In Memory of My Dumb Friends: Clark Memorial Bench in Jackson Park in Alameda, California

It's Friday, so I'll blog about something besides Autodesk Forge.

The Alameda Parks and Recreation Department provides advice, coordination, and guidance on parks and recreational facilities in the city of Alameda. One of the activities they conduct is called Alameda Walks where they invite Alameda residents to lace up their walking shoes, bring family, friends, and neighbors and join them on an hour-long walk on the 1st and 2nd Saturday mornings of each month, May through October. For those who are new to Alameda or have lived there for decades, this is a great way to begin a Saturday morning exploring neighborhoods and learning about the history of Alameda. The walks begin at 9:00 a.m. and last approximately one hour.

On Saturday, May 13, I attended a walk that started in Jackson Park. Oakland and Alameda were among the first cities in the United States to experiment with local parks in neighborhoods. Opened in 1895, Jackson Park is Alameda's oldest park. As such, it was originally called Alameda Park. There was actually a hotel, the Alameda Hotel, that was originally adjacent to the park. In 1909, the name was changed when all of the Alameda parks were renamed after United States Presidents. youtube


At the end of Jackson Park is the Clark Memorial Bench. The concrete bench was donated to the park in 1920 by Park Avenue resident Isabella Derby Clark. The bench was designed by Myrtle Mallot who lived nearby on Weber Street. At the time, Mallot was also national president of the Delta Zeta Sorority. "Delta Zeta is an international college sorority founded in 1902 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Today, Delta Zeta has 160 collegiate chapters in the United States and over 200 alumnae chapters in the United States and Canada. As of 2013, there were over 244,400 college and alumnae members, making them the 3rd largest sorority in the nation." [wikipedia]

The Clark Memorial Bench has an inscription that reads "In Memory Of My Dumb Friends." Although local folklore is that the inscription is in reference to Doors vocalist, Jim Morrison, who used to hang out there and smoke marijuana with his high school friends, that is not true. Isabella Clark was a proponent of animal welfare. The inscription is actually a reference to horses. Although "dumb" today is associated with overall lack of intelligence, in 1920, the more common association was to the inability to speak.

Visitors often ask "Why does the bench face away from the park?" Originally, where the street is now, there was a horse trough. Those who sat on the bench could look adoringly at the horses.

Alameda Walks is a great way to learn about Alameda and get out in the fresh air.

Walking is alive in the lab.