That was the year young WAFB Channel 9 personality Buckskin Bill Black began the tradition of ending every one of his local children's television shows with "Remember--Baton Rouge needs a zoo!"
Fifteen years later ...
On March 29, 1970, Guest of Honor Buckskin Bill officially unlocked the gates to the Greater Baton Rouge Zoo. Sixty thousand visitors made their way through those gates that day to see Penny and Penny Too. They were the Asian elephants purchased with 650,000 donated pennies from the children of Baton Rouge through Buckskin's "Penny" Drive.
It is now 2007 ...
Baton Rouge has seen many animals make the Baton Rouge Zoo their home. Over the decades, hundreds of thousands of children and their families have enjoyed countless hours with these feathery, furry, scaly friends.
It is now time to pay tribute to the animals that started it all.
WAFB Channel 9 in conjunction with BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo, Friends of the Baton Rouge Zoo, and the All Star Automotive Group are pleased to be part of this modern day penny drive to fund the new Elephant Oasis Project.
The focal point of the Elephant Oasis will be a beautiful pavilion surrounding the elephant exhibit that will provide a shaded area for long viewing of these magnificent animals. There will be television monitors under the pavilion providing the history of both the Baton Rouge Zoo and the Asian elephant.
The attractive walkway adjacent to the pavilion will include wonderful photo opportunities including a lifesize bronze baby elephant sculpture, as well as a place for families to relax.
There are two special features of the Elephant Oasis. The first will be a bronze bust of Buckskin Bill Black. Parents will be able to explain to their children that he was the man who started the ball rolling and encouraged citizens to make the dream of a zoo a reality.
Another participant in the original Penny Drive was Alford Safe and Lock. They provided the custom designed safe into which thousands of children funneled their hard earned and carefully saved pennies. As part of the Elephant Oasis Project, Alford will permanently install a safe at the pavilion, so that families can continue to make financial contributions to ensure ongoing zoo education and improvement projects.
Details of the Elephant Oasis Project
Over the course of the next six months, WAFB and All Star Automotive will be educating people on the project and will provide fun opportunities to be part of the fundraising campaign. Reminiscent of the "Penny Drive" of the 1969 that was held in the WAFB Studios on Government Street, Louisiana's News Channel and All Star Automotive will hold penny drives at their Greater Baton Rouge locations.