Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Special Guest Post - Busch Gardens, Tampa - 1972

Today I am happy to share some family photos, generously shared by GDB reader Mark H. Besotted! You've probably seen his name if you read the comments. He doesn't  personally appear in any of the pictures because he hadn't been born yet. Yep, that old excuse. Mark's young parents visited Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, and... well, Mark included an entertaining writeup to accompany the pictures, so I'll let him do the honors. Here's Mark:

Many moons ago, 45 years' worth, in fact, my parents took advantage of their childfree, young-adult lifestyle to visit Florida. In one week during September of 1972, they visited Busch Gardens Tampa and a younger park in the wilds of Orlando. Here are some pictures from the first day. Busch Gardens Tampa was already 13 years old in 1972, and only had three rides (counting the escalator to the brewery tour). It was mostly focused on wild animals and free beer. My mother focused her camera mostly on the animals, though we can see some incidental monorail track near the end.

Here's a good-looking kid, and also my father, only 26. The petting zoo area was in an area called "Boma." (That's Swahili for "small animal enclosure," if the park maps of the time can be believed, which makes me wonder about the naming of that restaurant in The Animal Kingdom Lodge.)

More from Boma. Everybody loves petting ruminants!

I can only assume Mom took this photo from the Serengeti Express Railroad (which had just opened the previous year). The rock wall behind that tall cheetah hides the baboon enclosure, where large apes were entertained by a constant stream of humans being ferried past. 

We're off the train now, and on the far side of the park. This is Flamingo Point, with the brewery peeking up over the trees in the background. Fun fact: like all flamingos, these birds got their vivid pink color by eating their own weight in maraschino cherries every day.

These parrots provided a wisecracking introduction to a show where the flowers sing, and tikis play drums. And just like the ones up the road, they did so in a collection of hilarious dialects. Behind them, you can see the home of beer samples, the Hospitality House. 

Gazelles are so fast, they can outrun a snail on a turtle's back. 

Our elevation above the crocogators suggests that we're finally on the monorail. The architecture of the park didn't show a lot of imagination then, but I enjoy the scaly walls of the enclosure. (That's not fair, really. The park did include a kiddie area with storybook cottages and giant mushrooms. The nocturnal animal house was dressed up as a mountain, complete with waterfall. Sadly, Mom didn't take pictures of those.)

This time, the tall cheetah is ducking down, to make herself look smaller, and therefore further away. It's an old theme-park trick called "forced perspective."

Rhinos don't have very good vision, and they've mistaken us for the family who loaned them ten dollars, They're pretending not to see us. It's embarrassing all around.

In Eagle Canyon, there's an eagle. It's a salute to all geographic formations, but mostly canyons.

In the back left, we can see the park's only restaurant at the time, The Old Swiss House. It's a replica of a famous restaurant in Lucerne. To the right, we can see most of the monorail station. Unfortunately, there's some kinda hippo in the way. 

Ah, that's better! Here's a nice close view of the monorail station and supports. (Since the Busch Gardens Monorail is a hanging type, it needs those side supports.)

My mom knew Thufer would want to see powerlines, so here they are. Funny how actual wide-open spaces can feel less expansive than a properly-engineered berm on the Jungle Cruise. 

Here's a herd of... something. Wildebeest? Ibix? Moose? I can only give a positive ID on those palm trees.

A thing rests in the shade. I *think* it has horns. Maybe a mutant wolf?

This is another picture of a thing. No reason to even post it. 

I couldn't find a decent contemporary map to link to. (I relied on one from '70, and one from '76, neither correct to what the pictures show in '72. But both together helped me get a feeling of where in the park the pictures were, and coincidentally led me to suspect Mom filed them out of order. No matter.)
Here's my bibliography:

I hope this is interesting and fun for everyone, and look forward to writing up the WDW pictures. I'm swapping out photo albums this week, and moving on. I know there are pictures in 1982 from the Knoxville World's Fair, and early early EPCOT Center (with the creepy giant-head characters around World Showcase). If you're interested in any other random things (there's a quick trip to DC in '75  or so, with the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum heavily featured, plus Savannah and other places), let me know. As I said, I'm scanning everything, so I'm happy to share it all. 


MANY THANKS to Mark for sharing these photos of Busch Gardens, and for all the work in scanning them and providing the accompanying text. I'm interested in the photos from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum circa 1975, and the Knoxville World's Fair sounds good too, so I'll probably be bugging him for those. (Sorry Mark, no good deed goes unpunished)

Guess what? His parents also visited Walt Disney World, and Mark has shared the photos from there as well. Stay tuned!


Nanook said...


Thanks for sharing these snapshots (evidently processed by Fox Photo). I visited the park in 1977, and seem to remember it being better-equipped with many more rides, and a coaster - such as the Python, and the Flume ride.

Thanks for sharing.

Mark H. Besotted said...

Yup, the flume ride opened in '73, if I remember correctly, and the Python around '75.

I haven't seen any pictures yet from storm damage at the park, but I hope all the animals are okay. (Up here, East of Atlanta, we're all safe but mostly without power overnight.)

Thanks again, Major, for hosting!

Scott Lane said...

Yeah that's a blast from the past, Mark. We visited BG that same year and 10-year-old me was very underwhelmed by it all. Thanks for sharing!

K. Martinez said...


What a great write up. Very entertaining. Also, nice photos of the park before the "thrills" arrived. I only went once in 1979 so there was only The Python as far as coasters go.

I definitely found this interesting and fun and would love to see more of whatever you're willing to share with us. What you mentioned all sounds great.

Thank you!

Melissa said...

Thank you, Mark, for sharing your family's memories!

Your father is a fine-looking fellow indeed, but he's being totally upstaged by granny green check propping up the fence in the background. She looks like she's just crawled across Death Valley and barely lived to tell the tale.

I love the tilted angle on the giraffe pictures; it really gives them a sense of playfulness.

I remember seeing lots of TV ads for Busch Gardens in the early 1980's, but not before and not since.

Chuck said...

Mark, loved the photos and commentary! It's always interesting to see the early days of any theme park, especially since this predates my one visit (also in 1979, Ken; I think I remember you - weren't you that guy wearing clothes who was taller than me?).

The Dutch angles made me think "Meanwhile, in the Giraffe's lair..."

I think that "mutant wolf" is actually a juvenile gack. Its horns have yet to fully develop.

Thanks so much for sharing, Mark. Looking forward to the next installment!

Major Pepperidge said...

I am reasonably sure that everybody in the U.S. has been to Florida - except for me.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! Keep them coming!

Mark H. Besotted said...

Thanks, everyone, for the warm response.

Scott, I only got to visit once, around the age of 12. I wasn't a coaster kid, but I vaguely remember enjoying the place, including our dinner at The Old Swiss House.

Ken, thanks. I'm enjoying the process of scanning my family's five-decade history, and it's always a delight when other people can enjoy the pictures too.

Melissa (Hi, Melissa!), I was captivated by The Green Granny too, but I couldn't figure out how to introduce the phrase "gangsta lean" into my comments.

Chuck, you must be right. I fear they later sedated that Junior Gack, and sold kiddies the chance to throw rings at it.

Major, it's never too late. There's still a lot of old-school fun, from the Gatorland Jumparoo to the Cypress Gardens ski show.

Anonymous (can I call you Anakin?), thanks.

Dean Finder said...



Major Pepperidge said...

Dean Finder, I always appreciate a good Simpsons reference, but in this case we can HAVE IT ALL!

TokyoMagic! said...

I am super late to the party, but I enjoyed these pics very much. Thank you for sharing your family photos, Mark! And I can't wait to see more! I was going to say I can't wait to "see more butts" (to get another Simpson's reference in), but that would just be inappropriate. I do hope the Knoxville World's Fair pics include a photo of the wig storage room located at the top of the Sun Sphere!

Melissa said...

There's also the Weeki Wachee mermaid show, which has been going on since 1947.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark and Major, for sharing these wonderful pics.