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Wednesday, November 23, 2011



Eventually there will be a member of The Museum Community or a college student who will write the history of Bird Wonderland in Encino (at the time Van Nuys).  It's the kind of thing that I would like to do, had I the time. In the meanwhile, there are always parts of history's puzzle worth exploring, and sometimes though I am limited in time, I have to investigate..
There are many photographs of Jackie the Lion among the images donated recently to The Museum by Joan Putney. At first, I assumed the famous MGM lion in the collection belonged to the owner of Bird Wonderland Coulson Glick, but it now seems more likely that Jackie was the property of a lion tamer and performer named Mel Koontz. The lion may have been boarded at Bird Wonderland or was there just for the time when Mel Kooze worked there. 

Jackie the Lion - Jungleland Thousand Oaks, California:  vintage postcard - Gift to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley from Gary Fredburg 2011.  (click on image to enlarge)

Jackie was neither the first, nor the last of the MGM lions. He was lion number 2, who ruled the film world from 1929 to the mid 1950s.  He died in Thousand Oaks in 1952.


California Girl said...

I remember Jungle Land. Haven't heard about it in years. There was a water tower atop one of the hills that marked the area. So long ago...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Loretta Kemsley said...

Jackie the lion was born at Selig Zoo,where Mel Koontz first learned about training lions. When the zoo was shut down, Koontz bought Jackie.

My father, John Kemsley, provided the pony track at Selig. Dad and Mel were friends, starting there in 1925 when both of them were sixteen.

Mel did do a short stint at Birdland. Most of his work after Selig was in the movies and based out of the property last known as Jungleland, where Jackie died in 1952.