Noe Valley Voice March 2000

Florence's Family Album: Toy Story 3

By Florence Holub

Several months ago, some little kid must have dropped his toy dinosaur on the sidewalk in front of our house on 21st Street. Sometime later, my man Leo spotted the small plastic figure and placed it on a concrete railing nearby, in case the youngster came looking for it.

The dinosaur sat alone and abandoned for many weeks, until for some strange reason I picked it up and brought it into the house, placing it on the table next to a notepad on which I was hoping to record another reminiscence for the Noe Valley Voice.

For hours I sat expectantly before the pad. It remained blank, like my mind. Perhaps this was because I had just celebrated my 81st birthday on Jan. 25, and may be getting a trifle dotty.

I noticed that the little dinosaur on the table seemed to be staring at the pad too, as if it were entertaining some larger purpose now that it was safely inside. That purpose came to me the next day via a notice sent from the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. The flyer made a plea for all museum docents -- of which I am one -- to attend a campaign kickoff rally for Proposition B, a measure that will repair, restore, and retrofit the Academy's aging buildings. The museum asked for volunteers to help get out the word before Election Day, March 7.

Well, the p.r. people didn't have to convince me. I already knew that the Academy -- with one of the largest plant, animal, fossil, and artifact collections in the world -- has become an international center for environmental research. Preserving the museum is at the top of my list.

So how could I support this worthy cause? Telephoning was out -- my speaking voice has gotten weaker with each passing year. Lately, I've had to restrict my docent talks to once a month, and then only in the quiet textile gallery at the de Young, across the concourse.

And pamphleting got me in trouble two years ago when a cranky man accused me of littering! Because I did not want to disturb people in their homes, I decided to use a less invasive method of campaigning, to wear something that would telegraph my message without making a sound.

How about a hat? My little dinosaur was the clear inspiration for this idea -- his breed stars in one of the Academy displays. Therefore, he should play a leading role on my straw hat, as a triceratops, the six-ton, horned and frilled herbivore who lived 67 million years ago and whose fossil remains were uncovered by Academy scientists on an expedition to the Badlands of eastern Montana and transported, dirt and all, to their new home in San Francisco.

In our kitchen cabinet I found a six-inch cake box and placed it upside down over the dome of my hat, so it would look like a building. Then I added a front door and some big cracks to suggest damage from the Loma Prieta earthquake. The first figure I attached (with fish line) was the little triceratops, alluding to the museum's archaeological exhibit "Life Through Time."

Next I hurried down to the Just for Fun store on 24th Street, where a helpful salesperson directed me to the barrels of small plastic animals. There I found a marvelous plastic rhinoceros, to stand for the African galleries -- a virtual safari -- and a graceful seal to suggest "Wild California," the 13 dioramas depicting the diverse biotic zones of our state. These toy animals had wheels, so they had to be tied down or they would roll off the hat!

Leo brought me a winged insect, a plastic fly someone had given him, which I pinned to a little A-frame made of cardboard. At the peak of the A, I glued two orbs from Space Hall: the earth (a Christmas tree ornament painted blue and white) and the moon (carved out of a champagne cork). The back of the A-frame had an empty spot, so I filled it with red paper butterflies, which along with the fly refer to the Insect Room.

A bird reminds us that Bird Hall has been deemed seismically unsafe and closed since 1989, and a fish suggests Steinhart Aquarium, with its more than 20,000 living fish species (the voters have already funded repairs for Steinhart).


he hat was nearing completion, but it needed one more thing, a miniature person. We searched around the house until we found a small standing Easter bunny that looked like a child (except for its head!). After removing the long ears and painting a child's face over the rabbit's, the figure was almost convincing. He is now tied to the A-frame with fish line, and there he stands to represent the 333,000 children out of the 1 million visitors per year who come to see the newest and oldest discoveries in the world of science.

It took a bit of nerve, but I wore the finished hat to the kickoff rally, where it received a great deal of good-natured attention. But only until the cavalcade of city and state officials arrived. The mayor was wearing his own showstopper -- a leopard-spotted fedora! He then delivered a rousing speech in favor of Prop. B.

I will continue to wear my hat as I pass out flyers along 24th Street on the two weekends before Election Day. So if any of you readers see an old lady wearing a ridiculous hat, you will know who it is and why.

I do this campaigning out of gratitude for all the fascinating knowledge I've gained over the years -- in taking the docent training, in giving tours to school children, and in watching their young minds light up with curiosity.

One more thing -- if the little boy who lost his triceratops on 21st Street would like it back, he can have it when it is released from captivity on March 8, the day after the election.