A horse is a horse, of course, of course/ and no one can talk to a horse, of course/ that is, of course, unless the horse is the famous … Serrano.
For decades, he mystified and thrilled audiences, displaying psychic feats of unparalleled ability. Billed variously as "The World's Best Educated Horse" and "The Psychic Horse with the College Education," the equine known as Serrano was a worldwide legend through the 1940s and '50s, guessing ages, unscrambling words, finding objects under boxes and picking objects by color.
Born along the banks of the Santa Ana River in the 1940s, Serrano was quite the celebrity back then. He appeared on the TV show "You Asked for It" and continuously toured county and state fairs all over the country, making as much as $1,000 a day from people who thought they could stump him. A popular contest was to ask an audience member to step forward and concentrate hard on his own age. Then, using numbered blocks, the great Serrano would choose the two that matched the participant's age.
Owned by local farmer and horseman Clint Brush, Serrano wound up becoming a popular feature act at Knott's Berry Farm, performing there throughout the 1950s and '60s, back when Knott's featured other charming attractions such as the organ grinder, the seal pool, the bee exhibit, glow-in-the-dark rocks and the glow-in-the-dark Jesus from the Church of Reflections.
But some of you might remember that Serrano lived right here in Huntington Beach, at the Brush barn at Beach Boulevard and Heil Avenue.
Craig Hoxie, a Huntington Beach crime scene investigator who grew up in the area, remembers meeting Serrano at Knott's.
"When I was about 7, in the late 1960s, they picked me out of the crowd for Serrano to guess my age," he said. "And he did it! He counted off my age correctly by scratching his hoof into the dirt. I didn't see my dad signal my age. It was a great show and I'm still not sure how he did it.
"My brother used to deliver papers to the Brush home in the early '70s and he remembers seeing Serrano there all the time."
Rudy Gartner, an HB traffic parking control officer, also remembers stopping by to see Serrano.
"They had a big sign on the barn that advertised 'Serrano — The World's Most Educated Horse,'" he said. "As I remember, the property stretched over about to where Norms Restaurant is today."
Today, there is a Brush Drive a block behind here where the Brush home, and Serrano, used to stand, which I believe is named for the family, though I am still researching to verify.
Serrano died in the early 1970s, and soon after, the property was torn down and Heil was widened. According to Hoxie, the Brush family owned another stable area at the southwest corner of Heil and Newland Street, but Serrano's primary residence was at the Beach Boulevard property.
Serrano was from the golden age of whimsical attractions that kept carnival barkers in business, an "Einstein Equine," as he was referred to, whose secret powers were never formally revealed. He was also a local that entertained kids who would stop by the Brush home to bask in the glow of the powers of an "Educated Horse."
So next time you pass Beach and Heil, pause for a moment in honor of Serrano's former digs — a former barn where magic, wonder and a bit of sideshow sparkle charmed old and young alike.
Note to readers: My son and I are traveling in the Arctic. If you'd like to follow our adventure, I'll be bogging from the ship at http://www.quarkexpeditions.com/blog/introduction-spitsbergen-svalbard-chris-epting039s-blog.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at email@example.com.