#63 Lake Luzerne, NY – Bunyan

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IMG_20120709_145251The Lake Luzerne Muffler Man statue has always been one of my favorites. Ever since I saw a photo at RoadsideAmerica.com of this Paul Bunyan standing in the woods without a head and coming apart at the waist, this unfortunate statue has intrigued me. It is located near Lake George, NY where there are five other Muffler Men.  Among them is the statue from the 1964 World’s Fair in New York now standing at Around the World Mini Golf in downtown Lake George. The rest of the area’s Muffler Men are located at Magic Forest, a recreational park for children.

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It is not known when the Lake Luzerne statue arrived. The earliest report is that it was already installed at the Swiss Campsites entrance in 1976 when the parents of Lynn Kinsman purchased the property.  Her parents changed the name of the campground to the Swiss Trail Campground and repainted the statue’s shirt to reflect the new name. After they sold the campground in 1985, the statue began falling apart and vegetation began obscuring it from view.

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Photo Credit Debra Jane Seltzer

In the fall of 2002, the statue’s head was knocked off during a storm.  It landed on the lawn, close to the side of the road. Soon afterwards, Debra Jane Seltzer, the creator and manager of RoadsideArchitecture.com, spotted the head and became its caretaker.  She was in the area at a dog agility trial.  When the competition wrapped up for the day, she went to take photos of the statue.  She noticed the statue’s head lying on the ground in full view of the road.  She worried that it might be stolen or destroyed by vandals.  Back at the trial site, she mentioned the situation to a friend who insisted that they go get the head to save it from harm. They drove up to Lake Luzerne in the middle of the night and parked across the street from the statue. The head was light but awkward and slippery.  They finally

Photo Credit: Debra Jane Seltzer

Photo Credit Debra Jane Seltzer

managed to get it across the road by using the nose and ears as handles. Getting the bulky head into the van was even more challenging and stressful.  Dogs were barking and cars passed by now and then.

The next day, the head was the talk of the agility trial. Everyone wanted a look at the bearded Bunyan face under the tarps.  Debra Jane’s next challenge was getting the head into her New York City apartment.  It just barely squeaked through the door.  For the next eight years, the head lounged comfortably next to a radiator in her apartment.  From time to time, she considered returning it.

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Photo Credit Debra Jane Seltzer

Then, in September 2010, David Magliato posted a comment on RoadsideAmerica.com.  He had recently purchased the Swiss Trail Campground and renamed it the Adirondack Memories Campground.  One of his first orders of business was the Muffler Man.  In his on-line comment, he expressed his desire to restore the statue and inquired if anyone knew the whereabouts of the head.

Photo Credit Debra Jane Seltzer

Photo Credit Debra Jane Seltzer

After reading the comment, Debra Jane made a pilgrimage to return the head in 2011. When she arrived, she noticed that the statue had been repainted and looked great with the exception of the missing right arm and head. There was no answer when she knocked on the door of the house next to the statue.  So, she placed the head next to the garage door and hoped for the best.

IMG_20120709_121955The following summer, I was visiting many of the New York Muffler Men.  I drove to the Lake Luzerne campground on July 9th. To my surprise, when I rounded a bend in the road, I saw that the statue had been re-headed.  The Paul Bunyan stood on a hillside next to the road holding a big saw.  The head had been repainted to match the recently painted body.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 8.42.45 PMShortly afterwards, I posted my discovery at RoadsideAmerica.com.  Debra Jane was delighted to learn that, after all these years, the head had finally made it back on top of those broad shoulders. She said later, “It was a pleasure having the giant’s company all those years. But it is a far greater joy to know the head has been reunited with its body and in public where it belongs.”  The Muffler Man is still missing his right arm.  Maybe that, too, will turn up one day or a replacement will be installed.

Special thanks to Debra Jane Seltzer for her help in editing and to Roadside America for the information they have shared.

#62 Stony Point, NY – Bunyan

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IMG_20120704_131116In early 2012, I visited the Muffler Man in Stony Point, NY.  This statue is located at Camp Bullowa which is used for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts activities.  It appears to be one of the early Paul Bunyans produced in the mid-1960s by International Fiberglass.  While I was at the Camp, I met Ranger Joe Langdon and spoke with him about the statue.  It is not known where this Muffler Man was located before it arrived at the Camp in the mid-1990s.  It stands next to the parking lot near the main entrance.

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The statue was previously located next to the cafeteria on a steep hill overlooking the lake. It

became a popular prank for young campers to push the statue down the hill. Joe found the Muffler Man in the lake several times.  Since these fiberglass statues are hollow, this statue floated and could be easily found.  Enough was enough and, by 2000, Joe moved the statue to its current location near his house so that he can keep an eye on it.

IMG_20120704_124324Joe enjoys making large footprints in the snow and convincing Boy Scouts that the giant statue walks around at night.  This Muffler Man is in remarkably good condition considering the number of tumbles and swimming escapades it has been through.  The only damage is a crack on one of the statue’s boots.  The wooden axe that the statue holds is a replacement of the original.

Thanks to Debra Jane Seltzer for reviewing and editing this article. 

#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.

#55 Libertyville, IL – Lumberjack

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Because they are rare it is always nice to come upon one of the 15 ft versions of muffler men. As I mentioned in AG Episode #1 after a few years of turning out the full size version of muffler men with great success, Steve Dashew owner of International Fiberglass wanted to offer customers more. He came up with the idea to make these shorter and lighter IMG_8770lumberjack versions in hopes of getting those customers that were put off by size or price when considering the 21 ft full size versions. They started making these guys around 1965 but unfortunately they were not all that popular and they stopped making them within a few years. They sold at least 20 of these guys however and many of them can still be found all across the 48 states today. The history of this one here at Lambs farm in Libertyville is a bit hazy but as far as I can tell he has been here since the mid or late 60’s and probably was ordered right from International Fiberglass. The story behind that started in 1961 when Bob Terese and Corinne Owen opened a pet store on Chicago’s State Street with 12 employees, the difference was that their employees all had developmental disabilities. Bob and Corinne’s mission was to help people with Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 11.26.57 AMdevelopmental disabilities lead productive and happy lives. They quickly received support and growing recognition from the Chicago community and in 1965 they relocated 35 miles to the north near Libertyville where Philanthropist W. Clement Stone had purchased and donated a 70 acre farm. They restored the century old bard into the area’s largest pet stores and with the extra space they made new businesses to bring in more adults with disabilities into their program. Today Lambs Farm makes a difference in the lives of 250 participants and thousands of visitors stop by every year. The IMG_0417area where the Bunyan/lumberjack stands is part of a children’s attraction that is right next to the interstate and has a petting zoo, train, mini golf, snack shops and even a restaurant. All these contribute and support the programs run by Lambs Farm. The muffler man was probably ordered early on to stand in the park and today he stands next to a huge cow and milk bottle and they all are IMG_0455starting to show their age. It is also possible that the bunyan was purchased later in the 70’s or 80’s and brought to the farm but not even management at the park could remember exactly when he got there or how they obtained him.  We got there after the park had closed for the day but did some quick filming for a upcoming Episode and got a few pictures of the worn lumberjack through the fence. After all these years he has managed to keep a firm grip on his trusty axe.

Thanks to Lambs Farm for speaking with me and letting me use content from their website. 

#53 Crystal Lake, IL – Indian

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IMG_0346My #53 sighting of a muffler man stands not far from the service man also located at the Greenhouse in Crystal Lake, IL. The establishment is impressive with a wide variety of plants, tree’s and everything your lawn or garden could need. The grounds are also nicely lade out and in addition to their two muffler men they have many other statues and yard art that is available for purchase (the muffler men however are not for sale). The pair of muffler men were first reported on Roadside America in 1999 when they stood at the now gone Ozzies Waterpark that was IMG_0266located at 20263 Rand Road between Long Grove Road and Lake Cook Road. They stood close to each other and had different paint schemes at the time.  In 2001 Debra Jane Seltzer stopped by and photographed them for her website. Also Roadside America wrote an article about them on their website around the same time. It was also noticed that they were both missing their feet, not a terribly uncommon problem with muffler men. In my post about the service man I mentioned their possibly history with the now long gone Adventure Land that had two muffler men standing at it’s front entrance. Although I’m unsure if they ever stood at Adventure Land this is the indian that was at Ozzies and he still stands footless today in fresh dirt against a tree at the entrance to the buisness. He IMG_0271has a unique paint job and I noticed his fingers had more detail then most other muffler men I have seen. He is the indian brave version of the indian, the other being a more fierce looking war chief that International Fiberglass made. The indians versions left today can be found with a different styles of shoes. I have seen them with moccasins like the burned Indian in AZ as well as

IMG_0270 shoes with indian tassels like the one in Parkersburg, WV. They also were sold with the same shoes that the cowboy version has. I am guessing somewhere in the Chicago area are two feet incased in concrete, what style they were we may never know. 

 

#50 Wilmington, IL – Gemini Giant

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IMG_0105Probably the most famous muffler man standing today is the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, IL. He stands in the parking lot of the Launching Pad Restaurant and has been for the last 48 years. I’ve covered the different versions of muffler men on this blog and in my youtube series “American Giants” and the gemini giant belongs the rarest version, the spaceman. In the mid 60’s we were in them middle of the space race and in June of that year Gemini 4 was launched, it was the second manned space flight in NASA’s project Gemini. As these events were unfolding in Cape Canaveral the guys at international fiberglass in California decided to keep up with the times and make a new variation to their muffler man line. And so the space man was born. In addition to the arm positions and bulging veins he was also given a space helmet and often his clothes were painted a spacy gold or green color. To my knowledge only 2 space men have ever been confirmed as being made and I have yet to see evidence of more. Astro Oil CoThe first one seems to have appeared in an early add for international Fiberglass and pictures a space man with a surf board shaped sign that reads “Astro Oil Co”. The giant has on bunyan style legs with the pants tucked into the top of the boots but lacks the suspender buttons. Soon after what I believe is the same giant was moved to Coney Island and was fairly well documented there over the next few years first appearing with his helmet and then at some point it was taken off. The sign also was changed to read “Astroland” and he stood next to the giant ferris wheel. It is possible that the giant in the IMG_9976International Fiberglass add and the one at Coney Island are two different statues and if so then there would have been a total of 3 of these space giants that I know of to have existed. The only remaining space version standing today is the one in Wilmington and he is different in that he has on cowboy pants and what appear to be his suspender buttons appear in some kind of fabricated control panel that appear on his helmet just under the face shield. He is the only one to IMG_0014have received this “control panel” as far as I can tell and the other two did not have this feature. He comes with standard shoes but stands on a concrete pedestal that bares his name. Nearby stands the Launching Pad Restaurant that has just recently closed it’s doors and is now up for sale. Brand new the Giant cost $3,500 in 1965 and that has the same buying power as $25,955.11 in todays IMG_0092market. So even back then that hefty giant came with a hefty price and nothing much has changed. Although owner Morey Szczecin has received dozens of offers the giant can only be yours if you buy the entire property and so far it is still for sale. The giant has become a symbol of old route 66 in Illinois and even appeared in tourist commercials produced by the state. Hundreds of visitors still stop by to see him each year and just down the street stands a fellow International Fiberglass product, a Sinclair dinosaur. Our American Giants crew visited him in the summer of 2012 and that trip will be featured in episode #4.

#48 Atlanta, IL – Bunyons Giant

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IMG_9739The little town of Atlanta IL has become a big stop for motorists traveling old route 66. With a population of just 1,700 it boasts a very unique old route 66 downtown on Arch Street that also includes the towns very own muffler man named Tall Paul. The area also includes an old diner, clock tower, route 66 antique store as well as other quant businesses. The muffler man is one of most iconic muffler men that exist today and the only one I know of to hold a giant hot dog. He appears to be a Bunyan version except for his clean shaven face and the lack of a knit cap. IMG_9707International fiberglass customized many of their giants to meet the customers needs so he is a bit of a cross breed with a cowboy head but with bunyan pants. He also appears to be made in the early days of International Fiberglass and is one of the few muffler men left to hold a custom accessory. I spotted him on our muffler man road trip last summer and he is a part of the first season of American Giants (episode #3). Along with that giant hot dog this muffler man also comes with a pretty interesting story that started back in 1965 when he was made. He was ordered by a man named H.A Stevens who was 43 at the time and wanted to start a hod dog stand in Cicero, IL. He heard about international fiberglass and the bunyans they were producing and flew out to Encino, CA to pick one up. He stated that this bunyan was already used by the oil companies at the time but also mentioned seeing many of the giants laying on their backs. IMG_9713Encino is 20 miles north of Venice and I was not aware of the giants being made or stored there. Also 1965 was in the hay day of muffler man production and business was going very well at the time so it seems odd this guy would be retired already. I am guessing the giant was new or almost new at the time of purchase and Mr Stevens payed 1,900 for his big guy. If you factor in inflation that was $14,084.37, a hefty price tag even today for a muffler man. On top of that he had it shipped to IL in 5 boxes and then had to have it set up. He replaced the standard axe with a giant hot dog and the muffler man was set up on January 8, 1966 on old route 66 in Cicero. Screen shot 2013-07-24 at 4.44.37 PMThat year was the golden year for muffler men, in 1966 both Texaco and Phillips 66 ordered hundreds of muffler men from International Fiberglass so the hot dog holding bunyan had a lot of company surrounding him. Mr Stevens named his restaurant “Bunyons” to avoid any copyright issues with other businesses. As other muffler men started to disappear he stayed on for almost 40 years at his post enduring bullets and arrows and probably other unpleasantries he doesn’t wish to remember. In the early days he stood on the roof but Mr Stevens wanted him to be more tangible to his customers and the children so he was moved down to the ground. Screen shot 2013-07-24 at 4.32.34 PMIn 2003 at the age of 81 Mr Stevens sold the restaurant and the next year his family was approached by John and Lenore Weiss representing the preservation committee of the Illinois route 66 Association.  The muffler man was then loaned to the city of Atlanta, IL 150 miles to the southwest of where he stood for so long in Cicero. So today he still stands along old route 66 and is a major source of tourism for the little town. Literally thousands of people pass through Atlanta every year just to see the statue and get their picture with him. IMG_9718When the American Giants crew stopped by we learned he was getting a fresh paint job the following day by volunteers in the community. So he still looks as new as ever although I noticed a few signs of his true age. His torso no longer fits snuggly into his pants and a bit of a crack is visible. I also noticed his right thumb has been cut off a bit to make room for that giant hot dog bun. I have spoken with the painter that worked at International IMG_9845fiberglass and he remembers making hot dog buns for some giants to hold so I am a bit unsure if that hot dog was made locally in Chicago or if it is from International Fiberglass. So once more we learn about a man who’s life was effected by a tall silent muffler man and when people see the giant, they still remember Hamlet Arthur Stevens and his years of service to his country, his comunity and his hot dogs. He passed away at 89 but every day people still enjoy his contribution and travel miles to see it.

Special thanks to those who interviewed Mr Stevens and got his story such as Roadside America and the Chicago Sun Times. American Giants Episode #3 will feature this muffler man, town of Atlanta and our findings and adventures up old route 66.