April 29th 2012 | Director

Robert Bean Jr.

Although he originally started his career as an animal keeper, he learned how to manage from the ground up as a curator, assistant director, and finally director. Fun fact: the AZA Bean Award is named after his grandfather.
© Caravette Productions Ltd.

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Well, my name’s Robert Bean, Beveridge Bean. Strange middle name, but it’s the same as hers. What was the rest of… Born in Brookfield.

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Brookfield, Illinois?

00:00:17 - 00:00:40

Brookfield, Illinois. Actually, I was born in Oak Park but delivered home, and it was a strange little thing. My father decided that I should go to the zoo on the way home in hospital when I was born, so I was delivered to the zoo, so I saw the zoo before I ever home. So I guess that may be how I got started.

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It rubbed off. (laughs) And what was the date to the year?

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What was your birthday?

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February 7th, 1933. So the first zoo you ever saw was Brookfield Zoo. Brookfield.

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And as you were growing up, did you see other zoos?

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Yeah, I saw zoos. My mother and father were divorced when I was very young, but my mother was a zoo buff, so whenever was an opportunity, we went to the zoo or collected animals somewhere.

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Do you have pets as you were growing up?

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Oh yeah, anything that was loose, possums, raccoons, little ones, anything that one could incarcerate.

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Did you have favorite animals?

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I mean: were you a reptile guy?

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Or a mammal guy?

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Or d’ya like birds?

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Well, I like ’em all, I guess, probably. I liked very much the large antelope. It always fascinated me. Beautiful animals.

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And as you were growing up, did you think that you wanted to work in a zoo?

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Or was that just something that was part of what you remember?

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Or did you wanna be a fireman?

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(laughs) No, I didn’t wanna be a fireman. As I said, I was involved, in the very beginning, as a little punk, in zoos, and my mother was involved with the zoo, as well, so I enjoyed being introduced to the zoo animals, not knowing what I was getting into at all. But I did have… Where was I? (laughs) You’re gonna have to watch me. I might have a stroke problem. Well, when you were…

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Were you at the zoo every day?

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Did your mom take you to the zoo every day?

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Or did you live on the grounds?

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We did. We had a home on the grounds in Brookfield. But as I say, my mother and father were divorced when I was young, so I lived outside the zoo then, but I lived close enough to the zoo, for the most part or at the very beginning, so you see, my grandfather used to come pick me up and take me out and trips around the zoo on Sundays.

00:03:31 - 00:03:33

And that was Edward Bean?

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Edward, yes. And he was then director. Of Brookfield. Mm-hmm.

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And you were a youngster when he did this?

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Yes. Oh, little, little.

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What do you remember? What are your recollections?

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Absolutely nothing. (laughs) Okay. (laughs) But it was a fun Sunday with your grandfather. As far as I… It musta been. He died from one of his Sunday car rides. He had a crash, and that ended his career, so that ended my Sunday tours as well.

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And as you were growing up, what kinda schooling did you have?

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You went to…

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Did you go to college? You go to high school in the area?

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I went through high school and University of Florida, although I don’t have a degree. So you went to… You had a little college. Yeah, I had four years, but I don’t have a degree in it, but I went to Elmhurst College, here take psychology. I musta used that in my zoo work. Oh, I’m sure ya did. I’m sure you did.

00:04:51 - 00:04:57

You’ve mentioned your grandfather, Edward Bean, and your father was?

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Robert. Robert and took over as director after your grandfather, so your family has been very much involved in the zoo profession.

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How did your career start?

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Working in summers, coming up from Florida to spend the summers with my father and went to work as a grass-cutter and whatever else inside the zoo. And then, I went into the army during the Korean War. When I got out, I came to work as a zookeeper, so I was… So your father hired you as an animal keeper. Yes, keep me off his back. (Mark laughs) And what kind of relationship now…

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You really got to know your father at what age?

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Actually, it’s kinda strange ’cause I met my father when I was 15 years old. He and my mother were separated by a few states in between. And so, I didn’t know…

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Where am I?

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You were talking about your father. You met your father at 15 years old. Yeah.

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And that’s when he had hired you?

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Well, no, I… Yeah, right. That’s when I was working on the grounds. Okay, and then, you came back from- In the military, yeah.

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And then, he hired you again?

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Yeah. This time, as an animal keeper. Yes.

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And is that something you wanted to do?

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Or you wanted to do something else?

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No, I applied for the job.

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You applied for the job?

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Thought you had good chance of getting it?

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Well, I wasn’t sure, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Was it tough being the son of the director and working at the zoo?

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Or easy?

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Well, it could be very difficult at times because he expected more outta me than anybody else.

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Was he a hard taskmaster?

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He could be.

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And what did the other keepers think of the son of the director?

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Well, I was treated very well. I think, maybe, they felt sorry (laughs) for me. Look after me.

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Would your dad stop in to see you often?

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Or he kept his distance?

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No, any project that was being worked on that I had anything to do with, he would always stop by and have a look at it and see it was going properly. And everything seemed to work out.

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Did he ever tell you stories about your grandfather?

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No, not really. He didn’t. Probably heard more of my father and whatnot through his sister, Sister Mary, who was the wife of the director of Milwaukee at the time.

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Well, could you give us a little history there?

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Your sister married a gentleman named George Speidel. George Speidel. But he wasn’t a zoo guy at the time she married him. No, he was a guard at this Brookfield Zoo, security or whatever. And then, later, he decided he liked animals. He wanted to be a keeper.

00:09:04 - 00:09:07

Okay, and then, he started as a keeper at Brookfield Zoo?

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Right. And then, ultimately, your aunt and he got married.

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Were they married when he was at Brookfield?

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Or when they went to Milwaukee. Yeah, I’m assuming. Yeah, because I know… Well, I’ll say yes, far as I know. I don’t know all the facts.

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Did you hear stories about the panda when that was a big deal, when it came to Brookfield Zoo?

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Did your uncle George or did your father tell you stories about the panda when it came?

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Musta been a big deal. Oh yeah, it was a big deal, but that was a big deal and written up.

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Everybody knew what the deal was, you know?

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Wasn’t anything hidden. I know there’s a fella that was the gatekeeper at the south gate who’s only has two arms, ’cause the panda had bit one of his (chuckles) arms off. That was Ralph Small.

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Ralph Small. (laughs) Did your father work hard to get this panda?

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Did it just come to him?

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Or do you remember any of that?

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You know, I’m not sure, ’cause that was about…

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Who was involved in the bringing of it here?

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I’m not sure who.

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Did you realize, at some time, that you were part, for good or bad, but that you were part of a very famous family that had generation after generation of people associated with the zoo field?

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And when did that hit ya?

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Ya know, I don’t know that I was ever that enthralled with it or thought that much about it. It was a job, and it was a hard job sometimes, but I enjoyed the people associated with the field and traveling for zoo conferences and whatnot. It was always great to be in association with animal people.

00:11:25 - 00:11:30

Where were you when your father had left the position at Brookfield Zoo?

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Were you still there?

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No, I was in Busch Gardens, I believe. It was in ’63 when he retired.

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When did you decide that you wanted to go off on your own and not be under your father’s wing?

00:11:53 - 00:12:27

You were a keeper there at Brookfield. Yeah, I don’t know that I ever thought of it that way. No, I never thought about disassociating myself with him. I enjoyed him, and you could sneak a bit of knowledge out of him every now and again when he would let you. Well, I understood he had a lot of knowledge. Oh yes, a very bright man.

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Would you say that your relationship with your dad was he was a mentor to you?

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Or treated you differently?

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I guess a mentor of sorts, not necessarily totally mentoring. He didn’t necessarily like, I guess, that I was there watching him, but we had good times together, and he’d always come over and have dinner with us and was always very pleasant.

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Do you think he thought of you as competition to take over from him as he had taken over from his father?

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No. He didn’t take over from his father. His father died in office. But he succeeded him after. Yeah, right, yeah, he did that.

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What were some of the things that you got from him?

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What did he teach you that you can remember about the zoo business?

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(Robert laughs) Stay out of it. You didn’t listen to him. (laughs) No. No, it could be a very difficult job, very difficult people that you deal with, especially, and fundraising and begging, animals.

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Toward the end of your father’s career at Brookfield Zoo, did you know he was having problems?

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Well, it depends on what… He had problems, yeah. I mean that were interfering with the job. Well, that probably had been for a while, yeah. We all have those, though. But you knew that he was coming, maybe, toward the end of his career.

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Do you think he was ready to retire? Or not?

00:14:46 - 00:15:07

Oh, I think he woulda stayed there till he died. Well, he was almost that far. He did more or less die on the job. Now, during this time, there were other famous zoo people.

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Did you get to meet them because of your association as part of the Bean family?

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No, I didn’t meet all that many. I met a few, yes, but not all that many.

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Who were some of them that you recollect?

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I assume Marlin Perkins was one. Oh, Marlin Perkins, yeah, Marlin, and a lot of ’em I can’t even remember, but I remember there used to be…

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What was the zoo directors’ organization?

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AAZPA, American Zoo Association?

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00:15:41 - 00:15:43

No, it’s the- Park and Recreation?

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The European… International Zoo Directors. That’s it. When they were in town, you got meet a number of people that were rather interesting, but of course, you didn’t associate with them all that long. But it was interesting to meet them. How much would you say your father’s…

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Did your father influence you in becoming involved with zoos?

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I don’t know. I don’t know that he influenced me to be a zoo person or not. I did it because I wanted to do it. I liked working with animals, but I don’t know that he did that much to push me into it. He didn’t. He didn’t. He helped me by not hindering me totally. He let me do things.

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Did ya ever feel any pressure to live up to your father’s reputation as a zoo person?

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Well, I wouldn’t even think about that. He’d been around too long and too well-educated in the field.

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Do you have any favorite stories of your father?

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(Robert chuckles) Yeah, but I couldn’t tell them.

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(Mark laughs) Well, is there any you could tell?

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Course, you’d say, “I know he was married three times.” I remember once taking a trip across country. There was a lot of… But I took a trip across country. and one of the… Was a lady from Cincinnati who had a yen for my father, I think, but she stopped me and told me that; thought it was really nice; one of her greatest memories was sleeping across the Northern United States in a car with my father. And I think you know why, too. She thought that was the most wonderful thing in the world. I was shocked to death, but she was a board member of some statute in her field.

00:18:04 - 00:18:13

Well now, from Brookfield Zoo, you go off on your own into the zoo field.

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And then, you got a job at the Birmingham, Alabama, zoo, Jimmy Morgan Zoo?

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Jimmy Morgan.

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And how did you come to get to the Jimmy Morgan Zoo?

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They were advertising, and I applied for it. Also, I had a in there because of knowing my father. Jimmy Morgan and my grandfather, I guess, had been buddies. Jimmy Morgan was the mayor of Birmingham. So I remember, when I applied for the job, he wanna make sure he was there in the meeting so that they’d understood who I was and then said, “Elephants could sleep in the trees when he’s got ’em.” So I got the job immediately.

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And you were hired by?

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Jimmy Morgan of Birmingham Zoo.

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And the director was Bob?

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Bob Truett.

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Bob Truett. Did you know Bob before that?

00:19:18 - 00:19:22

No, no. Okay. He was a good Texas boy, though.

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He’s with Lincoln Park, too, I think, wasn’t he?

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00:19:28 - 00:19:30

You were hired as what? Curator?

00:19:32 - 00:19:54

Yeah, I guess, more, almost, assistant director. I don’t think I had term general curator. (dog howls) Somebody… (Janet laughs) I’m sorry, I- Bored to tears. (Mark laughs) I’m (indistinct). Question, I was just thinking about it.

00:19:54 - 00:19:57

How did you get reconnected with your dad?

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What happened that you all of sudden got reconnected?

00:19:59 - 00:21:19

It was a kind of an interesting story. Actually, it was some neighbors of ours in Florida also lived in Elmhurst, no, Elmwood Village. Our neighbor in Florida, who was a wintertime neighbor, was familiar with the people, her neighbors, and my father by, I guess, newspaper articles, whatever. I did not know my father at the time. I was 15 years old and never met my father, and she decided that I needed to meet my father, so she told my mother that she was gonna arrange the meeting and take me up there and let me spend the summer with her so I could meet my father, and that’s how it started. I came up to Chicago and spent the summer and spent time in the zoo, becoming acquainted with my father, and his wife at the present, who was a librarian, lovely woman. The meeting of my father was basically by a neighbor lady who decided I should meet my father.

00:21:19 - 00:21:24

Did the neighbor lady make the connection with your father to say, “Your son’s growing up”?

00:21:24 - 00:22:01

Yeah, she set up the meeting, and I had a bedroom and her home. So she got ya the job at the zoo. Well, she got me the future in the zoo. I didn’t work in the zoo then, but I was with my father, at least, I spent time with my father. Excellent. Now, we were also talking about meeting famous people or at least people in the zoo profession and other famous people. You’d mentioned that knew Marlin Perkins. Yep.

00:22:01 - 00:22:08

And did you know other famous zoo people, like Lee Crandall?

00:22:08 - 00:22:49

I knew Lee, yeah. Lee was, of course, well beyond my scope, a man of… Well, you know Lee. I can remember he was… My father introduced me to Lee, and he said, “Oh yes.” He says, “I think I said that once. I think I said that.” Oh, “I’ve heard that before but not”… (tuts) I’ve messed the whole thing up. (laughs) Well, start again. But yeah, Lee Crandall.

00:22:49 - 00:23:16

He was… No, I’m going off the deep end here. He had never… He said… I said, “Ooh, I don’t think we’ve ever met,” and he… Nah. Did Lee… When you were with your dad, you had the opportunity to meet a number of people, but you yourself, you’ve met people like Jane Goodall.

00:23:16 - 00:23:18

Saint Dian Fossey.

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How did you meet Dian?

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Over in Rwanda. Was it part of something…

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You were taking a trip there?

00:23:25 - 00:24:01

Yeah, yep, and we were there… That was a zoo-directors’-tour business, but I remember being there. It was supposedly the day the fellow that supposedly killed her skipped the country. He left as we drove in. Oh. But that’s how… She had been in Louisville as a speaker for us. That’s one of the…

00:24:01 - 00:24:08

You met her then in Louisville. Yeah, originally, but I saw the last of her, unfortunately.

00:24:09 - 00:24:18

Well now, when you were in Birmingham, were there a lot of famous people who came through Birmingham?

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Or not so much?

00:24:19 - 00:24:36

Not so much. Birmingham was kind of off the beaten track. It was the time of 1964, and it had to do with the segregation. There were problems there.

00:24:36 - 00:24:39

What kinda zoo do you remember Birmingham being when you got there?

00:24:39 - 00:25:33

Well, it was a nice little zoo. They had a number of projects. It was not necessarily the most modern zoo. (Robert laughs) My first official office was the… Because of segregation, we had restrooms for white people and restrooms for Black people. And then, there were white ladies’ and Black ladies’. I got the Black ladies’ for my office ’cause they did away with the segregation, so there was an office. The Black ladies had another two restrooms.

00:25:36 - 00:25:38

And so, I got one of them, and they got the other one.

00:25:39 - 00:25:43

And what kind of director was Bob Truett?

00:25:43 - 00:25:45

Good director to you?

00:25:45 - 00:26:10

Oh yeah, he was… You know, Bob was a nudist. Right. And he loved to take the girl out on nudist camping trips. I don’t know how he got away with it, to tell ya the truth. Different day. Yeah, different day. So you were the assistant director at the zoo.

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00:26:11 - 00:26:14

And how long’d ya stay at the zoo?

00:26:14 - 00:26:16

About a couple of years?

00:26:16 - 00:26:23

Yeah, at least that. Trying to think of how my… Base everything on my kids.

00:26:23 - 00:26:25

Four years was I there?

00:26:26 - 00:26:35

Oh, everywhere I went was another kid. (laughs) And why’d you decide to leave Jimmy Morgan?

00:26:36 - 00:26:39

And where’d you go from Jimmy Morgan Zoo?

00:26:40 - 00:26:56

Busch Gardens. Yeah, I went Busch Gardens. That was my second trip, I believe, to Busch Gardens. So you went down to Busch Gardens from Jimmy Morgan. Yeah.

00:27:01 - 00:27:05

When you were at Busch Gardens, what did ya start as there?

00:27:06 - 00:27:41

Well, they didn’t have… Titles didn’t seem to exist all that much. I was assistant director, I guess. Rich Naegeli was my boss, and that was it. And I had a number of other keepers and the likes under me, but I don’t think I ever had an official title. When you worked there, you were…

00:27:42 - 00:27:47

This was the first time you were there as kind of an assistant to the director?

00:27:47 - 00:27:48


00:27:48 - 00:27:50

Okay, and did you stay long, then?

00:27:50 - 00:27:53

No, I wasn’t there all that long.

00:27:53 - 00:27:57

Did being a Bean help you get the job? Or no?

00:27:57 - 00:28:10

Well, it probably did, probably more often than not. You were there for a little while. And then, you left Busch Gardens. And then, you went to…

00:28:12 - 00:28:13

Where’d you go from there?

00:28:15 - 00:28:15

From Busch Gardens?

00:28:15 - 00:28:20

Yeah, the first time. The first time, well, Jimmy Morgan.

00:28:20 - 00:28:20

Jimmy Morgan?

00:28:20 - 00:28:46

Yeah. But ultimately, when you came back to Busch Gardens, you became the director of the zoo. Right, well, I came back as, more or less, assistant. And then, there were some changes in staff and whatnot. People were playing games. Tell me. This was a little-different kinda zoo. This was a private place.

00:28:46 - 00:28:47

Private, yes.

00:28:47 - 00:28:55

What would you say was the difference between what you had experienced before and now this private place?

00:28:55 - 00:29:30

Well, you got money when you needed it. (laughs) We spent a lotta money, and basically, it was to promote Bud beer and promote the… We had mostly a, I guess… We developed more and more rides and things that some people liked and some people didn’t.

00:29:35 - 00:29:37

Would you say the animals were secondary?

00:29:42 - 00:29:51

I guess you might say, at certain times, they were somewhat secondary. They were never abused. They were well taken care of.

00:29:55 - 00:29:57

How’d you hear about the job at Busch Gardens as director?

00:29:57 - 00:30:00

Did they call you? Or you were there?

00:30:01 - 00:30:35

No, well, yeah, I knew the people there, but also, we were in touch with each and everybody in the zoo business, so we knew when there was something coming available. Most everybody did, and if you had a friend on staff, they’d let you know that something’s coming up.

00:30:35 - 00:30:38

Were ya hired by Mr. Busch?

00:30:38 - 00:30:56

No, we were hired by the personnel staff but approved of. If Busch wanted you, you were… But he wasn’t all that… He was always there on weekends and whatnot to go tooting around in his train.

00:30:58 - 00:31:02

And did he tell you what animals he wanted to have there at the zoo?

00:31:03 - 00:31:29

Yeah, he liked… Well, he more or less approved recommendations. He didn’t necessarily tell us that he wants this or that. Now, when it came to okapi and things like that, when we were spending big bucks, the board of directors even got in on it. Course, they did what he wanted, but they had the authority. Well, tell me about the okapi.

00:31:29 - 00:31:30

How’d that come about?

00:31:33 - 00:31:34

How did it come about?

00:31:34 - 00:31:36

You wanted ’em? He wanted ’em?

00:31:36 - 00:31:43

Well, we all wanted ’em. I had been involved with the okapi, I guess, in Brookfield.

00:31:48 - 00:31:51

I remember flying out to Houston. Houston?

00:31:52 - 00:32:40

Sorry, no, one of the Texases had Okapi. Flying out there and loading it up on an airplane and flying it back. I remember ’cause, at the time, it seemed like so much money. It was $16,000 for one antelope, but Mr. Busch wanted it. Building an exhibit for it was inexpensive. They didn’t require a great deal. Busch loved animals of all sorts, especially birds. He loved the birds. That’s why you had the bird garden.

00:32:40 - 00:32:51

Started the whole Busch Gardens. So part of your responsibility you’ve mentioned was all of the Busch properties that had animals.

00:32:51 - 00:32:52

What did that entail?

00:32:53 - 00:33:38

Most, just as zoo director. But for a lotta different places. Oh yeah. Each place had its own offices, you know, the monies. We spent a lotta time in and out of Texas, California, just making sure that everything was going the way it’s supposed to, taken care of properly, and inspect the facilities, make sure they were keeping them up so the old man wouldn’t be all over our case.

00:33:38 - 00:33:41

But your main headquarters was in Tampa?

00:33:42 - 00:33:47

Well, actually, the main headquarters was probably in Saint Louis.

00:33:47 - 00:33:48

But for you?

00:33:48 - 00:33:49

For me, it was in Tampa.

00:33:51 - 00:33:55

And was Busch Gardens involved in conservation at all?

00:33:56 - 00:34:22

Yeah, I think, in the selection of display, we tried to keep it so it would produce, procreate, keeping additions to the staff, making sure that the animals that were there were in a good health.

00:34:24 - 00:34:27

Did you work with elephants at Busch Gardens?

00:34:27 - 00:34:28

No, I did not.

00:34:28 - 00:34:29

Okay, do ya have ’em there?

00:34:29 - 00:34:30

Oh yeah, we had plenty of ’em.

00:34:30 - 00:34:32

Were you trying to breed ’em?

00:34:32 - 00:34:34

No, we didn’t.

00:34:34 - 00:34:40

Okay, and at Busch Gardens, you devoted a lot of land hoofstock?

00:34:40 - 00:34:42

We had about 100 acres to hoof.

00:34:44 - 00:34:46

To big herds?

00:34:46 - 00:35:07

Yeah, well, they were in a mixed group, but they did it in Africa when they grouped up in their relatives. You were telling a story about the cost, that Busch wanted to have a facility in…

00:35:07 - 00:35:09

I think it was- Oh, Houston?

00:35:09 - 00:35:11

Yeah, what was the story there?

00:35:11 - 00:35:30

Well, because we had difference, Africa, and he wanted Asia. So we built a thing with orangs and all sorts of Asian animals.

00:35:33 - 00:35:34

What was the question?

00:35:34 - 00:35:36

Spent a lotta money?

00:35:36 - 00:35:54

Yeah, was about four years of putting together and building it and opening it up, and it didn’t do well, so you decided, “Well, we’ll just trash it.” And we spent $14 million on that thing and just trashed it.

00:35:56 - 00:36:03

What would you say are the good parts of working at a private zoo and the bad parts?

00:36:03 - 00:36:30

Well, normally, in a private zoo, you’re gonna have people that’re compatible, because they’re, I would assume, answering to the big boss. Hopefully, all works out. If not, then just go. Public, it’s sometimes a little more difficult to rid yourself of people that’re a pain.

00:36:32 - 00:36:34

What were the bad parts of working for a private zoo?

00:36:36 - 00:36:40

I don’t know. I don’t recall having bad spots.

00:36:44 - 00:36:47

Did you have to deal with the board of directors at Busch Gardens?

00:36:47 - 00:36:49

Or there was a buffer?

00:36:49 - 00:37:33

No, there was the board. The board met. I had a group of… They weren’t board members; I dunno what their positions would be; but did answer to the board, and that’s usually who we went through to get permission to address the board for whatever we might need. And you said it was easy to get… Well, I won’t say easy, but it was easier to get money. You mentioned that he’d ask ya, “Ya need a lotta money? Or more money?” He didn’t squabble about sums of money.

00:37:35 - 00:37:47

If it was a project he was interested in, he’d wanna make sure that it was gonna be funded properly and wanna know if I asked for enough money: “Do you need more money, then?

00:37:47 - 00:37:53

I think I can handle it. Just lemme know if you need more money,” sorta begging you to take money.

00:37:53 - 00:37:55

In how many zoos do you see that?

00:37:55 - 00:37:58

Not many. Yeah.

00:37:59 - 00:38:07

So the philosophies were different from the private zoo that you worked at and the public zoos you’ve worked at?

00:38:08 - 00:38:26

Just their philosophy about… One would seem like it was to promote a product, Busch, and the other was- what the whole thing was about, promoting a product. And now, it’s a Belgian company. Busch doesn’t even own it anymore.

00:38:26 - 00:38:28

Did you ever go to get animals yourself?

00:38:28 - 00:38:30

Yeah, occasionally.

00:38:30 - 00:38:31


00:38:31 - 00:38:46

I guess one of the most interesting ones that I had was trapping manatees down the Everglades, going out at night. Tell me about it. Just capturing them. Fun and games. Kinda scary in a way.

00:38:47 - 00:38:50

What’d you have to be aware of?

00:38:50 - 00:38:51

Crocodiles? Or alligators?

00:38:51 - 00:39:38

Well, alligators and crocodile, mostly alligators, but no, it was just capturing them, getting them, ’cause they’re a very powerful animal, actually, but the capture. Then we brought them up to Tampa. Put ’em in our lakes and ponds there to control the aquatic grasses and things. You musta been one of the first zoos to do that. I think we probably were. Because now they’re endangered. Yeah, we had to have special permits to get ’em then, but it was fun and games. And then, ultimately, from…

00:39:38 - 00:39:46

Then Busch Gardens, you left them, and you went on to the Louisville Zoo?

00:39:46 - 00:39:47


00:39:47 - 00:39:56

And how did you make that decision to go from Busch Gardens, where you had all of this money and all of this responsibility?

00:39:56 - 00:40:01

I lost my mind. (chuckles) (Mark chuckles) To go to Louisville?

00:40:01 - 00:40:09

Was that again- No, Louisville was a wonderful place, and I don’t really know how I got involved in Louisville.

00:40:13 - 00:40:15

You weren’t the first director?

00:40:15 - 00:40:19

No, Ivo Poglyan was there, Ivo and his wife.

00:40:21 - 00:40:22

Did you know them before you got there?

00:40:22 - 00:40:25

Yeah, he was known in the zoo field.

00:40:27 - 00:40:29

Any Ivo stories you wanna tell me?

00:40:29 - 00:41:06

(Robert laughs) All I know is… I’m trying to think of… Ivo used to have… He raised tayras. You know what tayra is. I don’t know what he… But his wife loved the tayras, and she had ’em running around the house, but they were driving Ivo crazy because he’d come to work, his legs all scarred up, bleeding, everything. His wife’s tayras were eating him, chewing him up.

00:41:06 - 00:41:08

And you said his wife kinda ran the zoo?

00:41:08 - 00:41:17

Yeah, well, she told him what days close the zoo and what days to open it and what to do with this or that. Yeah, she bossed him.

00:41:17 - 00:41:20

Was he still there when you came to the zoo?

00:41:20 - 00:41:22

Or he had left?

00:41:22 - 00:41:32

You know, I’m not sure where he was. I don’t know. No, I never answered to him, and he never answered to me.

00:41:32 - 00:41:36

Did you have a house on the grounds when you went to Louisville?

00:41:36 - 00:42:04

No. No, he had a house on the grounds, but I didn’t. And then, the parks director, the minute I came to Louisville, he took the house on the grounds, so I had to buy a house. You saw this opening at the Louisville Zoo and decided you wanted to try… Now, this is different now. It’s not private. This is a public place. Public.

00:42:04 - 00:42:07

What were some of the issues you had to deal with at Louisville?

00:42:08 - 00:42:26

Being a public- Development and fundraising, but we had a good group of people on the board and whatnot that fundraised, and we had some big names there.

00:42:27 - 00:42:31

And when you applied for the job, were they aware of your family background?

00:42:33 - 00:42:35

I assume. I don’t know.

00:42:38 - 00:42:41

What was it like when you first came? What’d ya find?

00:42:41 - 00:42:44

What kind of zoo did ya find when you came there?

00:42:44 - 00:42:45

What kind of a zoo?

00:42:48 - 00:43:18

Well, it was a developing zoo. Some of the displays that were constructed just prior to my getting there were, I think, overdone and wasted money, and they had to redo a lotta things, but otherwise, it had an interesting collection.

00:43:21 - 00:43:35

When you were at Louisville and before, who were some of the zoo directors that you interacted with and that you, maybe, got advice from or looked up to that were helping you in your career as you were moving around?

00:43:39 - 00:43:40

I don’t know.

00:43:43 - 00:43:49

Were there colleagues that you talked with when you had frustrations or problems?

00:43:49 - 00:44:04

Well, I suppose so, but I’m hard-pressed to remember all those folks ’cause I had help from a lotta people, and companionship.

00:44:07 - 00:44:09

What kinda frustrations did you have at the Louisville Zoo?

00:44:10 - 00:44:29

You mentioned you gotta keep people, you can’t get rid of ’em. There were certain board members that were very difficult, always were. Was a constant struggle, but we overcame all that in time. So there was politics you had to deal with. Yes, there were a lotta politics.

00:44:31 - 00:44:34

Were you expected to raise money for the zoo?

00:44:35 - 00:44:48

Anybody and everybody was. We had some companies there. Trying to think of the companies.

00:44:51 - 00:44:53

Who’s big-time in Louisville, moneywise?

00:44:55 - 00:44:58

Did the horse people ever get involved in Louisville with the zoo?

00:44:58 - 00:44:59

No, they’re in horses.

00:45:00 - 00:45:02

Didn’t care about- you talking about?

00:45:02 - 00:45:03

Like, the Binghams or something?

00:45:03 - 00:45:12

The Binghams. Yeah. yeah, they’re the newspaper people there. Now, ya come into Louisville Zoo.

00:45:12 - 00:45:16

How would you describe yourself as a director?

00:45:16 - 00:45:20

Were you a tough guy? Easy guy?

00:45:20 - 00:45:22

Did you get to pick your staff?

00:45:22 - 00:45:24

Did you have to live with who was there?

00:45:25 - 00:45:35

I picked the staff, but I was very careful on that. Try to find people that were at least as smart as I was. I didn’t want a bunch of dummies (chuckles) working for me.

00:45:39 - 00:45:43

Did you mentor them?

00:45:44 - 00:45:47

We all worked together for a common goal.

00:45:52 - 00:45:55

Were you interested in conservation at the Louisville Zoo?

00:45:56 - 00:46:12

Well, I think we assumed we were involved in it all the way. Everything we did was, hopefully. Or education? Was there- We had spent a lotta money on education, facilities and everything.

00:46:12 - 00:46:19

Now, all the time you were in these various places, being director and running the zoo, did you still have contact with your father?

00:46:19 - 00:46:22

No, my father died right after I went to Louisville.

00:46:25 - 00:46:29

Do you know how your father felt about you becoming a zoo director?

00:46:29 - 00:46:30

I think he liked it.

00:46:30 - 00:46:33

Did you ever talk about it with him? Or not?

00:46:33 - 00:46:55

Well, no, not really, not specifically on his feelings about my zoo. (laughs) There were times when he and I had some scuffles about whether he gave up his opportunity to run the place (laughs) when he didn’t put me in charge to start with.

00:46:56 - 00:46:57

Give me example. What do you mean a scuffle?

00:46:57 - 00:48:04

No, I mean I just… He sometimes wanted anything. He might want a… “The girls are staying out too late” or “should they be coming home?” And I’d have to tell him that he lost his opportunity to run things in my house: “You can just go elsewhere and do that.” So you think he was, then, happy that, in a sense, the Bean family of being in the zoo profession was continuing. I don’t know that he cared that much, to tell ya the truth. I think he was rather tired, probably tired of listening to zoo people, ’cause most of the people that he’d associated with in his history were gone. You mentioned the people that you had to deal with at the Louisville Zoo.

00:48:05 - 00:48:08

Was there a zoo society there that helped the zoo?

00:48:08 - 00:48:09

And were they helpful to you?

00:48:09 - 00:48:12

Or did you have to help them along?

00:48:12 - 00:48:50

Yeah, part of the problem was we had a commission and a society, and nobody could figure out who was in charge of what, so I had to work it around getting them separated ’cause they already had used them to fight, one the other; otherwise, it was a bit difficult sometimes. Now, all this time, you’re part of the zoo association, national organization.

00:48:53 - 00:48:59

What kind of organization was it when you were zoo director at Louisville and Busch Gardens?

00:48:59 - 00:49:03

Were they helpful to zoos, as you recollect?

00:49:05 - 00:49:09

I don’t recall any great assistance from…

00:49:09 - 00:49:11

You talking about AZA?

00:49:11 - 00:49:13


00:49:14 - 00:49:17

Were you involved in the national organization?

00:49:19 - 00:49:33

You know, I can’t even remember how much involvement I had at that time. Now, would you say that, after a few years on the job at Louisville or even at Busch Gardens…

00:49:33 - 00:49:38

Did the glamour of being the zoo director wear off in the day to day?

00:49:38 - 00:49:39

Or was it always fun?

00:49:41 - 00:50:13

Maybe there was bad days. There mighta been. Yeah, there were the good and the bad, but no, I think it was always… I used to have a wonderful office, when I was at Busch, especially. It was kinda like this except that whole wall was a window, and I looked out over a veldt with giraffe and zebras and all these things racing by the windows. And that was always kinda neat, to get a chance to see all that and looking at chimps on an island right behind, gorillas next to them, all those things.

00:50:15 - 00:50:19

Did you have favorite animals at Busch or at Louisville?

00:50:19 - 00:50:22

Were there some group you really liked?

00:50:22 - 00:50:30

Well, no, more or less all of ’em. I didn’t really have a real specific.

00:50:31 - 00:50:38

But you were involved in a very unique situation with a very unique bird, weren’t you?

00:50:38 - 00:50:39

In the wild?

00:50:39 - 00:50:41

The ivory-billed woodpecker?

00:50:41 - 00:52:02

(Robert laughs) Well, I was driving; it was down through Alabama, not Alabama, Louisiana; and saw this bird fly across in front of me in the swamps of southern Louisiana. Bird flew across in front of me the way parrot, I mean woodpeckers, fly, and I saw this bird: “My God, it looked like a ivorybill woodpecker,” which is almost extinct. I was on my way. I was delivering some antelope to Louisville, not Louisville, Houston, and going back to Louisville. When I got back, there was an ornithologist, professor at the University of Louisville, very world-renowned, and I described what I saw, and he said, “That’s gotta be an ivorybill. It has to be.” He said, “The only place you can find them these days is exactly where you said you saw it,” and he described it. So that’s where that ivory bill… I’d never saw it.

00:52:05 - 00:52:12

There were some fellows that think they saw it. I don’t know.

00:52:12 - 00:52:16

What was the reaction when people heard that?

00:52:16 - 00:52:41

Well, some thought there might be something to it, and some thought I was an old hair-brained bluenose director. No, I don’t know. I did enjoy that because it was thought of by a lotta folks that maybe it really was ivorybill and that I did see an ivorybill, the last one that’s been seen by anybody.

00:52:41 - 00:52:43

This was in the ’70s?

00:52:46 - 00:52:56

It was just before I… It was ’74, thereabouts. Now, you mentioned you delivered some antelope to the Houston Zoo. Yeah.

00:52:56 - 00:52:57

You know the zoo director?

00:52:57 - 00:53:11

No, not at the Houston Zoo. No, I was between jobs, and I was working with Frank Thompson. Frank Thompson. Yeah, Frank and I were buying and selling animals.

00:53:11 - 00:53:14

Can you tell me a little about that business venture?

00:53:14 - 00:53:25

Well, I just worked with Frank. We’d drive around the countryside, buying up surplus and having a list of who needed what, so that’s what we did.

00:53:27 - 00:53:31

And that took ya all around the United States?

00:53:31 - 00:53:41

Well, not necessarily all around, but no, we did travel a bit. Our map was a six-pack of…

00:53:41 - 00:53:59

It was “between this zoo and that zoo is a 18-pack” (Mark chuckles) or a six-pack. (chuckles) Now, when your father passed away, did that affect you in your involvement in zoos?

00:53:59 - 00:54:02

Or not? Or just personally?

00:54:02 - 00:54:13

No, personally, it was… No, I’m just sorry. He’d been sick for quite a while, and of course, I missed him.

00:54:15 - 00:54:27

It was nice to have somebody that you could point to and say, “I can get some help there.” Did you feel that there was a legacy you wanted to continue?

00:54:29 - 00:54:46

No, I didn’t. No, I don’t guess so, but there are those that sort of stuck it on me. I benefited from that relationship.

00:54:49 - 00:54:58

And when you were at Louisville Zoo, what did you achieve there that you were really proud of?

00:54:59 - 00:55:16

Oh, I think our education facility that we had. Had been a chimp show, and we turned it into an educational facility. So you were moving away from the animal shows. Yeah.

00:55:16 - 00:55:23

Mkay, and what would you have liked to have accomplished that you weren’t able at Louisville?

00:55:24 - 00:56:26

At Louisville. I don’t know. (indistinct) pretty much things that have been done. I don’t know what. We’d put in a new gorilla display and great apes, redid the polar bear exhibits, things that were overdone that didn’t work well, but a lotta things additional, the changing of existing facilities. Now, when you were at… You left the Louisville Zoo as director. Yeah, I retired.

00:56:26 - 00:56:28

You retired from there. Yeah.

00:56:28 - 00:56:30

And who came after you? Do you remember?

00:56:30 - 00:56:37

Yeah, John Walczak. He’s there now. Okay. I hired him.

00:56:37 - 00:56:38

You hired him?

00:56:38 - 00:56:40

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

00:56:41 - 00:56:54

And when you retired from Louisville, you helped to establish a park, Kentucky Down Under?

00:56:54 - 00:56:59

Oh, that was down in Horse Cave, Kentucky.

00:56:59 - 00:57:00

And what was that all about?

00:57:00 - 00:57:02

It was an Australian theme park.

00:57:04 - 00:57:08

They sought you out to get you to help ’em?

00:57:08 - 00:57:09

Or you heard about it?

00:57:11 - 00:57:42

The whole thing was a cave display. That’s the down under business, cave country in down under Australia. The gal whose husband owned the place was from Australia. And so, she wanted to do something Australian, so I put in bird displays, and we did some marsupials of all sorts. This was a private venture. Private, yeah.

00:57:42 - 00:57:44

They have the money that the Busch had?

00:57:44 - 00:58:10

No, no, no, (laughs) they didn’t have anywhere near the kinda money. I don’t know what… No, I don’t imagine. Most of it was done by hook or by crook, building exhibits. So there was no board of directors you had to work through. It was just the owners. No, she was the board of directors.

00:58:12 - 00:58:18

What were some of the challenges of getting the animals, aside from no money?

00:58:18 - 00:58:26

And being non-AZA at the time, getting permits and whatnot.

00:58:31 - 00:58:32

Was this a money-making thing?

00:58:32 - 00:58:34

They hoped to make money?

00:58:34 - 00:58:55

Yeah, well, I think, wanted more… They wanted to make money, obviously. You don’t go into a venture like that without making money, but I don’t know whatever had become of it, to tell ya the truth.

00:58:56 - 00:59:03

Were you able to use your relationships with other zoos to get animals and bring animals there?

00:59:03 - 00:59:04


00:59:08 - 00:59:10

Was it a large place?

00:59:10 - 00:59:14

Are we talking 10 acres or 200 acres?

00:59:14 - 00:59:18

Well, I think she had better than 900 acres.

00:59:22 - 00:59:24

Did you get it up and running?

00:59:24 - 00:59:25

Were people coming there?

00:59:25 - 00:59:26


00:59:27 - 00:59:29

How was it received?

00:59:29 - 00:59:33

It was well-received. It was a nice little park.

00:59:34 - 00:59:39

D’you have any major problems getting animals or bringing ’em in?

00:59:40 - 00:59:47

No, the only thing I can remember is having wallabies get loose ’cause somebody’d let it out the door.

00:59:48 - 00:59:53

Little rascals can jump. (laughs) (Mark chuckles) Did you get ’em back?

00:59:53 - 00:59:55

Yeah, but it about killed me.

00:59:57 - 00:59:59

Did you have a big staff?

00:59:59 - 01:00:02

Or was a lot put on you?

01:00:02 - 01:00:11

That was one thing that… And they were all minimum wage. So essentially, you had very little help. Very little.

01:00:14 - 01:00:17

Was there anything you wanted to do there that you weren’t able to do?

01:00:17 - 01:00:21

Or they ask you to do a job and you got it done?

01:00:21 - 01:00:38

Yeah, usually, whatever we wanted done got done. Very talented, those five people were very talented. They were responsible for building the exhibits, and you, directing them, and so forth. Yeah, I designed them, usually.

01:00:39 - 01:00:48

And did you lean on anybody in the zoo profession when you were designing to help you, other zoo directors or anything?

01:00:48 - 01:00:53

No, I don’t think… Staffing might be…

01:00:59 - 01:01:01

What am I trying to say?

01:01:01 - 01:01:53

The stocking of the exhibits. One of the things that they had, it’s a great big operation for sheepshearing, which was one of the most popular things in the whole park was shearing sheep. ‘Cause of Australia. Yeah. Yeah, we had dingoes. We had a lotta cassowaries. They had nothing before you came there and brought all the animals in. Now, after you’d finished your job there of getting these people up and running, you went to another zoo.

01:01:53 - 01:01:54

You then went to Texas?

01:01:55 - 01:01:59

From there? No, from there, where’d I go?

01:01:59 - 01:02:02

Was that Brevard or Texas? What?

01:02:05 - 01:02:08

(Robert laughs) I don’t remember whether I was…

01:02:11 - 01:02:18

Oh, I guess, maybe, I went to Victoria from there?

01:02:19 - 01:02:20


01:02:20 - 01:02:26

She answers all my questions, the hard ones. Not her interview, though. That’s okay. She can coast. Not her interview.

01:02:27 - 01:02:29

You went to Victoria, Texas?

01:02:29 - 01:02:30


01:02:33 - 01:02:34

As zoo director?

01:02:34 - 01:02:35


01:02:35 - 01:02:40

Again, what attracted you to Victoria, Texas?

01:02:41 - 01:02:48

It was a job. No, it was a fun little place, neat little zoo.

01:02:48 - 01:02:50

What’d ya find when ya got there, what kinda zoo?

01:02:50 - 01:03:12

Native American, lots of bears and wolves. We had red wolves as our propagation, well, a lotta things, a lot of the native cats, the small cats, margays.

01:03:14 - 01:03:17

Did they want the zoo to be something more than a Native American zoo?

01:03:17 - 01:03:22

No, I think that it was intended to be all native to Texas.

01:03:25 - 01:03:27

And what kinda challenges were there?

01:03:28 - 01:03:48

Well, money was probably the biggest. That was not very well-funded, although we did get funds. But as I say, it was primarily a small-display facility, so it didn’t require a great deal of money.

01:03:49 - 01:03:51

Is this city zoo? City-operated?

01:03:51 - 01:03:52


01:03:52 - 01:03:58

Okay, so again, there were some politics, even in a small zoo?

01:03:59 - 01:04:20

Well, I don’t recall any political problems there. It was a fun place. The director of parks was a very generous fellow who wanted to help any time he could, and there were loads of people that fundraised projects of one sort and another.

01:04:21 - 01:04:26

What were some of the problems that you needed to fix right away that you saw?

01:04:27 - 01:04:52

Well, funding more than anything else. That’s usually what’s… I mean that people are having problems with funds. That’s the reason they changed directors. So right away, you saw the need to try and get some money for this place. And they would point out that that’s what they’d like you to do when you got there.

01:04:54 - 01:04:56

Were they helpful in that respect?

01:04:56 - 01:04:57

Or just expect you to do it?

01:04:57 - 01:05:06

Well, most of ’em would expect you to do it. That’s what they hired you for, but there were those that would help you any chance they got.

01:05:09 - 01:05:13

Were you able to develop a Texas wetlands exhibit?

01:05:13 - 01:05:15

Yeah, we did all that kinda thing.

01:05:15 - 01:05:22

Mkay, so it was still all revolving around the theme of Texas?

01:05:23 - 01:05:24


01:05:24 - 01:05:25

that were there?

01:05:25 - 01:05:25


01:05:25 - 01:05:30

So you were involved with red wolves and conservation activities of the red wolves?

01:05:30 - 01:05:32

Yeah. Yeah.

01:05:36 - 01:05:38

Were you able to bring in more animals?

01:05:40 - 01:05:42

Depending on facilities available.

01:05:44 - 01:05:46

Did you have a walk-in aviary?

01:05:46 - 01:05:54

You know, I’m sitting here… Yes, not necessarily walk-in.

01:05:55 - 01:05:56

But an aviary?

01:05:56 - 01:05:56


01:05:58 - 01:06:03

Do you think you were successful in bringing more people to the zoo?

01:06:03 - 01:06:05

Oh, I think so.

01:06:05 - 01:06:08

Was it the exhibits that you think brought them there?

01:06:08 - 01:06:21

Well, exhibits but the promotion of the things and how best to promote it, getting together some good folks that were working on promoting.

01:06:21 - 01:06:28

Had your experience with Busch Gardens and promotion helped you there to give them some advice?

01:06:29 - 01:06:50

Yeah, except that, in Busch, I had professionals. They were very high-priced PR people that, when I needed something, would jump in, which I didn’t have in Texas. Yeah. Did the politics in Texas…

01:06:50 - 01:06:53

As in any zoo, did it help you or hinder you?

01:06:53 - 01:06:56

Or was it neutral?

01:06:56 - 01:06:58

The politics?

01:06:58 - 01:06:59

you wanted it to be?

01:07:02 - 01:07:04

What was the question on that?

01:07:04 - 01:07:07

Was politics helpful to you at the Texas zoo?

01:07:07 - 01:07:08

Or did hinder you?

01:07:08 - 01:07:17

I don’t know that it was helpful, but I guess, as long as it didn’t hinder, it was okay.

01:07:18 - 01:07:20

Were they interested in conservation?

01:07:20 - 01:07:22

Or more exhibits?

01:07:22 - 01:07:50

Well, it depends on… Everybody had a problem financially in small cities, so I don’t know. Wanna talk about… You have left Texas, Victoria. You now going to Florida, the Brevard Zoo. Brevard Zoo.

01:07:53 - 01:07:55

Why’d you leave Texas?

01:07:55 - 01:08:01

But what prompted you to go back to Florida and Brevard?

01:08:01 - 01:08:20

Because a very good friend of mine wanted me to take that job in Brevard. He said, “They need you. You gotta take it, so I said, “Oh, I better go look at it.” So I did, and it looked good, neat little zoo, and I took the job.

01:08:20 - 01:08:23

Who was your friend? Professional?

01:08:23 - 01:08:27

Yeah, yeah, Fort Wayne.

01:08:29 - 01:08:30


01:08:30 - 01:08:33

Earl Wells. Yeah. Wonderful man.

01:08:33 - 01:08:42

(Robert laughs) And when you got to Brevard Zoo, what’d you find?

01:08:42 - 01:08:43

You said it was a nice little zoo.

01:08:43 - 01:08:45

What kinda zoo did you find?

01:08:45 - 01:09:15

It was a lot of open exhibits, lotta primates and birds. I’m trying to… I have trouble with this. We’re getting so many zoos put in here, I got too many displays. I really should cut back on display here. There you go. I don’t know.

01:09:17 - 01:09:18

It was a small zoo?

01:09:18 - 01:09:22

Yeah, a very small zoo, probably four or five acres (indistinct).

01:09:25 - 01:09:28

You had to go through an interview process to get the job as director?

01:09:28 - 01:09:37

Mm-hmm. I was only there three years. Why did it appeal to you? What were you… It was a pretty little zoo.

01:09:37 - 01:09:39

what’d you wanna try and do?

01:09:40 - 01:09:50

They were having some problems and wanted somebody to help ’em straighten it out, and we put it together.

01:09:50 - 01:09:52

Did they want you also to raise money?

01:09:52 - 01:09:55

Oh yeah, it’s always- They always ask?

01:09:55 - 01:09:56

Oh yeah.

01:09:57 - 01:10:04

Well, they figured, they see a director: “That’s all he knows anyway.” Well, what did they want when they brought ya in?

01:10:04 - 01:10:07

What were they asking you to accomplish?

01:10:07 - 01:10:27

Well, I think, just to run the place and make sure it’s operating as it should be. Another public place. No. Actually, I can’t even remember whether it was a public or… I think it was more… You know, I don’t know. Can’t remember whether it was… As I say, there’s so many of ’em.

01:10:27 - 01:10:46

Wasn’t Busch Gardens. No, no, no, no, I’m trying to remember whether it was… Maybe Brevard County, I guess. And when you were at… You had worked on this Down Under, starting it up, and you had helped Victoria get back up.

01:10:46 - 01:10:50

What did you learn from these start-ups that you could bring to Brevard?

01:10:51 - 01:10:57

Well, basically, best display methods.

01:11:02 - 01:11:06

And how involved did you get in this fundraising?

01:11:06 - 01:11:10

Did they want you to go out literally and bring back money?

01:11:10 - 01:11:32

Well, I was probably less than I shoulda been. I hated fundraising with a purple passion. But it was a necessary thing. Yes, usually try to get yourself involved with somebody else to take ’em with ya, somebody else that knows somebody in the crowd to work ’em over.

01:11:34 - 01:11:40

This was a small zoo, so what was your thought of bringing people to this zoo?

01:11:40 - 01:11:43

How’d you think you were gonna get some interest in the zoo?

01:11:43 - 01:11:54

Or did they already have interest that- Oh, there was interest in the zoo. It was a very nice little zoo, very pleasant, very jungle-like.

01:11:56 - 01:11:59

D’you ever have problems with weather?

01:11:59 - 01:12:00

Hurricanes and things?

01:12:00 - 01:12:18

Hurricanes. (Robert coughs) Excuse me. About three years, and I was in there. I think must at least two hurricanes. That must be a different thing than you had to worry about at- Everywhere I been, it’s been hurricanes.

01:12:18 - 01:12:19


01:12:19 - 01:12:24

Except Cicero. (laughs) Then we have other things here.

01:12:24 - 01:12:36

And you had, then, emergency planning that you had to be aware of for hurricanes with dangerous animals: lions, tigers, gorillas?

01:12:36 - 01:12:55

we had concrete buildings that we’d put things and lock them up in. In most cases, we had jaguars, which are most dangerous things we had. Other than that were small or non-evasive.

01:12:58 - 01:13:03

Did you have plans if something bad got out in a hurricane?

01:13:04 - 01:13:09

yeah, we even sent people to the police department, learn how to shoot.

01:13:12 - 01:13:16

Now, was Brevard interested in education?

01:13:16 - 01:13:20

Yeah, yeah. you wanted to bring to the- We had a curator of education.

01:13:20 - 01:13:22

Were you free to hire your own staff?

01:13:22 - 01:13:23


01:13:23 - 01:13:25

So you could bring people in that you wanted?

01:13:25 - 01:13:40

Yeah, yeah, but usually, I never spent that much time. There always seemed to be good staff people available that were just waiting in the wings to get a chance.

01:13:42 - 01:13:48

Did you have issues good or bad with the politics in that small zoo?

01:13:51 - 01:13:52

No, not that I can recall.

01:13:55 - 01:13:57

Did the community embrace the zoo?

01:13:57 - 01:14:00

Was there positive support?

01:14:00 - 01:14:38

Yeah. You know, one of the things we had down there that drew people around was the Kennedy, space. It was right next door, so we had a lotta people that were involved in that that were employed by that that donated a lotta things to the zoo. And computers, we had computers coming out our ears. There’s always somebody there with the space shuttle that always had something for us. So you were able to get donations. We got donations.

01:14:39 - 01:14:41

Was that because they liked the zoo?

01:14:41 - 01:14:44

Or you were helping to move them along?

01:14:44 - 01:14:46

They liked the zoo. Everybody liked the zoo.

01:14:46 - 01:14:50

What was your proudest accomplishment at Brevard?

01:14:50 - 01:14:51

What were you the most proud of?

01:14:55 - 01:15:17

I have to go back, and look at it and see. I’m forgetting what we did other than add on to the education facility and continue to develop that. There’s some other building for use in the picnicking and things.

01:15:23 - 01:15:29

What was your greatest challenge at that zoo, aside from not raising enough money?

01:15:29 - 01:15:54

(Robert laughs) Well, I don’t know if you could ever say you didn’t raise enough, other than that we never raise enough. I don’t know. Well, now, in all of these zoos… You’ve mentioned Busch Gardens had its own PR, high-powered PR people, but you were at Louisville Zoo and the Texas Zoo and now in Florida.

01:15:54 - 01:16:00

What was the relationship of these other zoos or even Busch Gardens with the press?

01:16:02 - 01:16:25

Well, most cases, it was always positive. As long as you treat the collection properly and then nobody comes and picks on you for doing bad things, then you get good words and more money (chuckles) in the coffers.

01:16:26 - 01:16:30

Did you try and develop a relationship with the press when you were at these places?

01:16:30 - 01:16:37

Oh, we always had a press person on staff whose business it was to keep it going.

01:16:39 - 01:16:47

Did you do anything to try and promote relationships with the press, aside from just keeping the collection clean?

01:16:47 - 01:16:56

Oh, well, we had people on staff that were public relations people.

01:16:59 - 01:17:05

And did you ever try and use the press to promote an exhibit?

01:17:05 - 01:17:20

Oh yeah, we’d always let them know if there’s something special going on. You mentioned raising money and that you didn’t particularly like it. No, it’s no fun.

01:17:21 - 01:17:33

If someone was coming to you today, young zoo person, and saying, “I would like to be a zoo director,” what would ya tell ’em?

01:17:33 - 01:17:41

(Robert laughs) What advice would you give ’em about the job and what it entails?

01:17:41 - 01:17:45

Well, you first know you have to know what’s your aim.

01:17:45 - 01:17:46

What do you wanna do?

01:17:49 - 01:17:52

Are we gonna develop this into this, that, or whatever?

01:17:56 - 01:18:18

We wanna make sure that you have an ability to communicate with the public, the general public and the powers that be, to better our standing in the community and keep us going, keep money flowing.

01:18:18 - 01:18:28

Now, when you were at these zoos, do you feel that they wanted more a good zoo man who knew his animals or they wanted more a guy who was gonna raise money?

01:18:28 - 01:18:48

Well, I think, probably, they were thinking, “Zoo people, animal people,” but they had to have somebody that could raise money, whereas you can think, “Guy (indistinct) do everything,” which makes it kinda difficult.

01:18:50 - 01:18:52

You have any surprises when you were raising money?

01:18:52 - 01:18:55

Somebody give you more money than ya thought?

01:18:55 - 01:19:13

Busch was the only one that ever tried to get me to take more money. For the various projects. Yeah, he’d always wanna make sure we had enough money to take care of our special projects.

01:19:13 - 01:19:16

Now, would you go to him to ask?

01:19:16 - 01:19:24

I mean: would you have a project, you’d say, “I wanna bring okapis here,” “I wanna get gorillas here,” “I wanna have hoofstock,” and then, he would come back?

01:19:24 - 01:19:41

Or was he coming to you and saying, “I wanna build Asia. How much d’ya need?” Well, no, we would offer him projects to consider, and he had the gentlemen on his staff that screened all of that stuff.

01:19:44 - 01:19:48

Was there a project that you gave him that you thought he’d love and he hated?

01:19:48 - 01:20:40

Busch Gardens. Tell me that. (laughs) Just Busch Gardens, he just wanted Busch Garden. He used to do things like… He was down there on Good Friday once, and the traffic was unbearable, back and forth down Busch Boulevard. And he said, “What is all that traffic out there?” “Well, it’s the holiday. It’s Good Friday.” Says, “Why aren’t we open?” Very religious man, but he says, “That doesn’t make any difference.” He said, “There’s money to be made out there, so go unlock the gates, and let ’em in.” From this (indistinct), we’d never be open, or closed, on any holiday again. He just got so bent outta shape over Good Friday being closed. He had to have…

01:20:42 - 01:20:51

Were there projects you brought him that he just loved and he wanted you to get started on right away?

01:20:51 - 01:21:11

(laughs) No, he didn’t push anything like that. He might want you to go ahead and do something like that, but you’d take your time and do it right. You know, he had a farm in St. Louis, Grant’s Farm. Yes. For many moons.

01:21:11 - 01:21:13

Were you responsible for that also?

01:21:13 - 01:21:49

Yeah, it was a totally different kind of an operation, but yeah, we had some jurisdiction over what was to be displayed or not displayed. I imagine, when you were at Busch Gardens and traveling around, you really had to do a lot of traveling. Yeah. So you musta been on a plane a lot getting to all these various places. Yep, it’s a pain ’cause we wound up with the parks up in Virginia now. They got all over the country.

01:21:50 - 01:21:53

Was Busch Gardens involved also in marine mammals?

01:21:55 - 01:21:56

Yeah, did we…

01:21:56 - 01:21:59

I think we had- Or dolphins?

01:21:59 - 01:22:06

Trying to think. I don’t think we did. I don’t recall having marine mammals.

01:22:06 - 01:22:11

So when you sat in these meetings with Mr. Busch or the board and he said, “D’ya need more money?

01:22:11 - 01:22:15

did ya say, “Yes,” or did you turn him down?

01:22:15 - 01:22:55

No, I didn’t turn him down, but I would try to point out to him that it’s not necessarily necessary: “We have enough money for this leg, and we can go from there.” I didn’t want too much money sitting around in the cash register: “Let us have it for other things.” Did he ever tell you, in any of these projects, that he was very happy about one of the projects that you might’ve done that he just loved and you were happy that you had done a good job?

01:22:55 - 01:23:27

Well, Mr. Busch, he liked what he liked. He got a train for Busch Gardens, an old-fashioned train. First thing, you had to get that thing in there, install it. And then, he’d wanna take it out and drive it around the veldt with the zebras and whatnot. Certain things he liked that he wanted right away, and most things, though, it was okay to take your time and do it right.

01:23:34 - 01:23:38

What do ya think makes a good zoo director?

01:23:38 - 01:23:41

You’ve done it a number of years.

01:23:41 - 01:23:47

Again, if I was a young guy coming to ask your advice, what would you say makes a good zoo director?

01:23:48 - 01:23:51

(Robert chuckles) Well, I don’t know.

01:23:51 - 01:23:53

What skills d’you have to have?

01:23:53 - 01:24:13

You better know what you’re doing financially, and it’s be best to know more about the wildlife that you’re gonna be dealing with and promote. Promote the…

01:24:15 - 01:24:17

What is your aim?

01:24:20 - 01:24:23

What are you planning to do with this facility?

01:24:23 - 01:24:25

What do ya wanna do in it?

01:24:25 - 01:24:27

And set your goal, and go for it.

01:24:30 - 01:24:47

You’ve had many zoos that you’ve worked in, and of all of those zoos, as you look back on your career, what were some of the things that you would consider the high points, the things that made you the proudest?

01:24:52 - 01:24:54

Well, I don’t know.

01:24:55 - 01:25:05

There’s much that I’ve- Was it bringing in certain animals, or?

01:25:05 - 01:25:12

I think, overall- Certain animals that, maybe, you bred or reproduced?

01:25:13 - 01:25:18

“That was a very big accomplishment.” D’you ever breed the okapis?

01:25:18 - 01:25:51

Mm-hmm, that was something… Okapis, nobody ever could breed okapis. They didn’t do anything. My father, I guess, wandering around, walking through to visit everybody, finally figured out there was a problem here. The problem was weeds. The okapi yard was slick and clean; everything, cut down. But okapis require weeds (laughs) in their bedroom. So they finally thought about it.

01:25:51 - 01:26:22

They weren’t doing anything. They showed no interest in each other as long as there weren’t weeds, if it was pure, clean grass. So they cut the grass all down and let it grow over. And it grew up. As it grew up, the more amorous they became. And so, when the grass got halfway up the fence, they bred and had produced offspring, but they never would breed as long as they had clean grass or no grass at all.

01:26:23 - 01:26:25

Now, this was at Brookfield Zoo?

01:26:25 - 01:26:28

Brookfield, yeah. Brookfield. Now, how many…

01:26:28 - 01:26:30

You brought okapi back to Busch Gardens?

01:26:30 - 01:26:32


01:26:32 - 01:26:35

Did you use that philosophy, that trick of the trade?

01:26:35 - 01:26:41

Well, we only had a male. Okay, woulda been hard no matter how (laughs) high the grass got.

01:26:45 - 01:27:01

Do you think that, sometimes, the medium-size and small zoos, because they sometimes have problems financially, that they can make a difference in conservation or people’s attitude toward animals?

01:27:01 - 01:27:16

Oh, they can certainly promote. Any zoo any size can produce good things.

01:27:21 - 01:27:26

In any places, did you ever have to deal with animal rights people who were against zoos?

01:27:28 - 01:27:29


01:27:29 - 01:27:30

Busch never did? No one?

01:27:30 - 01:28:00

Well, not that I… Maybe after I left there, they might have, ’cause, actually, while I was there, there wasn’t that much going on that I can recall. You said you were able to hire people, for the most part, to help you do the job, except, when you were doing Texas Down Under, you had a little staff.

01:28:01 - 01:28:11

Did ya bring people from within the organization that you thought showed promise to be curators and assistants to you?

01:28:11 - 01:28:13

Or were you bringing them from outside?

01:28:13 - 01:28:19

Well, I’d try to bring in people from inside, unless there was nobody available.

01:28:22 - 01:28:25

Were you looking for anything special in these people?

01:28:26 - 01:28:46

Well, you know what you’re looking for when you see it, so it’s kinda hard to say what exactly. You want somebody who can recognize the animals and what their needs are and the people to look after them.

01:28:46 - 01:28:48

What kinda people do you have?

01:28:51 - 01:28:59

It’s very important to have good animal keepers. Yes. Very. Did every zoo that you were at…

01:28:59 - 01:29:01

Did it have good community support?

01:29:02 - 01:29:05

Did the community care about their zoo in every place you were at?

01:29:05 - 01:29:07

I think so.

01:29:07 - 01:29:13

Were there certain things that you tried to do to get them to be more committed to this zoo?

01:29:13 - 01:29:15

Or was it already there?

01:29:16 - 01:29:49

Well, I think the commitment was there but it’s just the ability to do anything with it or to it, getting the moneyed people together and totally organized. That was what we were talking earlier about, the zoo trips. They were great ones for getting people involved and seeing some of those at our zoo, those that we’d see in the jungle. How important were those? Tell me about it. How did that start to bring in people on these…

01:29:49 - 01:29:51

These were the African trips, right?

01:29:51 - 01:30:16

Yeah, or whatever trips, overseas. Yeah, they’re a good way to promote a zoo and promote the growth of the zoo and the interest in having these animals that we’ve gone out and see them in the wild.

01:30:16 - 01:30:28

And then, “oh my goodness, could we get some of those for our zoo?” And “yeah, we think we had probably could.” That helped you in your cultivation of money?

01:30:28 - 01:30:36

Yeah. Bringing people here. They think you’re so smart, too.

01:30:36 - 01:30:37

Well, you’re smarter than they are, right?

01:30:37 - 01:30:55

(Robert laughs) (Mark laughs) So that helped you bring in certain animals. Or bring in… Well, I guess, eventually, it’s animal but the exhibits themselves, new exhibits.

01:30:58 - 01:31:04

Somebody sees a bat-eared fox running across the prairie: “My goodness, look at that, would you?

01:31:04 - 01:31:13

Could we get some of those?” They’ve never seen anything like that. That’s really a nothing sort of little animal.

01:31:14 - 01:31:17

Did people wanna put their name on exhibits?

01:31:17 - 01:31:32

Oh yeah, that’s one of the things that everybody… Some especially more than others but get their name printed on there so that everybody can see it, which is fine if it’s for real.

01:31:34 - 01:31:37

That helped you to get some of the buildings in the various zoos?

01:31:37 - 01:31:39

Yes, funding for ’em, yeah.

01:31:40 - 01:31:42

Did Louisville have elephants?

01:31:42 - 01:31:43


01:31:45 - 01:31:47

Busch Gardens had some?

01:31:47 - 01:31:48


01:31:49 - 01:31:51

management problems in dealing with them?

01:31:51 - 01:31:53

Keepers going in with them?

01:31:53 - 01:31:56

Or were you always…

01:31:56 - 01:31:59

Were you ever concerned about safety for people?

01:31:59 - 01:32:18

No, I had a very good crew of elephant people. I know there a lot of carry-on about elephants these days. Yes. And I’ve not been involved in it, so I’m not aware of…

01:32:18 - 01:32:24

But when you were maintaining ’em, there was never animal rights groups that were upset about it or so forth?

01:32:29 - 01:32:36

If you could go back in time, are there things that you might do differently in some of these places?

01:32:36 - 01:32:45

Or if you could, were there exhibits you might’ve built if you could’ve built them or animals you might’ve tried to save or just anything different?

01:32:46 - 01:33:06

Well, I don’t know. There’s so many things that you’d love to back and do again, exhibits that woulda displayed better. The animals woulda lived better, easier to maintain. I don’t know.

01:33:06 - 01:33:13

Is there one accomplishment above many of them that you are the proudest of?

01:33:13 - 01:33:15

My three kids were born there.

01:33:15 - 01:33:16

At the zoo?

01:33:16 - 01:33:18

(Robert laughs) Tell me about that.

01:33:18 - 01:33:21

Your children were born at different zoos?

01:33:21 - 01:33:24

I mean different places. Different places.

01:33:24 - 01:33:26

But they all hung out at the zoo?

01:33:26 - 01:34:29

Actually, you know, I remember you weren’t well. I’m thinking about Pamela, our oldest one, in the days of Birmingham and the segregation ’cause they didn’t allow anybody to tour in the Birmingham Zoo at the time. And I remember Pamela, my daughter, the oldest one, decided she was gonna take care of that, so any time there were any Black people that came in, she’d go over and drag ’em up on her arm and take ’em on a tour of the zoo. So we had more and people all over her case for being so bad, talking to Black people. That was part of the really rough part of that time of the zoo life was the segregation.

01:34:30 - 01:34:35

Did your kids feel it was really special to be hanging out at the zoo?

01:34:35 - 01:34:35

Yeah, I think so.

01:34:35 - 01:34:37

Or did they just take it for granted?

01:34:38 - 01:35:13

They may’ve taken it for granted, but they enjoyed it. ‘Cause they would get to have contact with a lot of animals. Now, the youngest one is… Shoulda brought some pictures. I have some pictures. But anyway, my youngest one, I gave her, for her 16th birthday, a trip to Africa. (laughs) Nice. Yeah, so she went to Rwanda to see the gorillas, yeah, and she’s been all involved in such things since.

01:35:13 - 01:35:19

I was just gonna say: are any of your children carrying on the family profession?

01:35:20 - 01:35:33

Well, Janet’s in music, making music for a lotta folks, but the oldest one is a school teacher. Do what? She’s a teacher.

01:35:34 - 01:35:36

Can I say she’s married?

01:35:36 - 01:35:37

She’s married to zoo directors.

01:35:37 - 01:35:38


01:35:38 - 01:35:40

to a zoo director. Oh yeah, her husband was a zoo director.

01:35:40 - 01:35:42

(Janet laughs) Who was that?

01:35:42 - 01:35:43

Red Bear.

01:35:43 - 01:35:44

Red Bear?

01:35:44 - 01:36:04

Yeah. Yeah, my son. Oh yeah, I guess you’ve talked to him. Right. Yeah, for this thing. The youngest one, let’s say, is involved in the World Wildlife Fund for a while.

01:36:04 - 01:36:06


01:36:06 - 01:36:10

Yeah, yeah, she was- An environmental biologist?

01:36:10 - 01:36:40

So in some ways, some of the family is still continuing. Yeah, the picture I’ve got of Ellen is she’s sitting around this young gorilla, about a 40-pounder, I guess. Out in the wild. Yeah. No, born Cincinnati. Oh, born in Cincinnati, okay. Yeah, actually, conceived in Louisville, not Louisville, Busch Gardens. So the family still has some association. Yeah.

01:36:40 - 01:36:47

With the zoo field. Quick question, we just mentioned gorillas.

01:36:47 - 01:36:56

Is there a story about your grandfather with an orangutan, bringing him back?

01:36:56 - 01:36:57

Had to do mouth-to-mouth?

01:36:57 - 01:37:25

Well, that’s something that Janet was saying earlier, but I don’t recall. Okay, I thought we might, but that’s okay. Maybe, over lunch, you can look at the newspaper clipping, and it might bring back memories of- Okay, okay. Which may spur a lot of things ’cause I’ve got a lotta clippings that he hasn’t seen in a very long time. One other question, maybe, before we break. You’ve have great family history, and you’ve done a lot of things yourself at various zoos.

01:37:25 - 01:37:28

How would you like to be remembered in the zoo profession?

01:37:28 - 01:37:54

(Robert chuckles) I don’t know. How I’m remembered. That I was at least a fair person who gave a damn. That time was during my- Bob, question: I understood that there might have, at one time, been a rivalry between Marlin Perkins at Lincoln Park Zoo and your father at Brookfield Zoo.

01:37:54 - 01:37:56

Was there any truth to that?

01:37:56 - 01:38:39

Yes. (Janet chuckles) Tell me about it. not to like Marlin Perkins. He didn’t think he was… He wasn’t showbiz enough, or maybe, he was too showbiz. But he is like, “I wouldn’t waste my time watching that silly show,” “Zoo Parade.” Then all of a sudden, we started noticing he was missing all the time on that afternoon when that show was on. Well, he’d sneak off and watch that show every time. He wasn’t gonna miss it, but he would cuss if anybody discovered it.

01:38:39 - 01:39:29

(Janet chuckles) But he didn’t like Marlin’s showbiz. He was too fancy-pants. So there wasn’t as much of a rivalry. No, they probably never spoke to each other during it. We just knew that he was sneaking out. He was like a kid smoking cigarettes. (Janet laughs) When I was doing the history of Lincoln Park Zoo, on page 12 of the book, we reference your father because he had two young female gorillas and he was very much trying to get Marlin to get his gorilla, then Bushman. Ah, Bushman.

01:39:29 - 01:39:43

to meet the two females. Little party. any of that, ’cause he didn’t wanna give up his star. And I don’t think, probably, Robert would either.

01:39:43 - 01:39:46

Oh, to bring his females to Lincoln Park?

01:39:46 - 01:40:18

Yeah. Right, so there was that. Well, the impasse there. Zoos weren’t as cooperative, regardless of who the directors were. A gorilla, that’s money in the bank, having a gorilla. Well, Bushman was known all over, bid dude. Now, when your grandfather was at Brookfield Zoo, he kept pretty good records, but when your father took over, he didn’t really keep the records as well as your grandfather did.

01:40:18 - 01:40:19

Was there some reason?

01:40:19 - 01:40:21

Were you ever aware of bad record-keeping?

01:40:21 - 01:40:48

That’s the first I’ve heard of that. I don’t know. My father, he wasn’t keeping records there anyway. It was somebody else on staff that would be doing that, I would think. We have a picture here. (staffer speaks indistinctly) Maybe you could hold it up so we could see it. Yeah.

01:40:48 - 01:40:49

And what is that photo of?

01:40:51 - 01:41:03

(laughs) That’s my mother and shoe-billed storks. I am her namesake. It’s Janet. Yeah. Janet Beveridge Bean at this moment, my name exactly. Yes.

01:41:03 - 01:41:05

And where was she?

01:41:05 - 01:41:06

What is it?

01:41:06 - 01:41:07

Soemmerring’s gazelle.

01:41:07 - 01:41:08

Soemmerring’s gazelle?

01:41:08 - 01:41:15

Soemmerring’s. Soemmerring’s, and this is- It was taken in Khartoum in the Sudan.

01:41:15 - 01:41:18

And how did she end up there?

01:41:18 - 01:41:40

It’s (indistinct), I think. She was helping him. They were shipping animals to Brookfield outta the heart of Africa. I remember seeing itineraries for trips like that in the manifest from the ship and the menus from the ship, and they would be these remarkable beautiful detailed menus, and it just seemed so fantastic.

01:41:40 - 01:41:47

She lived a life that seemed like it was worthy of a movie, going over and then getting animals?

01:41:47 - 01:42:02

Yeah. she’d end up having to take care of them, primarily because your dad may’ve been a little too much in his cups (chuckles) at various times. too early. Cocktails too early, so Janet would take over.

01:42:04 - 01:42:05

What is this one right there, Dad?

01:42:05 - 01:42:27

That’s always a funny one. Oh, that’s a shoebill. Shoebill. This always was just sitting in the house, and there’s another one of your mom that’s taken in Egypt, also. Yeah, there’s one taken from the pyramids. From the pyramids, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I love that one. Now that’s in my house. It just sits there.

01:42:27 - 01:42:32

Everyone says, “Who’s that,” and I get to say, “That’s my grandmother.” (Janet laughs) Here’s a couple others.

01:42:32 - 01:42:41

Here’s one from 1946 about “zoo fixes electric eye on its elusive monkeys.” That ring a bell?

01:42:41 - 01:42:43

No. ’46?

01:42:43 - 01:42:50

No, I was… “Instead of bare-hand cavorting around and about the monkey island cliffs, attendants will try to catch the animals scientifically.

01:42:50 - 01:42:57

(Janet laughs) ‘It’s as easy as walking through a door,’ zoo director Robert Bean says.” D’you remember anything about that?

01:42:57 - 01:43:36

No, I don’t know what that is. I like that they have little cartoons for the monkeys. We have one here, “30th Birthday, Brookfield Zoo,” with photos of Robert Bean and Edward Bean. Don’t know if that rings a bell there. It looks like a… Looks like he’s part of Al Capone’s team or something right there. (laughs) Your father, he could look like a grump. Yeah, he was a grump at time.

01:43:36 - 01:43:57

(Janet laughs) Well, what about… Your grandfather, he looks kind of kind. Oh, yeah, he wasn’t as kind as he looks. (Janet laughs) It’s like you. He had a reputation of firing people on the spot for no good reason and then raising hell with ’em the next day because they didn’t show up for work.

01:43:57 - 01:44:01

(Janet laughs) Well, that’s not nice, is it?

01:44:01 - 01:44:03

So, did he rehire them?

01:44:03 - 01:44:06

Oh yeah. Well, he’d expect ’em to be at work.

01:44:06 - 01:44:09

Did he just not remember that he’d fired them?

01:44:09 - 01:44:27

No, he just wanted to raise his cane for somebody. Yeah, I think you inherited some of that. No. Yes. I’m sweet as they can be. Uh-huh. Now, here’s an article that was a big deal for Brookfield Zoo. Oh, Mary.

01:44:27 - 01:44:29

that’s your… That’s my aunt Mary.

01:44:29 - 01:44:30

Your sister?

01:44:30 - 01:44:38

That’s Aunt Mary. No, it’s your- It’s my Aunt. It’s my great aunt. Got it. Yeah, it’s his dad’s sister, yep. My dad’s sister.

01:44:38 - 01:44:49

Remember, a few years back, Dad, we went to the Field Museum and we were just walking around and, all of a sudden, there was this exhibit and it had the video footage of your grandfather?

01:44:49 - 01:44:57

You remember? We were just walking around the zoo. And then, all of a sudden, they had this little cubicle that you could go watch video, and it had all this stuff you had never seen of him with Sue Lynn.

01:44:59 - 01:45:02

Oh yeah, this was in Meilan. Is that Sue Lynn?

01:45:02 - 01:45:07

Yeah, yeah. It’s amazing time. Yeah.

01:45:07 - 01:45:09

D’you remember him talking about that much?

01:45:09 - 01:45:12

No, I never- Really? He didn’t talk about it?

01:45:12 - 01:45:12


01:45:12 - 01:45:14

He just kept it to himself?

01:45:14 - 01:45:16


01:45:16 - 01:45:18

About what? Talk about what?

01:45:18 - 01:45:39

I dunno, just what it was like having it there. Yeah, I don’t think he ever thought that much about it. Oh, he had to have. If you talk about… That was a first for the United States. Oh, you mean the panda you’re talking about. Yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah, you would think that would be a big feather in his cap as a zoo director, to have done that.

01:45:39 - 01:46:18

I think it was more than just… The Bronx Zoo had something to do with some of the pulling of that project. Right, but the first panda ever to be exhibited in the United States was at the Brookfield Zoo. Yeah, but I was thinking there’s more connections with people involved in that, bringing that animal here. It’s a big deal. Yeah, Mary’s job was looking after the pandas. It’s a wonder she didn’t get chewed up.

01:46:18 - 01:46:19

What was she?

01:46:19 - 01:46:34

I like this, how she dresses as a nurse. She was a nurse. She was the zoo nurse. I think she was a nurse, though. I love that she’s actually just in a nurse’s outfit. Well, maybe it’s just ’cause we refers to her as the zoo nurse. Yeah. Mark, (indistinct).

01:46:37 - 01:46:41

Here’s one about Belle Benchley. Belle Benchley.

01:46:41 - 01:46:41


01:46:41 - 01:46:44

San Diego Zoo. 1953.

01:46:46 - 01:46:47

Yeah, is that Belle? Is she a woman?

01:46:47 - 01:46:49


01:46:49 - 01:46:51

She’s the first female zoo director?

01:46:51 - 01:46:58

Yeah. Wow. well thought of, too. And this is when she was… She looks older there, too.

01:46:58 - 01:46:59

Did she start when she was older?

01:46:59 - 01:47:01

I really don’t know.

01:47:01 - 01:47:02

Did you know her?

01:47:02 - 01:47:03

Not really.

01:47:03 - 01:47:03


01:47:06 - 01:47:09

And Grandfather worked at San Diego, correct?

01:47:09 - 01:47:12

Well, that was back way back when.

01:47:12 - 01:47:14

But he was there in San Diego?

01:47:14 - 01:47:17

Yeah, that was about 1905 or something.

01:47:17 - 01:47:19


01:47:19 - 01:47:26

Some ancient age. Oh, he smokes. And before Belle Benchley.

01:47:27 - 01:47:28

Was he the director?

01:47:30 - 01:48:03

I remember him saying their budget was a bucket of paint a year (Janet laughs) at the San Diego Zoo. (chuckles) Well, they must’ve had very small exhibits, then. Yeah, the zoo wasn’t a great deal then, but they fixed it up. Yeah, I think they did all right. He got an extra can of paint. Very nice. This one’s about a gorilla that was being taken care of in a house.

01:48:03 - 01:48:04

And whose house would that be?

01:48:04 - 01:48:24

Musta been our house. (laughs) Yeah. ‘Cause I used to have to get up every morning and feed the rascal. What was her name? His, his name. Babe. Yeah. It’s just says, “Missed being admitted. She had to get a sitter for their house guest, a baby gorilla named Baby, who gets lonesome if left alone too long.

01:48:24 - 01:48:31

Baby eats breakfast the family and has an extraordinary fondness for sugar or maple sugar on his pancakes, according to his devoted host and hostess.

01:48:31 - 01:48:35

Yeah. (chuckles) So what did Babe do?

01:48:35 - 01:48:36

What did Babe do?

01:48:36 - 01:48:38

Yeah, just hang around the house?

01:48:38 - 01:48:48

Well, there was a box in the living room that was her cage. Then we’d just let her out in the backyard, and she’d run up the tree and then dare ya to try to get her.

01:48:48 - 01:48:49

And then, you’d try to get her?

01:48:49 - 01:48:53

Then you’d try to catch her back. She’d run up the tree in the yard.

01:48:53 - 01:48:54

Just in the yard?

01:48:54 - 01:48:59

Yeah. Not in an exhibit, just in the out- Just out chasing around the backyard.

01:48:59 - 01:49:02

And you would just have to climb up a tree and get her?

01:49:02 - 01:49:03

Or somebody would.

01:49:03 - 01:49:05

How long did she live with you guys?

01:49:05 - 01:49:17

Oh, she was up until just recently. No, no, not “how long did she live?” but “how long did she live with you in the house?” I’m not sure how long it was. It was quite a while. That’s crazy.

01:49:17 - 01:49:18

What was it like for breakfast?

01:49:18 - 01:49:19

You had to give her breakfast.

01:49:19 - 01:49:21

What did she do?

01:49:21 - 01:49:26

Well, she ate the same thing every day, for the most part. Well, she ate pancakes, obviously. Yeah.

01:49:26 - 01:49:27

Some oatmeal, maybe?

01:49:27 - 01:50:05

But she used to… I think I told you a little while ago about her ritual. Well, every morning, when I’d have to go down, first thing I’d do is open up her cage, or his cage. And he’d come running out, and in front of the kitchen stove, there was this big waste can with a flip top. And she’d run out in front of that thing, take one look at it, and, bam, pound it and send the top flying. He enjoyed that. Yeah, then run over and sit down, get up on a chair and sit down.

01:50:05 - 01:50:06

That was the alarm?

01:50:06 - 01:50:10

Yeah, “where’s my breakfast?” (Janet laughs) And you had to get on the table.

01:50:10 - 01:50:12

Where was this house?

01:50:12 - 01:50:13

In Brookfield. It’s right in the zoo.

01:50:13 - 01:50:14

In the zoo?

01:50:14 - 01:50:36

Yeah. Beautiful old house. Yeah, unfortunately, it’s no longer there. Yeah, I remember, when we were kids, you would sometimes bring home baby… Oh, lions, tigers. and we’d have to feed ’em with bottles. I was always the most popular kid at show-and-tell day (Robert laughs) Yeah. Yeah.

01:50:40 - 01:50:42

Were you allowed to bring animals to school?

01:50:42 - 01:50:59

Yeah, my dad would bring ’em in. I didn’t do it. My father’d bring it in during the middle of the day for the show-and-tell. I remember we had an ostrich-egg omelet for dinner that night, ’cause we had to blow out the ostrich egg.

01:50:59 - 01:51:00

Remember that big drill?

01:51:00 - 01:51:21

Mm. And to blow it out was the hardest thing ever. To blow out the yolk of an ostrich is not easy. And I took it into school the next day, and some kids had it, and they broke it. And I was so scared, and you were so mad. (Robert chuckles) So you used to get mad. No. I love this one.

01:51:23 - 01:51:37

This is the anaconda. Yeah, big one. I remember Grandfather telling Mom about the methods for catching large snakes. Oh, yeah.

01:51:37 - 01:51:39

Tying a goat up to a post?

01:51:39 - 01:52:02

(laughs) Yeah. You tie a goat up to a post. And then, around that post, you would- Two posts. You have a post here and then a ring of posts around it that were separated wide enough for the snake to get in, but once it at the goat or whatever it was. It couldn’t get out. And then, they could catch it. (Robert chuckles) Look it, that’s huge. Yeah.

01:52:02 - 01:52:04

D’you remember when that anaconda came?

01:52:04 - 01:52:08

No. (scoffs) “Yeah. No.” Was it before your…

01:52:08 - 01:52:10

What year you think this was?

01:52:10 - 01:52:32

I don’t know. I don’t know when it is. You bought it from a New York animal dealer. The price depends on the length, so you buy it by the foot. Yeah, that’s something, d’you know, I wonder, all these animal dealers, ’cause they were big at collecting. Dealers are still going at it, I think. Not so many now.

01:52:32 - 01:52:33


01:52:33 - 01:52:56

No, very, very few animal dealers, like the Frank Thompsons, so very few of them now, and again, as you said, Janet, publicity was a lot more… They really worked at it then, to this kind of photo that got press for the zoo. They don’t do that anymore. No, it seems like you don’t see this sort of thing.

01:52:57 - 01:52:59

Earl Tatum, was he a animal dealer?

01:52:59 - 01:53:14

Mm-hmm. He was a wild man. He also had his own little animal park. He was a bit of a redneck wild guy. Oh yeah, he was. (Janet laughs) Probably still is. On the Ozarks, we would go out there to visit him. We owned property there.

01:53:14 - 01:53:22

Yes, we did. We’d go visit him, and he was something else. (Robert laughs) I was young, but I still knew that much.

01:53:24 - 01:53:27

(staffer speaks indistinctly) That’s not Baby, is it?

01:53:27 - 01:53:38

There’s writing on the back. Oh, that is Baby. Yeah. That is. ’50s. Aw, he’s looking fondly at it.

01:53:39 - 01:53:42

(Robert chuckles) So how long d’you think they lived together?

01:53:42 - 01:53:49

No, was Babe’s- They got a divorce very young. (chuckles) Cheek, yeah. Was Babe the…

01:53:50 - 01:53:53

Did something happen to his mother?

01:53:53 - 01:53:58

No, most baby gorillas are taken from their parents.

01:53:58 - 01:53:59

Why’s that?

01:53:59 - 01:54:00

In the wild.

01:54:01 - 01:54:02

By whom?

01:54:02 - 01:54:13

By hunters. So was… That wasn’t born here. Oh, so they had caught it. Yeah, somebody in the wild.

01:54:13 - 01:54:15

So did your father go off to do that?

01:54:15 - 01:54:22

Or did he buy- Did your father buy Babe in Africa?

01:54:22 - 01:54:31

Probably. So he went over there and- No, he didn’t. I don’t know who. Well, he often went over there. He could have. Well, he could have, yeah, but I don’t think he did.

01:54:31 - 01:54:32


01:54:32 - 01:54:38

Probably bought it from a dealer. “From a dealer.” Yeah, the dealers were originally…

01:54:40 - 01:54:48

There weren’t lots of ’em, but the big-time, like the Hunt brothers- Who were the Hunt brothers?

01:54:48 - 01:55:15

They were dealers in wild-animal wildlife of some consequence. They were big-time. They brought in anything and everything. Huh, I guess I’m sort of glad that don’t have that sort of thing going on so much anymore. It doesn’t seem right to just go over there and take that thing away from its mother. No, that’s true. This is two parts. This is a baby orangutan.

01:55:15 - 01:55:35

And then, it looks like they’re with your father. There was a fight to save an orangutan. Yeah, I remember this story more from, I think, my mother telling it to me. It was a pair. There were Tai-Pang and…

01:55:35 - 01:55:37

What was the other one? Tia?

01:55:37 - 01:55:38

You don’t remember any of this?

01:55:38 - 01:56:08

No. Uh-uh. I remember the story because… Yeah, Grandfather had gone to… I don’t know. Was it Sunny… Louis? It may say in this article here. But he went to go pick up these orangutans from another zoo, and he brought them back. I dunno if he brought them back together or one at a time, and he brought them back on Amtrak in the regular carriage section.

01:56:09 - 01:57:09

I don’t know if he had to buy a ticket or not for Tia, but close to the downtown train station, it started to have a heart attack or something. I don’t remember this. to give it mouth-to-mouth on the train. Musta been quite an ordeal, giving an orangutan, on an Amtrak, mouth-to-mouth right there, but they get off the train. And then, the paramedics are there, and they can’t save him. This story doesn’t allude to it, but the reason I know this is because I remember my mom saying that Grandfather’s being interviewed. And when they asked him something about “you must feel awful,” his comment was sort of a snarky one, and he said something like “I feel awful that I didn’t insure the thing” or something (laughs) along those lines, I think, which just seemed kinda cold. Yeah.

01:57:10 - 01:57:27

But I suppose, if you invest a lot in something like that, it’s… The pair cost 4,500, which does not seem to be so much, really, but I guess, back then, it certainly was. But insuring animals was big business at that time.

01:57:27 - 01:57:28

Yeah? It must still be, yeah?

01:57:28 - 01:57:43

Mm-hmm. I dunno, that woulda been something to see, if somebody just pulled a baby orangutan outta their coat and started giving it mouth-to-mouth. Janet, take a look at that. Maybe could read that article. It says some things. Mkay.

01:57:43 - 01:57:51

This is from Tuesday, June 8th, 1948, from “The Chicago Daily News.” Do you know Jack Mably?

01:57:51 - 01:58:19

That name sounds vaguely familiar. Yeah, it does. “Attendance at the Brookfield Zoo this year has increased nearly 100% over last year. This brings joy to the elephants, monkeys, seals, lions, hippos, peacocks, and Robert Bean. Bean, the zoo director, is pleased because it is good business. Crowds are averaging nearly 75,000 a week now. The animals are pleased because they like crowds. ‘They get lonesome in winter, when attendance is down,’ Bean reports.

01:58:19 - 01:58:29

Now with crowds back, they show off and beg. The rattlesnakes rattle more when people are around. Mike the chimp, who is 22 years old, puts on shows all the time now.

01:58:29 - 01:58:40

Little Baby Brookfield, the two-year-old elephant, got so lonesome without the kids around during the winter they had to give a pony, Dolly, as a companion.” (laughs) A pony?

01:58:40 - 01:59:19

“The two are now constant pals. The little elephant has gained 370 pounds since she arrived a year ago. She now is a neat 910 pounds and cute as a button, as elephants go. The biggest event at the zoo in many years is scheduled for late this month. Ralph Graham, assistant to the director, is on his way home with a pair of breeding Indian rhinos. Bean says they will be the most valuable pair of animals in any zoo in the world,” wow. “They will sell for about 8,000 a piece if you could buy any. But the good old polar bears, which retail for a measly 1,000, will continue to draw the big crowds at Brookfield.

01:59:19 - 01:59:25

‘People spend more time watching bears than any other exhibits,’ says Bean. That was a great exhibit.

01:59:25 - 01:59:27

Which? The polar bears?

01:59:27 - 01:59:48

Yeah. Huh. “Mai-Lei is 11 1/2. ‘Everybody wants to see the panda, too,’ Bean reports” Oh, Mai-Lan, not Mai-Lei, Mai-Lan. That would be a very different story. Mei-Lan. “Mei-Lan was brought to the zoo by ‘The Daily News’ in 1938. She’s 11 1/2 years old, the longest record for captive pandas.

01:59:48 - 02:00:16

The panda also is a mean,” I guess, not a she, I’m sorry, “crotchety old man, in spite of his angelic countenance. He looks like a doll but would tear a man apart with two swipes of his powerful claws if he could get out. The heat doesn’t bother the animal much. They like summer, except for extreme heat. They always seek the shade, according to Bean. There’s no such thing as a sun-loving animal. They are not foolish enough to go lie on the beach in the sun. One of the principal activities at Brookfield these days is finding lost parents.

02:00:16 - 02:00:29

On Memorial Day, the zoo office was livelier than the monkey house. 29 kids were… They are looking for their mothers or fathers. Bean was asked why people came to zoos. ‘I have no idea,’ he said.” (laughs) I know exactly how he feels.

02:00:31 - 02:00:34

Now, you had mentioned that somebody was injured by the panda?

02:00:34 - 02:00:36


02:00:36 - 02:00:37

Oh, did he take his arm off or something?

02:00:37 - 02:00:55

Yeah, bit his arm off. Holy smokes. Well, he’s messing around with it, and he’s reached up and grabbed him. They’re big, powerful bears. That’s what they are, and sharp, sharp teeth. And just chomped on it and cut it off about here. Wow.

02:00:55 - 02:00:59

(Robert chuckles) What did they do to him, the panda?

02:00:59 - 02:01:15

We hanged him. No, you did not. But we gave him a reprieve, though, (Janet laughs) since he was black and white. If he’d been a black bear, it’d been psh. I don’t know that’s what you wanna say, Dad.

02:01:16 - 02:01:17


02:01:17 - 02:01:22

(Janet laughs) Ah, today’s my birthday.

02:01:22 - 02:01:23

Today’s your birthday?

02:01:23 - 02:01:36

Yeah. Today, I get outta the army, on the 29th of April. And that’s your birthday. (laughs) Yeah. All right. Oh, this Dumbo. Wait, is this the Dumbo named after the…

02:01:36 - 02:01:39

Did Disney give this or something, this Dumbo elephant?

02:01:39 - 02:01:40

Is that the deal here?

02:01:40 - 02:01:46

I guess. Well, I’m looking at the caricature of the elephant, the drawing.

02:01:47 - 02:01:55

Bob, you had some drawing skills that you used in your professional career as a draftsman for exhibits and things to help?

02:01:55 - 02:02:29

Oh, I did some drawing for exhibit signs and things. You designed exhibits. I’ve seen many drawings of- but nothing that really bore fruition. I don’t know. I thought some of them were done… You had one that… You had made really thin long wires or something. This was many years ago, and I’ve seen it used now for a bird exhibit, and instead of some sort of standard mesh, it was just these long thin straight wires. Could be. I dunno.

02:02:30 - 02:02:38

And I think that, then, that was used. I remember a story that Grandfather was in…

02:02:39 - 02:02:42

He was in Berlin right before the war?

02:02:42 - 02:02:49

Was it right before the war that he was in Berlin and they were coming up with the concept of moats?

02:02:49 - 02:02:51

No, that was before.

02:02:51 - 02:02:53

That’s before that time period?

02:02:53 - 02:02:54


02:02:54 - 02:02:54

do with that, didn’t he?

02:02:54 - 02:02:57

That’s the Swedish fella, yeah.

02:02:57 - 02:02:59

Did Grandfather have anything to do with that?

02:02:59 - 02:03:09

No, well, he brought the talent over here to have him do Brookfield. So it was one of the first zoos here in the States that employed that method. Yeah.

02:03:11 - 02:03:15

But he was almost the director of the Berlin Zoo, too, wasn’t he, off of that job, Grandfather?

02:03:15 - 02:03:27

I think I remember something about that. I don’t think so. Oh. I know there was a friend of his that was gonna be Hitler’s zoo director. Ooh, that’s not something that…

02:03:28 - 02:03:30

American zoo?

02:03:30 - 02:03:41

No, German. Oh, German. Yeah, Heinz Heck. Oh, very famous zoo family. Yeah. Very famous. Yep. Kind of the European equivalent to the Bean family.

02:03:41 - 02:04:09

Yeah, probably covered more territory than… They were big circus people, too. Hmm. And here, it looks like you’re working, or Dad was working, with endangered- I remember that, as a kid, “The Weekly Readers” that would come out. This was an article for the… It’s the kids’ magazine that would come out, and they’d pass it out at schools, so that’s a…

02:04:10 - 02:04:11

What is that?

02:04:11 - 02:04:30

Rhino. What kind is that? It’s a white rhino. Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Toluca Lake. Yeah, this is 1962, and they said there were fewer of 600 of them at that time, in ’62. But they gained. They gained. Yeah.

02:04:31 - 02:04:34

When you were at Busch Gardens, did you work with rhino?

02:04:34 - 02:04:39

Yeah. Yeah, you have a great photo of you standing- Standing with two rhinos.

02:04:39 - 02:04:40


02:04:40 - 02:05:14

Yeah. Oh, I meant to bring it out here. He’s got it at the house. Now, we talked about Marlin being famous, but it looks like your father, Robert Bean, was listed, without Marlin being listed, as one of the top people in Chicago. Yeah, that was… I remember when that was. It’s 1957. “25 on the first list of 100 outstanding Chicagoans.” The mayor of Daly’s down there, Mayor of Daly, Sr.

02:05:16 - 02:05:24

That’s not a small group. Apparently, though, all the outstanding people are men except for two, though. Of course.

02:05:24 - 02:05:29

Ha. Who’s Miss Brooks?

02:05:29 - 02:05:43

“Mr. Bean,” here it says: “internationally known zoologist and director, his life has been devoted to making zoos an interesting show to visitors and to the care of wild animals.” Were you there? Did you go to that?

02:05:43 - 02:05:45

Were you at the zoo at this time?

02:05:45 - 02:05:48

I’m trying to remember. I remember him going there.

02:05:48 - 02:05:49

To receive it?

02:05:49 - 02:06:05

Yeah. Yeah, we have the award, a certificate, somewhere in stuff. Wow, that’s pretty exciting. Yeah, you feel the buzz of all the thrills.

02:06:06 - 02:06:09

Did he hang out with those bigwigs?

02:06:09 - 02:06:24

Oh yeah, they were down at the tavern every afternoon. (Janet laughs) I believe it. No. This looks like an itinerary. Oh, this is an itinerary. I love this one. This is an itinerary. are so interesting. It is.

02:06:25 - 02:06:55

Is this one that goes all over the place? Yeah. It starts here. And I wish they did this still, gave you an itinerary of everywhere you’re gonna have to be. It leaves in Midway Airport, back, I suppose, when that was the international airport, and we flew to Brussels. And then, he went from Brussels to Frankfurt. And then, he’s in Austria. And then, he’s in Prague. Then he’s in Moscow.

02:06:55 - 02:07:18

Then he’s in Copenhagen. Just all day. I love the ones where they were shipping things for- On the ships, yeah, those were beautiful. I was looking for that, and I couldn’t seem to find it, but I think some of the stuff is currently missing. Yeah, that’s great. That’s when travel used to be pretty fancy.

02:07:18 - 02:07:26

(Robert chuckles) You mentioned that, this picture here of the giraffe, your father went to Africa to bring animals back?

02:07:26 - 02:07:30

Mm-hmm. Yeah, he did.

02:07:30 - 02:07:31


02:07:33 - 02:08:00

They went over a number of times. I couldn’t tell ya how many, but he was out traveling whenever he had the opportunity. There’re certainly things that our family has from all across Africa and Asia, artifacts and things that would indicate that he certainly went a lot and traveled a lot. I don’t know how much of it was just- Oh, and he had all his friends that lived from one spot to another.

02:08:00 - 02:08:01

He’d visit a lot?

02:08:01 - 02:08:02


02:08:02 - 02:08:04

What’s that?

02:08:04 - 02:08:06

to a new home at Brookfield, Joe the giraffe?

02:08:06 - 02:08:08

Joe the giraffe. (chuckles) D’you remember Joe the giraffe?

02:08:08 - 02:08:12

No. Anybody who would name a giraffe Joe’s silly.

02:08:12 - 02:08:15

(chuckles) What should it be named?

02:08:15 - 02:08:17

What’d ya mean “what”? Joe?

02:08:17 - 02:08:18

Joe the giraffe?

02:08:18 - 02:08:20

(Janet laughs) Didn’t you name animals after donors?

02:08:20 - 02:08:36

It’s better than Geoffrey the Giraffe. Well, you might do that but not- Well, maybe it was Joe. But “Joe,” no, there’s no donor named Joe. Oh, I’m sure there’s plenty of donors named Joe. (Mark chuckles) you felt so strongly about (Robert laughs) things like that.

02:08:37 - 02:08:47

There was a time, though, when, I think, there was a change when there was more of an effort made to name things something that seemed more consistent with its native habitat, wasn’t there?

02:08:47 - 02:08:48


02:08:49 - 02:09:01

I remember, at Busch Gardens, some of the names of the animals seemed much more, at the time, for me, when I was a kid, exotic or something, you know?

02:09:01 - 02:09:02


02:09:04 - 02:09:10

Was there any time, in Busch Gardens, where Mr. Busch wanted animals named after friends of his?

02:09:11 - 02:09:13

Not that I can recall.

02:09:13 - 02:09:14

You didn’t have Oggi the rhino?

02:09:14 - 02:09:26

(Robert laughs) No, Oggi was reserved for one person, and he sat in that big chair upstairs. Yeah, Oggi Busch, yeah. Oh, they had a quick question for you, Janet.

02:09:26 - 02:09:28

What was it like growing up in the zoo?

02:09:30 - 02:10:05

You’re looking at it. (laughs) Yeah. A pain in the butt. No, it’s a great story that never fails at a dinner party. (laughs) Say, “Where did you grow up?” And you get to say, “Well, I did live in a zoo.” That’s always pretty exciting, but I think, as a kid, I was very young. My older sister probably had more a… It might’ve had more of an impact on her when we lived in the zoo, but it was fairly lonely. Kids were there all day and a lot of activity. Yeah, there were seven years between the sisters.

02:10:05 - 02:10:29

Yeah. Yeah, we each seven years apart. Each one had seven years. The youngest one, I remember when she was ask if she could go and stay with her sister because her sister was 14. No, what was she? Ellen was 14. Yeah, and I was- And she wanted to go down and live with her sister, who was older. She thought she could get away with something.

02:10:29 - 02:10:31

Who? Me?

02:10:31 - 02:10:32

Ellen moving up with me?

02:10:32 - 02:10:54

No, she moved down with Pam in Jacksonville and said she wanted to go down and live with somebody. She didn’t wanna live with her parents anymore. Wow, yeah, that’s what we all say. Yeah. But it was lonely. There’d be kids there all day long. But then, they would leave, and they wouldn’t be your friends. They would come the zoo with their own friends.

02:10:54 - 02:11:45

But they were definite fond memories of having tea parties in the ape house and pretending that the gorillas that were behind the cage were sharing tea with me. We’d pretend back and forth, and the keepers were all very sweet and would assist in this game of tea parties in the ape house. So yeah, there were some great things. Later on, we had a horse, and that was kept on zoo grounds. And you’d ride it at night or in the evenings, and you could ride along the wolf enclosure. And they would follow behind you, and that would be really dramatic and exciting. So yeah, there were things, probably, that most kids don’t get to do that were really great, yeah, special.

02:11:45 - 02:11:48

Did you have special friends, animals that you could interact with?

02:11:52 - 02:12:22

No, I don’t remember any… I remember just in the ape house, and I don’t remember their names, specifically, but I just remember having the real feeling that I was having a tea party, that they were (chuckles) in this with me and they were just sitting there. And I would sip my little imaginary cup of tea, and I did feel that we were friends in this odd game of make-believe.

02:12:22 - 02:12:26

Were you popular with your friends ’cause you lived in the zoo?

02:12:26 - 02:12:57

I was very small. Later on, I got to have really great birthday parties. That was a perk. When dad was at Busch Gardens, we would have parties there, and that was pretty great. And the Swiss House was there at the time, which was a very elegant restaurant, and we were able to all take a big clan of girls to the Swiss House, and that was fun. Yeah, it was great. It was great.

02:12:57 - 02:13:01

Now, was this all of your other sisters also had the similar type of experience?

02:13:01 - 02:13:03

Or not?

02:13:03 - 02:14:07

Well, Pam, my older sister, as I said, she probably could, maybe, speak a bit more on living in Birmingham when we lived in the zoo there, because she was a bit older. And I do remember Dad was saying earlier stories. Segregation was a very hot issue there at the time and Pam wanting to earn quarters for taking people around on tours, and she certainly didn’t see any difference between who she chose to take on a tour. But she took a lot of heat when they would not be white and she would take around Black people. So I remember there were things like that that she would remember more, having actual experiences. And then, Pam married a zoo director, Dad’s assistant director, actually. I didn’t approve. (Robert laughs) (Janet laughs) And then, my little sister, she was the one that was very involved.

02:14:09 - 02:14:19

I was in punk rock bands and in trouble a lot. Ellen volunteered all the time. Dad took her to Africa. He didn’t take me.

02:14:21 - 02:14:24

Who knows what I might’ve become had you just taken me to Africa?

02:14:24 - 02:15:12

Same thing you do now. Maybe, probably. And she’s still very actively involved in animal conservation issues. I feel definitely it was a special environment and it has impacted all of us. I went to school and studied modern African history. The continent of Africa has always been something that, as a kid, I was fascinated by because we had so many things in our home that were from there, and it was a place that, I think, I was drawn to, but I decided to study the people. But yeah, I think we all have… It’s all impacted us.

02:15:12 - 02:15:28

The zoo has been a very special part of your life as it has been with your father’s. Yes, we were each brought… I don’t know actually if I was, but I know, Pam, just like Dad, when she was born, the first place she went to was the zoo before she came home, also.

02:15:28 - 02:15:31

And I don’t know if that’s the same for me, as well?

02:15:32 - 02:15:52

No, I don’t think so. No. I’m trying to remember where we were. Took me straight to the sitter, probably. (Robert laughs) (Janet laughs) “Take that kid. Tell her to shut it.” “Tell her shut up.” Yeah, but Pam did go to the zoo right away. Kind of a family tradition, it appears. Yeah, and Dad has asked…

02:15:53 - 02:16:15

Not to be morbid, but he definitely has asked if he could have his ashes spread at Brookfield, so he begins and ends there. It’s been one of his desires. Well, there’s been some great memories. Thank you very much for sharing them with us today. I hope it wasn’t too painful. That’s another thing, if you’re looking for George Speidel, he’s in Weiler Park.

02:16:15 - 02:16:16

Oh, really?

02:16:16 - 02:16:19

Yeah, he’s buried in the African exhibit.

02:16:19 - 02:16:20

Is he really?

02:16:20 - 02:16:43

Yeah. (Janet laughs) See, we’re learning a lotta things today. This is great. Oh, and going to the doctor always came in handy because we would end up going to the zoo vet instead to get stitched up or whenever we needed taking care of. So they’re perks, free burial in the African exhibit. (Robert chuckles) (Janet laughs) All right. Thank you very much. I hope it wasn’t too painful.

02:16:43 - 02:16:49

No, it wasn’t painful. Hopefully not for you. No, no, this has been great. This has been great. Yeah.

About Robert Bean Jr.

Robert Bean Jr.
In Memoriam
Jan 1, 1933 - Oct 21, 2016


Louisville Zoo, Kentucky


Bob Bean was unique; he was the third generation of zoo professionals in his family.  His grandfather, Edward H. Bean, was the first director of the Brookfield Zoo and his father, Robert Bean Sr., was Brookfield Zoo’s second director.  His father’s sister, Mary Bean, was married to George Speidel, who would later become director of the Milwaukee Zoo.  You might say that Bob’s passion for animals and their management was in his DNA.

His zoo career started as an animal keeper at Brookfield Zoo.  Positions at the Birmingham Zoo as curator, and Bush Gardens as assistant director, honed his skills in the profession. Ultimately, he became director at Bush Gardens, and later held the same post at Louisville Zoo for 15 years.

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The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive or those acting under their authority.