Monday, December 1, 2008

The Winstons of Pacific Grove

(Photo: Holly's Cafe courtesy of Big Bear, little penguin.)

The Winston family of Pacific Grove may be best remembered locally for the namesake hotel built at Lighthouse and 16th in 1904 (the building now anchored by Holly's Lighthouse Cafe). But in the 1890s, Will E. Winston was a grocer who bought a young sea lion from a local fisherman and discovered it could be coaxed to perform for fish. Winston obtained other California sea lions, trained them at his home on Lighthouse Avenue, and soon joined the Barnum & Bailey Circus with what they misnamed a trained "seals" act. It was a unique show, the first of its kind, and a hit with audiences throughout the US and Europe as the sea lions barked, bounced beach balls off their noses, clapped their flippers and even danced on stage in exchange for fish treats. Will eventually turned the business over to a son, H.W. Winston, who started training sea lions in a storefront on Forest Avenue in about 1915.

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