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the old days...a story


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Posted by kw53 on May 09, 2003 at 16:29:07:

(You kids...why, when I was your age, I had to walk eight miles to school. Uphill. Both ways! Aaggghhhh....)

Rotary phones. Bread was 25 cents a loaf. Gasoline, 25 cents per gallon. A house was $15,000, and a decent income was $8,000/yr. I grew up on Long Island, and the night sky had no satellites in it because humans had not yet gone into space (the first satellites orbited for just a brief time and then fell back).

I chased frogs, turtles, and snakes in the still-wild marshes, and regularly visited a pretty good pet store owned by a family for years. The store was in their old house, and it was huge. It had a good herp section for the day. It was stocked with the usual suspects, like baby green turtles for a quarter, but had a lot of stuff for more serious collectors, including baby Bci for $8 apiece. Eastern Indigos were $18 each. They were not on the Endangered Species List because the Endangered Species Act had not been passed. Once, at the pet store, I met a guy who had an Indigo for sale, and my parents took me to pick it up. They were very indulgent parents. This guy was a boa nut who did a lot of business with the Philadelphia Reptile Exchange, one of the larger herp importers of the day. He would impulse buy boas of all kinds, then dump them cheap to make room for his next purchase. I got most of those dumpers, and they included Suris, Pervians, baby anacondas, an Emerald Tree (those were expenseive--$35 each!) and odd little things I had never heard of like Bimini boas, Ground Boas (Tropidophis). I generally had some 40 snakes including a dozen to twenty boas and pythons that I meant to keep or was holding to trade (very indulgent parents).

This went on for years, and I saw just about every color phase and morph of boa there was--flaming pink suris, salmon-colored Columbians, and all cheap, cheap. Most under $25.

For all that, though, they were all wild-caught imports. Ticks, worms (no herp vets in those days, they lived or they didn't), God knows what else. Jungle fever. Then it was gone. International hostility shut down or limited the exports from tropical America, and Congess passed the ESA (a much-needed bit of legislation--I know; I was there. People would have sterilized the planet if they hadn't been stopped). From time to time, things would come in for a bit, but always to be shut down again. American hobbyists hadn't got the habit of captive breeding on any scale, like the Europeans had for years, so when the most recent imports died, things got pretty dry until the next wave of imports. I drifted away from boas (but not herps), and when I looked again, it was the late '90's, and things had changed. Everything is available that could be had back before the shut-downs of the late '70's, and all captive bred. Not only that, it's been selectively bred, and the quality is so far beyond the old stock, it's like I'm seeing some of these strains for the first time. Growing up without parasites really makes a difference. Even novice hobbyists have a commitment to quality of care for their animals, and access to more information than I knew was possible via the Internet. These are high times for the herp hobbyist.

I guess could use some 25 cent gasoline, and a $15,000 house wouldn't hurt, either, but as far as herpetoculture, the old days can lay quiet in their grave. These are the good new days. Rock on.


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