Jindra helps raise awareness of WW1 Centennial in CA
By Mike Williams
The campaign to revitalize World War One memorials has truly become a national, coast-to-coast effort. Only two weeks after the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission unveiled the five final designs for the renewed Pershing Park in downtown Washington, city leaders in Los Angeles have announced a design competition for Pershing Square, the oldest park in the city. Work on the redesigned park in downtown LA is expected to be completed by 2020, and will be a major factor in the ongoing revitalization of downtown Los Angeles.
The square, which was renamed shortly after the signing of the armistice in 1918 in honor of the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, General John J. Pershing, has played an important role in the military history of Los Angeles. In 1924, a large statue of an American doughboy was erected to commemorate American soldiers in World War One. Additionally, in 1900, a memorial to the sacrifice of Californian soldiers in the Spanish-American War was erected, and the park became an important area for rallies, recruitment, and liberty bond drives during World War Two. After a 1992 renovation, however, the park got away from its roots of remembrance.
“It’s gotten away from everything, really,” says Courtland Jindra, a WWICC volunteer who has been lobbying for the redevelopment of the park. Mr. Jindra has been volunteering with the commission for over a year, and has been quite active in promoting World War One education and remembrance in the Los Angeles region. “I heard about the commission through the Memorial Inventory Project, and World War One history has just become a great passion of mine... I feel a little late to the game, but the more I read about it, the more fascinated I become.”
With the redesign of Pershing Square, Mr. Jindra has been corresponding with both politicians and the private organizations that are spearheading the redevelopment in order to highlight the importance of the memorials in the park. “As soon as I found the memorial there last August, I wanted to get it restored... I found out about the efforts to redo the park in late September and decided those might be the people to contact.” Through Mr. Jindra’s efforts, Pershing Square Renew, the non-profit tasked with redeveloping the park, and the local Department of Parks and Recreation agreed to have the doughboy statue assessed for renovation.
“Once they agreed to that... I was able to get them to agree to assessing the other memorials in the park at a reduced price.” Mr. Jindra been able to take his concerns to the highest points of city government through his connection with the WWICC. “Chris [Isleib, Director of Public Affairs for WWICC] opened some doors for me... [and] introduced me to people when he was here back in April.” That month, the two attended a meeting at the Mayor’s Office, where Mr. Jindra was able to share his ideas about the future of the park. “Ideally, I would like to see the Doughboy statue and all the other statues given a more visible, prime location,” said Mr. Jindra, referring to when the statues stood guard around the central fountains of the old park, “a lot of people that I know that go to the park don’t even know that that stuff is even there until I tell them about it.”