Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Santa Ana Zoo

Anonymous writes about his/her memories, which includes "Prentiss Park Zoo"...

Lion Country Safari

My husband drove past it daily from our house in Aliso Viejo to Irvine daily before we left CA..

Japanese Deer Park

Remember that awesome place? Those sweet deer??

Waaay back, when Prentiss Park Zoo was FREE and fun!
I don't know if it ever was called "Prentiss Park Zoo", I remember it as Santa Ana Zoo. But I do remember visiting there. This was in the 1980s, I think around 1980 actually. I was amazed by the fact that they had animals in cages.

Consider the fact that I had lived in San Diego prior to then, and was accustomed to San Diego Zoo, where animals were featured in exhibits with living plants, water, rocks, and dirt, etc., not just concrete floors and iron bars.

But it explained to why all those old Looney Toons cartoons of the 1940s would often depict lions living in jail cells.

Of course the Santa Ana Zoo is still there today, but I've never been back.


  1. I have vague memories of the deer park. Did they have a show about a monster, like the creature from the black lagoon?

  2. When I returned to Southern California on a vacation in 1972 I took my 2 children to the Japenese Deer Park. I didn't remember it being there (I moved away in 1966) but saw it as we drove by so we had to check it out. I think I have a few pictures I took there but at the time, my camera was not the quality (not a 35mm) and the pictures are those little square 3.5 x 3.5 photo's. The Koi were huge and the kids loved feeding the little deer. I'm sure we got some junky little trinkets for souvineirs - I know that I had postcards from there, as I was always afraid photo's might not turn out and bought many postcards, just in case. However, not realizing that they might have some value, or at least historical value, I probably through them out while on a cleaning frenzy.

  3. Anon,
    Your correct,It was Prentice ParkZoo!

  4. I lived across the street from Prentice ParkZoo in the late 70s to the mid 80s. the park was on the border of santa ana and tustin. from time to time some of the residents of the zoo would escape and rangers would come looking for them. My children thought that was so funny.

  5. i used to ride my bicycle to the prentice park zoo you used to be able too feed the animls there, i would stop at taco bell on grand and chestnut for hot sauce packets and throw them to monkeys they would actully open up sauce and enjoy. now the so called zoo is a tourist trap.

  6. In the 70's my father used to take us to Prentice park, and indeed you could feed the animals. I have fond memories of throwing marshmallows into the bear enclosure. I remember my dad telling us kids, "Watch, I'm going to play a trick on the orangutan. I'm going to give him this Brazil nut and he's going to break his teeth." I was astonished when the orangutan, picked up the hard nut and simply crushed the shell between it's fingers like a peanut.

  7. i remember in 72, 73, when the monkey escaped from the santa ana zoo, and drove animal control crazy for about a month. have lots of good memories of santa ana and costa mesa.anyone remember dun-rite cabinets in costa mesa?
    how about jerry burns or dennis shell?

  8. The Santa Ana Zoo was definitely called Prentice Park prior to its "upgrade" to zoo. It was one of my favorite places to visit and I begged to go there to see the monkeys. I recall a large circular cage you could walk all the way around.

    I attended two elementary schools in Santa Ana, kindergarten (1963-64) at Monte Vista and 1st, 2nd (1964-65) at Hoover. One of my classes took a field trip to Prentice Park.

  9. It was called Prentice Park back in the day. The Prentice family donated the land the zoo is on. There was a clause that they have to have 50 monkeys at all times. The Prentice family is still around. I worked at the Santa Ana Zoo as part of a high school Career Op class in 91.

  10. I visited the Prentice Park Zoo on a field trip in the late 60's. Even then it made me a bit sad to see the animals in those cages. Maybe that's why I don't really like zoos, to this day. I remember walking through an aviary at the zoo, and sitting in a grassy area to eat our sack lunches. I'm not sure if this other memory is correct, but it seems to me I visited the Deer Park in the late 70's and it had been renamed something like Enchanted Village. I was there in the evening and it was kind of weird because it seemed sort of deserted. Perhaps it was not too long before it closed.

  11. I remember going there several times and even lived in some condos just over the border in Tustin. But I cannot remember, what kind of animals did they have?

  12. Used to have my bday parties there in the late 60's. There was a cool drinking fountain that looked like you were putting your head in a lion's mouth. Loved it there, and it was free!


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