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HISTORICALLY HOUSTON
Houston’s Iconic Critters


The new Houston Zoo fountain enchants children and is a great photo op.

The new Houston Zoo fountain enchants children and is a great photo op.

By Amy Ahlbrand Robinson

What do a pink flamingo, a mildly ferocious lion, and a huge cockroach have in common? They are part of our earliest Houston memories. They made us happy. They scared us. They meant the beach was just around the corner.   Now they are Houston icons: the Holder’s roach, the Houston Zoo’s lion drinking fountain and the pink Flamingo Isle sign.

Are We There Yet?

“It was the almost there marker for us as children going to Galveston,” says Anna Tobias King about the pink Flamingo Isle sign. “I drove past that sign hundreds of times going to Galveston in high school!” reminisces Paul Hamilton, a Houston firefighter. The Flamingo Isle development on Highway 6 in Hitchcock was launched in the ’60s with great plans, including cable cars and the pink flamingo sign. The deteriorating sign was dismantled around 2002 when HarborWalk purchased and developed the land. The HarborWalk office displays the original photos and plans.

Don’t Put Your Head In Its Mouth!

The Houston Zoo’s lion drinking fountain enchanted generations of children. “Oh I loved those lions!” Dubravka Romano remembers. “We used to go to the zoo frequently when we were children, and getting a drink from the lions was one of the highlights of the visit!” Rick Barongi, with the Houston Zoo, explained that the original cement fountain disappeared but was replaced in 2002 with a newer model, which has become a popular spot for toothy lion photo ops and Facebook check-ins.

Bubba The Roach

“It freaked me out as a child, but it’s burned in my brain forever!” laughs Amy Collier, about the huge Holder’s roach sign on Highway 59. Connie R. Green remembers, “Ducking waaay down in the back seat, so the bug wouldn’t get us!”

“The roach was named Bubba by a radio contest,” explains Dale Bauerkemper, Vice President and General Manager of Holder’s Pest Solutions, an operating division of Copesan Services, Inc. “The famous roach sat atop our offices on the Southwest Freeway for over 60 years.” He adds, “Although Bubba became a city landmark and delighted many people who drove by, we decided to retire him in 2012 when we changed our name to Holder’s Pest Solutions.

All three of those original beloved critters are gone now. However, Houstonians who lived here in the 1960s and ’70s have strong attachment issues and still remember them fondly — even that big, scary roach.

The Houston Zoo cement lion in 1961

The Houston Zoo cement lion in 1961

The deteriorating Flamingo Isle sign, 2001.

The deteriorating Flamingo Isle sign, 2001.

Holder’s Pest Control’s employees in front of the Bubba the Roach sign , circa 1960s.

Holder’s Pest Control’s employees in front of the Bubba the Roach sign , circa 1960s.

 

 

 

HISTORICALLY HOUSTON<br> Houston’s Iconic Critters


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