Sentinel at Beach and Peach

by Tim Gilmore, 6/17/2012

In the shadow of the present strip mall containing an auto parts store and a pornographic video store is the ghost landscape of a small obstacle course and plaster animals. Palimpsest. You don’t see anything anywhere if you don’t see palimpsest.

Corner of Beach and Peach. Turn at the dino to get to Beach and Peach Urban Park, entrance on Anders Boulevard. Twenty feet tall, leaning on a giant femur, teeth jagged. He’s become the unwitting historic icon of Beach Boulevard, which one wag called the Champs Elysees of Jacksonville, stretching from downtown to the beach with strip malls and box stores and gas stations quickly crumbled and outdated. In 30 and 40 years, Beach Boulevard’s managed to look much older than much older parts of town.

The faded orange plaster Tyrannosaurus Rex is older than almost everything built around him. He came with the Goony Golf miniature golf course in 1970. He stayed when Smoker’s Video moved in behind him in the early 2000s.

Pool builder Dick Calvert told The Florida Times-Union in 2007 that Goony Golf asked him to build the dino, Humpty Dumpty and other characters 37 years previous. He and his Southeastern Pool employees troweled the scales on top of hand-stucco’d wire mesh on a metal frame filled with concrete. Calvert figured Rex weighed five or six tons.

Red bulbs in the beast’s eyes still light up at night. You can’t really hold it against him. He seems carnivorously kind.