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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