Klondike founders, Mike and Pam Dennis met in 1979.
Pam (a.k.a. “Pambo”) was a bounty hunter and she’d just nabbed Professor Michael Dennis, the famous botanist and orchid expert.
Here’s the story …
Professor Dennis had been searching for years for the rare ghost orchid (Polyrrhiza Lindenii) to no avail, until late one night while watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, he heard the most exciting news of his life! Carson was interviewing two elderly birdwatchers, who’d discovered a Ghost Orchid while searching for the endangered Pygmy Zebra Owl in the protected Corkscrew Sanctuary in Naples, Florida.
“It’s attached to an old cypress tree about thirty feet up,” said Edith.
“No, dear,” said Rose. “It was at least fifty feet. Show Johnny the photo.”
The next morning, Dr. Dennis took a sabbatical from his botany duties at Harvard and set out for the Florida sanctuary. Once there, he gazed wistfully through his binoculars at the orchid and realized that he had to have the orchid for his own. He returned late that night and climbed the tree and removed the fragile flower.
A few days later, he was at home watching Good Morning America with “Polly,” the orchid, and the lead story was about Polly! The National Orchid Society was offering a million dollar reward for the safe return of the orchid and the apprehension of the thief.
In Las Vegas, Pambo was also watching GMA that morning. She didn’t give a hoot about the flower, (“Seen one orchid, seen ‘em all,” she always said) but a million bucks could set her up in her dream business—a Pizza Restaurant in her hometown—Arroyo Grande!
She called the National Orchid Society and learned that Professor Dennis was renowned in the field, so she phoned him to ask a few questions about the Ghost Orchid, and that’s when she found out he’d just gone on sabbatical. “I smell a rat. Now all I gotta do is find the rat and I’ll be rollin’ in dough!” she said.
After watching the GMA news story, Dr. Dennis realized he and Polly had to go into hiding, so he booked a flight to Skagway, Alaska*, thinking no one would look for an orchid there. What Mike didn’t know was that Pambo was already one step ahead of the hapless criminal and when he exited the plane, she was waiting with a pair of handcuffs. What she didn’t count on was falling in love at first sight with the nerdy professor. Being a practical gal, she turned him in anyway, got the reward, and told him she’d wait for him.
The professor did his time in San Quentin. While there, he started the “Jailbird Orchid Guild.” It now has chapters in prisons throughout the U.S. When he got out, he joined Pambo in Arroyo Grande where she’d already opened the first Klondike Pizza. In 1996, they opened the second Klondike in Santa Maria.
Want to learn more about orchids?
Check out Mike’s blog
All About Orchids