Posing with the Old Black Bear
Many thanks to Floyd Galiano for sharing this
photo of himself and the bear, taken in 1970.
My son, Jim, and the bear...notice the bear's new ears in the photo on the right.
The gentleman you see above, looking down into the camera, and his much
posed-on black bear, just out of camera range, were fixtures at Audubon Zoo for
many, many years.  This picture was taken in the late 1930's and I know the old black
bear was still in residence through the 1970's, though, I suspect, at some point, the
photographer probably changed.  Time, the enthusiasm of children and general wear
and tear took their toll on the faithful old bear and, eventually, a rug had to be
placed over his back to conceal his thinning "fur."  His ears--clutched by so many
little hands sticky from snowballs and cotton candy--had to be replaced (in a color
not quite matching the original).  No matter.  He still held the affection of New
Orleans children and adults for more years than most of us can remember.
Through sun and rain, good times and bad, no matter what else may have come and
gone, photographer and friend could be counted on to remain at their appointed
post until the last weary mom placed her excited child on the back of the old black
bear to have his picture taken.  For at least three generations, few children in New
Orleans made it through childhood without having a picture taken with their friend,
the bear at Audubon Zoo.
No one at the zoo seems to know what eventually became of the dear old bear, but I
wish he was still around.  I'd give quite a lot to pat his head just one more time.  
Wouldn't you?
Thanks to Toni Smith Chalaire for sharing these
Audubon Park photos.  Left, Toni's mom, Pauline
Martinez, in the middle, and Toni's aunt, Mary
Martinez, to her left.  Above, Toni and sister, Beverly,
on the Old Black Bear.  (
Click here to see Toni's family