Those of us who grew up in the Conejo Valley may remember a place called Jungleland, a wild animal park that offered animal rides, exhibits and wild animal shows. Truly a unique place, Jungleland drew people from all areas, including celebrities, and essentially helped put Thousand Oaks on the map.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to have visited this marvelous place may recall seeing a big cat show, where ferocious wild lions came charging into a steel arena only to be halted by the snapping whip of a courageous lion trainer, that man being Chet Juszyk, my father, a former paratrooper who as a child had only one dream; that dream was to become a lion trainer.
Chet was a main staple at Jungleland throughout the 1950s and ’60s where he served as head lion trainer and also managed to tour the county working for Shrine Circus and performing animal stunt work for various movies including Swiss Family Robinson and Ben Hur.
A natural in the arena, Chet loved and respected these big cats with all his heart and used to lie awake at night listening to the roar of these majestic cats from his nearby home. He said it was like music to his ears. He led an amazing life filled with unbelievable stories from Jungleland, worldly travels and lifelong friendships, including that of his childhood idol, the great Clyde Beatty. Respected and loved by many in his profession, my father was a unique talent who entertained many. He was courageous and strong in the arena, yet loving and devoted to his family.
On Jan. 9, Chet passed away due to medical complications. His passing brings an end to the fighting acts we once knew. While he will be missed by many, his memory will always be part of the Jungleland heritage. A talented, brave performer to many and a true hero to me.
— Sandra Juszyk,