Hollywood Lion Motor Drome

Posted By on March 13, 2013


This motor drome was owned by Harry J. De Bock, Cleveland, Ohio. Motor dromes were most likely the most popular show on fair and amusement park midways. Throughout the 1930’s and into the the late 1950s’ motor dromes were a common attraction. I saw a performance at the Pomona Fair, southern Calif. in 1959. In this photo the cyclist is gathering a tip. They would bally for about 15 minutes doing stunts. The motorcycle is running haft throttle on roller bearings which allowed the performer to balance. The performance area is a round arena having solid wooden walls seen in the background.The cyclists would ride the walls horizontally at full speed while doing their different stunts. The audience walked up an outside stairway and at the top they stood on a gangway looking down into the barrel like arena. At times the cyclist would ride to the very top of the arena wall, just a foot or two from where they stood. I guarantee it put a fright in you.

About the author

My name is Ivan M. Henry and I am the 4th generation of a circus/show business dynasty. I hope you enjoy the blog.


5 Responses to “Hollywood Lion Motor Drome”

  1. James Mundie says:

    That’s surprising to me that they would go to the trouble of having a lion but not actually use it in the show. Sure, great for building a tip, but that’s a lot of expense and upkeep for a bit of bally flash. I suppose they had to keep up with the likes of Ethel Purtle who actually did use the lions in her motordrome performance. Maybe it was that same keeping-up-with-the-joneses drive that caused Thrillcade to introduce elephants into their hell driver shows!

  2. Alexandra Vilents says:

    Hello Ivan,

    My name is Alexandra Vilents and I am a Visual Researcher for the TV Show “American Pickers” on The History Channel. In an episode we are currently working on our hosts, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, visit a collector whose family has been in the circus business for five generations. One of the attractions they used to operate was a motordrome. While doing research into this I came across your website where I found some images we would love to include in the episode!

    The image we are interested are the two photos on this page:

    If we were to include your image, we would be happy to include you in
    the “Special Thanks” in our rolling credits for your participation. We
    would need a photo release signed, which I could send to you, giving
    us permission to use your image.
    If you are interested, please contact me at my e-mail
    (avilents@cineflix.com) and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Thank you for your consideration in advance!

    Here is the link to our show if interested:


    Alexandra Vilents AP6
    161 Avenue of the Americas
    5th Floor
    New York, NY
    T: 212 206 0461
    F: 646 873 6512

  3. The Purtles and Kemps were family friends…Royal American Shows, late 30’s/40’s.”Speedy” MeNish was a featured trick rider most of those years. (forgot the lion’s name..remember he was partially toothless). Glad too see this important part of Americana history preserved..My Mother, Laura Lorow and her family trace their history to Col. Willis of NYC and Coney Island . Pete Manos. Sr. former Athletic Show fighter……spanning Circus/Carnival Outdoor Show World early history 1866-1957.

  4. Dean Lorow says:

    Over been trying to find family and so far its slow going I believe Bert Lorow Jr its my grand father if anyone has any help for me it’dbe great

  5. Amber Lewis says:

    Hello. I am trying to reach out to Peter Manos Jr in regards to the Lorow Family. Any correspondence would be much appreciated. My email is aleamerrow27@gmail.com. thank you.

Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up. Patience is a virtue; there is no need to re-submit your comment.