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April 2002:  Racine Zoo

This picture comes from an undated Kodachrome slide.  I appear to be about 2½ years old, so I'm guessing that it was taken in the autumn of  1949.  And the only person in my family with a 35mm camera was my uncle Ralph Buckingham, so I'm guessing that he was the photographer.

But where was the picture taken?  I didn't recall the building in the background.  With its crenelated towers, it looks like it could be a National Guard armory somewhere.  However, I've never seen such a building near Cambridge, Ohio, where I was living in 1949.  Perhaps it was taken while we were visiting my uncle and aunt.  At that time, Ralph and Esther were living in Racine, Wisconsin.

I do recall that we once went to that town's little zoo, located in a park near the shore.  So I looked up the Racine Zoological Gardens on the Internet.  And there on the home page was this building!

So now I can caption the picture, "This is Tommy Thomas reporting from the Racine Zoo, on the shores of Lake Michigan."


The zoo's website says they are "one of only 13 free admission accredited zoos left in the entire country.  . . .The largest structure within the Zoo grounds, the main building housing the large cats, primates, and Discovery Center, was built between 1936 and 1939. This building is still the focal point of the Zoo, where you can see the big cats up close and watch the orangutans swinging from rope trapezes. A major renovation effort completed in 1994 enhanced the animals' enclosures by building display areas resembling natural habitat surroundings. Now you can view the cats stretched out on a rock in the sun, or prairie dogs popping out of a dirt mound."



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