Thursday, January 30, 2014

Did You Have A Pet Chameleon As A Kid In The 1950's & 60's?

I'm pretty sure I don't know many people my own age who didn't win a chameleon as a prize at the traveling carnival as a kid. Especially in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Carnivals, Rodeos and Fairs would award us with these fantastic, gorgeous little creatures that we had no idea how to care for. Frankly, we were children and could barely take care of ourselves.


The little lizards came equipped with a tiny red string around their necks that were attached to a tiny little gold safety pin. This enabled us to pin it to our shirts and thus, thwart their otherwise inevitable escape. As I recall, they were only about 2" to 2-1/2" in length and maybe 1/2" wide. They were very sweet but hey, they were on a leash.


How were we to know we were actually torturing these delicate little guys that had no defense against us? As it turns out, the only defense mechanisms they had were the very reasons we all wanted to win one. We were told, as children, that chameleons would change colors when placed next to different colors.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't drastic change but we did see some. Or we just thought we did. They were really anole lizards but no kid wanted a prize named that, right? So, to us they were resplendent chameleons.


As soon as my brother & I would return home from the Fair, we'd be running all over the house holding our prizes up to different colors, with great, ghoulish glee as they performed their color change. Sooner or later, we'd become bored with them and go in to dinner, forgetting all about them. Days after, we'd find them in a physical state something short of fossilized, shrunken and dead. I do remember mourning the death of one or two, at least. Of course, we had funerals for them, but what little devils and heathens we were!


Oh, the misery it causes me now! Why? I just found out that those changing colors reflected their feelings of fear, anger and sheer confusion. They can't hurt you. I just read an article explaining this magical thing that chameleons do. I feel like such a serial killer because it also makes me realize that we undoubtedly must have tortured horney (horned) toads when we were children too, which are now almost an endangered species. They aren't nearly as beguiling as chameleons but we didn't have to wait around for the carnival or the circus to come to town to get them. If you just went out to your backyard where the dirt patch was and sat still for a while, they would come within catching distance. Yep, that's how we passed the long summers in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico as children.


Now, I'm worried about my own Karmic future. I hope they won't one day be sitting in judgement of my soul. If so, I'm in trouble.... deep. Don't even get me started on the crawdads (crawfish), goldfish and teensy turtles with painted shells. We unknowingly murdered them all....

9 comments:

Bodacious Boomer said...

I never saw chameleons given as prizes; but they were all over our yard when I was growing up. I still like them, whatever they're called.

Snooty Primadona said...

Maybe that was just something they did in small towns? I dunno... It seems so barbaric now.

tim 8>)... said...

Our son had 2 as pets we bought when living in Connecticut...imagine our surprise when we found them all over the place in Florida! Well, we let them go and their ancestors still live on our back porch.

Erin Sandwick said...

My mom talks about this all of the time saying she always wanted on.

Unknown said...

My mother would get them from the circus in the 1940's when she was a child every year in Washington, D.C. They sold boxes of turtle food to feed them. They only lived about a month. She said nobody felt bad about it, it was just something every kid got back then for a souvenir. I find it hard to imagine ever doing this. No photos though. I would think it would be a photo worthy event, but guess it was just a normal thing back then.

Rebecca Garland said...

My mother is 76 years old and would get a lizard on a red string collar attached to a gold safety pin as a child in the 1940's every year at the circus in Washington, D.C. They sold little boxes of turtle food to feed it. I find it hard to even imagine, but it was a normal souvenir almost all the kids got. She said hers lived for a month or so. No photos though. I would think this would be a photo worthy event, but it was actually a common thing.

Unknown said...

The last time I saw this was in 1976 at the Shrine circus in Chicago . What a Cruel strange tradition! I'm glad our dad had the sense to say no when we wanted them.

CassandraJ said...

I was just telling my husband my memories of this and even as a child how it disturbed me. It was still going on at the Puyallup Fair in Washington in the early 80s. Just awful.:(

Judy Piesler said...

The state fair in Putallup Washington gave away these little guys in the 70s😢

 

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