Tuesday, March 5, 2013

For Jim Alexander--Sparky Como Park Zoo Year Unknown


Anonymous said...

This would be the late Archie Brand and one of his Sparkys. I met Archie when I first began with sea lions (1970) and he was appearing at the Sports Show at the Arena. Sport Shows of the era would close with a variety show presented on a stage with a pool in front - great for a sea lion act. Archie gave me some great advice. One nugget: he opened with a routine with the big beach ball. "Open with ball balancing, it establishes that you're a real trainer. Then you can do whatever you want for the next ten minutes."

Archie began with sea lions at his gas station in Carthage, MO. Gas stations on Rt. 66 needed a gimmick and his was a pool with sea lions. He began to work with them for fun and ended up with a nice act. An agent came by one day and asked if he'd be interested in performing at some Sport Shows and he was on his way. In the summers he'd perform at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, MN. Spark became the star of the Zoo. Archie told me the real money maker was selling fish to feed the display sea lions - "I'd give them the act for free if they gave me the fish stand."

Archie had a heart attack in 1972, retired, and his step-son worked the act for a while. They stopped doing Sport Shows but kept the Como show for several years. The Brands are out of the sea lion business but the Como Zoo staff continue with the Sparky show with zoo animals. Jim A.

Wade G. Burck said...

Great stuff, thank you for sharing. Folks seem to think 3rd generation this, and 4th generation that is what it is about. But I find interesting the number of folks who were 1st generation, and just picked it up and did well with it for the pure thrill and love.