The Magic City Creative Playground
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
Remember when Millinocket had playgrounds in several areas of town…Little Italy, Hillcrest, Pamola Park, The Pines and each of the elementary schools? The Magic City Kingdom Creative Playground was the largest and for many years was enjoyed by young and old alike in Millinocket. This playground was a huge co-operative effort by many townspeople including schoolchildren, adults, businesses, organizations and more.
The idea was created by a man named Robert Leathers. Leathers and his company helped many communities in Maine develop and construct these creative playgrounds in the late 1980’s. In Millinocket, hundreds of children and adults worked on this project. There are scrapbooks and photo albums and other materials at the museum chronicling the project.
In January of 1989, Leathers spent a day in Millinocket where he visited each of the three elementary schools (Aroostook, Katahdin, Granite) getting student ideas and wishes as to what they would like to see in the new playground. Many of these ideas would be incorporated into the design. As a fifth-grade teacher at Granite Street School that day, I remember the enthusiasm of the students seated on the gym floor listening to Mr. Leathers explain his idea for Millinocket. That evening, Leathers led a session for the public at Stearns HS. He showed slides of other creative playgrounds and displayed general plans for the Millinocket playground.
Local committees spent the next several months meeting, organizing, fundraising and gathering volunteers, supplies and materials for the construction to be done in September of that year.
The scrapbooks include many newsletters and news articles on the fundraising efforts. School children were involved in the “Pennies from Heaven” project. Their goal was to collect enough pennies to cover the SHS gym floor. Over $3600.00 in pennies were collected during a twelve-week period ending June 3. Not enough to cover the SHS gym floor, the collected pennies did cover three-fourths of the Granite Street School gym floor. This totaled 2,280 pounds of pennies.
Other fundraising efforts throughout the summer included raffles, bottle drives, and the “buy a board” campaign. A buffet breakfast, T-shirt sales, a bike-a-thon, a motorcycle “poker run” and a yard sale all contributed funds for the playground.
That fall, on September 20, five days of construction commenced which culminated in the completion of this huge community project which would be enjoyed by young and old for several years before deterioration took its toll. Eventually, this creative playground was removed as years of use and the weather caused the wooden structure to become unsafe, but the memories remain for many!
In addition to the scrapbooks and photo albums, the museum has the architect’s plans, several large drawings, committee papers, and more that tell the story of this project.