Photo: Jake Erlich, world's tallest man at 8'6" and Elliott Roosevelt at El Paso's Hussman/Cortez Hotel. 1937. Elliott was on his way to Arizona to hunt. (El Paso Times Blumenthal Photo Collection)
The thing that Jake Erlich of El Paso hated most about being a circus giant was having people ask, "How's the weather up there?"
"I figure I was asked that question at least 10,000 times," recalled Erlich.
At 44 and still standing 8 feet 6% inches, he is happy in his new career as “the world’s tallest traveling salesman."
You must remember Jake, probably the most famous and certainly the most talented of a long line of Ringling Brothers Circus giants.
Rings at 25 Cents
"I used to sell my giant's lucky rings for a quarter," he grinned.
"I sold thousands upon thousands of them. Every once in a while I still bump into someone who pulls out one of those rings, tarnished with age. I always offer to give them their quarter back if it hasn't brought them good luck."
As a child Jake had wanted to be a motion picture actor. And from the age of 13 to 17 he did appear as a gangling, overgrown kid in some 48 film comedies with Baby Peggy and other stars of the day.
One afternoon he went with some other boys to see the Ringling Brothers sideshow. He was amazed to find he was taller than "the world's tallest man." So was the circus. It promptly offered the youth a contract.
'I didn't want to be a sideshow freak," Jake said. "But I did want to earn a living. I traveled with the circus for 14 years. And by then all its glamor and color had ended for me."
After a trip to Australia, Jake returned and looked up an old friend who was working with the wine division of Schenley Industries. The company hired Jake to make a three-month goodwill tour—and he's been with it ever since.
He has graduated at that time from being an oddity to becoming one of the ablest merchandising specialists in the wine business.
Jake only met one man taller than himself in his life—Robert Wadlow, the late Alton, Ill. giant.
"He stood 8 feet, 9% inches," Jake said. "I was so flabbergasted when I saw him the only thing I could think to say was, 'How's the weather up there?'
“He didn't like it either."