#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. 

#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. 

American Giants Episode #3

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IMG_9845Episode #3 is finally a reality after allot of hard work and research. The episode covers our visit to the town of Atlanta, IL and the bunyan giant that lives there. Interestingly I learned more in post production then I did during the initial visit last summer. While editing I was able to get in touch with John Wiess and the information and video he was able to provide really filled out the episode nicely. We want to thank him for his time and effort in helping us get this episode out as well as the Stephens family for their desire to help others continue the route 66 experience and for lending their giant to the town of Atlanta. I also want to thank Bill Thomas for the time he took to talk to our crew while we were in town and for all the work he has done to help the town. There are countless others who help out with keeping the giant repaired and painted, it really is a community effort. Although named “Tall Paul” during his move to Atlanta the giant is formally known as “The Bunyon’s Giant” This is to help us remember what he was for so many years while standing in Cicero. The reason for the interesting spelling is that Art Stephens didn’t want to run into any copyright issues so he named his restaurant “Bunyons”.

American Giants Episode #2

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The second episode of “American Giants” is offically released as of July 9, 2013. The episode covers the details of International Fiberglass the company that made muffler men as well as Steve Dashew who owned it. We also continue to follow Joel and the guys up route 66 in search of muffler men. They make their second stop in Springfield, IL and visit the Lauderbach bunyan and talk to his owners and find out some very interesting history. Also Bo makes a cool discovery when he mounts a go pro camera on a boom pole. This episode is a reality due to the help of the guys at Lauterbach Tire in Springfield and also the many photographers and help I got from Roadside America. Again this episode runs 15min and although I tried to keep it under 8 I was not successful. The plan is for future episodes to be under 10 min in length.

#47 Springfield, IL – Bunyan

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Standing tall in Springfield, IL the Lauterbach muffler man is one of the better known muffler men out there. He owes this mostly to his popular location standing on historic route 66 in west central Illinois. He appears across the internet in many pictures taken by visitors as well as in Gabriel Aldaz’s book. IMG_9657He is a classic bunyan version and is actually one of the first one’s made judging by the way his arms are connected to his body. This muffler man was featured in American Giants 2nd episode and myself and the guys visited him in the summer of 2012 and were able to get his story and history. In 1952 Russ Lewis started Midtown Tire where the Hilton hotel now stands. Business was good and in 1961 he opened up a second store at the corner of State and Laurel and in 1962 purchased what at the time was a brand new Bunyan giant from International Fiberglass in Venice, CA. IMG_9688In todays money a muffler man in 1962 sold for about $13,600, at the time that was about $1,300. Sadly that store only stayed open another year and when it closed the giant was sold to the Round up Cafe 24 miles to the south in Farmersville, IL. The giant stood there for the next 15 years until 1978 when I-55 was put in and the giant was sold back to the Lewis family. That same year the giant was set up on Wabash Ave at it’s current location and has now been there for 25 years. In 1962 he held a tire in his right hand and today he IMG_9691holds a flag pole, I have yet to see a picture from his days at the Roundup Cafe and I am not sure what he held during that time. Life has not always been perfect for this Bunyan. On March 12, 2006 a two F2 tornados came through Springfield in what was the worst outbreak of tornados since 1957. They caused a total of 150 million in damages and picked up the roof of the Barrel Head restaurant next door to the bunyan and carried it south out over the street. The roof then came back to the north and connected with the head of the bunyan which at that point joined the roof on it’s journey down the street and ended up about 4 doors down to the east. The newspaper shot a famous picture of a neighbor carrying the head back to Lauterbach after the incident. A local body shop repaired the head and the bunyan has been doing pretty well since then. As an interesting side note also covered in American Giants Episode #2, Russ shared with an acquaintance the success of his newly acquired giant. Salem M ManSo sometime around 1963 Stan the Tire man in Salem, IL also purchased a bunyan for his tire store. A few years later in 1965 when the Uniroyal company did their promotion with the Uniroyal Gal Stan also acquired one of them when the promotion ended and the gal was left at his location. The two stood together for a time before the bunyan was finally sold to a collector in NC and the gal moved south the Stan’s store in Mt Vernon, IL where she still stands today. I just want to thank the guys at Lauterbach for taking the time to talk to us and for the information Jay shared with us during out visit. Also want to thank Darren Snow for the use of his rare picture taken in 2000 while the bunyan stood at his original location in Salem after his “wife” had moved on and before he was moved to NC.

Mark Cline and Soda Jerks

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Mark Cline and Enchanted Castle Studios is just a perfect example of why I throughly enjoy my hobby of tracking muffler men because you never know what your going to find. When I say tracking I really mean it, finding and photographing a muffler man is one thing but tracking down his story, history and former locations is where the real challenge and fun begins. And the story of the soda jerk has had my interest from early on in my hobby with muffler men. I guess I could have called Mark up right away but it was fun to try to figure it out on my own first. In the end (after the first episode came out) I finally wrote Mark and got the complete and very detailed story on how soda jerks came into existence. IMG_7145I’ve mentioned before that International Fiberglass came out with a second shorter version of the lumberjack a few years after meeting large success with the original. They were hoping that a shorter version and lower price tag would attract more business but interestingly the shorter lumberjacks were not all that successful and they stopped making them after a few years. I’m not sure how many hit the street but today there are more then 15 that are still scattered across America. One of these guys was shipped back in the 60’s to the Buccannan, Va area where by the mid 90’s it was standing at a lawn mower repair business. When that business shut it’s doors the muffler man was picked up by a twin restaurant chain named Spanky’s and Macado’s. 3Sometime after, Mark spotted the lumberjack, borrowed it and made a mold from it. Mark is an artist from VA that started creating all manner of huge fiberglass objects at the age of 19 when he started his own monster museum. These days it goes by the name of Enchanted Castle Studios and he continues to build a plethora of creatures, sculptures and objects for many different clients. The man is incredibly talented and driven and loves what he does. After making a mold from the muffler man, Spanky wanted the original lumberjack turned into a rock star to resemble the english singer George Michael and attract the youth. So Mark went to work modifying the head, beard, adding a microphone, leather jacket and even boots. The modified m man was then trucked off to a new restaurant in Lynchburg. Hold on this is where it gets interesting, his stay there was brief and the business soon closed it’s doors. At this point Spanky wanted the muffler man returned to a lumberjack so it could stand at a new business he had opened in Elkins, WV called “Lumberjacks”, sound familiar? Picture 5Another artist did the transformation back to lumberjack status and the giant was moved to Elkins. That business also didn’t last long and somehow the muffler man ended up back at Mark’s studios missing his feet and in need of repair. This is where Debra Jane Seltzer’s muffler man feet picture starts to make sense. Mark replaced the missing feet and the giant went back out into circulation and Mark lost track of it. So today it is anyone’s guess where the muffler man that fathered soda jerks is Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 4.46.17 PMlocated and the mystery still remains. Stay with me here…we’re not done! Now with a mold cast Mark created the “first” soda jerk. He decided that a beard was the last thing a soda jerk should have, wouldn’t want all those whiskers ending up in the ice cream float so he shaved it off and made a smooth chin over it. This is where the soda jerk head was born, it is in fact a modified bunyan head from the original. Interestingly before modifying the head mold into what it is today he made one original Bunyan head with the beard. That head used to adorn a 20+ foot Battle Mech. Today the giant is in pieces with the head still wearing his star goggles. Meanwhile the first jerk went to the “Star City Diner in downtown Roanoke 5at the corner of S Jefferson and Campbell in what used to be the old Hardees building. It was during this time that pictures of it started showing up on roadside america. After the restaurant went out of business Mark got the jerk back and loaned it to some friends that were running a small novelty store called “That’s It” pictures of it surfaced on roadside america during it’s time there as well. After a brief stint the Jerk went back to Mark and was stored at his studio for a few years. Around 2005 Mark took the Jerk to a trade show in Atlanta and a man from Panama bought him. So that is the story of the soda jerk, it’s head and how he came to be. Interestingly the original muffler man is MIA. Mark however is not and still Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 11.08.40 PMcontinues to turn out his creations as well as muffler man/soda jerks from time to time. He makes two versions of them, the other being a cowboy. So after all that, true to muffler man style we are left with one missing giant and the first soda jerk is in Panama. It is never a dull story with these guys…

I want to thank Mark Cline for taking the time to dig all this information from his memory and sharing it with me, for the use of his pictures to help tell this story and most of all for adding to this world things that make us take a second look and smile. A documentary about mark is currently in the making, help fund this amazing look at his life and work!