Way Back When: Monkey Terrorizes Santa Barbara

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Way Back When: Monkey Terrorizes Santa Barbara
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(Image: New York Public Library)

By Betsy J. Green

Would you believe King Kong running down De la Vina Street in May 1917? “Monkey at Large” and “Vagrant Monkey” were headlines that we don’t often see around here. “A good deal of consternation and something of fear were caused yesterday shortly before noon on De la Vina Street by a monkey at large . . . A frightened woman telephoned the police regarding the wild animal broken loose that was spreading fear among the women and children . . . several frantic women telephoned the police station to call out the reserves . . . a squad of officers hurried to the scene.”

In the end, the much-feared animal was captured, but not with the usual array of law enforcement weaponry. All it took was – a bag of peanuts. “[The monkey] did not resist arrest at all, and seemed to be perfectly happy in being borne to the city bastille by the kindly officer, and at the station, it was made a great pet of by the members of the force . . . all of whom were tickled with the monkey’s good nature and amusing ways. It was found later that the monkey was a pet . . . ‘Caruso,’ [is] a simian of talent and high degree that had played a ‘star part’ in the great [‘Flying A’] picture, “The Diamond from the Sky,” made in this city two years ago.”


Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1919 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the sixth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com​

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a-1591049931 May 23, 2020 12:15 PM
Way Back When: Monkey Terrorizes Santa Barbara

Great story! My dad started his musical career by playing in bands in the mid-1930's. He told me a story once about an act where the "headliner" was a chimp! I don't remember what the chimp was supposed to do, but the chimp's career ended wen he went crazy during a show, broke the drum set, and bit someone.

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