On this date in 1917, the Topeka Daily Capital in Kansas ran the following photo.
The full story reads as follows:
Making pets of baby sea lions is the great fad at Seal Beach, Cal., this year. Miss Vera Teel is here shown giving “Toots” his daily ration of milk from the bottle. “Toots is about 30 days old. “Sea lion cubs are just like little puppies,” says Miss Teel. “When they are young they have all the instincts of the dog and are just as fond of humans as they are of their own sleek mothers. If the cubs are well fed and kept near people they become quite domestic when grown. They grow fat and lazy and seldom go into the water, even to fish.” ‘Toots” enjoys immensely taking his dinner from the bottle, just as any other baby might. He is now covered with many brown spots, but as he grows older these will leave, just as the fawn’s spots disappear.
We respect Miss Teel for correctly identifying “Toots” as a seal lion (a feat of amateur marine biology that Seal Beach’s founders never mastered since they constantly mislabeled seal lions in photos as seals in early Seal Beach publicity). However, we don’t have to contact our professional marine biologist friend to know that domesticating a baby seal, er, sea lion is not a good idea. Kids, friends, neighbors, Topekans, do not use Miss Vera Teel as a role model for good pet ownership choices.
A little digging at Ancestry.com unearthed some interesting tidbits about Vera Teel. Although this can’t be verified 100%, it seems likely that she was born Vera Louisa Teague in Illinois in 1896 and moved with her mother and father to Long Beach by the 1910 census. By 1916, she had married James Elford Teel, also of Long Beach and remained married to him until at least 1924, so Vera was not a “Miss” when this photo was taken. (I know! A newspaper misreporting facts. I’m as surprised as you.)
By 1925, Vera had to change all her monogrammed towels because she was now married to Frank Luke Rogers, a man eight years younger than her (Hubba-hubba, Vera!). This marriage seems to stick because she remained Vera Rogers for the rest of her life. In the 1940 census, Vera is listed impressively as being an attorney with her own practice, so one hopes her amateur seal lion expert days were over by then.
Vera passed away on January 3rd, 1983, and Frank followed her a few months later on April 7, 1983.
– Michael Dobkins