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1930's

generations of fun

By Heather Coulthard

My family have lived in Upton-by-Chester for 5 generations. My great grandparents John and Ethel Reevey and my grandparents Harold and Norah Evans lived on Long Lane opposite the Fry Inn chippy. They built the house where my Dad was born and my Mum still lives there today.
My Dad, Tony Evans, can remember the elephants being brought from Chester Zoo on foot from the train station. It must have been the early 1930's as Dad was a tiny tot playing out on the front step on Long Lane (he was born in 1931). He ran in the house shouting "Phunt! Mummy Phunt!" and she told him not to be silly! She probably thought he was imagining it! Dad remembers just after WW2 when some wolves escaped and Upton residents were told to keep their pets indoors until they had been recaptured. Dad remembers when he worked at the Shell pumping station at the back of the zoo - the ruins of this are still there along the lane which bisects the Zoo. One night shift, he was on duty with 2 mates and one of his pals came in white faced and trembling saying there was something in or near the compound that his torch had seen only the eyes of the creature and they had no idea what it was. this was maybe in the 1960's? I think it turned out to be a tapir, but they didn't know what it was when they made the phone call in the small hours to the zoo!
Dad remembers the customers in the Upton chippy being alarmed and then delighted when one of the keepers had called in to buy supper on the way home with a baby orang-utan or something similar tucked in his jacket. In the queue in the chippy, a long hairy arm suddenly appeared presumably to grab a chip !
My brothers both worked at the zoo in their teens as Saturday jobs, Phil Evans was on the water buses and Les Evans sometimes peeled spuds in the Rainbow Café to be sent up to the Oakfield restaurant. He carved the spuds into rude shapes and prompted angry phone calls asking who the culprit was. Les walked in one morning to find a tiger sat in the flower bed. A tree had come down overnight and it had fallen on the fence allowing the tiger to escape from its enclosure.
We all learned to drive on the old zoo car park by the old turnstiles down Caughall Rd.
I was born in Meadowsway, Upton and grew up on Long Lane, so I remember listening to Sammy the Sealion and the lions roar on a warm summer night whilst lying in bed, thinking that last roar sounded closer! .
Dad, my brothers and I attended St. Marys Infant school just like June did. My daughter Eleanor waved at the Queen on the monorail when she visited the Zoo recently for her diamond jubilee.
We all remember the queues of traffic all along Long Lane every weekend and Bank Holiday Monday before the new entrance was built. Dad donated some old cine film to the Zoo for their archives showing footage of queues of black cars (the only colour available then) all up the main road. sorry if these memories are a bit jumbled - thanks for years of happy memories. We bring our children to visit Chester Zoo regularly, since they were in prams, and love seeing all the animals. Dad liked the Tropical House best as it is lovely and warm and we always have a little sit on "Pop's bench" by the waterfall. Huge thanks to all the hard working staff.

See more: Friends and family, Special Zoo Moments, Staff