S. Berliner, III's sbiii.com Frank Buck and his Zoo Page keywords = Frank Buck Bring 'em Back Alive Zoo Monkey Mountain animal Jungle Camp Park Ali Massapequa Long Island New York Ruhr Ruhe Vestermann Sunnyside

Updated:   29 Feb 2012, 00:30  ET
[Page created 04 Oct 2000; converted 29 Feb 2012
    original AT&T Worldnet Website begun 30 May 1996.]

URL:  http://sbiii.com/fbuckzoo.html
[was at "home.att.net/~Berliner-Ultrasonics/fbuckzoo.html"]

S. Berliner, III
Consultant in Ultrasonic Processing
"changing materials with high-intensity sound"

[consultation is on a fee basis]

Technical and Historical Writer, Oral Historian
Popularizer of Science and Technology
Rail, Auto, Air, Ordnance, and Model Enthusiast
Light-weight Linguist, Lay Minister, and Putative Philosopher

note - The vast bulk of my massive Web presence (over 485 pages) had been hosted by AT&T's WorldNet service since 30 May 1996; they dropped WorldNet effective 31 Mar 2010 and I have been scrambling to transfer everything.  Everything's saved but all the links have to be changed, mostly by hand.  See my sbiii.com Transfer Page for any updates on this tedious process.

S. Berliner, III's


(and his Zoo)
{"Jungle Camp" - "Animal Park"}

This page is basically unindexed; scroll away!  However, see also the Ruhr Animal Farm page.

[Also, many images were lost and may not be replaceable;
some were restored 07 Aug 2004 and I'm working on others.]

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, though I can't remember exactly when, there was an animal supplier to the world's zoos and circuses and medical research establishments - - - .

Now, kiddies, this was long before zoos became "wildlife conservation parks" and circuses got rid of their freak shows and girded themselves, along with research labs, against the onslaught of PETA.

The man's name was Frank Buck, a Texan, and he traveled the globe in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s trapping wild animals (politically incorrect as all get-out, today).  Soon, his fame became world-wide and he established a 40-acre base camp and zoo on the south side of Sunrise Highway in Massapequa, Town of Oyster Bay, Nassau County, Long Island, New York.

This was in 1935+, shortly after he exhibited a "Jungle Camp" at the 1934 Chicago World's Fair.

+ - other accounts say it started in 1934.

One of the main attractions at the 40-acre Frank Buck Zoo was the "Monkey Mountain", a miniature Matterhorn some 70' high, protected (supposedly) by a deep moat, and populated by a colony of some 500 rhesus monkeys.  On 22# Aug 1935, shortly after the opening, about 150 of the monkeys found a plank left across the moat by a workman and got away; most were coralled by police and the locals and returned unscathed (in today's traffic on the Sunrise, that would not be as likely a scenario).  "Hey, hey, for the Monkees!"  There was (supposedly) another breakout after WWII, when a monkey caused a traffic accident on the Sunrise in nearby Seaford.

Parents and children (including yours truly) came from far and wide to view the animals in their cages and on Monkey Mountain.

Buck also had a Jungle Camp at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City.  In that same year {?}, he starred in a film about his work, also called "Bring 'Em Back Alive" {this may be completely incorrect}.

Frank Buck did a 15-chapter serial in 1937, "JUNGLE MENACE", appeared, with Clyde Beatty, in a 1949 Abbott & Costello clunker, "Africa Screams", and was famed as a coordinator of animal actors in Hollywood.

Frank Buck got involved in endless advertising and promotional schemes and finally succumbed to lung cancer in 1950 at 66.  The Zoo closed in the '50s {?} and was continued as the short-lived Massapequa Zoo, which finally closed ca. 1965.  The Monkey Mountain survived a few more years in shabby disrepair, until torn down to make way for a strip mall.

CBS aired a series loosely based on Frank Buck (played by Bruce Boxleitner) from Sep 1982 to May 1983.

There were Frank Buck / Bring 'em Back Alive comic books and trading cards (in great demand now, as are his movie posters) and there is even an Internet adventure.

"Bring 'em Back Alive" is also used in a precautionary way about bringing possibly-living alien organisms back to earth from outer space.

Ohmygosh!  There was a 1946 cartoon movie by Disney called "Frank Duck Brings 'em Back Alive", in which Goofy is a wild man of the jungle and Donald Duck is the hunter!

An article on page B3 of the Thursday, 28 Sep 2000, Long Island NEWSDAY about the fascination with, and collection of memorabilia about, Frank Buck by Carol Giannattasio caught my eye and I recalled instantly having an old copy, surviving from childhood, of Frank Buck's famous best seller, "Bring 'em Back Alive", called Ms. Giannattasio, and this page is the instant result.

There was also an article@, "Frank Buck Stopped Here", by Arlene Goodeneough, on pp. 5 and 19 in the Spring 1997 issue of "The Freeholder", "The History Magazine of the Town of Oyster Bay", of the Oyster Bay Historical Society.  The article references a book by Frank Buck (with Ferin Frazer), "All in a Lifetime", 1942, Robert M. McBride & Co.  It turned out I'd forgotten a later article by Lillian Rumsfeld Bryson on pages 17 and 18 of the Fall 1999 issue, in which said author appears astride a zoo burro that had managed to escape from confinement (see below@).

There is a Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville, Texas.

NEWSDAY has three feature articles on all this; for the first two, click HERE.

Author Steven Lehrer has just edited a new book of Frank Buck's writings, entitled "Bring 'Em Back Alive; the Best of Frank Buck" (Texas Tech University Press).

There is also a wonderfully awful shaggy-dog story based on Frank Buck.

Here's a weird one for you; my own Chrysler page turned up on a search for "Frank Buck Zoo" and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why - none of those three words appeared in a page search, but it was flawed and they ARE there, in a reference to Massapequa and Monkey Mountain ca, 1965.

An e-mail correspondent asks if this drum, his father's from the 1940s, is real (African?) or a movie prop or a souvenir of the Chicago World's Fair:


The drum is signed in the center, Frank Buck / "Bring 'Em Back Alive" / Chicago / 1934, and is, itself, dated 1935; would anyone out there with positive information please let us know?

The Ruhe# Animal Farm

Here's an odd one about which I never knew!  There was an animal holding facility in Sunnyside, Queens, Long island, New York, known as the Ruhe# Animal Farm, where Frank Buck's animals went through quarantine on arrival (apparently the farm served in this capacity for animals coming in by ship into the New York port).&nbdp; Coverage of this unusual facility and its personnel got so involved that I have moved it to its own, separate page, q.v.

[# - NOT Ruhr, as previously shown.]

Here's another (same day - how's THAT for coincidence?).  An historian in the UK reports that two U. S. 8th AF bomber groups stationed in England during WWII, the 43rd BG (H) and the 385th BG (H), both had nose art based on Frank Buck's exploits.  Part of the scenario is that they were lettered "BEBA", believed to stand for for "Bring 'Em Back Alive" and they would like to establish some background to all this; any information which can be provided would be appreciated.

* - actually, it is believed that some of the planes may have had "Frank Duck" on the nose
  (from the 1946 Disney cartoon noted above).

The gentleman in question is Ray Bowden, who runs a fantastic Website (and writes books) all about nose (and flight jacket) art; the two aircraft turn out to be most specifically a B17 Flying Fortress reportedly named "BEBA" (apparently short for Bring 'Em Back Alive) which was assigned to the 385th Bomb Group and the other a B24 Liberator bomber reportedly named "Bring Em Back Alive" which was assigned to 448th Bomb Group.

@ - In the Spring 1997 issue of Oyster Bay's "The Freeholder", as noted above, there was an article, "Frank Buck Stopped Here" (on pages 5 and 19), by Arlene Goodeneough; Ms. Goodenough was good enough to allow me to reprint the article here:


by Arlene Goodeneough

Readers of The Freeholder who were around in the 1930s will remember Frank Buck, the world famous wild animal dealer.  He was only a young boy in Texas when he started trapping birds and snakes and making cages for them.  His formal education stopped at seventh grade, his best subject being geography.  Frank suffered from wanderlust and often dreamed of visiting far off exotic places.

When he was eighteen years old he left his poor but loving family and set out to make his fortune, hopping on freight trains around the West.  He was tall, good looking, good company and quite able to defend himself with his fists if need be.  Self confidence was never in short supply with Frank.  He ended up in Chicago where he got a job as a bell boy in a very fashionable hotel.  There he met Amy Leslie, a celebrated newspaper columnist who wrote about the theater.  She was thirty-five years old and Frank was only twenty, but they fell in love and married.  He got a better job in the music publishing business, and they lived happily together for several years.  Then Frank won $3,500.00 in a card game, enough, in 1911, to start him out, traveling the world collecting wild animals.

His first destination was Brazil, where he began his lifelong love affair with the jungle.  Heat and humidity rarely bothered him. He learned how to deal with leeches, stinging ants, and mosquitoes.  He was totally unafraid of wild animals (interestingly enough, he was afraid of flying and would not go up in an airplane.)  He traded with the natives where ever he happened to be (mainly in the East), and always paid a fair price.  He himself trapped many valuable and rare animals personally.   He took excellent care of his creatures in transit, thus living up to the title of his first book, "Bring 'em Back Alive".

In the 1930's he made some extremely successful jungle motion pictures.  The first one featured a leopard being crushed to death by a python.  Frank had an enormous exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair.  There he met a man named T. A. Loveland.  Together they leased twenty acres of land in Massapequa fronting on Sunrise Highway, from Charles Beall.  Beall had a private zoo including a lion house and an elephant house.  It was a ten year lease starting on Jan. 1, 1934.  Three more buildings were added and a 75 foot high monkey mountain complete with 500 rhesus monkeys.  There was a moat around the mountain filled with water because monkeys don't like water and wouldn't escape.  All together, there were over 1,000 specimens.  The attraction was called "Frank Buck's Jungle Camp."  For some reason he always referred to it as being in Amityville.

It proved to be a very useful recuperating spot for animals that had landed in N. Y. harbor after arduous sea voyages.  One was a young, extremely rare rhinoceros from Nepal.  It was worth a fortune and Frank was very fond of it.  Sadly, it was fed bad hay and died before he had a chance to save it.  A 200 pound orangutan was also kept there.  He had an arm span of 8˝ feet.  He was one of Frank's favorites and a special cage was built for him.  The orangutan was very fond of molasses sandwiches.  When he was 30 years old he suffered a stroke.  Frank took charge of his nursing for four months until he died.

At the rear of the camp Frank turned five acres into a sort of African veldt.  All sorts of unusual antelopes roamed there, including blesbock, koodoos, blackbuck, reedbock and nilgai.  It was a great pleasure for Frank to ride through the animals on his horse on the weekends when he was in residence.  He and his beautiful second wife, Muriel, shared a sixteen room, three story house with T. A. Loveland right on the Jungle Camp property.

There was a restaurant, refreshment stands, and souvenir stands, elephant rides and camel rides.  It wasn't unusual for paid admissions to amount to 25,000 people on a nice weekend.  The Jungle camp received a tremendous amount of publicity in the summer of 1934# when someone left a plank across the moat around the Monkey Mountain and 150 of the furry rascals got out (as noted above).  It caused quite a sensation in the neighborhood and was even reported in the New York Times#.

[# - The New York Times Archive for 22 Aug 1935 shows the article on page 7, date-lined 21 Aug 1935!  The article refers to "Frank Buck's jungle camp on the Sunrise Highway between here {Massapequa) and Amityville".  They can call it "Jungle Camp" all they want; it was always called "Frank Buck's Zoo" by us!

My thanks to Lisa Passen, an author working on a children's book about Frank Buck, for the article.]

Lisa advised on 28 Feb 2012 that her Frank Buck children's book, MONKEY MOUNTAIN will be published by Featherweight Press in Fall, 2012, and that it's a fictional account of the "Great Monkey Escape" of 1935.  MONKEY MOUNTAIN is a middle grade/young adult novel that Lisa spent years researching and writing.   new (29 Feb 2012)

Unfortunately, it wasn't too many years before new parkways were built on L.I., siphoning off three quarters of the traffic from Sunrise Highway, and business fell off.   Frank turned over his share of the business to Mr. Loveland and went on to new interests.

Many a celebrity has been connected with the Massapequan community , but for daring, courage, and love of adventure, no one can touch Frank Buck!

Bibliography: " All In A Lifetime" by Frank Buck with Ferrin Fraser. Published, 1941 by Robert M. McBride & Co

- - - * - - -

In the Fall 1999 issue of Oyster Bay's "The Freeholder", also as noted above, Lillian Rumsfeld Bryson wrote (page 17) of her adventures living in the neighborhood of the zoo.  Here is a picture from that article of her astride a zoo burro that had managed to escape from confinement:

Lillian Bryson burro (Photo courtesy of L. Bryson & OBHS - all rights reserved to source)
The author astride the Zoo's burro.

FALL 1999

"Bring 'Em Back Alive"
by Lillian Rumsfeld Bryson

Riding an African pygmy donkey was slow going, especially since I had to take turns with my brother and my cousin.  The trail went from my grandparents house on Front Street in Massapequa Park, over the railroad tracks at Unqua crossing, and down Sunrise Highway to the entrance of Frank Buck's Jungle Camp.  His motto was "Bring Em Back Alive", and on that Spring day in 1942, when I was 12 years old, that's just what we were doing.

Built on twenty wooded acres, the zoo came to Massapequa in 1934.  To the east was Carman Mill Road, Unqua Road (or Strikers Lane/Road as it was called) was its western line, and the land bordered on estates to the south.  Along Sunrise Highway were two long stone and cement buildings with tile roofs.  They housed elephants, lions, tigers and other wild animals.  Inside the elephant house, tethered giants swayed from side to side reaching their trunks to gently pick peanuts from  outstretched hands.  Caged lions and tigers shared their house with the hyenas, and we kids knew that the best place to stand at feeding time was in front of the hyena cage.  The scent of raw meat turned their pacing to frenzy, their call to high-pitched laughter, and we would join in the laughter with great glee!

My father had lassoed the African pygmy donkey in a neighbor's yard as it brayed its dismay, or perhaps its pleasure at having escaped from the zoo.  What excitement!  Tied to a pole in my grandpa's barn, it brayed all night.  In the morning we called the zoo.  The memory of that adventure ranks high with the tale of the wiry gray monkey who wreaked havoc inside my Aunt Trudy's car when she tried to drive it back to the zoo, and the charming chimp who sat in the rocker on grandma's porch, dropping banana peels and spitting apple cores.  He and I held hands as we walked up Second Avenue, where he ventured inside our house to sit on Mama's ironing board.  The reward for returning one of the zoo's inhabitants was a handful of free passes.  We rarely paid admission.

On nice days, some of the outside cages held colorful birds, others held colorful lion-tamers snapping red handled whips, like those sold at the concession.  I wondered what the sad looking orangutan was thinking about as he stood alone and solemn in a circular cage; ancient looking face pressed to the bars, dark eyes watching us...watching him.  Away from the highway, the big monkey mountain, with all of its hiding places, was home to chattering, comical, big-eyed little creatures who often behaved as people did.  It was surrounded by a moat that held mostly peanut shells, and a cement wall where we could lean and watch away the best part of a Sunday afternoon.

The elephants were named Maude, Cutie, Trixie, Dolly, Luna and Hank.  My favorite was the smallest of them; was her name Daisy?  At the outside ring, with a green wooden bottle held high in her trunk, she would stagger the circle to the strains of "Three O'Clock in the Morning."  On summer days, when the breeze was right, the loudspeakers wafted the strains of that music over the roar of the lions and through the open windows of our house on Second Avenue.  Strapped high on the back of a huge lumbering elephant, a wicker basket-like seat called a howdah held six people.  Led by a uniformed trainer with a long stick that prodded the great beast behind its big ears, the elephant waited while we climbed the steps to the platform.  There we were handed into the basket by a white faced clown, and holding on for dear life, we jostled along as the howdah creaked and tipped with each giant step.  We could see the refreshment stand from up there, but we had no money, and only the smells of hot dogs and popcorn were free.

Bright flags on the tall entrance flagpole could be seen from a distance.  It was built like the mast on a ship, and monkeys sometimes escaped from the mountain to climb high on the cross arm looking for freedom.  Massapequa was well wooded then, but often, before they could pick a tree, the local volunteer firemen would be called to raise their ladders and help them back to captivity.  On the days when we saw Frank Buck, he was usually surrounded by grownups.  He wore a pith helmet and jungle pants with high leather boots, and I think he had a mustache.  We were in awe of him.  He was handsome I thought, but didn't appear more ready, in my mind, to bring them back alive than my father or Aunt Trudy.

By 1944 elephants were no longer being exercised on Unqua Road.  Sunrise Highway had became a secondary road, and due to the war, gas rationing meant that "people couldn't drive out to see us anymore," said T. A. Loveland, business partner to Frank Buck.  Besides that, food rationing made it "tough to get bananas for the monkeys."  And so, Frank Buck's Jungle Camp was no more.  Today, behind a modern facade building on Sunrise Highway (Lucille Roberts/Kids 'R Us) are the memorable remains of stone and cement.  And still, on days when the breeze is right, if I listen hard, I can almost hear the strains of "Three O'Clock in the Morning."

- - - * - - -

{Ms. Bryson wrote that there were remnants of the Zoo; I went to see.}

Well, so much for THAT idea!  I went down to the site on 11 May 02 and found, just as I thought, that the parking lot of the smaller shopping mall that had been built there, between Unqua Road on the west and Carman's Mill Road on the east and on the south side of Sunrise Highway across from the giant South Shore Mall, had been expanded westward and its parking lot expanded southward, obliterating all obvious trace of the Zoo-cum-Animal Park-cum-Jungle Camp.  My recollection is that the Monkey Mountain, which still stood, behind an old barn-like structure on the highway, just east of the service station on the southeast corner of Sunrise and Unqua, not all that far south of Sunrise Highway had survived the original mall construction and was still there when I rode down there in a 1931 Chrysler Imperial 8 sedan ca. 1980, had finally succumbed to the erection of the building housing the Lucille Roberts health club at the west end of the mall.  Nothing loathe, I wandered the southern perimeter and found these rather-dubious artifacts up against the mid-point of the fence (an entry to a neighboring playground/ball field); two traffic blocks (looking east, then west) and miscellaneous debris:

FBZooSite/1 FBZooSite/2
(there's my Neon!)

FBZooSite/3 FBZooSite/4 FBZooSite/5"
(11 May 02 photos by and © 2002 S. Berliner, III - all rights reserved)

Not much, even if at all related!  Every other inch of the area is paved or built over.  Go on; tell me you recognize some of this!

06 Aug 2002 - One George Stahlberg from Brevard College (he might be an illiterate janitor, but somehow I tend to doubt that) writes: "After Frank Buck closed his zoo in Massapequa, it became ‘the Massapequa Zoo and Kiddie Park'; ‘Kiddie Park' because it offered rides as well as the zoo.  The owner was Mike Grimaldi, who appeared as a guest on a local (NYC) morning TV kiddie show (WNEW, Channel 5) hosted by Sandy Becker.  Mike appeared as ‘Uncle' Mike Grimaldi.  This was the late Fifties or early Sixties.  (I may not have Mike's name correct as I never saw it in print; it was merely spoken by the host.)  Our grammar school class visited the park around 1960, and I remember Monkey Mountain."  Thanks, George!

20 Jun 2004 - Mike Grimaldi's niece Gina contacted me; that's what makes all the effort of keeping up this site worth the trouble!

18 Feb 2006 - Louis Gabrielson contacted me; his dad, Howard Gabrielson, used to work at the Zoo in the ''30s and took his kids to the Park in the '50s, taking lots of pictures of them on the rides:


('50s photos by H. Gabrielson at Massapequa Kiddie Park
courtesy of L. Gabrielson - all rights reserved)
[Click on thumbnailed images for larger pictures]

That last photo sure shook me up; at first I thought that was my '49 Chrysler but it turned out to be a '49 Dodge.  Oh, my; do those pictures bring back memories.  More photos may follow if they can be found.

I, personally, would love to get a good shot of Monkey Mountain (or to find my own pix somewhere).

Stay tuned!

See also the Ruhe Animal Farm page.


  What happens to all this when I DIE or (heaven forfend!) lose interest?  See LEGACY.


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