An Autobiography: Chapter 18, Coney Island

| 7/26/2012 9:23:12 AM

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As a kid, when I visited Visalia, I spent most of my time at Aunt Lulu (my dad’s sister) and Uncle Frank’s. They had three daughters, and I was very close to them, particularly Gloria (or Jo as she was known), who was a year older than me. We used to take walks in the evening, holding hands. We talked about getting married, but Jo said that couldn’t be, we were cousins. I told her that President Roosevelt married his cousin; I didn’t say they were fifth cousins! I think I learned that from a movie newsreel.

Couple in Buggy 

Uncle Frank and Aunt Lulu at the Blue House. 

Aunt Lulu and the girls went to the Methodist Church, and one time a church group took a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo and invited me to go along. That was my first visit to a zoo, and I thought it was the grandest place I had ever seen. The highlight of that trip was seeing Susie, the most famous gorilla in the world.

Susie was captured when she was 6 months old off the west coast of South Africa and taken to the Riviera in France, until the famous Graf Zeppelin airship made its first trip to America, on which she was a passenger. Susie occupied Cabin One, landing at Lakehurst, New Jersey, August 4, 1929. She became a huge drawing card for the Cincinnati Zoo. Several times a day, Susie, with her trainer, Bill Dressman, entertained the spectators. Mr. Dressman talked to her like she was a person, and until her death she was regarded as the world’s only trained gorilla.