Mr. Clyde Peeling, Muncy High School Class of 1960, became the most recent inductee into the Muncy High School Academic Hall of Fame on June 3, 2015. Mr. Peeling becomes the 21st inductee into the Academic Hall of Fame. Clyde was the guest speaker for the graduating class of 2015 at the 135th annual commencement of Muncy High School.
Clyde “Bob” Peeling was born in Muncy in 1942 and raised on a farm just outside of Clarkstown. Bob as he was known to his family and friends was always a dreamer as a kid. He started with a dream of a circus with his best friend Dick Williamson and his brother Don, along with a host of other youngsters from Clarkstown. His next dream was that of a Wild West show after reading “Buffalo Bill” in his pre-teen years. That same best friend from Clarkstown introduced Clyde to his first garter snake and the shows at the Lycoming County Fair intrigued a young Bob even more about snakes and reptiles. This along with many other experiences as a youngster from Clarkstown focused Clyde Peeling’s dream of owning and operating a reptile zoo. As a student at Muncy High School, Clyde had some teachers and counselors that did not believe in his reptile zoo dreams but he had a few that did such as Evelyn Yeagle and Stan Schuyler. Bob also occupied his time on Sundays in high school at his very own Reptile Garden in Clarkstown where you could see an alligator, boa constrictor, Chinese Dragon, and poisonous snakes. He made his Biology class in high school quite interesting by guest appearances of his reptiles on Fridays.
Clyde graduated from Muncy High School in 1960 and after a brief time period exploring parts of our country and visiting many reptile exhibits and zoos across this country he enlisted in the Air Force where he would remain until 1964. Clyde was trained as an air traffic controller and focused in another one of his dreams while in the Air Force -- flying.
Clyde left the Air Force in 1964 and quickly purchased four acres of land on Route 15 which would be the home of Reptiland for over 50 years now. Like any beginning business and zoo owner the early years were difficult but Mr. Peeling was living his dream. Reptiland was originally open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The harsh Pennsylvania winters were difficult for housing reptiles and were a strain financially. To make ends meet, Clyde had to go on the road during the winter months lecturing to students in schools across America. He took his reptiles with him keeping them hydrated in motel bathtubs. He had a few mishaps with snakes escaping into heating vents and had some reluctant citizens unwilling to help him after an accident in Tennessee because he had an alligator trying to escape from the back of his station wagon. The growth of the business was slow but it survived by pure determination. The determination paid off in 1986 with Reptiland becoming fully accredited by the American Zoological Association. That accreditation continues every five years and Reptiland remains one of the few small privately owned zoos that continue the accreditation effort.
Clyde has probably had more media exposure in his career than any other Muncy graduate. He has appeared on the Jon Stewart Show, Regis and Kathy Lee, Late Night with Conan
O ‘Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Real Life with Jane Pauley, The Today Show, and ABC’s Wide World of Sports- not bad for a boy from Clarkstown.
Clyde has had the privilege of living his dream of owning and operating a privately owned zoo with his family which includes his wife Dianne, two sons Chad and Elliot, and a daughter Whitney. Long before the release of the hit movie “We Built a Zoo” Clyde Robert Peeling could say he built a zoo right here in rural central Pennsylvania.