Only two years after Samuel Bean’s passing, the Oakland Tribune was at it again, publishing stories about someone named Samuel W. Bean.
No, this wasn’t a case of reincarnation. And it wasn’t in memoriam. These were articles about another man with the very same name: Samuel William Bean.
It was Sam’s son.
While, thankfully, Sammie junior did not need to depend on severe handicap for his claim to fame, he did present an unusual story line: he had become animal trainer for the toy poodles featured in Shipstads and Johnson’s Ice Follies.
“Dogs in an ice show?” you may be wondering. Yes, indeed—although a late add. The original traveling ice show, Ice Follies got its start in 1936 with a production in Tulsa, Oklahoma—though the principals were from Minnesota. Billed eventually as a variety show on ice, the Ice Follies added Rockettes-like line dancers on skates—the Ice Folliettes—and then followed with other entertainment innovations.
Young Sam found his way onto the payroll almost by accident, as we’ll discover in a few days.
I had remembered, years ago, Sam’s brother Earl’s wife, Marilyn, telling me about her brother-in-law’s unusual career. In fact, she had shown me pictures—large glossy studio photographs which, unfortunately, were not among those passed along to me.
So…what does a six foot, four inch, one hundred sixty pound man do when he works for an ice skating extravaganza?
He tends poodles. Twelve of them.
Each of his charges—with big, soulful, brown eyes and fluffy white coats—made their debut in the early 1950s at the tender age of two months, never to miss a performance since then. They came with impossible names—Pierre, Cherie, Kiss Kiss and Lover Boy, for instance—and an equally prima donna lifestyle.
Their trainer, Sam, prepared them for a surprise role in one Ice Follies act in 1954 that got special coverage in an Oakland Tribune article. Claiming that his canine stars were “poised and gracious with strangers,” Sam explained in the Tribune article that
the dogs are highly intelligent performers who know their cues and love to be in the arena. “They’re wonderful clowns,” he said. “Just little hams at heart.”