This Halloween marks the 50th Anniversary of Louisville’s Own Triceratops Visit to the Indian Trails Shopping Center on Tour with the Sinclair Dinosaurs!

We interview local dinosaur enthusiast, Rocko Jerome, about our Triceratops’ first trip to the River City on the Halloween weekend of 1968 and recent attempts to save and restore the magnificent beast!

 Rocko Jerome loves dinosaurs. His love for these colossal beasts of prerecorded history knows little bounds, and when he discovered that a life-size replica of a Cretaceous Period dinosaur created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair was gifted to the city of Louisville in the late 1960’s he became curious as to its’ current whereabouts. As a child, he admired the locally beloved triceratops when it was on display in the back garden at the Louisville Science Center. He later discovered it also enchanted thousands of children for many years while on location at the Louisville Zoo. One day the magnificent horned creature vanished into the mists of local history. Did this beloved piece of local history truly become extinct?

Sinclair Triceretops

 Can you give us a brief history of Lottie (Louisville’s Own Triceratops) and her significance to the city?

Lottie is one of nine life-sized dinosaur statues that were constructed by a renowned artist named Louis Paul Jonas for Sinclair Oil’s pavilion at the New York 1964 World’s Fair. They are truly a wonder to behold, and thousands upon thousands came from around the planet to gaze upon them. She and her siblings are of a much better quality of construction and pedigree than the sort of roadside attraction kitsch you might find elsewhere. Also, they provide a charming and durable depiction of what we knew and thought we understood about prehistoric beasts in the middle of the 20th century.

After the fair’s end, the dinos went on a national tour. After a number of years, the family was only broken up because no one had the space to take them all, even the Smithsonian. They were ultimately spread across America to be displayed at various zoos, parks and museums. Louisville got the triceratops.

She was moved around the city over the years. For a while, she was displayed at the zoo, then the Science Center, then a parking lot, then under an overpass downtown. Along the way, she was given a sort of bright “Pop Art” paint job and sustained a bit of damage, some of which was repaired, albeit a bit shoddily.  She had a leg patched and the tip of her tail is broken. All fixable. All in all, she’s in great shape, especially considering the degree of her neglect. As I said, she’s durable!  For the last decade or so, she’s been hidden away in storage.

Tell us about Lottie’s first magnificent trip to Louisville on Halloween in 1968?

The Sinclair family passed through Louisville that weekend, all on flatbed trucks. They were parked at the Indian Trail Shopping Center. Just as was the case in New York, people flocked to see them. There’s a ton of Louisvillians who were kids at the time that recall the event fondly, one of them being my mom, who was there on her tenth birthday.

What happened to the other World’s Fair Sinclair Dinosaurs?

They’re all over the place in zoos, museums and state parks across the country. There’s one that was very small that’s missing, but all the rest are pretty well looked after, making the state of our Lottie that much more distressing.

Sinclair Triceretops

How did you become involved in a community action project to rescue Lottie?

Well, after a lifetime of being a dinosaur freak and a native Louisvillian, I’m sorry to say that I only learned of Lottie’s existence just over a year ago. The story of Uncle Beazley at the National Zoo in Northwest Washington, DC found its way to me via social media. Although there’s been a bit of confusion about this, Uncle Beazley was not at the World’s Fair. He was made from a mold of Lottie for a 1967 TV program based on the children’s book, “The Enormous Egg”, which is about a kid who adopts a baby triceratops that grows too big for him to manage. Jonas, the original sculptor, also made a bunch of smaller triceratops statues that depict a younger Beazley for the show.

Anyway, I went to my friends Dave Hodge and Dave Conover and showed them Uncle Beazley, which of course, they knew all about. They hipped me to the fact that we have the genuine article right here in the River City. They happen to be a couple of big time enthusiasts of dinosaurs, mid-century design and large-scale model building/repair, so this checks off all the boxes! For a long time, they had wanted to do something to improve our girl’s situation by applying their know-how and get her fixed up, but had encountered difficulty getting in front of the right people. They really want to do the work and are beyond capable. It’s just connecting the right dots.

It seemed really heartbreaking to me that we’re just wasting this amazing thing that we were trusted with. Asking around, I found that people would remember the dinosaurs at Indian Trail and they would remember the triceratops at the zoo or museum or underpass, but almost no one knew this was the same dinosaur all along, down across these generations. I’m the kind of person who loses sleep over things like this. I had to get the word out.

I figured that social media would be helpful. I’m always into acronyms, and I came up with the best one of my life for this project: Community Action to Rescue Louisville’s Own Triceratops, or Operation: CAR LOT. She resides just adjacent to a car parking lot, and of course, we call her Lottie. I put together a Louisville Triceratops website and my friend Jimmy Humphrey made a short film about the subject. Lee Staton created a fantastic logo, and we were off to the races. WAVE 3 took notice which got us talking to the folks at the Science Center about solutions, and we’ve been moving steadily along ever since.

How can local dinosaur fans help with rescue efforts or get involved with the project?

If things go as we plan, there will eventually be a new, public location for Lottie, and the Daves, working together with a team of the best of the best, will get to give her some TLC. We need all the support that we can muster to raise awareness, and joining the Louisville Triceratops page on Facebook is a great first step.

What kind of Sinclair Dinosaur collectibles are most prized by dinosaur fans?

Mold-A-Rama machines were on hand both at the World’s Fair and on the traveling national tour, and countless kids took those home. They’re a really fun thing to collect and are the subject of their own cult following. Mold-A-Rama souvenirs were coin operated, make-on-demand collectibles, and they inspire a huge, kitschy fervor. I have a ton of them, but not enough!

Lastly, I can’t NOT ask this question. What’s your favorite dinosaur?

TRICERATOPS, baby! And I mean that. They strike me as the scrappy, “Don’t start trouble, won’t be trouble” wanderers of prehistory, and I love them the most.

The Phantom of The Ville

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