheels in 2006.

This way, I quickly ride from side to side — close to the crowd, waving and sending “clown love” to all. I’ve always felt, “If I can make people smile, maybe laugh a little for a few moments and briefly forget their worries of the day —  that’s what I’m all about.”

Jon Arrechea is a longtime resident of Oxford. You can reach him at jonlo@maxxsouth.net.