POSTED: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 7:37pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 4:54pm
Tyler TX (KETK) — The executive director at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler is celebrating 50 years of service.
His 50th year mark was on Saturday and his coworkers showed their appreciation for him with a surprise party.
The zoo first started in the late 1940s with less than 20 animals on 4 acres.
It's now home to almost 2,000 animals sitting on 75 acres.
"To tell you the truth you don't really think about it, your first thought is wow where did the time go," said Hayes Caldwell.
Caldwell's uncle started the zoo in his backyard.
"Word got around town that Mr. Caldwell had some animals in his backyard so people starting wandering in his backyard. And by that time he married and his wife called him one day and told him you need to come home from the office right away. He came and saw about 20 people wandering through his backyard enjoying the animals."
That is when they knew they needed more space.
Hayes' first job at the zoo was working with the baby ducks as a duck herder, and through the years moved his way up to executive director.
Looking back on the last 50 years, there is nothing else he would rather be doing.
"I love working with the animals, I love working with the people I tell our interns now that come in every semester you better be careful what you do because you might like this business, it can get in your blood," said Caldwell.
And his coworkers agree.
"A lot of experience comes with 50 years of doing this," said Scotty Stainback.
Stainback has worked very closely with Mr.caldwell for 23 years.
"He tells stories about things they did back when he was catching animals and stuff. What is cool about that is I just listen to those stories because you pick up things that he learned and I am able to apply when I go out and do that stuff," said Stainback.