I was at Reid Park Zoo last night with friends looking at the festival of lights. I am a member of the Zoo and have always been a real zoo-head. I live near the zoo and often go to the zoo just to walk. As I strolled the zoo last night with the crowds of eager children and families trying to take in all of the lit up eye candy, my memories wandered and got me thinking….
The zoo, which was originally called Randolph Zoo, opened in 1967, and I was 9 years old and fascinated that there was a zoo in our town. After all, rattlesnakes, ground squirrels, and rabbits could only make a 9-year-old happy for so long. I needed things like lions, and tigers, and bears. I could hardly wait for my mother to take me to the zoo. She very rarely took us, maybe once or twice a year. A kid like me required zoo time at least every other week!
The tigers and lions back then were in cages with concrete floors. They paced back and forth and we sat and stared at them. Who knew back then how cruel that was to animals, and indeed I have forgiven myself for participating in that act of cruelty to animals, still, it never stopped me from being fascinated by the zoo.
The zoo was so basic and simple back then, and when I look back, it was a place for some very fond memories. It was simply magical. I recall little machines that sold you peanuts and you could feed the animals. I loved feeding the monkeys peanuts, and I am sure they loved being fed peanuts as well. I do not recall when they took away the vending machines, but I think I was sad.
My favorite attraction back then, and still remains so, was the otters. I loved watching those little otters swim for what seems like forever or until they tucker out.
A lot has changed. No longer do the lions and panthers live on concrete floors. Though it is not the wild, their habitats have improved. More animals have arrived and there seems to be so much improvement. Some animals have come and gone, and some still remain the same. Things have clearly have changed a great deal; they have a new learning center. They now even serve alcohol at the zoo, at least at the festival of lights, people 21 and over can have hot chocolate and liquor.
So if you have not been to the zoo in a few decades come look at the changes for yourself. If you have been recently, keep going, the animals love the energy don’t you know. They are little show offs…and oh yeah please don’t feed the animals, unless of course, it is cookie-feeding time for the giraffes.
What do you remember about the zoo?