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Tropical Fish and Boy Scouts

Tropical Fish
Tropical Fish Poster

When I was twelve, I’d taken an interest in tropical fish, working my way up from a ten-gallon tank to a forty-gallon show tank. Eventually my father had a wall of cases built into my bedroom, floor to ceiling, and I started breeding fish. There were a few large retail/wholesale tropical fish aquariums downtown around Canal Street and one near the Battery (at the lower tip of Manhattan). The choices in fish weren’t as great then as now, limited to perhaps twenty species. I bred fantailed guppies (something new on the market), black mollies, green heleri (commonly called swordtails), red platties, and angel fish. I crossbred heleri with black mollies and got black swordtails; I bred heleri with platties and got red swordtails. In two years, I had twenty-five tanks on the shelves, each with its own filter pump, chugging away (they ran on belt drives then). My mother would come into my room and say, "How can you sleep with all this noise?"

What did I do with all the baby fish? I sold them, of course. I bought empty cardboard coffee containers at a White Castle for about two cents each and used them over and over. On Saturday mornings, I’d take the subway downtown to one of several aquariums where I’d sell image110.jpg (33890 bytes)a few hundred of my very young fish, maybe five weeks old, for a penny each, and buy some new equipment and supplies. After a while, my hobby supported itself with a little left over for extra movies.

It always seemed natural to me to work with animals. I’d spent the summer when I was 10 on a dairy farm in New Jersey, and I’m probably one of the few "city boys" who knows how to milk a cow. Later I joined the Boy Scouts and worked my way up to Heart Scout with a sash of merit badges. I went to Scout camp for two weeks each summer, where I learned to swim and ride horseback. I remained a scout until I was sixteen.

Cincinnati, Ohio, Boy Scout Brand Citrus Label
Boy Scout Brand Citrus Label Poster

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