The Waverly Duck, sitting on a trailer and looking shinier and more detailed than its previous incarnation, was greeted Thursday afternoon by more than 100 people on hand to witness its return home to Waverly Lake.
The 500-pound spray-foam replica of a wood duck had sat derelict in a back lot since 2007, but after months of fundraising and rehabilitation efforts it was ready to float again.
"This is an art piece now, this duck," said Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa at the duck's relaunch ceremony, declaring the new look for the old duck is in line with the Albany Carousel and its elaborately painted animals. In fact, the new patina for the duck, created with help of volunteers from the Albany Arts Commission, is made from enamel paint and finished with three coats of ultraviolet protection. Main Auto Body donated nearly 40 hours of labor, as well as materials, to restore the duck.
The duck greeted drivers rolling into Albany along Pacific Boulevard in the mid-1980s, and was purchased in 1997 by antique shop owner Mike Briggs. In 2007, the city Parks Department decided to pull it from the water in the wake of concerns over its condition and upkeep.
While the duck's well-wishers stood with their celebratory duck calls, Pam Briggs, the widow of Mike Briggs and the duck's former owner, teared up a little as she said, "I just want to voice appreciation for everyone who loved the duck the way Mike did."
The crowd cheered as the duck left its trailer and bobbed its way, with the help of a motor boat, out to its mooring in the center of the lake.
But one spring night back in 1986, the duck bounced along through back roads on a different journey, having been clipped from its mooring and pulled from the water by a pack of South Albany High School seniors, who would achieve a sort of immortality when they deposited the duck in the courtyard at SAHS.
"I'll never forget coming back to school the next day and seeing the duck in the courtyard," said Sam Sachs, who spoke over the phone from Portland about the night he and his buddies took the duck for their senior prank. "It was a glorious thing."
Sachs, who went on to become a corrections deputy, a park ranger, and today works as a human rights commissioner in Multnomah County, told the story of himself and six other guys whose last names he couldn't remember.
"It was Fred, Travis, Jim, John, Jeff and Bobby," recalls Sachs, telling a story that sounds like an impromptu commando operation.
"I remember three guys swam out across the lake and cut the duck loose," he said. "And then they swam it over to shore and we all pulled it out and loaded it onto an old truck."
Sachs said the team took back roads through Albany, finally arriving at the high school, where they slid the duck off the trailer and melted back into the night.
That operation wasn't the only time the duck was taken. In the evening before the first day of school in September 1994, 12 Crescent Valley High School boys stole the duck, then in storage at the Spray Foam business near Albany, as part of a prank. The boys left the duck in their school's parking lot.