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21Country: Memories of the Zoo

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Daryl and Gerry Benson loved photography and film.

And their favorite subjects were their children.

“I was the first born, but there were quite a few slides of me,” Kim Goodin said, “but by the time my little brother was born, and sister, there weren’t so many.”

When her parents died, Goodin and her siblings made the expensive decision, to digitize what slides and film reels they could.

“We knew there were so many of these videos, the movies,” Goodin told us.

But after decades they had forgotten what memories were preserved.

Even with efforts to save what they could, some of their parents’ contents were too degraded to be turned digital.

“The one we were able to save was my 9th birthday party in 1965,” Goodin shared, “I think of all my birthday parties, that’s the one I remember the most.”

That’s because it was at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, the very first year it opened.

“It was pretty small back then,” she said, “not a lot there.”

The film shows bears, prairie dogs, and other animals that were on display in the once small property.

A rare moment shows Gerry out from behind the lens, in the petting zoo.

“She just loved the video camera. Back then it was like a trend setter - not many people did it, but she pretty much recorded every event, birthday party, or whatever,” Goodin continued.

In a way, the Bensons were archivists of many beloved family events in 21Country.

Other videos show the Three Rivers Festival raft races, in their fifth year, the Jack & Jill Amusement Park, and a backyard carnival hosted by Goodin and her siblings to make money from the neighborhood kids.

Goodin’s once thought her time in Fort Wayne would be limited to her childhood.

As a young adult she moved to New York and never planned on returning to the Summit City.

But in recent years, through social media, she connected with the neighbor boy from her youth.

Frank Goodin, would become her husband, and Kim once again found herself back in 21Country.

And now in its 57th season, the pair would find themselves at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo together, decades after those fond memories.

There was a little reminiscing, and a lot of catching up on lost time.

“I’m looking around at all the kids and seeing how much pleasure they get out of it,” Frank Goodin said, “and I wish I could see it through their eyes again, and feel that.”

“We spent a lot of time here as kids, and its just amazing, being here again,” Kim added, “after all these years.”

Her word of advice, for those who want to keep their family’s memories alive, for future generations?

“I recommend every family, if they have things like that, to digitize them, so they don’t lose the memories,” she told us, “very fond memories.”

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out:

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