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A big queue for the elephant ride at Dudley Zoo

By rob taylor  |  Posted: August 30, 2012

Halcyon days.

Comments (2)

 THIS photograph captures a happy occasion for children around 50-60 years ago.

The location is Dudley Zoo, which has been mentioned many times in our columns of late.

In the foreground we see a zoo keeper leading an elephant, with five or six excited children perched on its back, seated on a contraption which was securely strapped to the mighty beast.

On the left in the distance is a wooden platform with steps, on which other children were queuing to wait their turn to mount the elephant, for their ride.

The photograph has been sent to us by Mike Tunnicliffe of Walsall, who found it in an album of family snaps in a junk shop.

If these elephant rides of old stir the memories of any readers please let us know.

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  • Black Country Bugle User  |  September 02 2012, 9:04PM

    I remember several visits to Dudley Zoo in the 50s and 60s, though I only once had a ride on the back of the elephant - I assume it is the same one I recall, because they live a long time. It seemed a very long way down to ground level once you were up on top, and the swaying movement of the elephant felt very strange. She was called Meena, and when not out giving rides to children she lived in a concrete-built elephant house next to an African elephant. I felt sorry for them both: their house faced north, so it got no direct sunlight and looked cold and bare, and I think they were both chained by one foot. Meena would 'dance' from side to side - we thought it was charming then, but now I think it probably indicated serious elephant depression and frustration. In most respects the Zoo's open enclosures were well ahead of their time, though; I was very shocked in the 1970s when I visited Bristol Zoo and saw lions and tigers kept in tiny cages - Dudley's open enclosures built around the Castle hill were infinitely better. My other favourites in the Zoo were a sulphur-crested cockatoo, which spent the days perched near to a sweet stall, calling out, "Piece of chocolate! Piece of chocolate!" (he must have been very good for sales, though I doubt if all the pieces of chocolate he received were very good for him); I also loved the aquarium, which was warm and dim, with a raised platform for small children to walk along while looking into the fishtanks. Finally, at the bottom of the hill, we came to the funfair and the miniature steam railway, which (for my brothers and me) were the main point of the whole day. Our favourite attractions at the fair were two very old (I would think Victorian) penny-in-the-slot machines. One was called "The Miser's Gold," I think, and once activated would show an old man counting his money, quite unaware of all the spooky things going on around him. The other was "The Hanuted Graveyard," with tombs lifting their lids to allow a skeletal hand to appear, ghosts appearing and skeletons dancing. I loved these machines, but assume they aren't at Dudley Zoo any longer - does anyone know what became of them? I hope they have been well looked after, because they were rare specimens, real museum pieces.

  • Black Country Bugle User  |  August 31 2012, 4:44PM

    My mother used to work at the zoo's restaurant (in the 1950s I suppose - wasn't it the name of a queen?) and she used to tell us that Sabu (who played Gunga Din in some film) was once at Dudley zoo looking after elephants before he became famous. I don't know how true the story is. It might be just local folklore. Anybody have any memories of the "Elephant Boy", the restaurant, which I remember being fairly posh, the one occasion I visited it (when the whole family took the day off school and work to go and seen "Lunch Box" at the zoo)? Anton