Wednesday February 28th 2024, 10:18 pm
Filed under: History,Life

He asked us, and nobody knew.

He asked them, and they knew who.

He grew up where I did and went to the same Cabin John Regional Park that we knew well.

They changed the subject (I remember that discussion and thinking, but that’s not what he’s asking, folks) and talked about climbing in the fighter jet or riding the train. I silently remembered being able to watch a beehive at work from inside the train building and being reassured the bees could only exit to outside.

Everybody remembered the Porky the Litter Eater‘s trash-mouthing: you push a button and you get to hear the recording of Porky telling you that he likes to eat trash. You put paper in his mouth and it whooshes away. I remember us kids standing in line to get a chance to feed him and listen to his loud Oink oink oink!

And there was a totem pole.

As a kid I wasn’t sure what to make of all those faces looking woodenly over us: did they approve? The grownups said it was carved by hand, and that was cool, so, okay.

So here’s this guy who paid more attention to it than I ever did, who now lives in Alaska and credits some of his interest in the place to that totem pole, and who had always wondered what the story was behind how a children’s park just outside Washington, DC got one installed. A genuine Native totem pole. What it had meant to–somebody, enough to get it there.

Fifty-eight years later the history of it seemed lost to time.

So he posted to a group in Alaska, and right away got, My father-in-law helped carve that! They had not only not forgotten there, they still had the program from the ceremony.

Alaska Public Media has the story. And a photo of the guy at Cabin John Park, and man does that take me back.

So then I found this description of why totem poles were built and what they represent. The art of creating them started making a comeback after it finally became illegal to loot them and sell them to museums out from under the communities.

The Cabin John one was commissioned and paid for and that father-in-law got to work on it as an 18-year-old apprentice. I hope he made many more. I just love that he was right there when his daughter-in-law got to tell him, Hey, Dad, people in Maryland want to know about that one you made them!

2 Comments so far
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What a neat story! And for all the scoffing at social media, it can bring answers like this, which is so cool.

Comment by ccr in MA 02.29.24 @ 7:32 am

Very cool! Hopefully someone will get a new plaque made and installed so the history is documented again.

Comment by DebbieR 02.29.24 @ 8:24 am

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