Saturday, January 5, 2008

sam the hippo

A friend of mine from Bake just sent me the obituary for the man who used to own Larson's Dairy. Larson's was--wait for it--a drive-thru combination dairy and gas station. As a child, I didn't find that weird.

Although we never bought gas there (hilariously, too expensive -- only the best petrol served at Larson's) we stopped there about once a week. You drove past the cow pasture on your right, then into a large, two-lane, arched tunnel. The milkman would take your case of empty bottles from the car, then fill whatever order you had for the week. They carried all varietes of milk, including chocolate and buttermilk, as well as various other dairy products we never purchased, like cottage cheese.

We were pretty much there for the milk. And the occasional bottle of fruit punch, which came in a glass 1/2 gallon milk bottle and was bright pink. I have no idea what it was made from or how it came to be there. The association between milk and punch was never explained.

There were lots of oddities at Larson's (which we never referred to as "Larson's drive-thru" because the fact that it was a flipping drive-thru dairy didn't make the slightest impression on the humorless population of Bakersfield). The biggest oddity was the hippopatumus, complete with his community-built pool, in one corner of the cow pasture.

Sam the hippo arrived when I was about 10 years old. He lived at the dairy for a few years until they donated him either to Cal Worthington or the San Diego Wild Animal Park, depending on which rumor you believe. Apparently Sam was some flagship animal for a sad zoo project that never got off the ground.

For a while, all our milk cartons at school were printed with information about the "Save Sam" campaign. I suppose all the schoolchildren were expected to donate their pennies or something, or go door-to-door collecting. There were even, according to my friend Richard (amateur Bakersfield historian), bumper stickers.

Then Sam mysteriously vanished. Shipped off and soon forgotten. It makes me a little sad.


leesajay said...

omg it makes me sad too!

i wish i could have seen sam the hippo. i'm a little bit way into hippos, as my dad has always been WAY way into them. so they're part of my childhood, too, even though i never saw one outside of a zoo.

i would think a hippo would smell too much to be near a place where dairy products were served, though. am i wrong on that? janet, please advise!!

Anonymous said...

wow this is one of my earliest childhood memories. my mom would fill me and my brothers lunchboxes with lunch and then take us for a picnic and would would see this hippo in a very small water filled enclosure. thinking back on this those type of conditions would never be allowed today and i doubt that a hippo exposed to the public would be permitted either. i wish people would post some pictures of this