#61 Elmsford, NY – Bunyan

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Picture Credit: Debra Jane Seltzer RoadsideArchitecture.com

Picture Credit: Debra Jane Seltzer RoadsideArchitecture.com

In July 2012, I had the opportunity to go to New York to visit some Muffler Men that I had not seen before.  My first stop was the Orange County Fairgrounds in Middletown to see “Chief Towaco”. This was an Indian Chief model that had been there since the 1970s.  Originally, this statue was one of three Indian models installed at the Danbury Fair in Danbury, CT.  Vintage photos show that this statue always had this strange looking, duct taped body.  At that point, his head was in normal condition and stayed that way until the giant was taken down.

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I arrived at the Orange County Fairgrounds on the 4th of July only to find out that the statue had been removed and trashed just two days earlier! I was told that the head was saved by one of the men who helped take the statue down. The rest of the body was hauled off to the dump. While I was at the Fairgrounds, I checked out the giant fiberglass cow head and some neat lights which came from the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

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After that, I went to see the Muffler Man in Elmsford.  This Paul Bunyan model stands on North Central Avenue just off I-287. It has been there since at least the 1970s. From the style of the statue’s shirt sleeves and arms, this appears to be an early statue from the mid-1960s.  The statue’s right arm has been missing as far back as anyone can remember. It’s possible that this statue never had one or it was removed to fit next to the sign.

Picture Credit: Debra Jane Seltzer RoadsideArchitecture.com

Photo Credit Debra Jane Seltzer RoadsideArchitecture.com

The statue was originally painted the standard Paul Bunyan colors with a red shirt and blue pants.  By 2001, his shirt had been repainted gold.  Around 2004, the Amoco station was rebranded as a BP station.  The statue was painted green and yellow to match the new company’s logo. The statue’s eyes were also painted green and a flower planter was built around its feet.  The statue is a classic Paul Bunyan and not the same style as Phillips 66 or or Texaco Muffler Men so I have my doubts this giant was purchased for the oil industry. I have yet to find out if this statue has always been at this site or if it was moved there from somewhere else.

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In 2007, a driver accidentally backed a truck into this statue and ripped the left arm off right below the shirt sleeve. The station owner put the arm in a storage room where it has remained ever since.  Although I begged to see the arm, the clerk would not allow it.  He said that the owner was going to reinstall the arm at some point.  While there are a few Muffler Men around the country with missing feet, I believe this is the only one with missing arms. At the time of my visit, the gas station was being remodeled and the pumps had been removed.  Hopefully, the statue is also on the owner’s “to do” list and that the left arm will be reinstalled soon.

#36 Las Cruces, NM M Man

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With well over 100 muffler men out there and being over 50 years old now, chances are high that not all of them still are %100 complete. IMG_0468 IMG_7496 IMG_7494 IMG_7503 IMG_7510 IMG_7512IMG_7504Feet, heads, arms and items they held commonly disappear and even a torso from time to time. Before International Fiberglass closed it’s doors part of it’s business was simply replacing missing axes and other things the muffler men held. It seems more then one collage student in the 70’s wanted a giant axe for their dorm room wall. Sadly stealing these items came at a price that the owners had to foot and although some ordered new items many didn’t bother and so the majority of muffler men out there today hold nothing at all.

 

The service man version that stands today in Las Cruces, NM is one of the ones missing some important body parts. I have always thought that if a muffler man is missing something important, it’s because it was taken or stolen at some point in time but surprisingly this is not always true. In fact it is important not to jump to conclusions because in many cases the owner still has the missing pieces. This is the story here in Las Cruces and his arms were simply taken off to accommodate that huge sign he holds and they are stored at another location. Other muffler men with body parts in storage include the steelers football player in PA who’s head is not missing but in storage after falling off. The Bunyan at Lake Vanare, NY is missing a foot that the owners have in storage (although I think one of his arms is gone for good). The Elmsford, NY m man was always missing his right arm but the left was knocked off recently when a truck backed into it and it is stored inside the gas station.

The Las Cruces m man arrived here in the early 90’s and was hauled in the back of a dump truck in 3 pieces. His owner said he was once a Phillips 66 cowboy but had already lost his hat by the time he purchased him. He has stood here at “Big Daddy’s Flea Market” for a long time and the locals all call him “Big Daddy” Since he is a cowboy that almost is a guarantee that he has a International Fiberglass stamp on his leg, although it is faded I could still make it out on his left leg. His right leg is banged up a bit and has been patched with some duck tape thats starting to come off so some fiberglass work on this guy would not be out of order. I was also very interested in the platform that he stood on. International Fiberglass sold their muffler men with a stand that was a metal frame on wheels. This was a patented design made by Steve Dashew and it was built so the giant could be displayed at a business and also easily hooked up to a trailer to be moved to another location for display. The Texaco Big Friends were all sold with this  and I have seen many vintage pictures of muffler men in the 60’s and 70’s standing on these platforms. These days they are almost impossible to find and I have only seen a few of them in my travels. However this giant seems to be standing on one and if it’s not original it still closely resembles what these guys once shipped out with.  The area seems to attract large objects and there is a giant bull across the parking lot from the muffler man. I wish now I would have asked the owner about the platform but as is often the case I noticed it later when studying the pictures I took more closely. It’s amazing the small details you can miss and look over when on site with these guys and I always seem to discover more at home studying the picture then I do out in the field.