Sandusky's slippery seal story remembered after 50 years

SANDUSKY A half century ago, the eyes of the world's animal lovers were on Sandusky, where a runaway Canadian sea lion was re
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

A half century ago, the eyes of the world's animal lovers were on Sandusky, where a runaway Canadian sea lion was recaptured after running away from home.

Cyril the sea lion -- who became better-known as "Slippery" after he made his escape from a London, Ontario, park and headed south -- was remembered Saturday in a program at the Maritime Museum of Sandusky.

About 20 people, many of them old enough to remember Slippery, watched a documentary about Slippery produced in London in 1995.

Slippery slipped away from his keepers on June 16, 1958, went into the Thames River and made his way to Sandusky, traveling into Lake St. Clair and down the Detroit River. He was spotted in the Maumee River near Toledo and off the Ottawa County shore before arriving in Sandusky Bay, where he lingered long enough to get himself captured.

Slippery's days as a free sea lion ended when Ken Patsch Sr. spotted him at what is now the Venetian Marina. Patsch died in September at age 88, but not before telling his family many times about the incident. His son, Ken Patsch Jr., attended the museum event.

Patsch, who lives in Berlin Heights, said in summer 1958, he was 10 years old and living with his family on Depot Street. He said when his father spotted Slippery, doubt was expressed he actually had seen a sea lion by the shore.

"He was a mechanic here in town. He was working on a guy's boat and took it on a test drive. A test run, I guess you would call it," Patsch said.

When he spotted Slippery, he telephoned the Sandusky Police Department.

"He could hear them all laughing. A guy came back and said, 'Ken, have you been drinking?' " Patsch said. "When he got home, my mom asked him the same thing."

Sandusky resident Charles David, 77, who also attended Saturday's program, could have assured Mrs. Patsch her husband was sober.

In 1958, David was piloting the Cedar Point ferryboat when the head of a sea lion emerged above the surface of the lake near his boat.

"He swam across from me," said David, a museum member who also attended Saturday's event. "I couldn't believe what I saw."

Museum director Neil Allen screened the documentary after giving a short talk.

The documentary related how Toledo Zoo staffers captured Slippery in Sandusky and sent him back to Canada after displaying him before record crowds. Tens of thousands of people turned out in London for Slippery's return. The sea lion died in 1967.