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Source: Neil Hadrich
WOW, does this bring back some memories, as a young man in the late 60s and early 70s I and many other young people from the area, North East Macomb County, South West St. Clair County, New Haven, Richmond, Armada, and even from the city side, suburbs of Detroit spawned our working careers at this place under the tutorship of Walt and Barbara King.
Their two sons, Christopher and Billy were just wee tykes at this time. Most of the young ladies employed were under the supervision of Mrs. King who pretty much run the front office, snack bar and souvenir shop which also served as the entrance to the park for any visitors, as well as the concessions on the mid-way. I would imagine she had much to do with the business end of things as well. While Walt maintained all the other areas of the park, from rides, animal care and exhibits, buildings, picnic grounds and general up keep. My brother Auggie was actually Walt's right hand man, when Mr. King would leave with his elephant show which he toured with frequently. Tulsa and Wanda were his primary road show elephants due to their dispositions, Auggie was in charge under Mrs. Kings direction of course.
Their was a third elephant, Queenie which was the most mild tempered of the three, she was left to perform at the park twice a day, Auggie took over Walt's position as the trainer during these shows. There was also a dog act with several trained dogs of various (mostly small) breeds, which gave many hours of entertainment to hundreds if not thousands of spectators. A lama act along with a pony act was included, if my memory serves me correctly Christopher was groomed into taking on the pony act at a very young age.
Different acts would be highlighted at different times depending on the parks agenda at the time, I recall seeing my first sharp shooter show here, totally awesome! The park was visited by many individuals, and families from the local and surrounding areas, however it served as the summer picnic spot for several larger corporations as well, the big three auto manufacturers among them, schools, churches, and many other organizations as there was everything to accommodate the need, from the amusement side with the rides, ferris wheel, merry go round, also known as the king and queen of the fairway for those who were not aware, along with a small roller coaster, para trooper, haunted/fun house, tilt awhirl and more.
Then rides for the little ones also known in the industry as kiddy rides, along with the pony ride shown in the picture above, I am not certain but could have been one of us leading the ring of ponies there, this was necessary to keep them moving. While the children no doubt were happy to ride for the most part, I do recall a few that had no desire although mom or dad wanted that picture of them on the steed so up on the saddle they went willing or not, often with the encouraging adult walking the ring at their side during the ride holding them in the saddle, to the picnic facilities which served as the former stated thousands.
I remember the day the lion's arrived at the park, Gary Brunke had only been employed for a few weeks when this occurred, Walt was seeking someone to take the lion show on the road as he was obviously overloaded with the traveling elephant show not to mention the park responsibilities. Gary jumped at the opportunity, with the show ring set up inside the barn I recall his first entrance as a teenager into the ring of cats with Walt at his side directing his every step. It was here he trained for a while until he started to travel with them to various venues. One being the Armada Fair where Auggie and I visited a couple years later and observed Gary's exciting and dangerous act.
Oh and yes the 2000 picnic table count, probably on the conservative side, or at least it felt that way after un-stacking and placing them to open a season and then re-stacking them at season's close. Arcade games such as the balloon game, ring toss, sharp shooter, pick a duck, and knock off were offered during peak traffic times when ample visitors were in the park. One could cross thru the covered bridge from the mid way and circus areas into the back lot where the petting zoo was located which housed many domestic and exotic animals along with the picnic areas. The animals were many, from everyday barnyard residents such as chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, rabbits, ponies, pigs, cows, etc. to the unusual such as monkeys, lamas, alpaca's (I know back then they were not as prevalent as today), rain deer along with some I have forgotten about I'm sure.
I recall one summer night in the mid to late 70's after the park was downsized and under new management a rock and roll concert was held in this back lot area under a huge tent which included many well known as well as up and coming local bands. While Mr. and Mrs. King were not involved with this to my knowledge, this was from one who experienced the park at its peak and then to see it at this stage of existence a fitting fair well to a part of my life I will treasure forever!! I wish to extend a hearty hello, and thank you for the opportunity to share this part of history, to all whose paths were crossed and connected thru King's Animal Land Park!! I pass this location frequently, just yesterday 2-4-14, I seen a for sale sign out front.