History and nostalgia rolled into our local Dinosaur Park

I was introduced to a video that  I wanted to share. Fitting it in with other content is a little uneven, but I’ll contort a bit to make it as congruent as possible. It simply makes me laugh and I enjoy sharing a laugh.

I think most Californians know how the media portrays the state and we know how to laugh at the stereotypes and caricatures that at times label an entire region.

And it is a very large region. But as you already know, the greater Los Angeles area is really made up of many, many smaller cities with rich local history vital to the well-being of its inhabitants–and likely not a part of a tourism campaign.

I recently thought about how “small town” my own city can feel when my daughter brought to my attention the 50 year anniversary of a park that was very special to both my children growing up.

Dinosaur Park Play Day

I had no idea 50 years had passed since the whimsical sea creatures were installed at what was then called “Wells Park.”   DSC_9714

My grandparents lived just a block or two away in an era when it was still possible to walk directly through their neighboring elementary school at the end of their block, no locks or barriers, and with no division between the school playground and this delightful park.

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My children have the happiest memories of walking with their great grandparents and spending countless hours here. They grew up with this park. It has long been called “Dinosaur Park”  or “Monster Park” by local children, who, the story goes, saw the sea serpent as a dinosaur, and the name just stuck. DSC_0710

Fifty years ago when the sea creatures were installed I knew nothing of their significance, but in 2006, the Friends of La Laguna formed to restore and preserve “Dinosaur Park” when it was announced that the city intended to demolish it. A dedicated group of people devoted endless hours to preserve this special place. IMG_3606

There’s more than simple nostalgia contributing to why this play equipment is now listed on the California Register of Historical Resources.

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The park was designed and constructed by Mexican concrete sculptor Benjamin Dominguez. La Laguna was the capstone of his very long career in Mexico and the United States, where as an artist he blended the artistic medium of his Mexican heritage with children’s play space.

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La Laguna of San Gabriel was Dominguez’s final project. He was 70 years old when he was commissioned for this project, and using themes and characters from some of his previously installed playgrounds, our children have grown up with “Minnie” the whale, “Stella” the starfish, “Ozzie” the octopus and “Flipper,” “Speedy,” and “Peanut,” the three dolphins.

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I’m really grateful to the Friends of La Laguna for their response to save this playground. The Saturday celebration brought out many city officials and the artist’s youngest daughter who appeared to be very touched at the reception and praise of her father’s work and contribution.

If I start with my grandparents and their tie to the neighborhood and this park and then reach to my grandchildren playing on the same equipment, we’re spanning five generations. I think that’s very special all by itself.

It’s not a big tourist draw, I understand, but it’s a little gem in our city, and I’m grateful for the small town, grassroots effort responsible for preserving it for my grandchildren.

Doesn’t this have a small town feel?