STOCKTON (CBS13) — At the northeast edge of Stockton’s Victory Park, near the corner of Argonne Drive and Pershing Avenue; there is a noticeable absence for those who’ve been around long enough to remember.
“It was just a landmark for the park,” said Kathy Ryan, a native Stocktonian, “It was the first thing that I would see coming down the street on my bike.”
Kathy Ryan says she remembers it well.
“I would look for that totem pole,” said Ryan.
A Tlingit Alaskan Native Tribe Totem pole stood on a small hill in Victory Park for 67 years.
“It was kind of a Stockton thing,” said John Alita with the City of Stockton.
Alita says a Stockton businessman purchased the totem pole while on a trip. He eventually donated it to the city to put on display in the 1930’s.
“It sort of became known,” said Alita, “the people who’ve lived here a long time have talked about the totem pole.”
But after years of rotting, the pole was taken down in 1999.
It was ceremoniously retired by natives of the tribe from where the pole originated. The great grandson of the carver was in attendance.
“I think they should restore it with the history of the man who made it not the man who bought it,” said Loy Arandela in 1999.
“There was a sense of loss,” said Alita, “people were sad that it went away.”
Then last week, 18 years after the pole was taken down and no replacement ever made, a mysterious replica appeared.
“That’s not supposed to be there. What is that?” said Alita, recalling the first time he saw the replica pole.
It stopped Alita in his tracks. The much smaller pole made of Styrofoam and cardboard tubing was not a public art project that Alita was aware of.
“The creative spirit is alive and well in Stockton,” said Alita.
Who put the replica in the park? And why? The city is now looking for the artist and answers.
Alita says whoever the artist is won’t be in trouble. He says they’re looking to talk with the person to see if they’d be interested in applying for a public art grant.
Last year the city council approved $100,000 for a public art project at the Victory Park site. Alita says the council is still working on finding an artist and approving a project.