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Watermelon Rock: A Slice of Alameda History

For decades, the painted slab of concrete resembling that of a watermelon has captured the hearts of many on the island. However, it wasn't always painted as a melon.

A few weeks ago, Alameda Patch posted a photo on Facebook of possibly one of the most infamous fruits on the island: the watermelon rock.

Situated along the rocks of the Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline Park on Doolittle Drive, the half-round painted concrete slab has caught the attention of passersby for decades due to its brightly painted colors resembling that of watermelon.

Within a day of posting the photo on our Facebook page, more than 200 folks "liked" it, 28 had shared it on their own Facebook pages, and dozens of folks left comments showing their love of the rock.

Mary McInerney of Alameda Magazine wrote about it back in March 2007 saying "the watermelon rock has been a fixture on the waterway between the Oakland International Airport and Alameda for at least 30 years now."

Along with its unique look, the rock has also drawn attention for mysteriously being repainted every so often. Even the supervisor of the East Bay Regional Park District told McInerney she had no idea who repaints it. As it fades every few years, someone comes around and gives it a fresh coat, brightening up its "red fruit, black seeds and a blackish-greenish rind."

The beloved concrete fruit even has its own Facebook page with 70 followers.

Originally An Orange Slice

Reader Sandra Gibson told Patch that the watermelon rock was originally painted an orange slice since on May 4, 1983.

"I know this because it was me and my best friend that painted the rock an orange for the first time," she said. "It was originally a cement slab and my mother use to work at the Oakland airport. For years, since I was about 9 we would drive by that rock and I always thought that it looked like an orange slice."

On her 16th birthday, coming back from taking her driver's test, she and her friend stopped at the rock and finally painted it to resemble an orange.

"It remaind an orange for a few years, before someone painted it to a watermelon," she said. "I was initially bummed to see it changed into a watermelon, since for years driving by as a child, it was the 'orange slice rock' to me and my family."

However, not everyone is a fan of it.

McInerney reports that one summer, someone called the park district complaining about how the painted rock ruins the look of the shoreline. When the park district refused to remove it, the rock was then painted black.

Shortly after, it was changed to become citrus fruits such as a lemon and back to the original orange wedge. But it wasn't long before it was painted back to a melon slice.

Several of our own Facebook followers shared memories of the "waterfront watermelon" — as one reader called it — along with speculations of the responsible artists. Here are a few of our favorites:

Adrian M.: Our family always yells "watermelon rock" when we pass by. (maybe just me and a couple of kids going..."daaaad, you always say that...")

Julie L: You know your kids are 4th generation Alamedans when their great-grandma shouted "watermelon rock" as well as their grandma, and me, and now they shout out every time they see it!

Kat W.: I remember the quick switch to the orange slice too! The watermelon is a staple for me and my girls when driving back from Costco.

Marcia T.: It might be a rumor, but I heard the CAL crew painted it so they knew when to turn around.

Patty N.: I think it must be a mermaid who paints it...

Peggy H.: When I moved to Alameda in 1982 (the year my 2nd daughter was born) it was a faded orange slice, it was that way for many years. Then one day it was painted as a watermelon slice, which I think is cheerier. The watermelon rock lets me know I'm coming home.

Julie B.: It was an orange slice for a short time but then went back to watermelon. There was a time (10+ years back) that several other rocks were also painted. I remember one being a block of cheese..maybe Swiss? But those didn't last long. I'm told it's some fraternity or organization that has the responsibility (secretly) to maintain the upkeep of the rock.

Carol P.: I wonder how many layers of paint it has on it by now.

What are you best memories of the watermelon rock? Who do you think is the artist behind this famous fruit? Tell us in the comments section below!

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Analisa Harangozo November 13, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I'm curious.. does anyone have photos of the rock when it was an orange or lemon slice.. or photos of any of the other painted rocks? I'd love to see them and I'm sure our readers would as well! Feel free to upload them directly to this article or send them to analisa.harangozo@patch.com.
Michele McGarraugh November 18, 2012 at 08:16 PM
About two years ago, on a sunny afternoon, as I passed Watermelon Rock, I saw a man approaching. He was middle aged and was wearing light-colored work clothes, a jacked and a had that mostly obscured his graying hair. He was walking toward the rock with what appeared to be a bucket in his hand. Parked not far away was his small white pick-up truck. Traffic would not allow me to stop, so I lost my chance to ask if he was the mysterious someone who cares for Watermelon Rock.
Gene Quen November 25, 2012 at 10:56 PM
So glad to know the background history of the Watermelon Rock ! Have resided in Alameda for over 40 + years plus. Have also traveled via the Doolittle Dr route when we lived in Hayward heading for Alameda. Have always wondered who dood dat !? My wife and I have noticed it, my children too and my grandchildren also!! We think even some of our Pet dogs have noticed it. It is now part of our family Legacy. Thanks so much for educating us all. The Quen family.
Leslie Krongold December 20, 2012 at 08:42 PM
I, too, am glad to know something about the watermelon lore. I love seeing it each time I'm on Doolittle. A few years ago I wrote to KPIX requesting they do a local story about it...I don't think they have.
ssorensen February 16, 2014 at 01:38 PM
My friend painted the Swiss cheese wedge. He moved to Boston and left no one to care for it.

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