By Thomas Palmer

Our city has had its fair share of clowns over the years. Some were home-grown; others visited from elsewhere.

In 1911, over 30 clowns descended on Galion with the arrival of the “John Robison 10 Big Shows.” According to a write up of the performance, “…among the bunch there will not be one who will offer anything but the pure wholesome fun and free from anything that will offend or cause the most exacting to blush.”

One frequent local visitor in the latter part of the 20th century was a man known as “King of the Clowns.” Galionites of a certain age will remember Flippo, the comedic talent whose television home was WBNS 10TV in Columbus.

Flippo the Clown, also known as Bob Marvin and/or Marvin Fishman, was a beloved figure on Columbus TV children’s programs for decades. He made his debut in 1953 hosting the Tip-Top Bandwagon show, where he introduced cartoons and performed magic tricks sponsored by Ward Baking Company. He adopted the persona of Flippo after being chosen for a clown show audition when another clown failed to show up. 

Over his career, Flippo hosted various children’s shows, including Flippo’s Early Show in the mid-1960s, where he humorously commented on the movies he presented. Flippo’s legacy as the King of Clowns lives on through various media references like documentaries and YouTube clips that showcase his impact on television entertainment.

Known for his red ping pong ball nose and his recitation of lousy jokes into a microphone set into a mannequin’s hand, his popularity was immense. At one point in the early 1970s, the television station was going through 60,000 promotional photos a year. He would make annual appearances at the Ohio State Fair, which is where yours truly saw him at work.

Flippo made several Galion appearances that occasionally were the stuff of local lore. One of the earliest visits found him joining shoe store icon Buster Brown in distributing photos and balloons. That event at Bennett’s on Public Square, located in a building which is now the site of Park Square, took place in March 1960. He made repeated visits to the Crawford County Childrens Home as well.

A year later, Flippo road a Galion Fire Department ladder truck during the Mardi Gras Parade. Later during the festival, he crowned the festival queen.

It may have been that visit that was the stuff of local urban legend. Long time Galion High School English teacher Joice Hayden would tell the story that the actor was slated to participate in local events but stopped at the Gala Lanes bar on his way into town. After that visit to the bar, Flippo was in such a state that he had to be helped onto the fire truck.

Each Saturday, we post about local history. We call this series “Galion History Corner,” and we will be sharing not only stories about our shared heritage but also updates on history news here in southeast Crawford County.

This series is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Bernard M. Mansfield, whose “Your Historical Galion” was a fixture in weekend editions of the Galion Inquirer. Dr. Mansfield was a friend and family physician, and he inspired the current generation of Galion historians to continue his work.