I think one of the things that interest me most about muffler men is their history. The fact that they were made in the early 1960’s and set up by businesses and family that are now long gone and very hard to track. The mystery of it all, to wonder what stories they could tell if they could talk or what they would have seen if they could. So much has changed since the days when they were shipped brand new across the states to stand at mom and pop restaurants and gas stations like Phillips 66. They were made in a day when no one thought twice to have the phillips 66 cowboy hold a huge rifle and a gun on his hip to represent an oil giant. Today they are like looking at a petrified tree standing alone in what used to be a forest full of 1960’s roadside architecture. Tracing their tracks has from the start been interesting to me, to go back and find the spots where they once stood and look for former owners or townsfolk who might have walked by them a thousand times as a kid. In Milford, NB a cowboy M Man used to stand next to a huge covered wagon off the exit from I-70. As the years passed the man who had built the roadside attraction and business got older and the place fell into disrepair. Sometime in the late 90’s the muffler man was sold and moved and the huge covered wagon lost it’s wheels. America was changing, the roadside advertising strategies of the 50’s and 60’s were slowly starting to disapear and were being replaced with commercials and internet pop up adds. The cowboy was moved to Cody, WY where he stood in a lot next to burger and ice cream stand until the place was cleared to make way for the new super walmart. From there he was carted off to Billings, MT where he still stands today, one of two M Men in town. I remember this awesome picture Roadside America posted from their trip through Milford in 1992 with them standing next to the M Man and looking at the covered wagon building. The wagon and lamp are still there but just some big footprints mark where the cowboy was.
Although not a Muffler man, in Benton, IL a large yellow concrete slab still marks the spot where a Big John statue once stood outside the Big John grocery store. The Big John story deserves a blog post all of it’s own and I’ll post one sometime in the near future. Today the Big John who formerly stood on this round pedestal is a part of the Farnham collection of giants in Unger, WV www.roadsideamerica.com/story/10965
I also think of my #81 sighting (yes I have some catching up to do on this blog) in Shelton, WA when I visited with Lloyd Prouty and he told me of the bunyan that stood for years at Bingers Gas station on South First St next to the old bridge and how he walked by him everyday on his way to school. Every once in awhile an old black and white picture will surface of an M Man standing at a spot an old timer has pointed out and that will totally make my day.