In the Mouth of the Whale

I grew up in New York City.

Recently, a partial memory of my early childhood came back to me of a enormous, stone whale, me playing within its gaping mouth and nearby water. I must have been perhaps four years old because I can only remember snippets and the thrill of being in that dark, cavernous creature’s mouth while my mom sat nearby in the sun.

For some reason, I associate the memory with Central Park but I know the ins and outs of Central Park and many of the other city parks well, like the back of my hand. I have never been able to locate this place with the whale and the sprinklers/water works.

via http://vintagechromes.blogspot.com

This weekend sparked by a conversation about the memory, I did some research and then shared my findings with my mother who put it all together for me.

The whale was part of the Central Park Children’s Zoo, the old Lehman one that was demolished in 1996, which was a 50th wedding anniversary tribute from the Senator and his wife. It featured  Jonah’s Whale or Whaley, Noah’s Ark, Hansel and Gretel’s cottage and other storybook scenes. 


The interesting thing about this is that the “new” Central Park Zoo, opened in 1997, has been one of my all-time favorite places to go in the city since my college babysitting days and I’ve been there so many times and never realized this was the same place.


via The Central Park Zoo By Joan Scheier

Whaley (or Whalemina as she came to be called), decomposing, peeling and chipped by then was moved to Rockaway Beach in attempt to recuse her from the trash pit in the mid-1990s but was damaged during the trip – her jaw collapsed and her tail was lopped off. She was patched up and became a beloved beach mascot for another generation but ultimately, she was washed out to sea during Hurricane Sandy, last october and all that was recovered was her reattached tail.

Whalemina, Rockaway Beach
Whalemina, Rockaway Beach (Photo: gsz)



She lives on only in the memory of the brave children who traipsed inside her basin during the 1960s-1980s, and the ones who gazed upon her majestic mosaic in her Queens retreat. 


There is something beautiful, cyclical and constant about her return to Yemaya and the sea, once beached and now set free. 


When I spoke to my mother, she told me that she would often take me to Zoo after her physical therapy sessions at the hospital when she was young and sprite in spite of the devastating hit and run that changed the course of her life. That I loved to play the inside the cottage and peek out at her from the windows and from  the Ark and make friends with the other kids who frolicked in the mouth of the whale.


* Local Rockaway artists have vowed to resurrect Whalemina and rebuild the community, to learn more about the Projects of Peace and donate to help support their efforts click here.




Here’s another whale you might also remember from the same era:

Author

Spread the love

More Articles for You

Understanding The Children’s Train by Viola Ardone

Based on a true events, with more than 5,922 ratings on Goodreads, when I saw The Children’s Train, by Viola …

Spread the love

Searching the 1950 Census: Things I didn’t Know about East Harlem & Vito

I always thought 2nd Avenue was expansive. I have fond memories of playing in the open “pompa” – Spanglish for …

Spread the love

Frida on Chestfeeding: A Study in Empathy and Deep Customer Understanding

Really well done Frida Mom! This is how you resonate with your audience. Author Literanista Spread the lovemore

Spread the love

La Brega: A Podcast About the Puerto Rican Experience

In the past several years, I’ve suffered a lot of loss, besides the turmoil of the pandemic, my mother, my …

Spread the love

We Are Legion: Social Media Protips from the founder of Beyoncé Legion

This: “Posting content on such a huge platform can’t be done randomly. You need to be highly organized and consistent. …

Spread the love

For Rosa: A Film About Forced Sterilization

HBO acquired, “For Rosa”, a fictional film inspired by the true story of 10 Latina women in Los Angeles who …

Spread the love