Route 66 was great entertainment back in it's day. Every motel, diner and gas station along the highway vied for the attention of travelers by featuring critters like dancing armadillos, giant cockroaches and rattlesnakes. On a road trip to Florida you are lured by hundreds of billboards to pull over and enjoy alligator wrestling, ostrich races and giant aquariums filled with sharks, dolphins and killer whales.

Back in the old days Adirondackers had our own roadside attractions. Sterling's 1,000 Animals Farm near Lake Placid was mainly occupied by mink. A few monkeys, bears, and other assorted animals were thrown in to make it an even 1,000. Santa's Workshop is still operating and features live reindeer and some goats and sheep. Tom Quesnel's Animal Farm near Stevenson's Cottage also had a small collection of live animals.

In 1915 Saranac Laker William Dunton started an animal farm on Lake Flower Avenue near Pontiac Bay. He had a few black bears and an assortment of smaller animals which he would buy from area hunters and trappers. He paid $1.50 apiece for skunks, raccoons, porcupines, possums and would also buy bear cubs. The hunters would shoot the mother and take the cubs. He sold some of the animals to Thomas Troy, whose circus wintered in Hartford, Conn. Below are some pictures of his caged bears. In the background you can see the Pontiac Rink where Ed Lamy performed his feats for the skating fans.

Dunton's business obviously didn't last long because in 1918 there was a newspaper article telling about the death of his 31 year old widow, Bea, who had accidently shot herself while attempting to shoot a cat. She had been using a 22 caliber pistol with a stock extension and had slipped on ice. The article states that the bullet had penetrated the left side of her abdomen, passed through her intestines and had lodged in her kidney. She died a short time later at the Saranac Lake General Hospital which was just across the road from the farm. The cause of her husband's death remains a mystery for now but eventually his obit will surface.

From 1924 to 1933 Happy The Bear enjoyed a lifestyle that would have turned Yogi Bear green with envy. Alex Terlizzi, owner of Alex's Grove, a roadhouse and gas station located at Merrill's Corners, near Loon Lake, had aquired Happy as a cub from a hunter who had shot it's mother. Tourists had been feeding Happy for the last nine years on delicacies like ice cream, hot dogs, soft drinks and his favorite beverage, beer. This had put almost 600 pounds on Happy.

It may have been a hangover or just a desire to return to the woods that made Happy grumpy enough to break through his cage one morning as Mrs. Terlizzi was bringing him breakfast. Luckily for her, Frank Mose of Sugarbush and his wife happened to be driving by. Frank stopped, jumped out and fought the bear off with a club. As Frank was putting Mrs. Terzlizi into his car for her safety the bear broke through the screen door and entered the house. The frantic woman screamed that her four week old baby and three year old son were in the house. At that moment Alex arrived and, after realizing the dangerous situation, ran into the house and coaxed the bear out and into it's cage. Mrs. Terlizzi was brought to Stonywold Sanitarium to take care of the bite and claw wounds. The next morning Alex shot Happy.

Alex's Grove in later years became Sparky's Tavern and then The Pine Grove Lounge.

Strange as it may seem, there were once polar bears in Saranac Lake! Three of them to be exact. Henry Ricketson was a go-getter with businesses and land holdings in Malone, Plattsburg, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. In 1912 he had built the Alpine Hotel. By the way the building was supplied with pure, clean water from an artesian well. The well is now underneath the village owned parking lot where the building once stood. The village fathers should check this out in their quest for a backup water supply. In 1930 Ricketson came up with another money making scheme. He bought the property on the corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and Depot Street once occupied by the Grand Union Hotel. The hotel had burned in 1926 and Henry used the empty lot to put in an indoor miniature golf course which he called The Happy Hour. He bought three polar bear cubs from a Captain Pederson, an Alaskan trader, for $400.00 each. He put a big pool outside the building and a strong cage. A full grown polar bear can reach 900 pounds so it had to be solid.

One evening some boys let one of the bears loose and it wandered toward Branch And Callanan's lumber yard which was behind the indoor golf building. John Ward, 73, was night watchman at the yard and he had a bad heart. The sight of the polar bear coming toward him was more than it could take and he died. Henry closed the Happy Hour in 1933 and sold the bears to a circus for $600.00 apiece.

There are many more documented cases of "tame" bears causing injuries and death especially to young children who got too close to the cage. In 1907 William Ervin, a guide for Governor Timothy Woodruff, even sued because he was attacked by the Governor's "tame" bear at his Adirondack lodge. William lost of course! In 1934, because of these attacks by captive bears, the practice of keeping gas pump bears was outlawed by Conservation Department Commisioner, Lithgow Osbourne. I take it this included the Governor's bear.