Hurdy Gurdy the Organ Grinder and his Trained Monkeys
Philip Charles Monroe, also known as Hurdy Gurdy, began his career as an organ grinder with a monkey, in 1970 at Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, California. He first made a written proposal for the show to Monterey City Manager, John Nail. He then appeared three times in front of the Monterey City Council, before the monkey show was voted permanent status to perform at the front of Fisherman’s Wharf. Most of the monkeys that came into Mr. Gurdy’s possession, were pets that presented too many hardships for their owners to handle. These monkeys were loved by their owners, but were in need of a qualified handler, who possessed a stable environment for the mental and physical health of the animals. The monkeys were trained to take money, while doing a variety of outlandish tricks. Over the span of 36 years as a performer, Hurdy Gurdy owned 13 monkeys. One was a black spider monkey named Buddha. The other 12, were South American capuchin monkeys. At one point in time, Mr. Gurdy owned six monkeys. This “barrel of monkeys,” lived in a room at his home–sharing the house with his long-suffering wife and stepson. The number of capuchins he owned at one time, rarely dropped to less than five. In 1993, after the trained monkey show had become world famous, it became an official concession under contract, with the California State Department of Parks and Recreation. At that time, Hurdy Gurdy changed the show’s name to “Jack Tar–The Seagoing Organ Grinder With A Monkey.” In its capacity as a state Historical Interpretation, the show officially represented California State’s Monument Number One–the Custom House. The Custom House is also a United States National Historic Landmark.
The show ended in July of 2006, due to injuries Mr. Gurdy suffered from years of entertaining perhaps 50 million people. At that time, three monkeys remained. Hurdy Gurdy contacted the animal-rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and asked for the location of an animal sanctuary that might meet the approval of that organization. PETA recommended two sanctuaries, so Mr. Gurdy rented a large recreational vehicle, and drove his remaining monkeys to an animal sanctuary in Texas. Hurdy Gurdy relinquished possession of his last beloved monkeys to this sanctuary, because the performing aspect of the show had ended. He felt that if the remaining monkeys were no longer performing, they deserved to live out the rest of their lives in a protected, outdoors environment. As of this writing, his most beloved pet, Goldie, is still alive and doing well.
As you explore this tribute to the funniest monkeys ever, you will encounter many images of them. You will also view images of Hurdy Gurdy through the years – along with other characters who played a part in “The Greatest Little Show on Earth.”