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Stories: Ken Nuckolls

Ken Nuckolls shares a memory of being not-so-lost in Overton Park when he was a boy.

Postcard of Memphis Zoo Entrance
courtesy of Memphis and Shelby County Room, Memphis Public Library & Information Center

Almost all of my stories of Overton Park involve early memories of the Zoo (1950’s). This particular story involves both the Zoo and the Brooks Museum of Art.

In the summer of 1958, my family had joined with another family, whose parents and kids were all of similar ages, for a day at Overton Park. We met at the zoo, but planned to visit the Art Museum as well. As we were finishing up our visit to the Zoo, we all headed toward the exit where everyone got in the cars and took the short drive to the Brooks Museum.

After just a few minutes, my parents started looking around for me and realized that I was not with the large group. Mild panic ensued. They had known I was not in their car, but had assumed I had jumped in the other family’s car with the boy who was my age. (We were five.) So, they got back in the car and scurried back to the zoo to find me.

There I was; just sitting by the big stone lion at the entrance to the zoo. What had happened was that as we were all walking towards the exit I got distracted by something of interest and when I looked up the entire family was gone!! I walked out the exit and looked for them, but not a sign. At that time there electric bus tracks immediately in front of the entrance which made it a road, so I didn’t try to cross it. My parents had taught me well that if I was ever lost to stay put and they would come find me. So, I just sat down on the concrete in front of that concrete lion and waited. About 10 minutes later, up came my parents all excited to reclaim me. After hugs and mild chastisements, we all went back to the Art Museum to finish up our day.

Looking up, realizing my family was gone; walking out the exit and sitting down next to that lion is as clear in my head as though a movie plays. It was 54 years ago.

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