Zoro Garden Nudist Colony

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Cover of the official Zoro Gardens program, 1935.

Zoro Gardens Nudist Colony was an attraction at the 1935-36 Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park in San Diego, California. It was located in Zoro Garden, a sunken garden originally created for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. Billed as a nudist colony, it was populated by hired performers rather than actual practicing nudists. The women wore only G-strings; the men wore loincloths or trunks.[1] The participants lounged around in their "colony", played volleyball and other games, and performed a quasi-religious "Sacrifice to the Sun God" five times a day. Fair attendees could pay for admission to bleacher-type seats, or they could peek through knotholes in a wooden fence for free.[1] On August 27, 1936, the colony closed, allegedly "after an argument with Exposition officials about finances."[2]

Contemporary newspaper accounts indicate the "colony" was composed of actual nudists,[2] but local historian Matthew Alice has stated that the women were "wearing flesh-colored bras, G-strings, or body stockings so everything was zipped up tight." [3] However, the women were indeed topless, as countless un-doctored photographs plainly show.

1935 postcard shows the performers posing in their "colony"

Excerpted with permission from the book: "San Diego's Balboa Park" by David Marshall, AIA Nate Eagle, a sideshow promoter who, with partner Stanley R. Graham, created the scandalous Zoro Gardens nudist colony. Located in a sunken garden east of the Palace of Better Housing (today's Casa de Balboa), Zoro Gardens was, according to the Zoro Gardens program, "designed to explain to the general public the ideals and advantages of natural outdoor life." Topless women and bearded men in loincloths read books, sunbathed, and acted in pseudo-religious rituals to the Sun God. According to the program, "Healthy young men and women, indulging in the freedom of outdoor living in which they so devoutly believe, have opened their colony to the friendly, curious gaze of the public." The public’s curious gaze quickly turned Zoro Gardens into the Exposition’s most lucrative outdoor attraction. Despite protests, Zoro Gardens lasted for the entire run of the Exposition. The area is now the Zoro Butterfly Garden.

Controversy[edit]

Protests came from the San Diego Council of Catholic Women, the Women's Civic Center and the San Diego Braille Club. In response the city manager announced that there would be no "indecent" shows in Balboa Park during the second season of the exposition, which opened in February 1936. However, the nudist colony was still there during the second season.

The San Diego County district attorney, Thomas Whalen, inspected the colony the day before the opening of the exposition in May 1935 and approved it.[2] The next month "amateur nudists" demanded that Whalen investigate the showgirls as frauds, but he declined. One of the Zoro women rode through the fairgrounds at Gold Gulch on a burro and was arrested, but she was "acquitted and rode again under police supervision."

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Zoro Gardens: A nudist colony in Balboa Park". ABC 10 News. August 24, 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c sandiegohistory.org at the Wayback Machine (archived December 31, 2007)
  3. ^ sdreader.com at the Wayback Machine (archived September 27, 2007)

Coordinates: 32°43′51.91″N 117°8′52.13″W / 32.7310861°N 117.1478139°W / 32.7310861; -117.1478139