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Benson’s Wild Animal Farm

Some might say it was a place of horrors, the world didn’t know any better and I honestly believe it was a simpler time and the animals were well cared for. Others might remember it for its gaudiness and the wonders it brought to a rural New Hampshire town. Many, who visited it as children, will remember it as a magical escape that fed your imagination for weeks to follow.

Benson’s Wild Animal Farm was a Sunday afternoon treat with my grandparents. We would arrive in the dusty parking lot and leap from the monstrous 1960-something Buick. The parking lot alone was an adventure in all the exotic vehicles gathered, waiting for their families to return. More than a farm, Benson’s was an adventure that balanced amusement park rides  with ponds and shady winding paths between the exhibits. There were clowns selling balloon animals, hats, and souvenirs such as dyed rabbit’s foot key chains that would be cherished for years.

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Today it is a public park through the hard work of volunteers and the support of the town government. I was surprised when we wheeled into the parking lot in Laura’s Jeep. Having grown up nearby, she had her own memories and tales of the original venue. Some remnants of the original remain and have been restored.

High atop a hill in a shady glade that was Story Town, the Old Woman’s Shoe has been shined up and stands tall. I have to take exception with the “politically correct” version of the saying that accompanies it, however.  In my memory “…she whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.”

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It is a whopping big shoe. Suddenly  a memory; wishing I could look down into the toe, which was where I was sure the children slept. Perhaps the kitchen was in the heel? Why did she have so many kids? Who would think of living in a shoe? I needed more information…

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8 comments on “Benson’s Wild Animal Farm

  1. Doppleganger says:

    You do indeed live in a wonder filled state!

    1. Now don’t forget, you used to live here too!! Wonders are where you find them…

  2. Didn’t the train run under the shoe? My strongest memory of Benson’s was having to walk about 5 miles to the nearest house after my father’s car broke down on the way home.

  3. Well, so there you go! Everyone has weird memories from Benson’s! There is an really interesting article here http://www.nhmagazine.com/October-2011/Bensons-Wild-Animal-Farm-Revisited/, and the last guy to own it has been on Chronicle telling his story. It is a magical place in so many ways. Disney got ‘nuthin on Benson’s!

  4. Joanne Corey says:

    I remember going to Benson’s on school trips.

    1. Hi Joanne! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It was a magical place though the PETA folks would probably have an issue with the zoo part these days. Glad I stirred up some memories!

  5. mariekeates says:

    We had a zoo here when I was a child and I remember walking around looking at all the animals. Of course it closed when these things stopped being acceptable and I wondered what happened to the animals. Now we have Marwell, a huge zoological garden near Winchester, where the animals are not in cages and have masses of space to roam. It has a breeding program to reintroduce endangered species into the wild.

    1. The animals from Benson’s were sold off to other zoos and wild animal farms. There are little plaques around the grounds telling where they all ended up. Laura, from Touringnh.com saw the white tiger and lion at a big cat rescue preserve in Florida. I guess that would be a more appropriate place for a lion in winter…

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