Monday, December 11, 2017

There's a New Santa in Town!

By C.J. Hirschfield

A security guard for the Raiders. A longtime home healthcare attendant for a senior with Altzheimer’s. A volunteer at Children’s Fairyland for 14 years.

Eric Martin is all of the above, and we could not be more excited about his debut this Friday, the first day of our Fairy Winterland, as the park’s official St. Nick. His life experiences have taught him what it takes to excel in the position.

Eric Martin as Santa.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Ron Zeno Day

By C.J. Hirschfield

I’ve written before about longtime Fairyland friend Ron Zeno, who died in June. Ron was Fairyland’s beloved Santa for nearly two decades, as well as a Fairyland board member, a puppet-show voice artist and a regular reader at our Friday Toddler Storytime sessions.

Now I’m pleased to announce that Friday, Dec. 1, has been proclaimed “Ron Zeno Day” by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. We’ll be honoring Ron’s memory at Fairyland that day in several ways.

Ron Zeno reading "Please, Baby, Please" at Toddler Storytime.

Monday, November 20, 2017

We ❤ Our Volunteers

By C.J. Hirschfield

As a small, local nonprofit, Children’s Fairyland depends on volunteers for many of our activities. We work with many local organizations and corporations, but individual volunteers are hugely important to us. How important? Well, this year 400 individual volunteers donated 1,600 hours of time to Fairyland, helping to ensure that our 67-year-old jewel of a park continues to shine.

Two weeks ago, we held a special event – food, drink, toasts – to honor and thank these dedicated people, whose work is matched to their varied interests and talents. Many have found a second home at Fairyland, where we shower them with fairy love. Here are a few of their stories.

Monday, November 6, 2017

West Oakland Welcomes 4-H

By C.J. Hirschfield

4-H: It’s not just for farm kids anymore.

Though historically an agricultural organization, 4-H today focuses on citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering, and technology programs. As you might imagine, rural 4-H clubs – which comprise 2.6 million young members – still dominate. But I was surprised to learn that urban clubs come in second, ahead of suburban.

Until this year, Livermore led Alameda County in the number of 4-H clubs, with three. But now it’s a tie: Yes, Oakland, California, now has three 4-H clubs as well, as we welcome the City Slicker Farms 4-H After School Group from West Oakland. City Slicker is joining Oak Town (based in the Diamond district) and Montclair (winners of four ribbons in the swine category at the 2013 Alameda County Fair).

And Fairyland is proud to be their partner.

The City Slickers Farm 4-H Club pollinator class. Fairyland horticulturist Jackie Salas is standing, right, in cap.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Downtown Organisms

By C.J. Hirschfield

During a lunch break last week, I had the opportunity to view, up close, the gonads of a flatworm. How could I pass that up?

When I was young, I dreamed of being a naturalist. So when the California Center for Natural History sent an e-mail describing a “Pop-Up Aquarium” within walking distance of Fairyland, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here was their pitch:

“Come see all of the wonderful critters that call the waters of Lake Merritt home. During the summer months Oakland’s jewel blooms with all sorts of exciting marine organisms ranging from bat rays to shrimp!”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Teddy Bear's Tattoo

By C.J. Hirschfield

Oakland resident Phil Wong, 27, is an actor, educator, musician, and comic. He’s also a featured performer in Fairyland’s latest Theatre for the Very Young (TVY) production, “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” Until the show opened, Phil hadn’t been at Fairyland since he was very young himself. So we were surprised to notice that he sports a tattoo of our Magic Key on his arm.

Clearly, he had come home.

Phil Wong's Magic Key tattoo.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Help Make a Butterfly

By C.J. Hirschfield

Around this time last year, it felt like Fairyland was running a drug operation. Dozens of people would come to our door and say that Jackie sent them; they were here to pick up the plants. 

The plants weren’t marijuana, they were milkweed – the food that monarch caterpillars need to undergo their dramatic transformation into butterflies.


Our scores of volunteers helped us find and treat monarch eggs and milkweed to prevent against disease, fostered the caterpillars at home (1,200 last year), and then released them near our park.

Well, it’s that time again, and Fairyland horticulturist Jackie Salas is sending out the word: Lake Merritt monarchs need your help! Do you have what it takes?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dear Dear Meg

By C.J. Hirschfield

Hers is the first obituary I’ve ever seen that includes the word “poop.” She would have loved it.

For three decades, Meg Zweiback helped our community’s families with young children solve problems with – as the SFGate obit puts it – “poop, sleep, siblings, schools, and everyday life.” She left us on Sept. 9, when she finally lost a yearlong battle with leukemia.

Meg Zweiback with Charley and stuffed animals.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Night of the Magical Popcorn

By C.J. Hirschfield

Fairyland’s final sleepover of the summer season on Aug. 19 was a sell-out. By sunset, 164 happy guests had arrived, set up their tents in our meadow, and prepared for an evening of family fun. Dinner was served, the rides were all operating, and my team was setting up for the 8 p.m. puppet show and 9 p.m. live performance. Our volunteers had rolled out the popcorn machine and were preparing to make popcorn for the shows. All was going well.

And then, the unthinkable: The popcorn machine failed. No popping kernels. No irresistible aroma of freshly popped corn.

Imagine it: You’re responsible for 164 guests who expected to be treated to one of life’s great pleasures – enjoying popcorn during a show. We’d made a promise, and it looked like we wouldn’t be able to keep it.

But this is Fairyland, after all. Magic happens here on a regular basis, and magic is what occurred that night.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Where There's a Will...

By C.J. Hirschfield

When Will Lewis was about 2 years old, he discovered the joy of puppets. His parents were indulgent – his dad built him a little stage for his productions – but they assumed that his interest was “just a phase.”

“It obviously wasn’t,” says the well-spoken Will, who is now 13 and will premiere his puppet version of “The Frog Prince” at Fairyland’s Puppet Fair Aug. 26 and 27. It will be his first full theatrical production. We can’t wait.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eating the Impossible

By C.J. Hirschfield

A classic dry martini, a retro wedge salad with bleu cheese, and a burger. That’s what I enjoyed for dinner after a tough day last week. Something old, something new. The “new” was that my burger was the highly-touted “Impossible Burger,” the disruptive vegan patty that will soon be manufactured by Impossible Foods in East Oakland, providing up to 80 new jobs. I enjoyed my meal at KronnerBurger on Piedmont Ave.; the burger is also on the menu at Umami Burger in Uptown.

Impossible Burger had been in the news last week. The New York Times reported that the Food and Drug Administration, which had been asked by Impossible Burger to confirm that the patty’s secret sauce was safe for human consumption, had “expressed concern.” The sauce is made from soy leghemoglobin – “heme” for short – which is found naturally in soybean plant roots and created in the company’s laboratory.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Taking a Movie for a Ride

By C.J. Hirschfield

It was just announced that megastar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will star in a new Disney live-action movie based on Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise ride. A script is currently in the works. The attraction, which has operated since the park’s opening in 1955, and which simulates a riverboat cruise down several major rivers of Asia, Africa, and South America, features jungles filled with “dangerous” Audio-Animatronic animals and reptiles, and a skipper who fires his gun to scare off a rogue hippo. (The original plan for the ride was to use real animals, but the animals would have been sleeping during the day.)

Entrance to Disneyland's Jungle Cruise ride.

Monday, July 24, 2017

This Musical Is Underwater!

By C.J. Hirschfield

Twenty-five years ago, a sparkly but selfish fish made its debut in the world of children’s books, and soon captured the hearts of countless kids all around the world.

Rainbow Fish is inordinately proud of his multicolored scales, to the point of putting off all of the fish who would otherwise be his friends. A starfish and a mysterious octopus help him understand that only by sharing the beauty of his scales will he be rewarded with good friends.

Now that story, originally written in German by Marcus Pfister and later translated into English by J. Alison James – has been transformed into a shimmering, song-filled live entertainment. And the only place you can see it right now is at Children’s Fairyland, in our Aesop’s Playhouse.

Neal Pascua as Rainbow Fish.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Twelfth Dragon

By C.J. Hirschfield

Interactive play is what Fairyland is all about. Everywhere they go, kids can engage in a hands-on way with the park and its attractions. With a playful adult by their side, kids can stimulate their imaginations and even learn. An extra plus — it’s fun!

For years, Fairyland has invited kids to discover Fairyland’s 11 dragons, who live all over our park. Some of our dragons are big, some small, and some are over your head—one is even covered all over with leaves. (We’re coming up with rhyming clues to help kids find them – stay tuned!) But none of our dragons was alive. Until now.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Home Is Where the Heat Is

By C.J. Hirschfield
The decision to locate Children’s Fairyland in downtown Oakland was made long before my time here – in 1948, to be exact. Ever since we opened in 1950, being in the heart of the city has had its up and downsides. It certainly is never dull.

Last Friday was one of those not-dull days.

Early in the morning I was awakened by the sound of helicopters over my Adams Point neighborhood – the same neighborhood in which Fairyland lives. There was a fire a few blocks away from the park, at the site of a building that was to include market-rate apartments and retail shops.

The Valdez fire as seen from across Lake Merritt early on the morning of July 7.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Voice of Love

By C.J. Hirschfield

In the 15 years that I’ve run Children’s Fairyland, we’ve presented more than 100 puppet shows. My absolute favorite is “Puff the Magic Dragon,” which we premiered last year in honor of our Storybook Puppet Theater’s 60th anniversary.

Casting the voices to be recorded for the show was not easy. Although Puff is not the main character – he doesn’t cause things to happen; he merely advises and guides – his voice was critical. It had to be a voice that was warm and soothing yet conveyed enough credibility and love so that you really wanted to listen to and believe in him.

It was abundantly clear to Fairyland puppet master Randal Metz whose voice it had to be. Ron Zeno, Fairyland’s Santa for two decades, was the only person he ever considered for the role.

Monday, May 29, 2017

In My Fashion

By C.J. Hirschfield

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, there was a women’s clothing store called Petite Sophisticate. I used to joke that this was one store that I would never visit, because I was neither petite nor sophisticated. The chain went out of business in 2010, perhaps because there were too many like me.

I thought of that store when I was recently approached to be a model in a “Movers and Shakers” fashion show for a fundraiser being put on by the good people at Family Bridges. While I have been known to move and shake, I am definitely neither a fashionista nor a model, despite having watched many seasons of “Project Runway.” 

Invitation to Family Bridges' dinner and "Movers and Shakers" fashion show.

But how do you say no to an organization that serves Oakland’s Asian community with everything from child day care to senior health care to immigration services? I couldn’t, and didn’t.

That’s how I found myself last week journeying to the San Mateo studio of the delightful and talented designer Jessie Liu. Here’s how she describes her work: “In an artistically expressive yet sophisticated [that word again!] and elegant approach each season, the Jessie Liu Collection captivates its wearers and the purveyors of style.” In my own words: Jessie’s clothes are beautiful—luscious fabrics, bold designs, all very wearable.

Selections from Jessie Liu's Fall 2017 collection. 

Jessie suggested a number of pieces, and I obligingly tried them on. We settled on a black silk long-sleeve shirtdress with a “flounce hemline featuring dramatic draping back with double layers,” along with striped silk pants with a hand-painted effect.

After the fitting we chatted. Jessie has two young children, and I convinced her that she has to bring them to Children’s Fairyland.

Then, on the same day, I ventured into downtown San Francisco, where Victor Tung Couture is located. KQED has described Victor as “San Francisco’s Own Haute Couture Master.” (“Haute couture” – high fashion – is one of those labels, like “Petite Sophisticate,” that I thought would never apply to me. I was about to be proven wrong.)

Victor Tung (center) with pieces from his collection.

Victor’s creative designs are literally unique: There were more than 200 one-of-a-kind pieces on display at his store, made from fabric he’d hand-dyed or hand-drawn. I read about one of Victor’s dresses, described as the designer’s masterpiece: It had been constructed from the cocoons of silkworms, and it took him more than four months to complete. For me, however, Victor chose a vibrant blue jacket that I’d be wearing with black leggings and heels.

At least I wouldn’t be alone on the runway. Other models included Oakland City councilmember Abel Guillen and my very own husband/mover/shaker David Stein.

C.J. Hirschfield and Abel Guillen practicing their duck faces before making their runway debuts.

I was a little nervous about modeling for the Family Bridges Gala, which honored Suzan Bateson and the work of the Alameda County Community Food Bank and Andrea Ho, super volunteer and regional vice president of Cathay Bank. But then I reflected on the evening’s theme: “Yes, We Can!”

And yes, I thought: I will.


C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park.

Monday, May 22, 2017

In Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

By C.J. Hirschfield

“My hunch is that if we allow ourselves to give who we really are to the children in our care, we will in some way inspire cartwheels in their hearts.”  -- Fred Rogers

On Mother’s Day, instead of having breakfast in bed, I was on an early-morning plane to Latrobe, Pennsylvania – birthplace of Arnold Palmer, Rolling Rock beer, and Fred McFeely Rogers – to participate in a symposium about developing and disseminating messages to improve outcomes for children and families.

I left Latrobe two days later with cartwheels in my heart.

C.J. Hirschfield with a photo of Fred Rogers at the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Party Like a Pirate!

By C.J. Hirschfield

We like to think of Children’s Fairyland as Oakland’s hidden treasure: eight acres of enchantment on the shores of Lake Merritt filled with surprises around every corner – including a pirate ship, several dragons, and some well-concealed fairy houses.

So it’s only fitting that our big Gala fundraiser this year – on Thursday, June 1 – is called “Hidden Treasure.” It’s our chance to show off our treasures in a special after-hours, grownups-only celebration.

Sally Walker and Fairyland board member Ron Zeno at the 2015 Gala.

And for everyone who attends, it’s a chance to:

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Mouse That Roared

By C.J. Hirschfield

Duarte, Calif., is a city of about 21,000 located on historic Route 66 in Los Angeles County. One of its claims to fame is that was the home of the first avocado tree grown in the state. Another is that in 1987, Duarte’s Rotary Club won a U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down the international service organization’s male-only membership policy. Later that year, Duarte Rotary elected Dr. Sylvia Whitlock as the first female Rotary president in the world.

Dr. Sylvia Whitlock

Last week I hosted this impressive lady at my home. She was in Oakland to give a speech in honor of the 30th anniversary of women in Rotary. As a woman who has belonged to Rotary for 15 years – and who became friends with my future husband through Rotary – I count myself as one of her many grateful beneficiaries.

Monday, May 1, 2017

A Good Hat Trick

By C.J. Hirschfield

Jennifer Hurlburt, Fairyland’s groundskeeper of six months, was sad.

As she worked around the park—watering, pruning, planting, weeding—children seemed to be actively avoiding her. But why?

Eventually Jennifer, who doesn’t have children and who had never been inside our fairy gates before she applied for a job here, realized what the problem might be. But it took a lost child for her to make the connection.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Celebration of Kids' Books

By C.J. Hirschfield

Kids, books, authors and illustrators: an irresistible combination – and the inspiration for Turn the Page!, a celebration at Fairyland of the role of literature in the lives of children. We held our first Turn the Page! last year, and it was a hit, with more than 25 local children’s book authors and illustrators, nearly 2,000 guests, and 365 books sold.

That kind of success calls for an encore. And so we’re thrilled to bring back Turn the Page! on Saturday, May 6, from 10 to 4.

Monday, April 17, 2017

An Ode to Two Bookkeepers

By C.J. Hirschfield

I have had two great careers with two wonderful organizations, totaling 35 years. During those years I have worked with exactly two bookkeepers, and I can’t say enough about how much they’ve contributed to the overall success of each operation – and about how they’ve made it possible for me to look smarter than I am, and to grow businesses in a way that benefits our employees and the folks we serve.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A City of Neighborhoods

By C.J. Hirschfield
Quick: How many distinct neighborhoods do you think there are in Oakland?
Photographer Stephen Texeira says the answer is 146, and his Oakland Neighborhood Project seeks to hear from all of them.
Children’s Fairyland doesn’t technically constitute a classic neighborhood. Nevertheless, Stephen invited us to participate last week in a photo shoot that allowed our Children’s Theatre kids to share with the world what their distinctively Oakland park represents to them. 
Photographer Stephen Texeira captures Fairyland’s Children’s Theatre kids and their messages for his Oakland Neighborhoods photo project. Photo by Stephen Texeira.

Stephen, who was raised in the Bay Area and now lives in the Laurel District, started the project three years ago, believing that his city was among the most misunderstood and misrepresented in the country. His goal: to change Oaklands image both internally and externally, one neighborhood at a time, by holding photo sessions featuring a local person, couple, or family displaying a sign with a message about the place where they live.
Until last week, his compelling photos graced the windows of a vacant but highly visible building at the corner of 19th St. and Broadway. For 18 months, Stephens work attracted the attention of commuters and locals. The reaction, according to the business district’s representative, Andrew Jones, was “totally positive.
Stephen admits that when he first embarked upon this project, he didn’t have a clear notion of where it would lead him. He has disciplined himself to devote four hours a day to it; the rest of the time he earns his living as a professional photographer for clients that include Alameda Health System, the YMCA of the East Bay, Mills College, and numerous dance companies.
Photographer Stephen Texeira at Fairyland's Aesop's Playhouse.

The neighborhoods project got more attention when it was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and OaklandLocal. Suddenly, people were contacting Stephen instead of the other way around.
Oakland residents have opened their homes and their hearts to Stephen. For his part, he says his goal is to make images “that are honest, emotional, funny, touching, sad, beautiful, and moving.
The project allows Stephen to explore parts of Oakland he says he wouldn’t have otherwise seen. He’s sometimes asked whether venturing outside his own neighborhood makes him nervous. No, he answers: “Neighborhoods are made up of families and kids — people who are trying to pay their rent, have a garden. That perspective is huge.”
Stephen says that he never censors what his subjects write on their signs. Often, he says, he is most moved by the folks who write the least.
The photos capture our city’s quirky, proud spirit. One resident representing Allendale is photographed with his happy dog. His message: “I promise Oakland will NOT eat your child, it just wants to lick you in the face.”
From a mom and her three kids whose Bushrod roots go back many generations: “Family.”
And from one young lady from Grand Lake: “Diversity, kindness, and local is my way of describing Oakland!”
Stephen recalls two especially memorable photo shoots. One took place at the East Oakland Youth Development Center, where he worked with kids age 6 to 14. One drew a picture of a gun; another asked how to spell “homicide.” But hearts, butterflies, and trees were also represented in abundance.
Another involved Maybelle Broussard, a 102-year-old resident of Toler Heights who passed away a month ago. In 1932, she was one of a handful of African American students admitted to the University of California at Berkeley. She earned a B.A. in languages in an era when few women of color and only 10 percent of all Americans attended college. “Her message read like a Visit Oakland ad,” says Stephen: “Not too large a city,” “Lots of hills, fabulous views, good transportation.” Her message closes with “Many cultures are living together here peacefully.”
Maybelle Broussard.

“A remarkable woman,” Stephen says.
The shoot Stephen did last week with one of our Children’s Theatre casts was great fun for all of us. A sampling of their messages: “At Fairyland I learned stories that taught me lessons I learned that it’s nice to BE YOURSELF.” “Fairyland is a party to be YOU.” And one that really resonated with me: “Fairyland inspires me to be more ... kid.”
Children's Theatre kids working on their signs.

Stephen will be posting the Fairyland photos on his website, Oakland Photo, later this week. In the meantime, you can see photos from all the neighborhoods he’s already shot. There’s also a map of all 146 Oakland neighborhoods. Proceeds from the sale of photos are put directly back into the project.
Stephen’s photos are also scheduled to be displayed soon in a storefront at 15th St. and Broadway. He hopes one day to see them in the airport, in libraries and cafés, and even in a book.
But for now, he’s still actively recruiting participants for the project.
But don’t think you can convince him you’ve come up with a new neighborhood, as a handful of creative realtors have. ‟Deep East San Francisco” is one that was suggested for an up-and-coming neighborhood near the Emeryville border. Stephen didn’t buy it. For him, 146 neighborhoods are clearly enough.
C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Fungus among Us

Editor’s note: Inspired and dampened by the Bay Area’s unusually wet winter and early spring, we’re reprinting a column originally published in 2009. Horticulturist Robin North is no longer with Fairyland; her replacement for the last six years has been Jackie Salas.

By C.J. Hirschfield

After the most recent rainstorm, two separate groups of people—one from Asia, the other from Eastern Europe—recently knocked on our door at Fairyland and asked if they could pick the mushrooms they’d spied inside our gates.

After conferring with Robin North, our horticulturist, I decided to politely decline. There are tons of types of mushrooms, and even Robin can’t be 100 percent sure of the safety of all of the varieties that call Fairyland home. At least once every year, there is a story about a Bay Area family rushed to the hospital after someone misidentified a local fungus.

Ironically, the cutest, most “Fairyland-like” mushroom that grows in our park is probably the most poisonous: the Amanita. This deceptively lovely mushroom, which is red with white spots, is responsible for approximately 95 percent of deaths from mushroom poisoning. And darned if the huge mushroom in the middle of our park, on which our “bubble elf” sits, isn’t Amanita-like in its coloring.

Fairyland's bubble elf, "Oswald," atop what appears to be an Amanita mushroom.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Of Steampunk and Stories

By C.J. Hirschfield

For 16 years, as an artist employed by the City of Oakland, Bob Schultz created sets for Children’s Fairyland. Although he left our park 40 years ago, the whimsical sets he worked on – including Dragon Slide; the Owl and the Pussycat; Geppetto’s Workshop; and Rub-a-Dub Dub, Three Men in a Tub —have made Schultz, as he now prefers to be called, a park hero.

And Schultz – a former Navy aircraft mechanic with an arts degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts – didn’t stop creating when he left us.

Now 81, the “Grandfather of Steampunk” recently opened a new show within walking distance of Fairyland. “Schultz and the Machinery of the Absurd,” at Classic Cars West Gallery in Uptown through April 28, features a dozen wheeled creations that combine the functional and decorative, with supernatural overtones and an absurdist sense of visual humor thrown into the mix.

Schultz and dog companions with one of the pieces in “Schultz and the Machinery of the Absurd.” 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Park Superhero

By C.J. Hirschfield

I’ll never forget the day, nearly 15 years ago, when I met Anne Woodell. It was at a Fairyland event, just after I’d been hired as the park’s executive director. I found myself literally backed into a corner, where Anne poked at my chest and told me what needed to be done to continue moving Fairyland forward.

I was shocked. Who was this woman, and what gave her the right to talk to me this way?

I quickly learned what many people in Oakland knew quite well: that Anne Morrow Woodell was a fierce advocate of parks and recreation, and never shy about promoting this cause.

Anne died on Jan. 25, and last week a large crowd gathered at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate to honor her life. In her eulogy, Mayor Libby Schaaf called Anne a “park superhero” and a “superhero of citizenship,” and she was both. She was also my inspiration and a strong ally. Last week, as I listened to all the admiring speeches, I realized that one person — particularly a strong willed and persuasive one – can change the face of an entire city.

Anne Woodell, 1936-2017.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Bettelheim in the Basement

By C.J. Hirschfield

The other day I ventured down to the basement to look for something, and discovered a box I hadn’t opened in many years. On the top was a letter that my mother had written to me 44 years ago, when I was in my first year of college. She passed away 11 years after writing it.

There was the distinctive handwriting and smiley-face drawing (long before the image become ubiquitous). She’d addressed it simply to “number-one daughter,” along with the correct P.O. box, should give you an idea of what my mom was like.

I re-read the letter, and the article she had enclosed. It reinforced my theory that my mother was psychic.

An article sent in a letter 44 years ago seems to have predicted the future.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Idea-a-Minute Man

By C.J. Hirschfield

Last week I was honored to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the William Penn Mott, Jr., Presidio Visitor Center in San Francisco. It was a stunningly sunny day, with the Golden Gate Bridge glowing in the distance. The event honored a diverse city, the power of partnerships, and the legacy of a man who devoted his life to supporting public parks.

National Park Service mounted police at the Presidio.

But before he ran the U.S. National Park Service – before he directed California’s parks and recreation department, before he was general manager of the East Bay Regional Park District – William Penn Mott, Jr., was superintendent of parks for the City of Oakland. While he held that job he created Children’s Fairyland. And many millions of kids (and parents) are thankful for that achievement.