May. 25, 2022

LIFE MAY BE BAD BUT---IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE.

Because my Father worked for the Railroad, everyone in my family had a lifetime rail pass that allowed us to ride any passenger train—free.  Oh!  I loved to ride the train, eat on the train--and sleep on the train! From 1956-1958, I attended college near St. Louis, Missouri and was able to ride the train home for holidays and any weekend.

I well-remember the time my train from St. Louis to Pine Bluff-- was delayed for hours: 

“The Barnum and Bailey Circus Train had derailed outside St. Louis’s Union Station and hundreds of passengers on hundreds of trains---traveling in multiple directions---were stranded--- as train crews desperately worked to clear the tracks.

Everyone in Union Station was crowded around one section of the station where the St. Louis Media were conducting Television and Radio Interviews with Train Executives and---a few of the “celebrities” from the Circus Train.  I found myself seated near an interview being conducted with two women I’d talked with earlier-- in the Ladies Room.

The obviously-confused women couldn’t find any toilet paper and were also unable to use the Tampon Dispenser. I had no choice but step forward to help. I didn’t notice anything different about the Ladies--although they appeared to be twins who looked alike, dressed alike, and stayed close-together.  I also noted--they visited the “stall” at the same time which I attributed to their apparent shyness.  How was I to know I was in the presence of the “FAMOUS” Hilton Sisters?!?!?  They were the most-famous conjoined twins in the world.  They had traveled with the Circus as “Freaks” for most of their lives and had even been seen by my mother--years earlier.

Daisy and Violet Hilton--The Hilton Sisters-- were born in England in 1908. Their 19-year-old mother worked in a bar and soon after their birth---sold the twins to her boss-- who used them to make money—by exploiting them in freak shows---around the world. The conjoined twosome gained recognition in Germany, the United States, and Australia, and even tap danced with Bob Hope in a vaudeville act.  They gained independence from their "father/manager" in 1931 and-- using their “forever-joined-bodies” to attract attention--- dubbed themselves the Hilton Sisters.

After years of appearances, performances, marrying and divorcing--the sisters ended-up in Florida-- where they operated a hamburger stand. Sadly, their uniqueness lasted only a few months before they were back-- to being-- broke. So--they found yet-another manager and once-again traveled with a circus. But, Circus Freaks were no-longer drawing crowds, especially when the “freaks” were nothing more than aging twins who looked normal.  Their last appearance was in North Carolina where their manager dumped them--- without money, shelter, or a plan.

A sympathetic grocery store owner felt sorry for the destitute sisters and offered them employment and a small apartment.  Several years later, in 1969, the Hilton Sisters died at the age of sixty-- from the Asian flu.  Locals joined together to bury the sisters in a “borrowed” cemetery plot in Charlotte, North Carolina,  under a large Tombstone bearing the name: “THOMPSON”--which was an old, large,  but unused family plot---- except for one grave.  The sisters will always share the cemetery plot with an American Soldier who died in Vietnam.

Timing is everything.  If the Hilton Sisters were born today—there’s no doubt they would be separated at birth. They appeared to be joined---at the hips-- by a very-narrow strip of skin. Think how-much-easier life might have been if they’d been separated at birth---and been able to live independent lives.  Sadly, they spent their lives as con-joined twins and---treated like freaks."