7OYS helps man after lifetime pass at Fairyland wasn't honored

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney helped a former performer at Children's Fairyland in Oakland after his lifetime pass wasn't honored.
February 18, 2014 8:14:23 PM PST
Children's Fairyland has an extensive actor's program that kids have participated in for decades. Years ago, child actors were promised a lifetime membership, but when they returned recently some were surprised at what they found.

Welcome to Oakland's Children's Fairyland where for years children have played in the old lady's shoe and mingled with Snow White and her Seven Dwarves or watched performances and puppet shows.

In the early 1990s Robert Anthony spent a year performing there. He was just 8 years old.

"I was Pinocchio and then I did do voice acting for Fairyland as well as for their puppet show as King Arthur," Anthony said.

Children's Fairyland has been an institution since the 1950s. Not only is it a magical place for young children to visit, but it has an acting program for kids ages 8 to 10. The child actors portray characters from folklore and children's literature in stage productions, at community events and during visits to senior centers and schools.

Back when Anthony was a performer, Children's Fairyland awarded lifetime passes to the performers as a token of their appreciation for the children's hard work.

"They didn't pay us at all. And they did make it clear it was volunteer work. However, they did see we would be compensated at the end with the lifetime entrance to Fairyland," Anthony said.

Over the course of 25 years, Anthony lost his pass.

"We moved a lot over the years and I feel responsible for the fact that it got lost," Anthony's mother Barbara Schivel said.

A few years ago, Anthony tried to use his lifetime membership, but it was no longer honored.

"What they said was they weren't replacing any of the lifetime passes that were lost by actors who had previously done the year's term of acting for them," Anthony said.

He was upset.

"I don't have the costume anymore. I don't have anything except a few pictures and it would be nice to have the card to show my kids and occasionally take them when we're in the area," Anthony said.

We talked to Children's Fairyland's Executive Director CJ Hirschfield. She declined to talk to us on camera, but did issue this statement:

"Decades ago, Children's Fairyland issued lifetime passes to children who had participated in our free, year-long children's theater program. The passes were painted on paper by our resident artist. We still honor existing passes to this day.

A nonprofit organization took over the operation of the park in 1994 after years of management by the city of Oakland, in an attempt to ensure Fairyland's survival. Because of the lack of effective record-keeping and the fact that we couldn't confirm participation in our 50 plus year theater program, the board decided over a decade ago that the passes would be honored, but not replaced. "

Anthony has plenty of pictures to prove he performed there, and even made contact with the puppeteer who remembers him.

"All I'm asking for is the ability to kinda share the memories with my children and to get what I was promised," Anthony said.

Fairyland told 7 On Your Side they intentionally keep their ticket prices low at $8 per person and they underwrite the cost of 5,000 visits per year by those who cannot afford to attend.


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