Cinema, or perhaps a trip to the zoo which was inside a store? It was a choice that people in Hartlepool had available to them many decades ago.
Robinsons in Lynn Street had attractions such as anteaters and baby kangaroos.
It was a short-lived venture and author Graeme Harper tells us more in the second of his series of articles for the Hartlepool Mail.
There were many attractions in town for the people of Hartlepool on Saturday July 14, 1928.
Cinema goers could enjoy WC Fields latest film ‘Running Wild ‘or see Mary Pickford in’ Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall’.
For the more curious, Yvonne Astra – ‘the enchantress with the magic crystal ‘– was all set to read minds at the town’s Palace Theatre. Whilst over at the Empire there was Horace Goldin ‘the Royal Illusionist’, with his ‘50 tricks in 50 minutes.’
Saturday shoppers would have been tempted a sale at the popular department store Robinsons on Lynn Street. And whilst there, why not pop in to visit their newly opened zoo.
Robinsons had opened in the town in 1875 and in early in 1928, customers could watch animals for a small charge.
The promotion for it said: “‘There’s a wonderful treat for the Children (although grown-ups too will be interested)- a real live Zoo at Robinsons - genuine Wild Animals, monkeys, kangaroos, Fighting Anteaters, here in our Coliseum Section. Admission 2d.’
In August, another advert brought further news: ‘let the kiddies spend an interesting half hour visiting our zoo this week. They will find intense amusement in the antics of the Monkeys, the queer Coatimundis from South America, the baby Kangaroos and the Birds.’
The monkeys were rhesus macaques called Jenny and Babs and were a mother and her offspring.
As for the’ Fighting Anteaters ‘– males of the species are aggressive towards each other in the mating season but otherwise live a quiet solitary life being mostly nocturnal.
Kangaroos require a lot of space and are not easy to keep in captivity- certainly not in a department store. It is likely that these were actually wallabies. Coatimundis’ are south African mammals rather like a raccoon.
In October 1928 – just a few months after opening – it was announced that the zoo was to close.
‘Let the little people pay a farewell visit to our famous collection of live animals,’ said the advert.
The reasons for the closure are not known but it would be safe to assume that successfully keeping a healthy collection of exotic animals in a shop would not
After all, anteaters eat ants, and copious quantities of its favourite food would not be easy to procure. The assorted creatures would also have given off a
collective aroma that might have made the Robinson’s shopping experience a little challenging.
In the end, there was probably not enough interested customers willing to pay 2d.
Robinsons was sold to Debenhams in 1964 and the Hartlepool building was demolished around 1970.