In 1962, Fairyland architect/designer William Russell Everritt completed his last—and greatest—set for the park. Undulating 35 feet above the ground, our Dragon Slide celebrates the beauty and grace of Chinese folklore. It also happens to be a wild ride that kids absolutely love.

But that much love can wear down a set, and our slide was badly in need of restoration. Its last refurbishment took place 24 years Dragon slide shannon, cj and doris leeago, and since then, literally millions of kids have flown down the dragon’s  mouth.

Enter Doris Shoong Lee, the sister of Milton Shoong, who donated the set to the park more than half a century ago.

In the 1960s, Milton Shoong was president of the National Dollar Stores, founded by his father, Joe Shoong. William Penn Mott, then Oakland’s superintendent of parks—and one of Fairyland’s driving forces—visited Shoong’s downtown Oakland store to ask if he’d fund a grand centerpiece of the park, an attraction that would reflect the pride of Chinese heritage in the City of Oakland. Shoong agreed, and bestowed the gift in honor of his father and the Shoong Family Foundation. Thirteen tons of cement and tons of steel later, the ride opened for business. It was an immediate hit.

Most people don’t know that the Dragon Slide is actually two attractions. In addition to the kiddie thrill ride, there’s a tea house in the treetops at the top of the slide, designed for holding tea parties in the sky. It also gives visitors a 360-degree aerial view of Fairyland. Our upgrade brought the tea house’s electrical and plumbing systems into A-1 working order, and we’re now looking for an excuse to bring out the tea service.

Doris Shoong Lee has fond memories of growing up in a Julia Morgan-designed house on Bellevue Avenue in Oakland (the same street on which Fairyland is located). But she currently has homes in San Francisco and Las Vegas, and until last week, hadn’t returned to Oakland in many years. (Her brother Milton died in 2000.)

dragon slide med cu headNot long ago,  a family member had called to tell  her the slide was in need of some serious TLC. Doris promptly called me. What would it would take to bring our Dragon Slide back, she asked. With her support, we immediately began what ended up being a two-month project, and which included much scraping, welding, painting and scaffolding.

After we completed the project, I called Bob Schultz, who had created the slide from blueprints back in the 1960s, to give him the good news. Bob is something of an Oakland legend. In addition to the Dragon Slide, he crafted most of Fairyland’s original sets. In Fairyland’s history book he’s referred to as a “bohemian artist.” Bob told me about the time he was working way at the top of the slide, dozed off after lunch, and barely avoided a 35-foot fall. He recalled that the first child who slid down the new slide became airborne, which necessitated a major redesign. And he remembered with pride the cool color he used for elements on the pagoda’s roof: ’57 Dodge Gallant Gold.

I love all the rich history represented by our slide, and I considered sharing some of it as Doris and I prepared to cut the ribbon for the reopening ceremony last weekend. But then I looked out at the faces of the scores of kids who had waited so patiently for so many months. I cut it short, and just told them, “This is all for you, you know.”

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