The tradition lives on
It was when the workers for the Washington Parks Department were decorating the Washington square with lights for the annual lighting ceremony that they found a bag full of lights used to adorn the sign west of Washington on Highway 1.
With the discovery of the lights, the workers faced the question of what to do with them. In previous years volunteer Bob Toland had taken the responsibility of decorating the sign and surrounding greenage. Toland had passed away on April 4 of this year. After discovering the lights, it only took a quick discussion for the workers to know what they had to do.
“We decided we needed to do it,” Parks Superintendent Tim Widmer said. “Decorating the square had put us in the mood to put up lights and we decided it is a good thing to do to keep the tradition going.”
Additionally, the athletic signs just east of Lexington Boulevard were decorated with lights.
Even as the workers hung the lights on the sign and the surrounding trees, they joked that if Toland were present, he would think that they had done a mundane job compared to his efforts. Widmer smiled at the memory of the retired man who had spent so many hours doing so much work on so many sections of town.
“Bob did a much more extensive job than us,” Widmer said. “He used more lights and they would be heavier on the sign and the trees. We are going to have to step up our efforts next year if we want to compete with him.”
In addition to the sign, there were many other areas in town that Toland had tended since he retired in 1994. Widmer remembers seeing Toland out caring for the areas he worked at on even the hottest of summer days. Some areas he tended included a stretch of flowers along North
Second Avenue; wildflowers along the sides of the road at Highways 1 and 92; part of the median where Highway 1 turns south; and around the sports signs on the east, west and south sides of town.
Widmer said that the Parks Department plans to continue working at some of the more visible areas, but admitted that the department wouldn’t be able to put in as much time as Toland. He said that any volunteers would be welcome.
“He had a mission to beautify the city,” Widmer said. “No one asked him to do it. He did it on his own.”
Widmer said that beginning next spring, volunteer Steve Roth will care for the greenery around the Washington sign.
While he knew Toland worked in many areas of town, Widmer said that he didn’t know the history nor how long Toland had been doing it. He said that Toland had gotten some support from the Optimist Club, but had funded many of the beautification projects himself.
In the coming years, Widmer said that the Parks Department plans to purchase more lights to use when decorating the signs for the holiday season. This year the sign will remain lighted until January. He said that the department hopes in the future to at least do a comparable job to Toland.
“He did it up right,” Widmer said.