A postcard photo of the miniature train at the former Simpson Animal Park in Brunswick.

“If any youngster has ever been bored at Simpson Animal Park, we have not yet found him.”

So boasts one of my favorite collectibles:  a pristine brochure from the old Animal Park on Old Bath Road in Brunswick, a place of which I have fond, but vague, memories.

The place seems kind of desolate in my distant memories:  a pond with a water mill that didn’t work, and an old train ride that no longer ran.  I was visiting, however, at the end of the park’s life.  When it opened in 1958, it must have been magical.

The brochure shows a crowd of people in front of a covered ring, watching an animal show.  “A Russian brown bear act.  World renowned  jugglers, clowns and magic and the mixed wild animal act of leopards and cougars are a feature this year,” it says.  Another photo shows a couple of swan boats in a pond.

I don’t know what year it is from, but it lists the admission price as $2 for adults and $1 for children, with 5 and under being free.  An older newspaper advertisement showed a price of only 75 cents for adults and a quarter for children.  We usually showed up an hour before closing, my mother tells me, because they just let us in for free.

Some old postcards of the park exist.  One shows a miniature Wild West town with a saloon, blacksmith shop, bank, and covered wagons.  There are “cowboys” on horses, who were probably part of a show.  Another postcard shows the train ride, which appears to be a real miniature steam engine.  It ran on a 1,700-foot track, and featured a train station and a 50-foot tunnel.  The train itself was 46 feet long and carried 16 passengers, plus an engineer wearing a striped hat.  Other rides included an airplane merry-go-round and the swan boats.  I would love to know what happened to them.  There was also a petting zoo called Old McDonald’s Farm.

The animal cages were built in the unenlightened days of animal care, and were simple rectangular structures with bars, roofs, concrete floors, and perhaps a few fake rocks.  These held peacocks and monkeys, along with more dangerous animals such as lions and bears.  Ducks and geese could be fed in the duck pond.  There was a wooded area that contained deer, and a fenced-in area with a random assortment of animals, including llamas and donkeys.

The bears may have enjoyed more freedom than the other animals:  One Facebook reader claimed that Mr. Simpson used to drive around in a pickup truck with a bear riding shotgun.  Jeff Simpson, in a Times Record story about the park, recalled a time when a bear escaped and got into a farmer’s bee hives.  The farmer shot the bear and hung it from a tree.

For those who couldn’t make it to the park, Mr. Simpson had a bus that could carry animal cages, and this was presumably used for a travelling animal show.

Sadly, Simpson Animal Park shut down in the 1980s, and Brunswick now has a serious lack of monkeys and tigers.


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