There are many great issues in this town demanding our attention, but trust me, there is none bigger that preserving the historic Works Progress Administration bathrooms at Central Park.
Already a well-funded and extremely dedicated public interest group, People Opposed to Obliterating the Potty (POOP), has formed with the intent of lobbying the Davis City Council, the Davis Historical Resources Commission, the Davis Hysterical Resources Commission and the public at large to keep this one-of-a-kind public restroom from the wrecking ball.
If all else fails, the Head Poopster plans to head to Washington, D.C., to exhume FDR’s body and bring him back to Davis to testify during public comment when the City Council makes its final decision on the restroom’s fate.
“My name is Franklin D. Roosevelt and I’m here to give some background on the thinking that went into construction of the Central Park bathroom.”
“You have two minutes, Mr. President. I’m setting the timer now.”
I know this restroom qualifies as “historic” because it’s one of the few buildings in town that’s been here longer than I have. Yes, our family had yet to make the trek south from Portland when the building was completed in 1937, but just knowing that public bathrooms were available in Davis’ only public park certainly hastened our arrival here, which occurred on Sept. 12 of 1951.
That date is etched in my mind because it happens to be my birthday, and we had yet to secure housing in this strange town we were moving to so Dad could attend college after serving in World War II.
Yes, we were Davis’ first homeless people and Central Park, just across the street from Central School, was our temporary home. Suffice it to say, with five little ones in tow, Mom was overwhelmingly happy to find a 24-hour-a-day bathroom nearby.
In fact, given my age and the excitement over having my birthday in the park, it’s a safe bet that the Central Park facility is the first bathroom I ever used in this fine town. I’m certain there’s a plaque in there somewhere commemorating the occasion, but perhaps souvenir hunters stole it long ago.
Turns out that 1937 and thereabouts was a big time for WPA projects on the West Coast. Washington state got Grand Coulee Dam, Oregon got massive Bonneville Dam, Mt. Hood got majestic Timberline Lodge, Redding got Shasta Dam and Davis got a 640-square-foot public bathroom.
Maybe if we’d had more Democrats in town back then, FDR would have dammed up the Mighty Putah for us.
The bathroom also came in handy when we started attending Sunday Mass kitty-corner from Central Park at the old brick St. James Church, which didn’t have a bathroom. Mom spent so much of her church time hauling one kid or another back and forth across Fifth Street to the bathroom that it’s a wonder she ever got to heaven.
In addition, the bathroom came in handy during impromptu after-school games of hide-and-seek. The bathroom was so smelly that no one would dare enter it to find you, even if they were certain you were in there.
If this town is serious about preserving its past, saving the Central Park bathroom is a must. Davis history is written all over its walls. Literally.
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