Story Time: Jerry- The World's Most Human Chimp


Once upon a time in the middle of the 20th century, there lived a man named Jack Dutton. He was an average guy- nothing extraordinary about him, except that he owned some fancy parrots and a chimpanzee named Jerry. He and his wife Dorothy were raising Jerry as their baby. Little Jerry slept in a crib and wore diapers just like a human baby. Pretty soon, he was potty trained and was sleeping in Dorothy and Jack's bed. Life was good. It wasn't long before Jack's neighbors in Fullerton started complaining about all of his exotic pets. But Jack wouldn't consider giving up his "baby boy". He was cramped for space anyway, so he bought an orange grove in the sleepy farming town of Anaheim, California and relocated to settle down to a quiet life with his wife and chimp.

But Jack and Jerry's life would be anything but quiet. Click through the jump to read the amazing (and TRUE!) story of Jerry the World's Most Human Chimp!

One day, Jack Dutton was talking with some of his local orange grove owners and he found out that a lot of them were mysteriously selling their property. Rumors were going around that the cartoonist, Walt Disney was buying up land in Anaheim to build some sort of amusement park. Jack started to piece the information together; and using a map, he quickly realized that his property was just a hop, a skip and a jump away from what was soon to become Disneyland.

swjunglemapfgkjn.jpgHe heard unbelievable things through the grapevine- there were plans to build a river with a steamboat, a city of the future, a wild west fort, and a make-believe jungle populated by robot wild animals... Jack sat down at his kitchen table with a map of his orange grove and began to daydream. If Disney was going to make a jungle with fake animals, why not create a REAL jungle with REAL animals? In his head, he saw a jungle themed restaurant and garden with Jerry, "The World's Most Human Chimp" as the centerpiece attraction. Jack sat up all night drawing up his plans.

The next day, he rolled up his maps and bundled up all his notes and went down to Bank of America. Building his jungle was going to cost a lot of money, so why not try to get a loan? His friends thought he was crazy, but as soon as he pointed out the location of his orange groves on the map to the bank manager, the whole tone of the meeting changed. You see, Walt Disney was being financed by Bank of America too, and the bank knew even more about what Disneyland would eventually become than Jack did. Jack walked out of the bank in a daze. They had given him more money than he could have ever dreamed of!

Jack went to work transforming his orange grove into a jungle showplace. He dug a pond and landscaped around it with tropical plants from around the world. He assembled a menagerie of animals- a bear, ostriches, elephants, exotic birds and even an old, worn out circus lion- and of course, Jerry.


Jack built a restaurant called "The Palms" which was shaped like an L around the front corner of his property. To one side was a coffee shop, cocktail lounge and a beauty shop (aptly called "Headhunters"). Around the other side was Jack's living quarters- a spacious home where he could live among his animals and oversee the operation of his jungle themed attraction. Things were great. Walt Disney often entertained big name celebrities at the construction site of Disneyland, and they had nowhere else to go for dinner afterwards than The Palms. No matter how big a star, Jerry still stole their limelight.

Jerry lived in a typical little boy's bedroom, no different than any other boy in the 50s- but there was one difference. One whole wall of his bedroom was a floor to ceiling sheet of glass facing out onto the gardens. Visitors to the Jungle could stand outside and watch Jerry's typical day from beginning to end...

Every morning, Jerry would wake up and get out of bed. He would bathe himself and brush his hair and teeth. Then he would go to his closet and select his pants and shirt for the day. He would get dressed and head out the door for the restaurant. Jerry would make a grand entrance to the applause of the diners having breakfast in the coffee shop. Jerry would grab a newspaper off the rack and hop up on a stool at the counter. A waitress would patiently take the order as Jerry carefully examined the menu. Jerry's lips would flap in a simulation of speech. The waitress would listen carefully, "Yes Jerry, ham and eggs... over easy... wheat toast... milk and orange juice..." Jerry would open the paper (usually upside down) and sip his milk just like every other patron in the place. When the food arrived, Jerry would eat with a knife and fork and a napkin tucked under his chin. It was a truly remarkable sight.

Disneyland was nearing completion, and Jack Dutton knew that he had a tiger by the tail. He decided it was time to come up with a major league publicity stunt. He called all of the reporters for the papers, news services and theatrical newsreels and invited them to breakfast on the same day. He wouldn't reveal what he was up to, but he told them all the same thing... Bring your cameras!

swpalmsmenudfh.jpgOn the appointed day, the reporters packed The Palms and chowed down on as much bacon and eggs as they could eat. When they were full, the waitresses directed them to all go out to the parking lot. It was time for the "news event". As the reporters looked on in shock, a sports car zipped around the corner- a little convertable two seater- and at the wheel was none other than Jerry the World's Most Human Chimp! Jerry was dressed to the nines in a long driving coat and hat and goggles. Next to him in the passenger seat sat Jerry's proud dad, Jack Dutton.

Dutton had purchased a little right hand drive MG and had lowered the steering wheel out of sight between his legs. A set of fake arms were clasped behind his head in a relaxed pose. Jerry had a dummy steering wheel and had been taught to turn it along with the direction of the car. The effect was astonishing- so astonishing in fact that the reporters just stood in a slack-jawed daze and didn't fire a single shot. Jack was concerned that they hadn't got any pictures, so he wheeled the monkeymobile around the block so he could come back around for a second time.

This time the reporters were ready. They were all in their cars, and when Jerry and Jack pulled around the corner, they took off after them in hot pursuit. Jack had to improvise on his feet, so he headed downtown... to the traffic circle at the heart of Orange, California's old town. Jerry and the reporters went around and around in circles around the park. Until the cop arrived...

One of Orange's motorcycle cops spotted the traffic mess and identified the little MG as being the cause of all the problems. He put on his lights and siren and pulled the car over. He marched up to the door and was astonished to find a chimpanzee at the wheel. Jerry was all ready for him. He pushed his goggles up on his forehead, reached in his pocket and handed the officer a toy driver's license, complete with an ID photo of Jerry's mugging face! The cop scratched his head in amazement. POP! POP! POP! The flashbulbs fired. The next day, Jerry and the cop were featured in every major magazine, newspaper and newsreel in the nation. And Jerry had made a new friend- the cop was so pleased to be a part of the whole affair, he made regular visits to The Palms (where he ate meals at no charge!)

Disneyland finally opened in 1955 to huge crowds, and Dutton's world started spinning out of control. Teenagers broke into the gardens at night and teased the animals. Someone stole the flamingos out of the pond. One day, Dutton was out walking near the lion's cage. He arrived to find a young couple sticking their baby through the bars to take a picture of their kid with the lion. He rushed in and pulled the baby back. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" he raged. The father explained that they thought all of the animals in the Jungle were tame. The old circus lion may not have had all his teeth, but he certainly wasn't tame!

The insurance company that covered liability for The Palms and the Jungle caught wind of the problems with the animals (after several lawsuits) and raised their rates. Dutton had reached his last straw. The animals had to go. He sold the elephants and the bear, and gave the alligators away to a zoo. Pretty soon, all the animals were gone... all except for Dutton's "baby boy", Jerry the World's Most Human Chimp. Dutton swore he would never part with his simian son.

Dutton dressed Jerry in a gardener's outfit and gave him gardening tools and a hose. Jerry happily wandered among the guests watering and raking. But it didn't last long. One afternoon, Dutton heard a furor coming from out in the garden. He ran out to find Jerry tossing a toddler ten feet in the air and catching him over and over. He quickly intervened and hustled the boy off with his parents. The kid had actually enjoyed the play and the parents weren't upset. But this couldn't go on. Jerry had become an adult chimpanzee. He had the strength of several men.

Sadly, Jack moved all of the furniture from Jerry's glass walled bedroom into the lion's old cage. He tried to make it look just like his room in the house. But when he put Jerry inside and closed the door, Jerry had a nervous breakdown. The chimp cried and cried- all night long and into the next day. He wouldn't stop crying. It was heartbreaking to see. Jack tried to find baby sitters to look after Jerry during the day, but it just didn't work. He called zoos, but none of them would take in a "humanized chimp". Jerry required too much attention for a public zoo to be able to deal with. Finally, Jack Dutton sealed off the entrance to the Jungle and closed it to the public.

Every day, Jerry got up and got dressed in his gardener's outfit. He puttered around the pond hoeing and hosing, but there was no audience of tourists around any more to watch him work. He was all by himself in the Jungle.

One day, Jack Dutton handed Jerry a shovel and a hoe and told him he could do his favorite thing- go out and dig a great big hole. Jerry thought digging was terrific fun and eagerly set to work. The day passed leisurely. Jack sat by the pond with Jerry just like old times. Around sunset, Jerry's friend the cop showed up for a visit. Jack and the cop had a cigarette watching the sun set over the canopy of lush palm trees. Jerry continued to play- digging in his hole.

Jungle Sunset

Finally as the last rays of the sun played over the rippling pond, the cop stubbed out his cigarette and reached for his service revolver. He held it to the back of Jerry's head and pulled the trigger. Jerry fell face forward into the hole.

Decades later, Jack Dutton lived in a trailer park a few blocks from where The Palms had stood. As he browsed through his scrapbook looking at the photographs of Jerry with all the movie stars, and the newspaper clippings of Jerry getting the traffic ticket, a tear came to his eye. "I loved Jerry like my own son. But if I had it all to do over again, I would never have humanized a chimp."