On Saturday, my family and I trekked over to the city park/playground behind our house. The park is called Bill Robinson Playground. It has a ball field, some basketball courts, a sanded area with swings and play sets, and an enormous open field perpetually protected by the owl statues perched above Franklin Military Academy.
The park is named for the famed Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Richmond’s 20th century hero of dance and entertainment. He is best known for his appearances with Shirley Temple and his signature “staircase” dance. A small extant building on M Street, facing the park, was once a barbershop patronized by Muhammad Ali when he visited Richmond (according to neighbors who were here at the time).
We noticed an old metal cubic frame in the grass near the playground. My wife asked me if I knew what it was. I confidently said it was an exercise fixture for various push-up positions.
I was wrong. My wife noticed a faint piece of metal covered mostly by grass. It had writing on it. We both thought it could be an access plate for city water or gas.
We looked further at the plate. It was a dedication plaque, long lost in the dirt, grass, and sand. I got some tools from the house and started a little civilian archaeology dig. After about 15 minutes of clearing, I found that the plaque was placed in 1989, giving credit to various organizations for sponsoring the park for the children of the neighborhood.
The 23-year old play set has a much newer set nearby, but it still stands. The old metal play set is clunky and a little rusted. Minus the tetanus risk, it’s a rock solid center for imagination.
This park could use a little TLC, especially on the overall curb appeal and landscaping. Nevertheless, thank you to groups who care about kids enough to sponsor play places for parks. We forgot about you for a while, but now your memory will gone on forever. The owls will keep an eye on that plaque for you.