The California Grizzly!
It’s a 6-foot-tall and 12-foot-long bas-relief grizzly bear, made of fiberglass, and modeled on the grizzly from the California state flag. It has an incredibly rich surface, having been hand-painted many times throughout the years, and subsequently weathering in the salty sea air. I had some history on its origin, and I’ve done a little research as well. It’s one of a pair that were emblems originally mounted on each side of the funnel of a ship called the TS Golden Bear, a training ship of the California Maritime Academy (CMA). I contacted the archivist for the CMA, Larry Sanders, and he confirmed that their current training ship has bears like this mounted on its funnel. The academy only has one training ship at a time, and the current one is the TS Golden Bear III. Our bear comes from a ship which was originally the USS Mellena, which served as an attack cargo ship in the Pacific campaign of WWII. After the war, the ship was transferred to the CMA, where it became the first TS Golden Bear. The ship served the Academy with many voyages until 1971, when it was scrapped. The bear was salvaged by a gentleman who ended up mounting it on the side of his warehouse in the shipyards of Anacortes, Washington. It’s very likely this bear has been around the world several times.
The bear clearly represents the grizzly that is depicted on the California state flag, which has a rich history in itself. Apparently the bear on the flag is modeled after a specific bear, named ‘Monarch’, who sadly was the last wild grizzly captured in California.
- Flag of California
Where and when the bear was manufactured remains unclear. Mr. Sanders didn’t think the bears were commissioned by CMA originally; he thought they may have been salvaged by the Academy long ago (pre-1971) from an unknown defunct shipping line, and adapted for use on the Academy’s ships. If true, it would seem fitting to me. The essence of salvage is re-use, even when you’re talking about giant fiberglass bears.