Sisters of the Skillet and other diversions

The Houston Zoo was a popular destination for Houstonians almost from the day it opened in 1922.  As word of head zoo keeper Hans Nagel’s ‘showmanship’ began to spread, attendance steadily climbed.  His Sunday afternoon big cat training demonstrations in The Arena drew large crowds through the ’20s and into the ‘Great Depression’ days of the early 1930s when Zoo admission was ten cents for adults and five cents for children.   That might not sound like much, but remember the average personal annual income in 1933 was slightly over $1,500.

So, if you didn’t visit the Houston Zoo during your free time in the early ’30s, what did you do?

Well, you could take in a movie at one of the downtown movie palaces.  If the movie ticket was a budget buster, there was always the radio. And that’s where the title of this post comes in.

Sisters of the Skillet, performed by Ed East and Ralph Dumke was a popular NBC radio show from 1930 to 1938. From 1930 to 1931 it was sponsored by Lava soap.

As part of the marketing plan for the show, the sponsor printed and distributed a pamphlet giving youngsters directions for creating Shadowgraphs – shadow puppets. Here are two samples if you’d like to try this at home.



In 1931, when Sisters of the Skillet was popular there were 5 radio stations on the air in Houston – KPRC (which carried Sisters of the Skillet as an NBC Red Network affiliate), KTRH, KTLC, KFLX, and KXYZ.

If shadow puppets weren’t your style, maybe you were lucky enough to know someone who had one of these.

Lindstrom Tool and Toy Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut made mechanical toys and games from pressed steel and tin from 1913 into the 1940s when war era metal rationing stopped production for a time.

 The game shown here, from the early 1930s was a simple pinball style game.  A player fired off 7 marbels one at a time from the spring loaded shooter on the left side. Players wanted to get their marbles in the ‘horseshoe’ in the middle of the playing field to double their scoring possibilities.

When Sisters of the Skillet got to silly, and shadow puppets lost their alure, a friend with a Gold Star game could save a rainy day.

In upcoming posts we’ll explore the history behind some of the art work on Zoo grounds and explore the John Werler scrapbook.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.


Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂


Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Mike DePope

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We've heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing? ... See MoreSee Less


Weve heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing?


Comment on Facebook

Ok, it took me a minute to get this. I was literally zooming in to try to find the mouse. 🤦🏻‍♀️🙄😂

Cindy Christina Angela Ramirez see I told y’all! Lol

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

That's nothing! Talk to keepers from the northern states or Canada!

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

Wow,that is so neat!

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!


Pauline Ervin

Denise Daigre

Ashley Nguyen

Vicente Gonzalez

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Brrrr. It’s cold out there! We have made the decision to close the Houston Zoo tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 17. Don’t worry, the animals are safe and warm in their night houses!

A limited number of staff from departments like Animal Programs, Safety and Security and Operations/Facilities will be onsite to perform essential services and have the Zoo ready for us to reopen Thursday morning.

A big ol' high-five to our awesome team members who braved this icy cold to come in and care for our animals and zoo facilities.
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Comment on Facebook

Safety and welfare of the animals first! Thanks guys for all you do.

Yes thank you for everything yall do to keep the animals safe .. y'all keep safe and warm

Thank you for taking good care of our animals!

Thank u for keeping those Babies safe and warm!❤️

Thank you for all you do!

Thank you for ZOO LIGHTS. it was amazing this year!

Thank you, zoo team. Stay safe!

Mandy Rinker— really? Too cold? You’re from the Midwest girl


thank you for all you do and keep the furry babies warm


Thank you for taking care of our precious animals that we love to come see!

Thank you for keeping those beautiful animals safe. 💕

Thank you for making sure the animals are safe and warm.

Thank you for all you do for these amazing animals!!

Go, Erika!!!

Thank you 💕


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