Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Sunday, September 03, 2006


The Zoo

We always enjoyed a trip to the zoo. When we were little, we could walk from our house to the zoo. My friend Judy went to the zoo very often. She often visited the llama cage, and her family got to know the llama keeper. I think she sometimes liked to pet the llamas, although most of the animals were kept away from people: it was NOT a petting zoo! When a baby llama was born, the keeper named the new baby Judy, after my friend.

The elephants in the zoo were very special. One was very big and old, and was named Miss Jim.

Miss Jim was tame. Sometimes she wore a blanket on her back, and her keeper would get up on the elephant and then let a few children take a ride with him. I found this old newspaper photograph of children riding on Miss Jim.

My mother remembered when she was in kindergarten and the children in St.Louis had collected pennies to buy an elephant. That elephant was Miss Jim -- so the mothers of children my age all felt that Miss Jim belonged to them.

Sometimes we went to the animal shows. The lion show was in a cage with seats all around it. The lion keeper had a stick to keep the tigers and lions from getting too close. The chimpanzee show was in the open, but the stage had a moat filled with water around it (I think). The chimps could walk on their hands, ride a bicycle, walk a tightrope, and do other tricks. They wore clothes, but they made funny monkey noises. The elephants also had a show. Now, zoos do not teach animals to do tricks like people. Zookeepers prefer natural behavior.

The bears lived right by the entrance that we always used, and we always liked the brown bears, the polar bear, and especially the two pandas named Happy and Pao Pei. St.Louis was very lucky to have pandas in its zoo, and we felt lucky to see them. The postcard of the St.Louis panda (dated 1948) is from Elaine's postcard collection.

Miriam and Alice love the baby panda in the Washington Zoo now, just as we loved to see the pandas when we were at the zoo a long time ago. They took this picture when they were at the zoo in July.

Here's something to think about. For many years after my childhood, pandas were all kept in China, where they live as wild animals in the bamboo forests. So Evelyn never saw a panda in the zoo when she was a little girl.

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