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Dennis the Menace Returns to Monterey, California

Community comes together to replace stolen statue at popular playground

By Maria Daly
Epoch Times San Francisco Staff
Apr 05, 2007

Monterey mayor Chuck Della Sala gives a high-five to the newly replaced Dennis the Menace statue. (Maria Daly/The Epoch Times)

A newly recast bronze sculpture of Dennis the Menace was installed last week to replace the original statue which was stolen from the Dennis the Menace Playground in Monterey in October of last year. The statue honors the main character of the popular comic strip which is published in more than 10,000 newspapers around the world.

After the statue disappeared last year, a $5,000 reward was offered for its return. After a thorough but unsuccessful search in the waters of El Estero Lake and in other locations, Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer started to make plans to make a replica of the statue and have Dennis the Menace back in the park as soon as possible.

"Dennis the Menace is more than statue," Meurer said to The Epoch Times . "A lot of folks don't realize the importance of the presence of Dennis at the park." The morning the statue disappeared, Meurer went to the park and found a little girl devastated when she didn't find Dennis in his usual spot. "She always went to the park before going to her cancer treatments at Stanford Hospital, to rub Dennis the Menace for good luck," Meurer said.

Monterey Mayor Chuck Della Sala is one of many people who appreciate the "sprit of wonder and the joy Dennis the Menace brings to the park." In the ceremony to unveil the statue, Della Sala expressed to The Epoch Times his delight to have Dennis back and described the statue as "a treasure for people of all ages."

Della Sala described Dennis the Menace as a good little boy who, from time to time, gets into trouble. With his smiling face, his hand raised, and his arm clenching a teddy bear, "Dennis is the innocence and the mischievousness that we all enjoy; he brings us the binding essence of community that we all seek in life."

The Community Comes Together to Bring Dennis Back

After reading in the news about the plans to recast the statue, the Willis W. and Ethel M. Clark Foundation, founders of the California Test Bureau, now known as CTB McGraw Hill, approached the City of Monterey and offered a donation to pay for the expenses. The Clark Foundation presented an $8,200 check to the city to pay for the new statue.

The Clark Foundation is devoted to promoting the improvement of children everywhere and "this was a reason, but not the reason" why the Clark Foundation wanted to help, said the Clark's daughter June Duran Stock.

Stock, who was present at the ceremony to unveil the new statue of Dennis the Menace, added that "the Foundation is dedicated to promoting different projects that are related to the community. This particular one, when it came along, just seemed so appropriate and we feel quite privileged to have the opportunity to participate in this."

Hank Ketcham, the creator of Dennis the Menace, designed the playground named after the popular character. The park is located in El Estero Park, in the City of Monterey, and first opened in November 1956.

31 years later, Ketcham commissioned Academy Award-winning animator Wah Ming Chang to sculpt a life-size statue of Dennis the Menace. Ketcham was a longtime resident of Pebble Beach and had his office in downtown Monterey. He visited the playground regularly until his death in 2001.

Thanks to the Ketcham family, the bronze replica of the statue was made possible. "The Ketcham family was very helpful and lent their statue, one of the four original statues," Meurer said. The statue was taken to a local foundry which created a mold and then cast the duplicate. The new statue was embedded in a concrete base to prevent future theft.