Wild Men from Borneo

SB Borneo 1911

“Wild Men of Borneo” was originally a name given to orangutans, apes who live in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Translated from Malay, the animal’s name means “person of the forest” or “man of the forest.” Hence the short journey in English to a “wild man” of the jungle. In Ohio, circa 1852, a showman, Lyman Warner, came across two brothers, each about 42 inches in height, and bought them from their mother so that he could exhibit them in “dime museums” and circus sideshows. Needing a background story, he presented them as having been found in the jungles of Borneo, had them wear chains and speak in gibberish, and began raking in the money. In 1880, their management passed to P.T. Barnum who made $200,000 with them. Given their success, every sideshow had to have its own “wild man of Borneo” and there were scores of imitators, eventually including even these tame examples in the Silver Bay circus of 1911. As such exhibits are offensive in so many ways to our 21st century sensibilities, one will probably not see them at Silver Bay again.

Back at Silver Bay, 1941

SB Last Felicia

This is the last of the Terzian cards I found that were sent to Felicia Gressitt; it is now August of 1941, and she has returned from Japan, perhaps at the urging of her father who remained in Yokohama throughout the war. (He survived the Tokyo and Yokohama bombings that took tens of thousands of lives, but died in November of 1945 “from unfortunate conditions connected with his residence in Japan during the war, followed by an attack of pneumonia from which he was not strong enough to recover.”) But back to Felicia: By 1941 she had married Kurt Karl Bock (who went by Charles K. Bock once the war started), and this postcard reached her in New York City:

“Dear Felicia, Rumor has it that you two have been around these parts recently! Mother did so enjoy that nice visit with you. I have a letter from months ago from you which which I’ve had with me all summer. I’d answer, but perhaps I can do it in person. I’ll be going thru N.Y.C. in a couple of weeks and we must get together. I do want to meet Kurt. Love, Teddy”

Felicia Gressitt Bock is remembered today by a Chair in Asian Studies at Mount Holyoke.

A Card for Felicia, 6

SB Felicia Card 6

“Dear Felicia, Because you can not always look at the larger picture I am sending you this smaller one. It is as beautiful, tho smaller. Your leave taking on Sunday was so hurried. Perhaps it was easier that way, but I scarcely had time to say anything to you. I wish for you all lovely things — your trip across the continent and your visit in California, your voyage across the Pacific, and your new work in Japan. I hope you will enjoy it all and that you may be extremely successful. I should love to hear from you, but I know you have many letters to write to others also, and thus I can only hope that you will write. I shall always think of you when I handle the lovely kimono, which you gave me. It was so sweet of you. How can I thank you? Bon Voyage. Cordially and affectionately, your friend, Mary E. Reed”

A Card for Felicia, 5

SB Watermelon

“And this was our ‘watermelon and marshmallow picnic’ in your honor a week ago tomorrow evening. It was all such fun, altho we were not happy at the thought of you leaving us so soon. Of course, we are thrilled that you have the wonderful opportunity that you have and I have been thinking of you today as being in Chicago. I know it has all worked out well for you. I wonder, did you go out to the University of Chicago? For two years I was on their staff in connection with the new hospital, the University Clinics. To look over at the picture I can still see our fire, the marshmallow sticks, the group toasting, and the group eating watermelon. That was another lovely party. As I have said many times, when I look back into the past it is only the beautiful and lovely things that I remember and so will this party be remembered. Again, M.E.R.”

A Card for Felicia, 2

SB Flea 2

“Dear Felicia, And this is the day of a very severe shower after which, in the evening, you and I went for a boat-ride. You were going to dip the water from one of the boats, when the life-guard boat was turned in and we took it. I am so glad I have these lovely things to look back upon for I am convinced that the remainder of the summer is going to be so strenuous that there will be almost no time for play. We have been having approximately three hundred in the dining room ever since the Lutherans left, and we are told the Industrial Conference is to be five hundred. Tonight is the Emps’ Formal, and unfortunately it is teeming. I am so sorry for them. Last evening there was to be a B.R. picnic at Slim Point and an Emps’ picnic. The rain caused us to plan otherwise. Sincerely, M.E.R.”