Around the country one can find a number of fun and large Fiberglass Giants. Though most of what I touch on in this post is fiberglass, I do mention so HUGE giants made of other materials due to their fame and as a comparison to the sizes.
GIANT COWS AND BULLS
The fiberglass giant makers have had fun over the years as they have created some real huge and udderly mooooving creations. The giant shown above Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow. This monstrous mooer was built in 1974 at the cost of $40,000. The project was sponsored by the New Salem Lions Club in honor of the local dairy farming industry. The statue stands 38 feet high and is 50 feet long. It stands proudly on School Hill near Interstate 94 off exit 127 S and can be viewed for several miles.
Though Salem Sue is the Giant, there are many more cows out there strutting their stuff, from smaller than life to much larger than life…..here are a few from past road trips:
Perhaps the second largest cows can be found in Wisconsin. Not nearly as big as Salem Sue, these huge heifers still provide some awe. Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet is home to Sissy the Cow (below).
Just down the road from DeForest, in Janesville, WI is Bessie the Cow, who is likely about the same size. These two Cowlossus girls are both about 19 feet tall and 20 feet long. Both were manufactured by F.A.S.T Corp in Sparta, WI (as were many of those in this post)
Of course, there are many “lesser bovines” out there and here are a few of the fun ones I have come across over the years….
The first of these if the Springbank Snow Countess Monument in Woodstock, Ontario. She was a, champion milk producer (she became the World Champion Lifetime Butterfat Producer with a total of 9,062 pounds of butterfat and 207,000 pounds of milk), was born, raised, and died on the Springbank Farm, in Oxford County, Ontario. Her record held until 1954. She was designed by local artist Ross Butler. I include her for the honor even though she is actually made of cast iron and not fiberglass.
F.A.S.T. Corp is well known for their mass manufacture of fiberglass animals for local art projects. Dozens of these events have popped up around the country, including two in Lexington that featured horses. Some have features art on cows and here are a couple of fun examples:
The JELL-O Gallery in LeRoy, NY is a fun offbeat place to visit and they have a colorful cow!
A close cousin to the bovine is the bison (which many mistakenly call buffalo). There are a few of these around too. By far the biggest of these in Jamestown, ND. The “World’s Largest Buffalo” was built in 1959 and is actually made from cement. It is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long and weighs a mere 60 tons. Despite it being made of cement, I had to include it…
There are other “lesser bison” to be found on the back roads of America. As an iconic plains animal known specifically to the Americas, it is no doubt that it is honored in many places.
GIANT MOOSE STATUES
Another of the big American animals that can be seen around the country are moose. By far, thee world’s biggest moose is up in Canada and is not fiberglass. But, it should be shown here anyway.
Mac the Moose was put up in 1984 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Mac stands 32 feet tall and weighs in at 10 tons. He was constructed by Saskatoon artist, Don Foulds using a steel frame, covered with metal mesh and completed with 4 coats of cement.
Another common sight on roads around the states are Pink Elephants and other elephants.
Jumbo the Elephant was a real elephant from the Barnum and Bailey Circus. He died in St. Thomas, Ontario after being hit by a train. 100 years later, in 1985, the town built this 38 ton cement life sized statue, that is well over 15 feet tall.
But there are many other fiberglass behemoths, and many are pink. Not sure what started the Pink Elephant craze, but it is fun.
Perhaps one of the most famous of all of the pink elephants is Pinkie. Located in DeForest, WI this dude is sharp in his glasses.
Not to be confused with Pinky the Elephant, a 1963 creation now residing in Marquette, IA (and one I have yet to visit).
But wait, there are more….
I am not certain, but it appears that most of these come from the same mold from the company in Sparta, WI.
SOME DOGS, MICE AND FRIENDS
Among all of the others is a menagerie of animals like dogs, mice, giraffes. Here are a few more animals (birds and fish will be in Part 3 with the dinosaurs and oddities).
Let’s face it, Americans love those quirky roadside attractions! We all know it and its time to admit it. As far back as the 1930s they have been around. But it was the 1960s and 1970s that really got the roadside things going as people traveled Route 66 and other US Highways. The quirky and offbeat were the drawing cards…the highways were our Disneylands!
Remnants of those days still hang around even as some artsy companies keep pushing them out to roadside restaurants, garages and filling stations.
One of the most iconic of the roadside tchotchkes were the Muffler Men, those roadside giants holding Mufflers and axes and other things. I remember them well from my youthful 1960s living in Albuquerque. There are now websites that are totally devoted to them (such as the American Giants website with great, professionally produced documentary-style videos made by Joel Baker and his team) and then my favorite site on the web Roadside America, which has a huge section about them including a detailed and fascinating (and well-researched!) history of these guys.
Like many travelers, a few years ago I figured there were only one kind of muffler man. But, as I have traveled across this country, I have run into a few of them and their derivatives as well as some that were mistaken as muffler men. Once again, the genius team at Roadside America has even gone to the trouble to create a glossary to identify the myriad variety.
So, as I drive the back roads of America, I am always on the look out for these friends of the freeways and heroes of the highways. I am nowhere close to have come across the dozens and dozens of them, but I have certainly stumbled on a few and even have enjoyed the variety of them as shown in this post.
The one above has a mustache and a cowboy hat. It is the parking lot attendant for a big casino in Great Falls.
So, what is the history. I suggest you read the entire story HERE. But, in a nutshell, it was Steve Dashell’s company, “International Fiberglass, that turned out thousands of commercial statues in the 1960s and 70s. International Fiberglass took a single statue mold created for a cafe and parlayed it into a roadside industry.” It turns out that International Fiberglass also created the green Sinclair Dino’s (many are still around) and some ESSO Tigers (remember those?). His first fiberglass giant was built in 1962 for a restaurant in Flagstaff, AZ. It was a Paul Bunyan looking Lumberjack. I am a graduate of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and, if I am not mistaken, that same Paul Bunyan now sits on the NAU Campus as does one other. (see the story here) Unfortunately, during my time at NAU I never took any photos of them….humph!!
Dashell’s company made some basic molds and then were able to use them to create a variety of styles. Some were made for Texaco, some for Uniroyal (a Female statue).
There are a few collectors out there and so they sometimes appear in out of the way places. Perhaps the most well known collector is Glen Goode in Gainesville, TX. (see RA Article Here). I visited Glen’s place in 2012. He has the BIG THREE including a Uniroyal Gal, a Muffler Man and a couple of Big Johns.
The Big Johns were made by a company in or around Cape Girardeau, MO in the late 1960s and 1970s. I have come across one of the originals in Metropolis, IL, with grocery sacks and all. It stands nearly 30 feet tall. Unfortunately, he is outshined by the 12 foot tall BRONZE Superman in Metropolis (added here for fun)
I also saw one as I drive into Mississippi from Tennessee, without the bags:
I also came across a “deconstructed Big John” at a place in St. Louis. The legs were on display in the front and the upper torso sat in the backyard…with the original checkered shirt.
Of course, I have run into a few more in my travels. There is a beer toting one in Sturgis, SD standing guard outside of the Full Throttle Saloon (yes, the one from the TV Show in 2013)
There is another one I came across in Hatch, New Mexico
While in Hatch I also came across another iconic fiberglass family…also created by International Fiberglass in 1963 when A&W introduced four choices of hamburgers and their corresponding Burger Family members: Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Baby Burger, and Teen Burger. There aren’t many of these around. I looked for the one in Hillsboro, Oregon in 2012 and couldn’t find it. I was thrilled to see this one in Hatch, NM.
But the Muffler Men, Big John and Uniroyal Gal are not the only big fiberglass folk out there. Ironwood, MI is home to the “World’s Tallest Indian Statue”, a 50 foot Hiawatha that was built in Minneapolis in 1964, transported to Ironwood. It is huge and can be seen towering above town at the end of main street.
Another big fiberglass creation is the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN. Added by Creative Displays (which later became F.A.S.T) in 1978. At 55.5 feet tall, he is a tad larger than Hiawatha.
Not nearly as large, but yet another roadside icon that continues on throughout the U.S. is the Big Boy statue. Actually, there are a couple of them.
As a young boy in Albuquerque, the Bob’s Big Boy was always a treat. We saw him in many places. These Big Boy statues were another creation of International Fiberglass. Many of them are gone now (there is even a site dedicated to Big Boy Graveyards). Nowadays in Kentucky there is Frisch’s Big Boy, which is headquartered in Cincinnati (the original Bob’s started near Detroit in Warren, MI). They have a different looking brother to the original.
Speaking of fiberglass burger guys, Seymour , WI proudly claims to be the home of the original hamburger and has erected a 12 foot fiberglass statue of “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen, the supposed inventor. (there are claims by other towns)
The town of Santa Claus, IN has a number of fiberglass statues of Santa, but the biggest and oldest (built in 1935) was made of cement.
There are a number of others around town. Here are a couple of the Santas that hang around Santa Claus, Indiana
Finally, a few other guys I have run into on the road….
And this ends Part I of my Fiberglass Giants. Part II will feature a few animals and birds. Part II will cover some giant fish and other oddities.
(Note: This #TBT Post was written back in late March 2008. Considering the massive snows that the East Coast has endured in Winter 2015, it made me think of this treacherous time for me 7 years ago. At this time I was still working in Ontario and living in a small flat in Paris, ON)
March 24, 2008: This last few weeks have been a wild ride for me and most literally so. I have been through some life-threatening experiences as well as some absolutely exhilarating experiences.
It all started back on Friday, March 7. I was very excited as I planned to go to Cleveland that weekend, both to see my half brothers and sisters (the Laurienzos) as well as to see my good friend Aaron Boone play football for the Utah Blaze. I had planned on this trip for about three weeks. Aaron had gotten me tickets and I had arranged for my visit with my half-sisters Nicole, Tina, Lori and Debbie. It would be a fun weekend…or so I thought.
As early as Wednesday (March 5) there was talk of a huge winter storm that would hit the area around Saturday. By Friday the talk was that it would hit Friday night. Well, I was determined to make it to Cleveland and I had driven in the snow many times before. I decided that I would drive through Detroit as the brunt of the storm would be going through central Ohio later on in the evening. I figured if I left early enough that I could make it, so I left Woodstock at 1 PM and headed west. Generally, the weather was OK. There were occasional snow showers, but nothing too bad.
I got onto I-90 (the Ohio Turnpike) and headed east. As it grew dark out, the weather also took a turn for the worse and it started getting bad about 50 miles west of Cleveland. Nonetheless, traffic was still flowing along at about 60 mph. I got behind two semis (on a three lane road) and was getting sprayed pretty badly, so I decided to hit the far left passing lane, which was a bit icier as it was less traveled on. As I got about halfway past the truck, all of a sudden I saw the truck veer to his left and next thing I knew, I was hit in the right front bumper. My van went spinning out of control and I was horrified!! I really truly thought to myself, “So, this is how it is gonna end“. I could see that I was going to careen into the 10 foot tall cement dividing wall that divided the east and west bound lanes. And, indeed, I did…I smashed into it head on. The impact was so hard that the van bounced off the wall and back onto the highway, still spinning. It continued to head back towards the wall and this time smashed from the rear end and I ended up stopped at a 45 degree angle facing the oncoming traffic.
After I realized that I was NOT dead and not even injured (and I was totally amazed by that) and I was also stunned that no other oncoming vehicle had hit me, I finally came to my senses and called 911. The semi continued on as did all other vehicles. I sat there, 2 feet away from the road, still fearing for my life as semis came blazing by in the far left lane. More than once I thought to myself…yeah, right, I survive this crash only to be smashed by a semi trailer that loses control. It was a very scary 20 minutes before the highway patrol arrived.
Upon arrival, the officer first had me put the van in neutral and then he pushed it about 6 feet off the road. He then had me get into his vehicle. It was then that I began shivering in realization what had happened. The van had been totaled. The front end was smashed in (but the air bags never popped out). The right side of the van was destroyed and the back was also in bad shape. Worst off was that the insurance I had for the van was liability only and I had no details about the truck that hit me, so it was a total loss to me.
We waited for quite a while for the tow truck to come get me. By this time the storm was raging wildly. The westbound traffic was nowhere in sight as a semi had jackknifed across the road blocking all lanes, just a mile down from me. It was pretty horrific.
Finally, the tow truck (from Charlie’s Towing in Norwalk, OH) arrived and took me back about 20 miles to the town of Norwalk. It took him about 45 minutes to get the van onto the truck and then we had to drive through blizzard conditions. Once there, I unloaded most of my belongings from the van (which had all been thrown to the back of the van) and he took me into town to a hotel.
Needless to say, I was devastated…no vehicle, no idea where I was and no idea how I would get out of there. I got checked in at about 1:30 AM at the All American Inn in Norwalk. The young gal at the desk was very helpful in assisting me get all of my stuff out of the tow truck and into the hotel. I had a pretty fitful night.
The next morning, I awoke to a massive blizzard in Norwalk. I tried and tried to get a rental car to get out and finally got hold of someone at Enterprise Rentals. He was EXTREMELY kind and helpful and was able to get me a car…a PT Cruiser. I tried to drive it out to the hotel and got stuck three times in the half mile back to the hotel and the snow was blowing so badly that I passed the hotel up once as well.
I finally did get back to the hotel and decided I would not make the trip to Cleveland. Turns out I had no choice since all the roads were closed. The night of my accident saw over 800 accidents in Northern Ohio. What a mess I was in.
That Saturday at the hotel was not too much fun. The people were very nice, but I had no food and none of us could get out. One guy did get over to Dominoes pizza before it closed at noon and he got us all Pizza. That was our last hot meal for the day as we could not get out again. We did enjoy Continental breakfast items for dinner that night.
March 9, 2008: Sunday morning rolled in and I got up early to get to Cleveland. I had heard that the roads had cleared up. I wanted to get to the football game and also wanted to get over to see the Laurienzos. So, off I went. Following are some scenes from the road in Norwalk that morning:
Fortunately, I-90 was pretty clear. There were huge piles of snow everywhere. It was amazing. I finally did make it into Cleveland and over to Mayfield Road in Little Italy, where my sister Nicole’s Mayfield Smoke Shop is located. The entire city of Cleveland was socked in. Only the major arteries were semi-clear while most of the roads were buried under almost 2 feet of snow.
I had a nice visit with my younger half- sister Nicole. We went out to breakfast at this nice place near Little Italy and I did get a couple of photos. Unfortunately, Nicole was the only one who could even get out of the snow that morning. While visiting with Nicole, she gave me a little surprise…a baptismal certificate…mine. As Carmen David Laurienzo (my birth name before adoption) I was baptized in the Church of the Holy Rosary in Cleveland by Friar Ettore Patragnoni on November 18, 1956. She also gave me perhaps the earliest known photo of me.
After my visit with Nicole, I made my way downtown to the Quicken Arena to watch the game. I had good seats and had a good time. Aaron Boone scored a couple of TDs. For the entire second half, I sat right behind the bench, practically on top of the field. Bad news was that the Utah Blaze lost in the last seconds. It was disappointing.
After the game, Aaron and I walked down the street from his hotel and had a nice dinner at the Winking Lizard Grill. I then headed back to Ontario and drove straight through. It was an exhausting weekend.
March 10, 2008: I was back safely in Paris, ON, but this area had also been pounded by the same storm. During the previous Saturday I had called the Credit Union in Lexington numerous times trying to set up a loan. Frustrated, I left numerous messages. The Branch Manager called me back first thing Monday morning and told me that all of the branches had been closed due to the storm (which had also hit Lexington pretty hard). She promised to make arrangements to set up a loan and by lunch time I had been approved for a loan to get a new vehicle. She also assured me that someone would be there on the following Saturday so that I could try to get a vehicle in Cleveland instead of going all the way back to Lexington. It would be a long worrisome week as I struggled to find a vehicle, but Linda at the Credit Union came to my rescue and by Friday, we had found a car through the Enterprise dealers in Lexington who had contacted the Enterprise dealers in Cleveland.
March 14, 2008: Friday afternoon and I was off to Cleveland again, this time to get a new (used) vehicle and also, hopefully, visit the Laurienzos more meaningfully. I drove back through Buffalo, NY and Erie, PA and finally made my way into Cleveland. I got to Enterprise around 6:30 PM and the salesman for Enterprise Sales showed me the new vehicle…a 2002 Ford Explorer Sport (2 doors, 4WD, 48,000 miles). It looked great!! We took it for a spin and I was hooked. The next morning, it was mine (or at least mine with the Credit Union!!). The really exciting thing was that I have had wanted a pickup and this drives like one. It was comfortable and had all the things I wanted in a car.
After looking at the car on Friday night, I took a drive over to Tina’s house. Snow was still quite deep everywhere, but the roads were all passable. It was so good to see Tina. For the Catholics, this was the season of Lent, so Tina was not having meat. She did make some dinner for me though… Pasta e Fagioli, a pasta dish with white beans. It was really really good. After a while, Tina’s husband Jim showed up as well as their son Joey. I was glad to see them all.
March 15, 2008: With keys in hand, I was off to Little Italy again. I parked in front of the Smoke Shop and paid another visit to Nicole. While there, Lori and Tom also showed up. Nicole bought some pizza from the place next door. We had a nice visit for a couple of hours.
After the nice visit and good company and excellent pizza, I was back on the road. I had plans to get to Niagara Falls this time as I had never been there. So, off I went. The drive through Erie, PA and Buffalo, NY was much more pleasant than the last time and this car was much more comfortable than the little PT Cruiser. Plus, I had cruise control this time. It was nice.
I did make it to Niagara Falls this time. I chose to go on the Canadian side as I had heard that it was much nicer. I drove over the Peace Bridge at Fort Erie and then onto Niagara Falls, Ontario.
I finally got back to Paris and my little humble abode after Easter weekend in Lexington with the family.
It can be seen that the last couple of weeks have been filled with terror, angst, excitement and unfettered joy in my family. I am glad that I am still on the Right Side of the Dirt and also that I have such a wonderful wife and family.