IN CHALLENGING TIMES like these we often think back to happier moments in our childhood.

My favorite place when I was a child, known to many near and far, was located just two miles away in Hudson.

Benson’s Wild Animal Farm was a sprawling zoo and amusement park all rolled into one that made its debut in 1926. Every kid I knew loved Benson’s. It was such a huge attraction that the parking lot could hold some 5,000 vehicles.

Today it is called Benson Park and features hiking trails, a playground, picnic tables and much more.

The late Nashuan and history buff, Bob Goldsack, had written a wonderful book, “Remembering Benson’s Wild Animal Farm.” He was a nice gentleman to interview, and he was fascinated by the attraction’s longtime existence.

It still boggles my mind today that a zoo filled with more than 500 wild animals of 175 different species could be safely contained inside a small town. And yet, Benson’s thrived and provided entertainment for children and adults alike for some six decades. Some Hudson residents said they could even hear the roar of the lions in the morning during feeding time.

It was so much fun for me and my brothers to run excitedly up and down through the park’s small hilly paths to watch Tony, a 500-pound silverback sitting alone in his gorilla house unamused by spectators mimicking apish behavior.

We liked feeding the camels. They would bend their extremely long necks to pick up a cracker with their big-lipped snouts. We were amazed to see zebras up close with their striking black-and-white striped coats.

I would climb the steps to visit The Oldy Lady in the Shoe to see orange-pink flamingoes in the distance standing gracefully in the pond. Somehow, those steps never got old. When you’re a young child, the world is a simple and safe place.

Of course, we all have our favorite animals, and mine were the elephants, tigers and lions. I recall an elephant named Tania. I was fond of her because Tania is my middle name.

Enjoying a hot dog and an icy Coke slushee with a plastic spoon on a hot summer day was the highlight to the afternoon.

Visiting Benson’s Wild Animal Farm was a dream come to life. It wasn’t Disneyland, but to those of us who grew up here, Benson’s was “the happiest place on earth.”


Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at