Ralph Rodgers, whose "day job" was as a gas service man for San Diego Gas & Electric, was an avid circus model builder and lifelong circus devotee. He spent his lifetime learning about the circus, following all the circuses--figuratively and later literally-- and becoming friends with many of the well-known circus performers and clowns of the day, many of whom were also model-builders.
Ralph Rodgers' wife, Mary Ann, was supportive of her husband's hobby and also worked with him and attended conventions with him. They had four sons: Patrick, Kevin, Michael, and John-- all of whom had model circuses named after them. The circuses were created in the Rodgers' backyard in El Cajon and reflected Ralph's desire to preserve the form and spirit of the circus during its heyday of the 1920s and 30s.
When Ralph Rodgers passed on in 2006, his sons tried for about a year to place the main Rodgers Bros. circus in a museum. They contacted all of the circus museums in the United States in addition to a couple of circus model museums, but could not generate any interest in their father's circuses. They speculate that one of the reasons may be the sheer number of circus model builders that existed at one time, although the numbers have dwindled like most hobby crafts have.
Michael Rodgers also mentioned that when he and his brothers were growing up, they visited many circus model builders conventions and saw many of the model circuses of their father's friends such as Jim Parker. Many of the models and circuses they saw were "picture perfect" and looked more factory manufactured than the circuses that Ralph Rodgers built out of chiefly "found" materials. Since he was a serviceman for the San Diego Gas and Electric Company, his job afforded him many opportunities to enter vacated homes to check the gas lines and also salvage materials that could be used to build his circuses. For example, the majority of the older circus wagons were constructed from wooden Venetian blinds. Rodgers built all his wagons and train cars from found wood; he also carved all his own circus people and most of the animals. He fashioned the wagon hardware and other parts from tin coffee cans. He would paint toothpaste tube caps, put wire handles on them, and--voila--water buckets. Every year for two weeks in the spring (rain or shine), Rodgers and his sons would set up the circus in the backyard for all the neighborhood kids, dogs, cats, etc. to enjoy and so, over time, the circus took on the look of a working circus. Though some model builders looked down on Rodgers' creations, the model builders who were also "real" circus people admired and appreciated how realistic the Rodgers circuses were.
When the Rodgers sons failed to find an appropriate museum or host for their father's circus, they chose to honor their father's wish-- which was to take it to the desert and burn it if no one wanted it as one complete circus. The circus filled a 10' x 24' storage unit and, while the family did not actually take it out to the desert and burn it, they met at the home of Michael Rodgers along with their nieces and nephews and divided up what they wanted to keep. Then they burned the rest of the stuff while toasting their father through the night, thus folding up the Big Top for the last time.
Images of Rodgers' circus can be viewed online at: http://dreamingincircus.com/media/rr-circus/rr-circus.htm