Wilder than Politics or Music

San Francisco was a busy place in the summer of 1964. We hosted the Republican National Convention in July and the first Beatles performance in the City in August, both events happening at the Cow Palace. And because it was an election year, President Lyndon Johnson visited twice, first for a fundraising dinner combined with the dedication of our then-new Federal Building on June 19, and again for a celebration of Columbus Day on October 11. Here are some still photos of President Johnson riding in an open car motorcade through the City in 1964:

The news from that summer in the City was not limited to politics and music. On July 4, 1964, “Independence Day” took on a new meaning. Mr. Carey Baldwin, the then-director of what was called the Fleishhacker Zoo, now called our San Francisco Zoo, got a call at 6:30 am from the San Francisco Police Department. Sometime during the night or early morning, 13 buffalo had left their holding pen in Golden Gate Park. Five police cars rounded them up and herded them back to their enclosure.

At 11:30 am, the police called again. This time, they reported that a pigmy hippopotamus was strolling down a road towards the main boulevard in front of the zoo. The hippo had burrowed under his fence and his two keepers took an hour and a half to get him back to the elephant barn.

And to top-off the day, at 4 pm, a large South American rodent called an agouti had outsmarted his keeper. As soon as his cage door was open, the agouti darted out between the keeper’s legs and ran towards the zoo director’s house that was on the property. He was finally caught after a nice outing that ended at the giraffe barn. Director Baldwin said that he would be reviewing the zoo’s security provisions. Fifty years later, in a June 24, 2014 Time Magazine article, this story made it into the list of the “Top 11 Zoo Escapes” of all time.

Today the San Francisco Zoo is a great place to visit and the animals can be seen in their enclosures. Here is a fun video clip of a current zoo resident named Brian Wilson the Hippo:

For a list of summer activities at the San Francisco Zoo, check out:

Best wishes,