Florence was born Jan. 1, 1909 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the daughter of Robert and Amanda Engford. She attended the Eighteenth Avenue School through the 7th grade, 1922-23. The family then moved to Plover, Wisconsin. We have her 8th grade, 1924, final report card. The school is about 2 blocks north of the family home. She missed 17 days of school in the first month of school and 4 days the second month. She has perfect attendance through the remainder of the school year, 9th month. The teacher's signature is Gustave Olson. The missed days in the 1st month reflects the performance schedule of the Engford Family Shows. (See the Show Schedule for 1928 for an idea of their travels.)
Florence began performing in the Engford Shows at about 6 years old. Her first act was "Baby Florence". She danced and sang on stage. This would have been during the Vaudeville era of Robert and Amanda's performances. The backdrop seen in the photo was the curtain that individual acts carried with them. Later she appeared as "Clara Florence".
Some early photos of Florence's performance career.
Florence’s second solo act was "Florence Roberts" (Photos) which involved either a trapeze or "Roman Rings".
In 1937 the Engford Shows was split into two circuses. Robert continued with "The Engford Family Shows" and Harry, Robert's son, took out another circus named after their "Forges Brothers Act". These two circuses ran separate routes, but occasionally met for joint performances. This new circus, "Forges Bros. Show", included Florence. Florence teamed with her brother in an act called "Musical Avalons". Both Harry and Florence played their accordions in this act. Robert Engford retired from show business in 1939 and Florence did also.
Florence was also a very talented musician and artist. Florence studied music under Professor Wzalkevich. Florence played a variety of instruments in the Engford Family Shows including piano, accordion, and drums. During the winter months spent in Plover, Florence and her brother Harry taught many local children piano. Both were very active in the Methodist Church in Plover singing in the choir and teaching Sunday school. Florence played the piano all her life, both for her own enjoyment, and to accompany sing-a-longs while visiting nursing homes in the area.
Florence on drums
Grand Piano that stood in the parlor of the Engford home
for over 60 years originally belonged to the Professor
Florence began working at Weber Fly Tying Company about 1940 retiring from there 30 years later. (Stevens Point was the fly tying capitol of the United States in the early 1900's with companies such as Carrie Frost and Weber Fly Tying Company leading the way.) After retirement in 1970, Florence continued her activity at the Methodist Church. She also frequently visited nursing homes in the area giving piano concerts and sing-a-longs.
The Society has several of her paintings on display in the Engford House and one is on display at the Methodist Church (Jesus Knocking at the Door).
A young Florence
Florence, Oct. 1964
Florence in chair made by Robert out of tents poles.
Florence was the last Engford and the last person to live in the family home. Due to failing health she was moved to Baraboo where her nephew, David Engford, could provide care for her. The house was moved to Heritage Park Dec. 7, 2000.
Florence died Oct. 27, 2001. (Obituary)
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