The Uniroyal Gal

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As the Bunyan muffler men began to become popular and more and more businesses across the US started purchasing them International Fiberglass kept on innovating. They first started with the oil giants, Phillips 66, Sinclair and Texaco making versions of muffler men or dinosaurs that could stand that their gas stations and promote their products and business. IMG_9912The idea was a success and the reason there are so many muffler men left today is because most of them were made in mass quantity for oil companies, chiefly Phillips 66. Their cowboys still cover large portions of the US with and without their cowboy hats. The texaco big friend sadly is a different story and Texaco was largely successful in destroying almost all 300 that were purchased except for 4 or 5 of them.   Shortly after Texaco purchased their 300 in 1966 the Uniroyal company also wanted a statue to advertise their tires. So International Fiberglass came up with the idea to do something different and make a female version of the muffler man. She was sculpted by an unknown artist who supposedly had a thing for Jackie Kennedy and IMG_9937sported an orange bikini. I’m not sure how many were made but altogether I have heard of 17 of them so far and 12 of those are still visible today. Needless to say these are one of the less common muffler men and new sightings almost never happen. International Fiberglass also made a skirt and shirt for the giant lady and these could be put on or taken off at the owners will. The Uniroyal girl in Peoria, IL is changed seasonally and during the winter she wears her clothes and during the hot summer she sports a red bikini. In Gainsville Texas owner Glen Goode even made the skirt of his Uniroyal girl longer so she could be “more holy” as he put it and in WV the Farnham’s Uniroyal girl now sports her newly painted bikini while her clothes lay in the grass nearby. The Uniroyal girl IMG_9947was originally made to stand outside gas stations and automotive repair stores that sold Uniroyal products. Like other muffler men owned by large corporations she was used in promotions and was moved from location to location by the sales reps. She stood on the same platform that the rest of the traveling muffler men and big friends did and you can still see one today under the Peoria, IL Uniroyal gal. I have been asked many time what she was originally made to hold in that raised arm. If you look closely at Glen Goode’s girl you can see a bracket inside her hand used to hold a pole or flag. I was told the Uniroyal Girl in Bradenton, FL once held an oil can back in the 70’s and the one in Blackfoot, ID used to hold a plate of food. However “she held tires” is the answer I am most often IMG_3270given and this would make sense since she was made to advertise them. Sometime in the early 70’s the Uniroyal promotion reached it’s end and in most cases the sales reps simply left the giants wherever they happened to be and so they went in most cases to the owners of the gas stations or repair shops. That is exactly how the Uniroyal Girl in Mt Vernon, IL ended up in the area and for her it was the end of the road. In IMG_3803other cases they kept on being sold and moved, interestingly Glen Goode found his in Wichita Falls and the one now in WV once lived in Mississippi at a fireworks stand. There are many interesting stories about these girls, ranging from angry locals upset over her lack of clothing to roomers that the girl in Bradenton once stood on Gasoline Ally at the Indi 500! I also know one once stood at the The St. James Infirmary bar in Mountain View, CA until 1998 when the place burned down along with the Uniroyal Girl inside. There are a few that have fallen off the charts and seem to be gone for good including the girl that used to stand in Ocoee, FL, Del Rio, TX and Chincoteague, VA. As always muffler men or muffler ladies in this case always keep most of their secrets to themselves and who knows how many more gals are out there and where they might be.

Current Uniroyal Girl Locations

Mt Vernon, IL Pearsonville, CA  Ungar, WV Gainesville, TX Bradenton, FL Lamesa, TX        El Paso, TX Hilltop, NJ Blackfoot, ID Rocky Mount, NC Peoria, IL Taber, Alberta

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The Phillips 66 Cowboy

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In the mid 1960s Phillips 66 petroleum initiated an ad campaign around the slogan “Go with Phillips 66… the gasoline that won the west”.  Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 1.23.38 AM Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 1.24.00 AMThe ads featured images of cowboys along with some snappy copy that talked about Phillips’ “down home hospitality and service”, as well as their gasoline’s performance, which they claimed  “gave you more gallop per gallon”. Motoring at this time was still a major recreational activity for most Americans and Phillips effectively used  cowboy imagery  to symbolize  the “freedom of driving on the open road”. Much like the American cowboy who had rode west  and tamed the wilderness, Phillips aligned itself with the cowboy mystique, aiding adventurous 1960s travelers as they made their way westward.

As we all know a number of muffler men were put to use in conjunction with this campaign.  I’m not sure if International Fiberglass created a special version of the muffler man for Phillips or not, but we do know that a standard Phillips 66 cowboy had a hat and rolled up shirt sleeves… sporting Phillips 66 logos on their breast pockets as well as on the front of the cowboy hat. In some shots one can see cowboys wearing a holster and six shooter, there has been some Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 1.23.15 AMspeculation that some also carried rifles, but I have yet to see an example of this. Through my research I’ve come across a number of vintage images of various Phillips 66 cowboys, all of which are long gone. Luckily for us a few of these muffler men ended up on promotional postcards created by the proprietors of these stations. One of the nicer ones I’ve seen was used to promote Vaughn’s  Phillips 66 Station located on Highway 20 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. I have no idea whatever happened to this muffler man, but it’s a great example of roadside vernacular especially with that huge mutant head located on the roof. Another Iowa cowboy can be seen on this postcard from the Landmark Truck Stop and Restaurant, located in Williamsburg. This restaurant is still in operation today Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 1.22.40 AMbut unfortunately the cowboy is long gone.  Locals referred to him simply as “Phil” – he must have had some impact because as you can see he even made his way onto their matchbooks! There is also a well documented Phillips 66 cowboy Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 1.21.57 AMwhich was located in a station next to the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas in the mid 60s. Gabriel Aldaz devoted a whole chapter in his book “Right Palm Up, Left Palm Down” on his attempt to find this particular cowboy , unfortunately he was unsuccessful in obtaining any relevant information about his current whereabouts.

 

Another great source for vintage Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 1.22.22 AMPhillips 66 cowboy imagery can be seen in newspaper articles from the period. I’m guessing if the town was small enough having a 20′ tall fiberglass statue erected on main street was something worth reporting.  One can see this in this blurry newspaper article from Conroe, TX. I also uncovered this press photo from St Petersburg, Florida. This is a particularly good shot in that one can see this cowboy’s holster and gun clearly as well as the rolling base. The little kid holding his arms up is also pretty funny. He’s identified on the back of the photo as “Little Donnie Brown” age 3… his father ran the Phillips 66 station located coincidentally on 66 Street North. (I noticed that this photo refers to these cowboys as part of a “touring promotional attraction” so perhaps some of these moved around from site to site? ) Article by Roger Bywater

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 1.21.06 AMEditors Note: It seems most cowboy versions left today were at one time Phillips 66 Cowboys. Many have lost their hats and are mistaken for the service man version when in fact they were once Phillips 66 cowboys. The cowboy hat was made from a simple mold they made at International Fiberglass and because it’s so thin and fiberglass becomes brittle over time they often crack and fall apart and are long outlived by the cowboy. Very few left today still have their six shooters on their belt. These were often the first items to “walk off” and I only know of 3 that still have their six shooters. As Roger mentioned, it has been reported that they also carried rifles although I have yet to see a vintage picture of this. A few hold rifles today and when talking to Marvin Hawk who used to own a cowboy m man in Roseville, IL he stated that when he got his IMG_0322muffler man from a western store in Monmouth he was wearing a cowboy hat and holding a rifle. Some cowboys still are standing on the platform patented by Steve Dashew like the cowboy at the top of this article in Wendell, ID. This would support the idea that these cowboys did move around from gas station to gas station as part of a ongoing promotion by Phillips 66. I have heard it said that the area reps were less then excited about these muffler men as moving them about from site to site was not a “fun activity”. Today very few if any still wear their original stickers but if you look closely at the cowboy in Wendell you can still make out the outline of a Phillips 66 sticker and a time gone by.

Special thanks to Roger Bywater for his contribution to this blog. All pictures used with permission from a private collection. 

#32 Shreveport, LA Muffler Man

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Actually closer to Bossier City this cowboy has been up on this pole for about 26 years. He stands high above the Topps Western World and Trailer Sales just north of I-20 to the east of Bossier City. As far as cowboys go this one is in really good shape. IMG_7014 IMG_7029 IMG_7028 IMG_7020He also is decked out with allot of accessories which is nice to see since these days many cowboys have long lost all their extra stuff. Maybe standing high up on that pole well out of reach has done him some good. He wears a black stetson and holds a piece of rope and also has a really nice pair of spurs on his shoes. You also don’t see to many muffler men these days with bright yellow shirts so he is hard to miss when driving by. They also have him up on a billboard right next to the interstate advertising their business although he’s wearing a red shirt in the billboard picture. As with most cowboys, he once stood at a Phillips 66 station and had their logo on his chest pocket. He was purchased around 1982 by the owner of Topps named Bubba Reeves. Bubba who started his business in 1964 with Topps Milling company went on in 1973 to start selling western wear and saddles. By the time the muffler man came along  Bubba had a well established buisness and was looking for more ways to promote it.  He doesn’t remember to much about the day he got the cowboy or how much he paid for him but he does remember the Phillips 66 gas station had closed and they were selling everything. He remembers that the gas station was in the Dallas area and I have started to put two and two together with his story and one Glen Goode told me. Glen has stated that he cast the muffler man head and hat mold for his collection form a cowboy muffler man that stood on a billboard at a gas station in Canton, TX about 45 miles south east of Dallas back in the early 80’s. Bubba remembers getting his cowboy in the early 80’s somewhere around Dallas so this could possibly be the Canton muffler man. That could also be why the Shreveport muffler man stands on a tall poll because Bubba first saw him on a billboard up in the air in Canton. Bubba set him up at his store on East Texas street and it stayed there for 5 years before bringing him over next to I-20 around 1987. The muffler man has stood here ever since and hats off to Bubba and his guys for having an original 66 cowboy at their store for over 30 years now.