Space Farms Zoo and Museum
Beemerville, New Jersey
Nestled in the bosom of northwestern New Jersey dairy country, Space Farms Zoo and Museum harkens back to a more carefree era of tourism - a place that still labels its restrooms "Chiefs" and "Squaws."
For years, Space Farms was known as the home of Goliath, the World's Largest Bear. Goliath died in 1991 but he still does yeoman tourist duty, mounted standing erect (something he rarely did in his arthritic later years), guarding the fireplace in the gift shop.
The highlight of any visit to Space Farms, aside from the obligatory Goliath photo op, is its free museum above the snack bar. Here's where the Space family displays family mementos, odd collections, and case after case of stuff they've found on their property: dinosaur bones, the skulls of dead Indians (some with fragments of flesh still attached), the first two cents Fred Space ever earned, and of course the skull of Goliath. One cabinet showcases a dead turtle on whose belly "great-grandfather Space" engraved his initials in 1897 -- found still crawling around by Fred Space in 1942 and kept alive for 14 years after that. Fred displays the turtle belly up for all to see.
Shelf after shelf of dead animals in jars salute the visitor: snakes, possums, rats, deer. Our eyes are drawn to the beaver exhibit; one -- a baby -- dried and half-dessicated, the other bloated and blobby in an old Skippy jar with a $1.98 price tag still glued to its lid. Although we may not understand the educational value of such displays (animals in the wild, we believe, almost never submerge themselves in jars) we are not wildlife experts.
Space Farms continues to be a popular destination, drawing an odd mix of petting zoo families and stoners who really dig the name. In the gift shop, we recommend the greenish postcard of the Indian doll collection and those of Fred Space holding aloft writhing timber rattlers.