Posted by: patwogan | March 19, 2009

Zoo Musings

My daughter, her husband, and three children visited us here this week.  The big highlight of the week was supposed to be a visit to South Padre Island and the beach.  The only problem was it wasn’t beach visiting weather when they first arrived.  We instead visited a neat museum and the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas.  This zoo is said to be one of the six top zoos in The United States.  I really believe it lived up to its billing and we had a great time with great weather. 

As I walked through the zoo, I was reminded of the little zoo in my home town as I was growing up.  It was a very good zoo with lots of animals and for a little town of approximately 10000 people was excellent. 

When I was five or six years old my parents were good friends with the man who was the Superintendent of the zoo.  He was also the caretaker of Riverside Park, the home of the zoo.  He and his wife had no children.  This was a great advantage for me as they showered me with affection….and presents.  I also got free rides on the Merry-Go-Round when we would go to visit them.  They had a parrot in their house.  I don’t know whether this was a pet of theirs or one that needed special attention.  Anyway, it could talk.  It really did say, “Polly wants a cracker”, just like parrots are supposed to. 

At the time they were caretakers of the park, there were lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, and birds of many kinds.  I really think the monkeys on what was known as monkey island were my favorites.  Monkey Island was constructed during the WPA era and had a little main street with small store fronts and signs.  It was easy to imagine that the monkeys went into the “movie theatre” and watched movies.  There was also a jail complete with bars and once in a while a monkey would go inside and peer out through the bars.  The monkeys were free to roam anywhere on the small island and they would swing from rope swings, etc. and do stuff monkeys do. 

One time at Easter my parents’ friends fixed me an Easter basket.  It contained a dyed Ostrich egg.  I assume it was either boiled or the stuff was blown out of it, that I don’t remember.  I just remember it was the biggest egg I had ever seen.  Wow!  What an Easter basket!

I always loved going to the park and the zoo and in later years I realized what a great gift it was to Independence.  The park and zoo are still there.  It has now been named Ralph Mitchell Zoo after the business man who donated a lot of money to make it a reality.  He owned a bakery in Independence and I assume that is where the money came from.

After Mom and I moved to North Second Street two blocks from the park, we could hear the lions roaring during the night.  At first, I would lie in my bed and hope the lions wouldn’t be able to escape.  Later, I don’t even think I heard them I was so used to the sound. 

I appreciate the people who make it possible for children to be able to see animals from all over the world.  I enjoyed seeing the animals again through the eyes of my grandchildren.

By the way, one of the animals we saw was a Komodo Dragon.  He was very large and very ugly.  I shared with the children that their Uncle Mike had done a report at school on that animal from the Island of Komodo.  This was the first time I had ever seen one of them.  Very interesting.



  1. Thanks for the memories. I do remember the Komodo dragon report, glad you do too. I also remember great times at the Independence zoo. Remember SUSIE the dung tossing elephant that was owned by Roy Clark I thought. Too small a space for her though. Always had a fear at night that the buffalo would get out and stampede all the way to our house on Stone myself. Hope everyone had fun in Texas

  2. Told Crystal about this ostrich egg in the basket. She remembers you placing a real goose egg in her basket for Easter while you had geese. She also remembers the geese were mean. The memory of the egg included accidentally dropping it.

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