My childhood on the farm in Ohio was quite blessed with many different adventures that involved a lot of animals and even more imagination. One of the staples of my week was a television show out of Cleveland on WEWS called Captain Penny. From 1955 to 1971, Ron Penfound was Captain Penny and he hosted cartoons, The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals and more. On any given day, you could find me in front of his noontime or early evening show trying to get the “snow” out of the television by rotating the antenna on the roof through an electric motor with a compass on it. One of my favorite guests on Captain Penny was Jungle Larry and Safari Jane. How I loved what they did with the animals on TV.
Jungle Larry Telzlaff would present various animals from his Cedar Point Safari Island location in Sandusky, Ohio. Jungle Larry was dressed in a safari hat with a leopard hatband, a khaki cargo shirt and khaki pants. And he loved God’s creation and called the animals “Wonders of Nature.” As a young boy, Larry Telzlaff of Kalamazoo, Michigan, had a fascination with animals and reptiles. Like me, he collected wildlife and studied them. In fact, he collected snakes, made homes for them, and actually charged a two-cent admission for people to see them in his back yard—all this while he was still in high school. His love for animals eventually landed him a job with a famous animal collector that took Jungle Larry around the world.
Each week, I couldn’t wait for Jungle Larry’s segment on Captain Penny. There was so much to learn about God’s kingdom. Prior to this program, my world of animals and wildlife was limited to those on the farm. Jungle Larry taught me about training animals. I even had seven frogs one winter that I trained to ride through the house atop my Tonka trucks. To this day, we laugh about how I would take those frogs out of the aquarium, place them in a line on a towel on the floor, and they would wait their turn to ride around the linoleum dining room floor. When they finished their ride, they would patiently sit while the others took their turn before I put them back in the water. I even had a little suitcase where I carried stuffed animals and those old plastic “cootie” bugs that you would build out by putting on their legs and heads.
Visitors to the farm would have to endure my “Jungle Bill” presentation where each of the animals represented something I found on my imaginary safari in Africa. They would have to hear my diatribe against poachers. Jungle Larry also inspired my lifelong desire to go to Africa. I was in love with the culture and adventure that I lived through him each week. And when I finally got to Africa in the 1990’s, I fell in love with the people of Ghana. And today, that love continues as we work together to feed, clothe, provide clean water, and education against human trafficking (a different kind of poaching). I’m thankful for Jungle Larry and his appreciation for Genesis 1:28 where God gave man dominion “over every living thing that moved upon the earth.” And I’m thankful that he sparked God’s plan for my life in connection with Africa.