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Tom's Monkey Jungle postcard discusses so-called Evolution.
Tom's Monkey Jungle postcard discusses so-called Evolution.

Tom's Monkey Jungle [1952-1969] (Gone)

Field review by the editors.

Eldon, Missouri

Tom Edwards was a theater owner who built southeastern Missouri's largest drive-in, able to accommodate 1,000 cars, in 1952. To attract more kids to the area he opened Tom's Monkey Jungle across the highway, essentially a parking lot and gift shop fronting a two-acre fenced-in compound.

Tom's nickname, "Mr. Show Business," is evident in the promotional copy he wrote for Tom's Monkey Jungle. He promised "more pettable animals than anyplace in the U.S.," and "an animal land wherein the inhabitants roam free, and one may cuddle the adorable creatures, or even join in their antics," and ended with the enticing, "Yes! We sell monkeys for pets."

Tom also advertised a "free gift to newlyweds," which turned out to be a monkey ashtray.

The attraction's pledge of "no dangerous animals" included baby bears and tapirs, as well as coatimundis, otters, capybaras, parrots, and lots of monkeys, with names such as Topsy and Bandit and Snozzle.

Sometimes the monkeys raced miniature cars.

Tom's Monkey Jungle closed when Tom sold the drive-in circa 1970. Today the ghost of the gift shop's foundation is just north of a place named Bob's Tire Store, screened from the highway by a line of trees.

Tom's Monkey Jungle [1952-1969]

Was on Hi-Way 54.

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