Seal College

sealMark and Ray Huling had a trained seal (actually a sea lion) act in the Barnum and Bailey Circus. In the 1920s, both men moved to Kingston where Mark set up the Seal College on Route 28, west of the Esopus Creek. He had four seals and you could visit the college for twenty-five (25) cents.

The two most popular seals were “Sharkey” and “Bud.” Billy Rowe used to take Sharkey on the road to perform at private parties, events, and to appear in films with Abbot and Costello.

Once, while driving to the Sportsman’s Show in New York, I passed the Seal College truck and Billie and Mark waved me over to the side of the road. Mark told me to follow them, and after parking at the Coliseum, they took me inside. There was a huge pool inside the Coliseum and they had me stand beside it while Billy put Sharkey through his act.

During the show Billie told Sharkey to go over to me and tell me what he was going to do next. Sharkey came over and barked in my face and then went back across the pool and continued his performance. Mark opined that I would do a good job with the seals and offered me a job, but I declined to become a seal trainer.

At that same show, a champion fly fisherman from Lexington put on a demonstration of fly casting. He put a quoit in the pool about 40 feet away and would drop a fly right in the center of the quoit.

Another attraction at the show was “the Hermit of Cold River Flow” in the Adirondacks, Noah John Rondeau. Clayton Seagars of the Conservation Department brought Noah John to the show with Noah’s little cabin that was not much larger than a dog house. Noah told of his life as a hermit.

Back in the 1930s two girls swam from Albany to New York. It took them about a week to make the trip. When they reached Kingston Point, Mark Huling let Sharkey swim with them. Sharkey slipped his harness and took off. People spent the next two days trying to capture the wiley seal. After two days, Alf Walker of Port Ewen was able to lure the seal to his boat. Sharkey had had a good time of freedom, but he was ready to come home where he would be well fed (20 pounds of fish daily) and be among his friends.

Mark Huling also owned Huling’s Barn (next to the Seal College). It was a popular night club with always a good orchestra for dancing and entertainment on weekends. After several years, Mark sold the Barn to Robert Teetsell who owned it until the flood of 1954 when it was destroyed.