One of the many obsessions of my childhood in the early 1960s was to obtain a Detroit Zoo Key. The Zoo ran tons of TV commercials featuring this Talking Storybook key shaped like an elephant. If you were lucky enough to own one you could access these little boxes in front of each exhibit.
A voice would come on and tell you all about the animals. I never did own one but my pal Steve Teachout had one and he always let me use it on our school field trips. A very cool marketing idea that was originally created at the Philadelphia Zoo and used through zoos everywhere.
Detroit's TV Guy Ed Golick had a great backstory on the Keys.
A total of 56 Talking Storybooks were installed at The Detroit Zoo, with three free units promoting key sales. Detroit TV kids show host Bwana Don Hunt recorded the Storybook commentaries. The free message at the zoo’s entrance was as follows:
“Welcome to the Detroit Zoo. Your zoo houses many interesting animals, each with its own fascinating background and peculiarities. If they could talk, the animals would tell many true and educational stories about themselves, but they cannot.
So your zoo is equipped with Talking Storybooks. Each storybook is operated by a special key that is shaped like an elephant, and by inserting its trunk into the keyhole and turning it, you may listen to each storybook’s interesting story.
The elephant key is available at any souvenir or refreshment stand for only 50 cents and may be used again on your return. The same key also operates the Talking Storybooks at the Children’s Zoo and Aquarium on Belle Isle.”
The storybooks were removed from the Detroit Zoo in the early 1980s, and were replaced in 2003 with state of the art digital versions; complete with new magnetically encoded credit card style keys, installed by Bruce Sedley’s company, Audio Trek Inc.
FULL STORY ON DETROITKIDSHOW.COM