Feeding Hills, MA Waving Giant

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 11.39.38 AMMy #70th Muffler Man sighting took place in Chicopee, MA in July of 2012. This was a unique sighting, because he is a rare breed of Muffler Man. Although made by International Fiberglass, he is not made from the regular Muffler Man mold. He is a unique giant that we refer to as a waving giant and he is taller than regular Muffler Men.

IMG_20121031_131317Waving Giants, although they closely resemble the Texaco Big Friend, are not the same. Texaco Big Friends show teeth and actually lack the top of their heads under the cap, while these guys have closed lips and a full head of hair. Waving Giants could be ordered with a dress shirt and tie or with a full suit coat as well. We know a handful were made in the mid 1960s but only 4 originals can still be found today. The one this article is about, another in Oakwood Village OH, a third that is stored in the attic of a business near Chicago and a forth that Glenn Goode found in Garland, TX in the 80s rotting away behind a business. Glen would not only restore this waving giant but make copies of him, although all of his, including the original have regular muffler man heads.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-1-53-51-pmThe Waving Giant in MA is one of two that we know of that had the full suit coat. We have uncovered a vintage picture of a waving giant with a suit coat at an unknown location but have no idea where he ended up or if he still exists and feel it is very unlikely he is the one from MA.

We don’t know when the waving giant was ordered but we do known that in 1970 Mario Cantalini bought the statue from a pizza shop, for $2,000 and moved it to his Mutual Ford dealership in Springfield, MA. It is likely thatScreen Shot 2013-11-12 at 12.03.16 PM the pizza shop ordered the giant new from International Fiberglass, as we have seen pictures of a waving giant head wearing a pizza chef hat on the lot at International Fiberglass. However after extensive searching I’ve never been able to find record of a pizza shop with a giant in Framingham, or any pictures.
Mario Cantalini’s new dealership used the slogan of “Buy American” so the statue was transformed into an Uncle Sam character and the statue’s chef’s hat was replaced with a top hat. The statue stood on the lot until 1988 when the dealership closed. The property was then leased to a used car dealership and things changed. The owner was not interested in keeping the statue since the “Buy American” slogan didn’t fit well with all the foreign cars they were selling. The statue was taken down and put into storage.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-1-51-37-pmCantalini was involved in many businesses over the years.  He ventured into the hotel industry in the early 1990s at the age of 74.  One of the hotels that he owned was known as the Chicopee Motor Inn when it was built in 1958.  The hotel was designed by the highly acclaimed architect, Morris Lapidus.  It went by several names over the years before Cantalini bought it and renamed it the Plantation Inn. The hotel’s heyday was in the 1960s when it was known as the Schine Inn.  It was a very popular place with celebrities like Muhammad Ali and Judy Garland. In 1999, the hotel’s most famous guest arrived.  The Uncle Sam statue was taken out of storage and transformed into a Southern gentleman.  The statue’s suit and top hat were painted white.  It was installed in front of the hotel facing a busy interstate exit.

IMG_20120709_201412After 14 years at this location, the giant statue was sold at an auction on Friday, November 15th.  According to an article in The Republican “Plantation Man” sold at auction on Friday to Charlie Arment Jr. of Charlie Arment Trucking in Springfield. The auction generated allot of interest and over 100 people were present to witness the event. Charlie won the bid at $11,500 outbidding others as far away as KY. He was sketchy when giving future details but planned to keep the giant in the local area. According to the auction’s advertising, the statue was sculpted by Sacha Schnittman.  While Schnittman did sculpt the Texaco Big Friend, I have not heard or read anywhere that he created the Waving Giant statues like this one.  However, it is possible.

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Terry Nelson Collection

I have yet to find a photograph of this statue in its early days as a Pizza Man in Framingham.  International Fiberglass started selling this particular model in the mid-1960s. I recently spoke with former International Fiberglass painter, Terry Nelson.  He showed me photographs of statues being assembled  in Venice, CA.  One of the heads (see photo at left)  wore a chef’s hat and could have been a Pizza Man.  This may have been the same style hat that the Plantation Inn statue wore originally.  I have not been able to find anything about “Too-Fy” or “Stoo-fy” which is printed on this hat.   If anyone knows the correct name of the business and where this statue was located, I’d love to hear from you.

img_6036Today you can find the waving giant in Feeding Hills just outside of Agawam, MA at a shopping plaza on Springfield Street. In late 2015 the giant could be seen at the east end of the Plaza but in 2016 was moved to the west end and stands in front of construction storage building. Always great to see these giants rescued and kept on display for all to enjoy.

Thanks to the Plantation Inn for providing information about the statue during my 2012 visit.  Also to The Republican newspaper (see article herefor the information and reference to my blog. Additional thanks to Hell’s Acres blog for letting me use their picture of Plantation Inn Man when he stood at Mutual Ford.

 

The Green Valley Equipment Giant

img_20120709_175114Screen shot 2012-12-13 at 7.14.14 PMThis post is an attempt to continue posting information on my Muffler Man Sightings, picking up where I left off with me #69 sighting back in July 2012. I had been traveling across New York, visiting Muffler Men, and had just left Lake George. I headed east and just after crossing into Massachusetts, I stopped at Green Valley Equipment in the little town of Hancock. This was a special sighting for me, because it is one of the rare bow tie versions. Only a handful of these variants remain today, and other then the bow tie, they look just like the rest.

The Muffler Man is one of golfer versions made by International Fiberglass. We don’t know if he actually ever held a golf club, but he has a golfer’s hat and the same pants and shoes that the golfer versions had. We don’t know who first ordered him, or where he stood, but it is believed he was first shipped to NY or NJ in the late 1960s or early 1070s, shortly before International Fiberglass stopped producing the giants.

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Photo – Len Davidson Collection

The earliest record I was able to find of him, is a picture of him standing at McLaughlin Ford in New Milford, CT about 80 miles to the south of where he currently stands. The picture was taken in 1977, and he was taken down a few years later and somehow ended up at a nudist camp! We have yet to learn the details of exactly how he ended up at the nudist camp, but he stood there until the early 80s, when a group of teenagers took him to their high school and put him up on the roof as a prank. The police got involved, and he was impounded just like a car would be. After some time in lockup, he was purchased by Donald Whitman around 1984 and hauled up to Donald’s shop in Hancock.

By 1998 Donald decided the giant could use a nice paint job, and hired a sign company to paint him. In 1999 he showed up on Roadside America, looking new and sharp in his Green img_20120709_175050

Valley Equipment shirt and cap. Over the next 10 years the weather took its toll, and by the time I arrived he was looking really rough. I had been driving for over an hour and desperately needed to pee, so I trotted up behind the shop. That is exactly when Donald pulled up in his pickup truck, and I was a bit embarrassed as I finished up business and emerged from the bushes.

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Donald is a kind friendly man, and must have talked to me for almost an hour about the giant and his history, and took me inside to show me the hat that had blown off in 2010. He reminisced about the old days, and a simpler time when the valley was full of farms. The world has changed so much since these giants first started appearing across this country.

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Photo – Melissa Mendes

In 2016, I learned that the giant had finally been taken down, for a much needed restoration. A local artist named Melissa Mendes, took on the challenge to save and restore the Muffler Man, and from the pictures we have seen on her Instagram, she is doing an amazing job! I can’t wait to see pictures of the Green Valley Equipment Giant standing once again.

Special thanks to Donald for sharing the history of this giant and Melissa Mendes instagram page melmmmendes, and also to Len Davidson and his amazing collection of old pictures of these giants, that have helped us solve a few mysteries about former locations. 

Restoring a Texaco Big Friend

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A Texaco Big Friend stands in Kalispell, MT in May 1967

img_2026It was April 2012, and on a windy but clear day, I stood in Pahrump, NV looking up at one of four remaining Texaco Big Friends. These days Texaco Big Friends are not readily identifiable to the untrained eye. When the Big Friend program was canceled in 1967, almost all of the giants were destroyed, except for a few who were drastically altered to fit their new rolls. Like his remaining siblings, the Pahrump Big Friend no longer had his Texaco suit, but was painted to look almost like Robin Hood, and held a large sign in his open palm. The giant had a non standard hat, and a big square hole cut in his back. I remember hearing the birds roosting inside and wondering why there was a hole in his back.

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I don’t have all the details of this particular Big Friend’s history. We know he was made in 1965 or 66 along with 300 others, and stood for a time at International Fiberglass in Venice, CA before being deployed. He was transported on a trailer that hooked to his platform, and tipped him down on his side for transport. The hands, head and hat were removed for transportation, and I am guessing he was used at a number of Texaco texaco-big-friend-october-1966Stations in the South West in 1966 and 67. It is possible he is the same Big Friend that stood at Molly’s Broadway Texaco, in Lemon Grove in October 1966. It is most likely that he was in the Las Vegas area when the program was pahrump-croppedsuspended, and somehow he ended up being owned by the Young Electric Sign Company or YESCO. YESCO is a huge sign company responsible for many famous signs in Vegas, including the Circus Circus, Vegas Vic sign and countless others. It is unknown what they used the Big Friend for, or where and how he was displayed, but in 1981 he was sold to Jack Stanton in Pahrump, who had him repainted in green Irish colors, and made to look a bit like Robin Hood with a new hat. Stanton opened Valley Manufactured Homes in 1989, and the giant advertised for that business until it closed in 2009. It is not known where the giant stood from it’s purchase in 1981, till 1989 when it was used at Valley Homes.

big-friend-down-1In 2013 the property was liquidated to pay restitution to a local family, and as part of the clearing of the property, the giant and sign he was a part of, were dismantled and taken down. The giant was not seen as having any value, but the metal sign and pipe was to be used for scrap and the giant was hooked up to a
crane, and lowered to the ground. The huge pipe that supported the sign was in the giants left leg, however the Big Friend was laid down on his right site. Sadly the weight of the pipe cracked the legs and completely crushed the right arm. The chest literally shattered into pieces from the big-friend-down-3pressure, and the arm tore off.  A shoe was lost in transit to the dump, and the giant was prepared for scrapping. Thankfully the local news did a story on it, and myself and others flooded the landfill with phone calls inquiring about the giant. At that point they realized that he was special, and a historic Texaco figure, and decided to save him. A few months later it was decided to donate him to the local museum in March of 2014, and he was trucked over and dumped on their back lot, with the big heavy pipe still in his leg.

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img_1027The former big friend laid in pieces for the next two years, and was visited occasionally by muffler men enthusiasts, and visitors to the museum. We approached the museum in April of 2016 about purchasing and restoring the giant and after a few months the board notified us of their decision to sell him to us, and we were able to pick him up on October 7, 2016. Neto and I flew into Las Vegas the day before and rented a truck to haul him back east. We arrived early in
Pahrump, and what I thought would take us img_4622about a half hour turned into almost a 4 hour ordeal. The pipe had been removed for us by the museum, but what we didn’t account for was bird poop. The giant’s arm were literally full of bird poop, and after 20 years it was more like concrete. We were not able to lift the giant because of the weight and spent hours removing the poop and bones before we could lift the head and torso into the truck. I have worked extensively with regular muffler men and the Big Friends are much heavier. It was all Neto and I could do, to lift the legs and the torso into that truck. Texaco Big Friends are simply massive and he almost didn’t fit!

img_4630He was transported to Illinois for a restoration that will start summer 2017 and hopefully be completed sometime in 2019. The next step is to take the giant completely apart, and start identifying where each piece of fiberglass fits, it will be like putting together a puzzle on his chest. We will lay the broken fiberglass in all the holes and reconnect them. At that point we will be able to clearly see what pieces are still missing, and we will mold new pieces from an existing big friend. Our giant is completely missing his hat and left foot so those pieces will need to be made from scratch. We will have to take a mold from a current statue and then duplicate the part.

img_4637In addition to making new parts we will have to completely sand the giant down to the gelcoat and also repaint and detail him. It will be a huge undertaking but we are willing to put in the effort and money because of how rare he is. When I stood gazing up at the giant in 2012, I never dreamed we would own him one day, and have the opportunity to restore him. The places Muffler Men will take you……..

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Joel Baker with the Pahrump Big Friend in May of 2014. Joel made 4 trips to Pahrump from 2011-2016, and eventually picked him up for restoration. We want to thank the Pahrump Valley Landfill for saving him, the Museum for catching our vision and selling him to us for restoration, and all of our fans and supporters who have encouraged us along the way!

Chief Bagnell Restoration Update #6

This is the final update episode in the Chief Bagnell Restoration Series. After 5 months of hard work the restoration comes to an end on August 12, 2016 when the Chief was set back up on his former footprints on the Bagnell strip. This update covers the moving of the giant to the airbrush show and we get to meet Kurt Robinson who did all the detail work on the Indian. The update covers the packing for the trip home and finally the set up and unveiling of the giant. We also dug up some old pictures of the Muffler Man over the years that he has stood at Two Bit Town. A big thank you to everyone who helped with the restoration, the local community who was such a support to us, and Iguana who has just been great to work with on this restoration. Hope you all enjoy the final update!

Chief Bagnell Restoration Update #5

Update #5 covers the final priming of the giant as we lay down 2 coats of primer on the entire indian. We hung the giant from the roof of the shop so we could get around and under him better without having to move him during priming and painting. After the primer dried and was wet sanded we started laying down the base coat colors on the shoes, legs, torso and head dress. The head dress took the most work with all the different colors that needed to be layed down. This took a lot of prep time to tape off each section before and after painting. In the end we put down the clear coat and took the giant down to be moved to the detail shop for his final detail work, all the shadows, highlights and details to the face, head dress and eyes. Update #6 will cover this detail process and Update #7 will be the final update and will be about his return to Lake of the Ozarks and setting him back up. This has been a ton of hard work but a very rewarding restoration for the American Giants team!

Chief Bagnell Restoration Update #4

We are approaching the end of this restoration in the update #4 video. We have completed the sanding process and moved to the internal structure assembly phase of the restoration. While Joel has been working on wet sanding the primed torso the rest of the team have been installing in internal structure into the giant. It is important that the Indian can free stand when he returns to the lake without using cables. Small imperfections in the surface are also fixed in this update. We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Chief Bagnell Restoration Update #3

We have been busy here at American Giants plugging away on the restoration of Chief Bagnell. As always with these restorations, the more you restore, the more you find that needs restoring. The extent of restoration on this one has been greater then we first anticipated when we first got him but we have rolled with his punches and the extra patching is almost complete. As this update explains, he had more spider cracks in him then we ever could have imagined. We have completely resurfaced his back to cover them up and will also have to do the same for large portions of his upper legs before we put down the first coats of primer. The huge job of sanding down his face and head dress is over and this coming week our focus will be on building the internal support structure so he can free stand when we take him back home. Our next update #4 will cover the details of installing the internal structure.