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Talk about the elephant in the room. He’s backwards!

Published on

George Mathewson

Last week we asked if anyone had information about a “mystery” photo of an elephant that appeared as part of a collection Tourism Sarnia-Lambton donated to the Lambton County Archives.

Yes, many readers said, we do. Your photo is all messed up.


The image that we published to the left shows the original Blue Water Bridge curving to the right, which is north, something it has never done. Several readers wondered if the elephant had been photographed on the Port Huron side of the river.

In reality, the slide from the Archive had become reversed at some point. When the image is flipped around to its proper orientation, (the image at the top) Jumbo is actually standing south of the bridge, about where the Souls Memorial is now located.

It also turns out the photo was taken by Phil Winch, a former TSL marketing manager. Winch, who now lives in Virginia, told The Journal it happened in the early 1990s.

He said one day he happened upon a visiting circus set up near the bridge. Always on the lookout for a good promotional shot, he talked to the animal’s trainer and found an angler willing to lend his fly rod and net as props.

“Half a dozen frames perhaps and the job was done. Unfortunately, I ran out of film just before the elephant’s encore — diving off the rails into the river,” Winch said. “Kidding of course.”

Brian Girard said on our Facebook page the man in purple is Gunther Gebel-Williams, an animal trainer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1968-1990.

Amid criticism by animal welfare activists, Ringling Bros. eliminated its circus elephant acts in 2016.

The shot, Winch added, “is a reminder too of the great work and commitment by the Village of Point Edward.”

The bollard the elephant stands on was removed during the village’s 11-year shoreline improvement project, which began in 1995.

A big Thank You to all who called, commented and emailed, and to the Lambton County Archive and its Photographic Collection, 6J 2016.045.165.


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