CHARLIE MAC GOWAN

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NHM: "Several reasons - I want to use the interview to help promote your website BluePeru, maybe get some biographical information for the record. . . . my own curiosity has to be satisfied on some things, and this is a chance for you to tell your story to the world!"

CM: (Giving me a look of skepticism) "Alright - where do you want to start?"

NHM: "How about in the beginning - when did you take an interest in exotic animals?"

Getting Charlie to relax before the interview.

CM: "In grade school, back in San Franciso, California, I would hang out in pet stores. . . . and I had several aquariums at home. My friends shared an interests in the fish and I helped them with their big aquariums. Then my dad built me an aviary so I could breed and sell Budgies. Later, when I was old enough, I got a job in a pet store and learned quite a bit about everything exotic. I would read every book I could get my hands on"

NHM: "I remember you telling me that you got your start in exports in the Philippines after your Navy discharge over there - and you were very young at the time."

CM: "I was advanced a grade in school so I graduated at 17. The Navy offered a shorter hitch if you joined before the age of 18 and I figured that was better then waiting for a draft call from the Army -so I went joined up. In '57 I was ready to get out and they let me stay in the Philippines as I had a job waiting for me with a big time salvage company owned by Chic Parsons. He was scrapping out all the war machinery left behind in the Philippines. I had been a Bosom's Mate, so he wanted me to run one of his boats. And to make a long story short - I got fired and was trying to find some other thing to do when an Aussie friend that knew about my interest in animals suggested I get into the hot market for monkeys. The Salk vaccine people needed thousands of them. I must have shipped 25,000 Macaques to California.

NHM: "So you had been a big help in saving America from Polio!"

CM: " What I did was make a lot of money in a short time. Then I turned around and bought a bar near the Navy base".

NHM: "Ah, you mean a 'Gentleman's Sporting Club'?"

CM: "Ha! That is nice way to put it. Anyway, it was a big success and I was able to buy a second one. It would take all night to cover the adventures of bar ownership in the Philippines."

NHM: "Yeah - we can leave those stories for your book. What was the next step in your exotic animal career?".

CM: "Well, I wanted to do stuff with animals again. I needed more outdoor adventure. The reptile pet trade had not really taken off yet, but I was able to have fun catching King Cobras to sell to the venom center in Manila. Good money and easy to catch - sometimes as many as 10 in a day. I just used a burlap sack to drop over them. Most of the natives are too frightened of snakes to try catching anything. Then I got in touch with Ray Folsom (Hermosa Reptiles) in California, and things began to roll. He bought a lot of exotic stuff, and I sold a lot to zoos as well."

NHM: "Like what?".

CM: "Blue Nape Parrots, Giant Hornbills, pythons - including a 20' Retic to Ray, elephants, cassowaries, …"

BRM: "Wait a minute! You are naming some animals not found in the Philippines."

CM: "The zoos and some importers wanted me to get stuff from other Asian countries too - so I went to Thailand for the elephants, New Guinea for the cassowaries. On a steamship trip to the States I met Orson Wells and asked if he wanted to go into the hold to see the elephants. After admiring the animals he gave me his card and invited me to visit him in Hollywood. I never got around to looking him up."

NHM: "So you passed up you chance on a Hollywood career. What about the other odd animals? And when was this all happening?".

CM: "1959. The trips to Borneo and New Guinea were productive. Gene Gobels in Thousand Oaks, California was buying a lot of the stuff. It was fun to take boats from one island to the next, just poking around in Asia. I can tell you there was no tourists around, no special facilities, not much air transportation or anything. You caught a freight boat here, a fishing boat to there - adventure at every turn!"

Charlie & boat driver 'Boa' securing the boat for the night.

NHM: "Maybe a 'ghost writer will see this interview and make you an offer to write a book on that period. Now, something I have been wondering about for awhile - in these many decades of handling hot snakes, did you ever get hit?"

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