Young couple’s date included zoo escape

From our June 2017 issue

By Irene (Epp) Klassen – Calgary, Alta.

It was 1949, my last year of nurses’ training, and John and I had just gotten engaged. We didn’t have money for a real date, but it was a lovely spring evening and we’d decided to go for a walk anyway.

We walked down the hill from the nurses’ residence to the city zoo, as we often did. At that time, there was no entrance fee, so it was a good, inexpensive place to relax, walk, and admire the animals.

That evening the crowd was particularly sparse: an old couple, a young family, and a few other stragglers. We strolled leisurely along, absorbed in each other, and were quite unaware of the fact that those few people around us were disappearing. Oh, well. We weren’t too concerned.

We gradually made our way toward the gate, but when we got there, it was locked. The sign beside the gate clearly said: “Closed at 10 p.m.” and it was only 9:30. What to do now?

The gate was secure. There was no call box. We searched for a crack in the fence or for something we could use as a ladder. It was a wire fence, too high to climb over and too low to slide under.

Rocks held the key

I had a 10 p.m. curfew. I didn’t want to get into trouble with Miss Casey, the matron, and John didn’t want to run into trouble with his future in-laws. There was nobody to call (that was before the days when everyone carried a cell phone).

Finally, John found two fist-sized rocks and I held a wire while he pounded and broke first one and then a second and a third wire. Then with all his strength he stretched them apart so I could squeeze out carefully without tearing my skirt.

I helped him climb out and with a sigh of relief, we walked away and made our way back to the nurses’ residence just before the 10 p.m. deadline.

For many years, we didn’t mention this incident to anyone for fear of being charged with vandalism. Privately we often chuckled about our little escapade.

I felt like the princess being rescued by my brave knight, but we wondered what the zookeeper thought when he discovered the hole in the fence but none of the animals missing!

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