In 1976 to celebrate the Chicago connection to the Oz stories, the city dedicated a lovely little park, Oz Park, to L. Frank Baum’s creative work. It is within half a mile of where I teach in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. In subsequent years, the city installed statues of the four immortal companions, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and Dorothy (and Toto, the dog), at various points throughout the park.
Oz Park is a very jolly affair. The statues are handsome, the landscaping very tasteful with open lawns interspersed among the trees and shrubs. A small area of wild flowers and grasses has been set aside for insects and birds, and to add a natural glamour to the scene. A large playground in the park ensures that in the daylight hours there is always the silver-toned susurrus of children’s jubilation throughout the park. Baum would have liked it, I think, for he was a man of sunny disposition.
On the afternoon when I visited not long ago, a summer rain was spilling down in buckets. The sky was gray, the leaves of the trees were gray and dripping, and the grasses were dark and bedraggled. A few people scurried through the park, their collars turned up. One of them held a newspaper over her head. On the blacktop basketball court, three grown men stripped to the waist tossed the ball about with an air of determined exuberance. From atop a rope in the playground, a young child yelled out to her mother for help.