Ivan and West Pierce Fire & Rescue Station 21

West Pierce Fire & Rescue Station 21

Some time ago, a good friend Theadora Harding, informed me that West Pierce Fire & Rescue Station 21 had decided to adopt Ivan the Gorilla as their mascot.  I reached out to Fire Chief Jim Sharp to inquire if my uncle Ron Irwin and I could visit the Fire Station for a photo with the crew. Upon…

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Be Ivan – Red Boiling Springs Elementary School

Be Ivan - Red Boiling Springs Elementary School, TN 2023

Heading to Tennessee For the past few years, Larry and I have hosted a presentation about Ivan’s life for Ms. Januarie Alred’s class at Red Boiling Springs Elementary School (Go Bulldogs) in TN via Zoom.  This year, thanks Ms Alred’s and the generosity of the Macon County Arts Council, who sponsored the cost of our…

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Ivan’s Compound – The Space He Left Behind

The central area of Ivan's compound

After the B&I Circus Store changed hands in 1995, I swore I would never return.    This store that had once brought so much joy was now haunted. It was filled with many ghosts of years long gone.    Time does soften those feelings, and after twenty-five years I had decided it was time to…

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Heirs To A Story Like No Other

Our story: Ivan the Gorilla and family

My Grandparents, Earl & Constance Irwin, started the B&I Circus store back in the early 40’s and from my earliest memories, Ivan was always a part of my life and family. My sisters and I often state how incredible our childhood was, largely due to the influence of our close family state. As a child,…

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The Bicycle

Ivan the Gorilla on the shoulders of Larry Johnston riding a Solex Bicycle

Larry Johnston & Ivan the Gorilla® circa 1964 at the B&I Circus Store.     The Solex Electric Bicycle company wanted to introduce their new motorized bicycle & feature a photo shoot with Ivan for commercial purposes. Ivan & I would take many adventures together, but he had especially loved to ride on motorcycles with…

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My Perspective: Disney’s The One and Only Ivan

Sammy the elephant on the merry go round as featured in Disney's The One and Only Ivan

I watched the newly released Disney movie, The One and Only Ivan, over the weekend. For many, this may be a fascinating movie, but for me, it was epic.     The film had captivated me from the beginning. It opened with the introduction of Henrietta, a chicken that played baseball. We actually did have…

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For A Friend

The One and Only Ivan - Applegate autograph

August 20, 2020 Today, August 20, 2020, is the eighth anniversary of the passing of our friend Ivan the Gorilla®. Tomorrow Disney will release their motion picture adaptation of the novel “The One and Only Ivan”. Through the years much has been said about my family & our connection to Ivan, my grandfather should not have bought Ivan as…

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A Christmas Tree for Ivan

Ivan and his Christmas tree

Throughout his time in Western Washington, Ivan the Gorilla® was adored by the area’s youth, especially during the Christmas season. The children of Madison Elementary in Olympia, WA decided to show their appreciation to Ivan’s friendship in the winter of 1985. While spending time in the bedroom of his 1600 square foot compound, the children…

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How Ivan Helped Build Interstate 5

Ivan working the heavy equipment on Interstate 5 in Tacoma

The year was 1964. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 29, 1956, gave birth to the construction of the new Interstate 5. The Superhighway would stretch 277 miles across the state of Washington closely following ancient trails once used by the indigenous Native Americans &…

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