How I Miss The Elephant Train

You have to have lived in San Francisco for awhile to remember the elephant train that ran at the San Francisco Zoo. Later becoming the zebra train for some odd reason, I still miss the original zebra train tours around the zoo.

I think they cost about 75¢ at the time which tells you about how old I am. You would hop on by the Children’s Zoo and ride around the entire zoo getting a little lesson on all the animals that you’d see. It was a good way to start your trip to the zoo, then you could walk around and take your time. For elderly people who had trouble walking around the zoo it made it much more accessible. While to many the zoo seems large today, it was even larger back then when they were using more of their space.

I have heard, but can’t confirm that it original ran from Playland at the beach to the zoo back in the day when it didn’t cost anything to get in. It was also said to have been used at one time to help students get around at SF State University, which if people thought of the place as a zoo that would give them proof.

I do remember going on field trips to the zoo and that was always the best way to move the kids around the zoo quickly and then get them back to the school. Field trips like that made going to school fun back then. It’s hard to find pictures of the trains now and I couldn’t even find one of the zebra train that replaced it. It’s even harder to find any information about them, but I believe the zoo stopped them in the early 80’s. I can’t even find out when they started using them there. There’s actually more information out there about the Little Puffer train, but doesn’t mention that it runs on a shorter track today than it used to. There’s a lot of stuff out there about the old zoo like Storyland which every kid had to see back then. Sure it was a little beat up and run down when I was a kid, but it was still fun to see all your nursery rhymes and storybook characters in 3D.

I’m a bit out of shape and when we got back from taking our daughter to the zoo today I was out of breath and sweating. I think that’s part of the reason I really miss the elephant train.

Does A Raccoon Sh*t At The Zoo?

Friday was all about the lack of seagulls so it seems fitting to talk about raccoons today. We made a trip to the zoo over the weekend and while we didn’t see any raccoons, not even in cages there was evidence of them everywhere in the zoo by the small piles of raccoon crap that was everywhere.

How do I know it came from a raccoon? They’re everywhere in San Francisco, I’ve even seen them at night in the financial district. I’ve had a family of them living in my backyard that I used to feed sometimes when they’d come out in the evenings. I know feeding raccoons isn’t the smartest thing to do, but because I’ve been around a lot of them I know what their feces look like. Some of you might remember my article on the horrid sounds of raccoon sex I had written before.

Now when I said they were everywhere at the zoo, I mean everywhere once you’ve given up your ticket and gotten in. I’m actually oddly surprised that no one’s written about this before because unless you know what you’re looking at you may not notice which was obvious by all the flattened patties as we were walking around the zoo.

Actually, the children’s playground was pretty clean as is the entrance where you buy your tickets so the SF Zoo must know that there is tons of raccoon crap since raccoons don’t have any fear of sand or children’s play toys. On the other hand feral cats would use the sand in the area like a giant litter box. I know this because I had a sandbox in my backyard when I was a kid and ended up having to change it over to a large planter box because the cats were using it as a litter box. But I digress…

Walking the zoo you have to be especially careful when walking from the sea lion exhibit to the kangaroo and wallaby exhibits. The reason is that the trees planted there drop acorns that help to disguise the raccoon poop making it harder to avoid stepping in it. I actually saw a little kid trip and fall and luckily didn’t face plant into a steaming pile, but his hand did hit it giving him some lubrication to his fall and boom — face plant. His parents were more concerned at first with the raccoon crap all over their son than whether or not he had actually gotten hurt. Luckily we had some wet ones they were giving out free at the children’s zoo, so I came to their rescue and told them what it was. I’m sure the zoo officials got an earful on their way out, especially after I told them that it’s all over the place and you have to watch out for it.

So does a raccoon sh*t at the zoo? Yes and they do it everywhere.

Now on to the sea gulls. You’ll find plenty of them at the zoo and they are like a mafia crime family. All the food areas at the zoo need to have some notice about this as I see someone get hit every time. My daughter dropped a bagel and bang, there was sea gull casually walking up to it and didn’t even back away when i picked it up. I tore a piece off after I gave the bagel back to my daughter and the sea gull walked casually along with us as we started our walk. I suppose he was not yet a made man in the sea gull mafia family yet so he had to play it cool.

Eventually I tossed him his crumb so he got his vig and walked off. This was one of the nice encounters with a sea gull at the zoo. My wife once ordered a burger and didn’t hold it in close to her body and once again, bang the sea gull took it right out of her hand. Incidentally, if this happens to you don’t bother going back and telling the people that you were just attacked by a sea gull as they will just tell you that you should have been more careful. I can see it happen before it does and it’s usually the people with food on trays who like to hold the tray out in front of them or hold their food up around shoulder height. Why they do this, I don’t know, but the zoo should have some signs warning them like the sign warning people of flying gorilla poop when you’re leaning over the fence staring at the gorillas.

Don’t leave any open food out at the zoo because a sea gull will swoop down for a quick smash and grab. The sea gull mafia is ruthless and I have even seen them fly into the middle of a group of people at a table and steal food. I think the lesser squirrel mafia of the zoo is in cahoots with the sea gulls as I saw a family who left their cart outside the petting zoo with an open bag of chips come out to find the squirrels had swarmed into the open bag and were running off with the contents.

So in short, Zoo, food, sea gulls, squirrels, watch your back.


Pink Popcorn: The San Francisco Treat

Pink popcorn was always something I had taken for granted. You would go to the ballpark and get it. You could go to the zoo and get it. Any event that occurred within the Bay Area you would find Wrights pink popcorn. It was like Coke™, where ever you went it was there. What I didn’t realize in my very San Francisco-centric thinking was that it was a San Francisco creation.

Since finding this information I’ve been trying to track down the history of this confection that is taken for granted. I’ve heard stories that the chemicals used to coat the popcorn causes cancer [just like everything else you eat] to it being first made in the 1800’s in San Francisco. I have even called the company that’s located now on Potrero Avenue in the City as well as emailed them, but have yet to hear from them directly.

From Wrights website they mention that they started in the 40’s and that’s as much of a history as I can get about them. I’m not sure who Mr. or Mrs. Wrights is, but they don’t really want you to know about them. I was able to find a couple of guys who did an interview with NPR who were flavor agents that made the flavorings for many high profile food products which I cannot mention, but they did say that they were the ones who created the pink glaze for the popcorn and it was bubble gum flavored. Somehow bubble gum flavored popcorn doesn’t sound as good as it tasted as a kid. Bubble gum was something you chewed and spit out, not chewed and swallowed as my mother always reminded me when I would chew and swallow a piece of Bazooka Joe [as an adult I used to buy tubs of the stuff along with red vines just to satisfy the kid still in me struggling to get out].

I think it’s about time that our Interim Mayor, Ed Lee recognize Wrights pink popcorn as a official San Francisco Treat. When public officials come  to San Francisco Wrights pink popcorn should be in the baskets he presents to them not organic hot dogs like he’s given in the past. This is a company unlike others that started in San Francisco like the It’s-it and Sees candy that have moved to the peninsula, but a San Francisco company that has actually stayed in San Francisco. Sure we have Twitter, but compared to a company started in the 40’s Twitter is an infant.

While Wrights website could use an update they’re more about the product we all take for granted. While I hadn’t seen it at my last trip to the San Francisco Zoo I understand you can still get it there and I was pleased to hear that the Stow Lake boat house will still be selling it. I think I’ll have to find some and share it with my daughter so she can get a taste of old San Francisco.

Doggie Diner to be Demolished

I was a little sad Friday afternoon when I heard that the building that used to be known as Doggie Diner, yet another icon of San Francisco is to be demolished.

After thinking about it for a bit, it isn’t so bad because it’s been vacant for years and there will never be a Doggie Diner again. We’ll still have the head, but Sloat Garden Center who owns it will be tearing it down to make way for more room to sell their plants and supplies.

I can’t for the life of me remember what the food at Doggie Diner tasted like, but at least I can remember I loved going to the place. We’d always eat there after a trip to the zoo because the food was better. I guess that tells you something about zoo food back in the 60’s and 70’s.

I also remembered that while they sold hot dogs, Doggie Diner was more known for its burgers. While Mayor Ed Lee sees it fit to hand out organic hot dogs to traveling dignitaries, San Francisco was never known for its hot dogs, except for the dog that sat high above Doggie Diner.

So iconic was the dog that a movie was made in 2005 called Head Trip that lots of alt-culture artists made a trip from San Francisco to New York carrying three of the heads as some sort of art project. The Dog had an effect on people.

Started in 1949 and giving it a good run until 1986 the disappearance has sort of left a mystery behind it. There are few artifacts other than the head and I can’t find a menu anywhere to remind me of what they used to serve. The inside had a fully tiled drive in feel to it, yet it wasn’t really a drive in. More of a walk-in would be appropriate. The original owner Al Ross passed away last year and aside from a few remarks on Laughing Squid there’s very little about it. This leads me to believe that the end of Doggie Diner can be linked to a government cover up.

Were they inserting mind control drugs into the food to control people who were attending the zoo? There are no menus. The death of its owner has been covered up only mentioning that he has passed away. Yet if you visit the Doggie Diner historical site you will find a small link to the Dogminican Order and a sermon posted from the Deacon Melmouth.

DD-MENU-2-004After reading it I have realized that it is not the skull and bones society or trilateral commission that is running the country, but a group hiding behind the head of a dog.