To Do: Migrate

This presentation is part of the Are We There Yet: Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions, April 10-12, 2018, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Photo of Joe Baker standing at the podium during his presentation

Joel Baker

Joel Baker: Great, thanks so much for having me. Like she said, my name is Joel. I’m from American Giants, and this just basically started in 2011, as me discovering these giants in Florida, and what happened after was just a look into their history.

And that’s actually where I’d like to start today, is we’ll get into a little bit about what we’re doing with them right now, but I’d like to start with … take you back in time, and take you back to beginning, how this all started. I’m going to take you back to the late 1950s, a new era was starting to come across America, especially with Route 66, road travel and advertisers were starting to use more fiberglass figures for their big attractions, something to catch your eye, something to get the family car to pull off the road, and come to my restaurant, my diner, my gas station.

I want to introduce you to a guy named Bob Prewitt. Bob Prewitt is, in my opinion, the father of fiberglass figures. He was a cowboy, he was a rodeo man, he loved going to rodeos, and horses. And he saw a need for a trailer that was made out of fiberglass. A lot of horse trailers back then were heavy, they were all made out of metal, and Bob wanted to make a … he worked with fiberglass, he wanted to make a horse trailer for it, and so he designed a fiberglass horse trailer that he would take to rodeos to sell. And he wanted a horse to model in his trailer, and so, he didn’t want a real one, though, for obvious reasons. It’s messy, you’ve got to take care of it. So, Bob decided to make a papier-mâché horse, and he put it in there, and one of the guys that was looking at his horse at one of these rodeos, he said, “Bob, that’s one sorry looking horse.” He says, “You need some help. I know a lady. Her name is Gladys Brown. She’s a sculptor. Why don’t you have her mock up a mold of a horse?” She did. A sculpture of a horse. He made a mold of it, and he went to his next rodeo with this nice fiberglass horse and the trailer. I think he got two orders for trailers, and he got about 40 orders for the horse.

Image of catalog page with pictures of fiberglass cows, a cowboy riding a horse, and a gorilla

Page from Prewitt catalog

So, Bob realized right then, “Hey, I’ve got something here. A lot of business owners are looking for giant animals that can advertise their businesses.” So, he went crazy on that, started making cows, bears, horses, you name it. A lot of different animals. And did excellent work, as far as the sculpting and the fiberglass work.

There was a business owner in Sacramento. We don’t know too much about this, but he said, “Bob, I want a giant Paul Bunyan for my restaurant. And Bob made the statue. He said later, many years later, that it was very hard to make, and he was really done with it when it was finally complete. And he went to deliver it, and the guy says, “Yeah, no, I changed my mind. I don’t need that thing.” And so, the story is, Bob went down Route 66, ended up in Flagstaff, at the Lumberjack Café. When he saw that sign, he must’ve realized, “Oh wow, this is a good place to try to sell my big Paul Bunyan.” And they loved it, and they bought it on the spot.

Meanwhile, in Venice, California, you have a young guy named Steve Dashew, whose father was a billionaire, or millionaire. He actually was involved in inventing some of the original credit card technology. You remember, you used to put your credit card in the machine, and go back and forth. This is his son, and they had a boat business. And basically, Stanley, Steve’s dad here, went to Bob and said, “I’d like to buy a bunch of your molds so we can, in the winter season, when the boat business is down a little bit, we can start to make some other things, like animals,” and Bob sold a bunch of molds. And in that pile of molds was, guess what? The big Paul Bunyan.

So, International Fiberglass, around 1963, started making these big Paul Bunyan’s, and they were very successful. What they did is, they got smart, and they said, “We can make a few alterations to this big giant, and we can make different versions. We can make cowboys, we can make an American Indian.” And so, they started this larger line of products that they could put in their catalog.

Vintage photo of a fiberglass Paul Bunyan holding two tires and standing in front of a tire store.

Example of a Paul Bunyan

I’m just going to go through the different ones, so you can recognize them. This is the classic Bunyan. This is the first giant that Bob made. And you can tell Bunyan from the knit cap on his hat. He’s got suspenders at the top of the waist here. And you notice how the pant legs tuck into the top of the boots. So, when you see this kind of giant, they’re still across America, you can tell that it’s a Paul Bunyan.

Example of a cowboy

They also modified it a little bit. They filled in that beard to make the … that’s why these giants have these big lantern jaws, because it’s really just the beard filled in. And they made a cowboy. And the cowboys are a little different. They had a cowboy hat, no beard. You notice the pant leg goes all the way to the top of the shoes now. And also, International Fiberglass can often be

found on the right leg, right about here on the thigh. That’s how you can tell a cowboy.

Vintage photograph of an Indian standing in front of the Howe Chevrolet dealership

Example of an Indian

They made American Indians, and they changed up the torso a little bit, to make the bare chest, still have the same pants. And Indians always have the raised arm. And the arm is down at their side. They made two versions of this. They made an Indian Chief, and they made an Indian Brave.


Example of a Mortimer Snerd

They also got really creative, and made what they called a Mortimer Snerd, or a Snerd. And it’s this goofy, jug-eared, Alfred Newman looking statue. These guys were made for amusement parks, mini golf courses. Also quite popular. Pretty hard to find today. There’s not a whole lot of these guys left. This is some of the remaining ones. The one on the right is really close to Dallas Love Field. A lot of these giants held mufflers, or whatever the customer wanted to put in their hands. And this one on the left used to be at an amusement park in Ohio. And then, a bar. And then, I bought him around 2012. And now, he’s actually … I wish I had pictures. We’ve actually fully restored him, and made feet for him again.

They also made … remember, this is back in the 1960s, the Space Race. They made a modified version of an astronaut. The one on the right was in Coney Island. We have no idea what happened to him, in New York. And the one of the left, is probably one of the most famous of these giants. Who recognizes that picture? Anybody seen that? Wilmington, Illinois on Route 66? The Gemini Giant, still there, under new ownership now. They also did custom work for … well, they would work with a customer on whatever they wanted. This guy was kind of a modification of a few different statue molds they had. And he was made for Jesse James territory in Sullivan, Missouri. We actually tracked this guy down and found him in a junk yard a few years ago.

One of the things I just love to do is look at old pictures, and then go back and try to find these guys where they are today. So, very rewarding for me. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt.

They made, the giant on the left is called The Waving Giant, we call them. Very few of these have survived. Maybe two or three today. They also made the Vikings for the carpet companies. Still, can find those. Then, they got really smart, and they started working with the Oil Giants. So, back in the mid-60s, there was this campaign Phillips 66 was doing with the gasoline that won the west. Kind of a cowboy theme. And so, they started with International Fiberglass on deploying cowboys all across the United States. And basically, the patented a platform with wheels that he could stand on, and this thing would tip onto a trailer, so a sales rep could easily raise the giant up, have him sit there a week or two, and then take him to the next town over. And so, these giants were moved around from gas station to gas station all across the United States. Very successful program in 1966 – 1967.

Many of these cowboys are still around today. Not one of them still has the original lettering, but the one of the left is right here in Grove, up the road. This is where he used to stand. He’s now at another building. Looks very much that way. Still, unrestored. The one on the right is in Calgary, and I just was up there rescuing another giant out of a junk yard in Edmonton a few weeks ago, and stopped and saw him. So, a lot of these giants, also, were used in Canada.

Then, Texaco wanted a piece of that pie. And so, they started working with International Fiberglass, and they used the standard Muffler Men. Of course, they weren’t called that back then, to advertise at their gas stations. But that was short-lived, because they wanted to do something bigger and better.

Photo of a dozen or so Texaco Big Friends, and an Esso Tiger and several Sinclair Dinosaurs on a trailer.

International Fiberglass Texaco Big Friends, an Esso Tiger, and Sinclair Dinosaurs

In 1966, they had their Texaco Big Friend program, where they had TV commercials, and this giant serviceman would help the car in need. And so, Texaco ordered 300 Texaco Big Friends. They were made specifically for Texaco. They had an exclusive on them, so they weren’t sold to anybody else. You can see them here, lined up at International Fiberglass ready for deployment. Also, notice the Esso Tigers, also used at gas stations, Sinclair Dinosaurs, also deployed at gas stations. And they had an option to order another 2,700 of these guys. They only ordered the original 300, though, and they were deployed, again, with the trailer mechanism across America, and set up at gas stations. This program, unfortunately, was really short-lived. I’m still trying to track down exactly what happened. I think one of them blew over, landed on a car. Texaco realized this was a bad idea, and they ordered all of them destroyed. Very successful demolition program. 300 were made. Today, I’ve been able to find five. So, very, very, very rare. Only one of them is currently restored, and it’s on private property, so the only ones that are visible to the public are all very heavily modified today, than what they looked like back then. You barely can recognize them. This is what they looked like when they stood. I had to dig in the archives of a Kalispell, Montana newspaper to find this picture, after a lead I got.

They worked with Uniroyal Tire Company, but they wanted something different, too. They wanted a female. So, these were also deployed same, again, trailer platform, used at different repair shops. These also, are really hard to find today. Very collectible. They did all kinds of other statues. They did the Bob’s Big Boy, they did the Jellystone Park Campground figures. They did the A&W Root Beer family.

So then, in the early 70s, things were starting to change. The interstates are changing things, the gas crisis was hitting. Price of resin was going up. Price of shipping these giants was getting astronomical. And the era was changing. And so, instead of being attractions, now they were starting to look upon, by the cities, as eyesores. So, International Fiberglass went on to other things. Quit making them about 1972, and they started to fall apart.

Broken body of an indian in field, covered in leaves

An abandoned Indian

So often, as they deteriorated, not all of them, but many, many, many of them were thrown in the back woods, in the barn, taken to the owner’s house, put on the back 40 acres, and slowly, these giants started to disappear. These are just some pictures I’ve been able to find, as they declined.

Then in the 90s, you have a young group of guys, traveling across America, writing a book about odd roadside attractions. These guys were from Roadside America, later the website, and they start discovering these giants. And they notice that they were all similar, and a lot of them held mufflers, so they coined them, Muffler Men. And that’s where we get the name, Muffler Men, from the guys at Roadside America. They went on to make a website that had a map. When you go on a road trip, you can see all of the Muffler Men that are going be on your way, and you can visit them.

I was searching for … there was a dinosaur in Florida I found. It was headless, big fiberglass thing. And I was trying to get some history on him. I found Roadside America, saw the Muffler Men in 2011, and I just … I traveled for a living, and I thought, “Oh, this would be fun to see how many I could see,” so that’s where it started for me. And I started traveling all over the place. I think I’ve seen 170 of the giants now, and I started, not only just visiting them, but really started digging into their history, trying to meet the owners, trying to get old photographs of them, and really became, in a way, a historian on these giants. One of the things I loved doing was finding old pictures of them, and then trying to track down, where is that giant now. And that, led me on some really interesting hunts and discovery. This guy was at an amusement park in Chicago. I found him in the attic of a barn. Very cool, when you finally find these guys.

Then, in 2014, everything changed for us, because I found this guy in Kentucky, and we … yeah, he was headless, armless, he’s a rare 14 foot version made by International Fiberglass. Looked hideous. Just a real mess. But somebody had reported him to me, and I went out there. And I originally wanted to buy him. And the owners, they weren’t really interested in that, but what … we knew nothing about restoration, but we convinced them to let us take their giant. We drove out there with a trailer, we pulled him down, and carted him off to our shop. And that is when we got into the restoration business.

Man in a workshop looking at a large crack on the back of a gaint

Assessing a crack on the back of a gaint

We pretty much self-taught ourselves. We got him back. We saw all these cracks, and peeling paint. He was a real wreck, but we realized pretty quick that fiberglass is very, very fixable, to the point, you can make it brand new. Maybe not the original, but the things you can do to it, and on top of it, and to reinforce it.

A lot of times, people, they will, what they call, restore, these giants, but that’s a loose term. Often, as you can see here on the right, they’ll buy them, that’s the original dark pain, and they’re painting his pants white. What are they doing? They’re just painting right over the top of the old paint, which is what everybody has done since the 1960s, so these guys will often have seven or eight layers of paint on them. This, to us, is not restoration. We realized right away, that the only way to do it right, was to go all the way back down.

This is another, a Viking that was … I was told, “Oh, he’s fully restored.” Well, not really. When you paint on the surface, it’s literally two or three years before your giant is going to start looking like this, because what’s underneath is rotting, and bad, and so that’s going to… all of your problems on the bottom are going to come to the top very quickly.

So, what we started to do is, we started to go down to the first layer. Basically when a giant is made, in the mold, a release agent is put down, and then they put down what’s called the gel coat, and that’s what we had to go down to, in order to build these guys back out and fully restore them. We would fix all the holes with fiberglass, and then we would sand these guys down to the gel coat, fix all the problems, and then work our way back up.

This is what this same giant looks like in primer, when we were all done. It took us months of sanding. We did it by hand, so we wouldn’t damage the original gel coat. We painted on the final details. I was able to work with another fiberglasser on finding another original head, and arms. And here we are, doing the details. And we discovered, when we were restoring him, this is another cool thing. As we’re going back through all those layers of paint, with thinner, we found the original company that bought him in St. Louis, the Implement Specialty Company. And when we were all done with him, we put that lettering back on his chest, so he was back to original.

Two photos of the same gaint, the first before restoration and the second taken after

Before and after photos of fully restored giant found in Kentucky

When we’re all done, we clear coat. Yeah, it kind of looks like Frankenstein’s lab in here, doesn’t it? We clear coat, and that, is a final protection. If done right, that will last a long time, to protect and seal the giant. You can do clear coat in glossy or matte, whatever the customer wants. And there he is, fully restored, back on the hillside.

That kind of got us on the map. People saw our work, and we were hired by another company that had purchased this Indian that had been standing at Lake of the Ozarks for a long time. They brought this huge guy to our shop, and again, we did the same process. We sanded down to the gel coat. All of the little cracks and crevices, and you can see here, we’ve got him pretty much down to the gel coat. And then, on this guy, we started noticing stress cracks. Big problem with restoration on these giants. Not all of them have them. Some are perfect. Others that have been in windy situations, or maybe the gel coat wasn’t put down correctly back in the 60s, they have stress cracks. We had to fix that, because guess what happens if you prime over stress cracks? They show through, and they can come right through the paint. So, we had to do more bondo layers, and other techniques we used to cover those up, so they weren’t visible.

Airbrush artist applying detail to Indian

Then, we put our base coat paint on him. Do all the different main colors. Load him up on our trailer, and haul him down the road to an airbrush shop. International Fiberglass painted their guys pretty flat. We like to make … it depends on what the customer wants. We will go exactly original, or we can enhance things a little bit, and do airbrushing. This is our airbrush artist, working on the Indian. And this is us, setting him back up. These guys are very … what’s the word? Sentimental to the local towns. They’ve been there since the 1960s, so for a town to see one of their giants suddenly disappear, it’s devastating to them. I mean, everybody starts talking about it. When they see it come back, fully restored, ready to go for another 50 years, very rewarding for us, and the whole, just half the town turns out to watch this guy go back. Here’s a close-up in the detail of some of the face. And our goal is really to bring these guys back better than they were when they were made, or equal to.

You remember the Texaco Big Friends? We were able to … this guy was in Pahrump, Nevada for many years. You can see, heavily modified from what he originally was. One of the five that survived. He was taken down, hauled to the dump, and us and a whole bunch of people complained about it. And the dump was like, “Oh, this is something special, I guess.” So they gave it to the museum, and a few years later, the museum realized that it really didn’t have a chance at ever being restored unless they sold him to us. So they did. And we are in the process of fully restoring him back to Texaco, being a Texaco Big Friend.

Phillips 66 Cowboys, many of these guys are also, many still stand, but a lot are down. Like this guy, we found just off Route 66 in St. Louis. He had fallen off of the roof of a building in a wind storm. A real wreck. Lots of stress cracks. I think, the worse they are, the more of a challenge for me. So, we rescued him, and he is … we had to completely rebuild the arms, because they were just smashed. And this is when we were rebuilding them. Piecing them back together. Putting fresh fiberglass on them as well, to reinforce them. This is the torso, after we fixed all the stress cracks, and put it in primer. This guy still isn’t finished, but this is how he looks today. So, we’re getting close.

This is a Paul Bunyan that was at an automotive shop in Chicago, taken to rural Wisconsin, when the guy retired. We also picked this one up. Thought we’d let him hang out with his brother in Atlanta, Illinois, on the way home. These guys probably hadn’t seen each other since the back of the shop in 1965, so we let them say hi.

And on this guy, when we got him back … sometimes, if there’s excessive layers of paint, we will do some sandblasting. It’s not really sand, it’s crushed glass. But we use that to get through some of those outer layers. We don’t go all the way to the gel coat, we wanna do that by hand. But we do some blasting on some of the giants, when it’s safe to do so.

This is another of the American Indian Chiefs we discovered at a campground in Florida. And again, the worst they are, the more challenging it is for us. And I think, the more the intrigue is. We’ve just obtained this one. I’ve been looking for an Indian Chief since I started this, so this is the first time I’ve been able to get my hands on one. Very, very hard to find. And collectible. Again, this guy is a real wreck, but it’s fiberglass. It’s fixable. We can bring this guy back.

And probably one of the things we’re post proud of, is one of the Uniroyal girls, she stood near Winter Garden, Florida, was taken down. I spent years trying to find her. Going through neighborhoods, asking locals. Finally, tracked her down to this guy’s backyard. And told him I was interested. A year later, he called me, and said, “Okay, come get her.” So, we went and picked her up. You attract a lot of attention when you haul these giants around. She cleaned up pretty nice. Took her home and cleaned her up a little bit. This is how she looked when we were done with that process. I actually worked with a collector who wanted to purchase her. And these are, again, really hard to find. And he wanted to go a little different direction.

Uniroyal girl hanging in workshop during painting

Uniroyal girl with painted features

What’s cool with these girls, and in the catalog in International Fiberglass, their title was Miss America. So, some of the early ones, actually had American themes. You know, with the blue, and the stars, and the stripes, and the red. And he wanted us to make her kind of Wonder Woman looking. So, we thought that was perfect, because she’s Miss America, right? So, this is the clothes, when we were done with them. And this is all very recent. We’re talking in the last two weeks, these pictures are taken. Here she is in primer, after we were all done with all the body work, and all the sanding. Going through all the layers of paint. Fixing her foot, which was missing. One of her feet were missing. Molded another foot, from another giant, to replace it. Here she is, getting her wonder woman paint job. 18 feet tall, these girls were. The Muffler Men were 20 feet tall. The Texaco Big Friends were about 24 feet tall. Here she is going into paint.

We also work with owners who discover that there is a resurgence and a desire for these giants again, by business owners, and they will contact us if they have one, and we will help them auction it, or sell it, on our website. This guy was discovered in a warehouse in Maine. They called us. They said, “We’ve got it. We want it to go to someone who really appreciates these guys. It’s been in the family for years.” We helped them find a buyer for him. And also, we work with the buyers, and we can help them restore them. Or in this case, just fix a few things, because a lot of buyers want to keep them vintage and original. And we help haul them.

We also, have customized a trailer, so we can haul these guys. And we also work with people who buy them, not through us, but just in other ways, on how they come apart, how they go together, our recommendations for restoration. Our recommendations for how to sit them back up. Again, always draws a crowd.

So that’s Muffler Men. They go way back to the 1960s. They’re a part of Americana. So many people have … you would not believe the pictures I’ve gotten, like this one, from people who visit my website and say, “Look, here I am with my grandparents, and my mother, and we visited this place in such and such a year, and I have such good memories of it.” So that’s just become something very passionate that we’re about, is to rescue these guys, bring them back, and also provide all these cool, historical details to everyone who’s interested. So, thank you so much.

Speaker 2: Thank you, Joel. Questions? Hang on.

Speaker 3:  So, a number of questions came to mind. First, I did see the video you had on your website, when you went into the Canada in the snow. What happened to that Muffler Man?

Joel Baker: Okay, so that was a cool story. I really, lately, heavily rely on people who know about my website, and see stuff, and then they may know something that I don’t. You know, I have no idea where to look for these guys. And he was watching somebody else’s YouTube video, and this guy was into cars, and he was walking through this junk yard in Edmonton, actually west of Edmonton, and he saw this … actually, so here he is. He sent me this picture, and said, “This is in this guy’s video,” and of course, that’s an original International Fiberglass Muffler Man, from Canada, no less. And so, that makes it kind of extra cool, because there are a handful of these giants that made it to Canada. So, I went up there and picked this guy up. Probably one of the worst ones we’ve attempted to save. I mean, he was literally in pieces. Found out from the owner, that he was at a Phillips 66 gas station in Calgary, back in the 1960s. By the way, Kelly, I’d love to find old pictures of him, if they exist. Who knows? But I’m sure there’s history on him, because Phillips 66 obviously used him up there. And then, he was taken up to this junk yard for old cars, and we rescued him.

We brought him back, laid him all out, and he was recently just picked up by some guys at uShip, and sent to one of the guys I work with in fiberglass, to West Virginia. Or Virginia, rather. And he’s going to fully restore him. He hasn’t started yet, so that’s why I don’t have any more pictures, but this guy will be brought back, probably again to a Phillips 66 Cowboy like he was. And we don’t know anything about his future yet, or I haven’t got that far. We’re working on restoring him, but I don’t know what his future holds, as far as where he’s going to go, but that’s his story, and that’s where he was originally from.

Speaker 3: So, the other … hopefully. You said you used to travel, and so you got interested in these. It sounds like it’s a business now. Did that evolve into that?

Joel Baker: It’s still my hobby.

Speaker 3: Okay, a hobby that-

Joel Baker: Yeah, it’s a side business.

Speaker 3:  A side business.

Joel Baker:  It’s not my full-time job, but yeah, it has definitely grown. When I started this, I think everybody kind of, including my parents, thought I was losing my mind. Spending extra gas money to go out of my way to look at an old giant. But yeah, it’s become much more than that now, and it’s a great chance to help bring these guys back, and help many people who are interested in restoring them.

Speaker 3: I’m sure other people have questions. I have one more. Who collects these? And where do they put them?

Joel Baker: There are a lot of people who are interested. I mean, as you all know, anything Route 66, Americana, has kind of come back, and has become very collectible. And these guys are just so unique, and giants, you know. So, a lot of private collectors like them. It’s kind of gotten to the point, recently, where they can’t always afford them. So, business owners are primarily the ones who get them, these days. And that’s good, because they normally go back out public again, where everyone can enjoy them. So that’s … and I also work with museums on Route 66 and things, for loans and things like that.

Speaker 4: Hi. Great presentation. What do your neighbors think when you come rolling up with one of these, in your front driveway?

Joel Baker: Good question. You know, my neighbor walked out when I had this guy sitting here like this, and I said, “Yeah, we’re not your normal neighbors, are we?” But I think it’s neat to have observed how everybody gets behind this. You know? Yes, it’s very different, and your looks going down the highway when you’re hauling these on a trailer, everyone’s laughing. But it’s, yeah, people quickly get behind the vision, so to speak. And so, it’s been very positive, really, all the way around. Yeah.

Speaker 2:  Pass that to [inaudible 00:31:19].

Speaker 5: Thank you for that presentation. I really appreciate it. Have you been in touch with International Fiberglass? And do they still have the original molds?

Joel Baker: Good question.

Speaker 5: I have one more question.

Joel Baker:  Okay, International Fiberglass, the cool thing is, Steve Dashew, the owner of International Fiberglass, was in his 20s. So yes, he’s still alive. I’ve spoken with him on the phone. Interesting guy. It’s kind of like a little chapter in his life. He went on to design yachts. Very expensive yachts, so the giants are this little thing he remembers back when was young, and he doesn’t … I don’t know that he quite appreciates it the way some of us do, but he was happy to talk to me on the phone, and share some tidbits. Unfortunately, to answer your question, when they closed down, I mean, the market had really dried up, and they just saw no future in this, so all the molds … a lot of the animal molds, they were all sold back to Bob Prewitt, and are still in his family today. But the giants, in particular, all those molds were destroyed.

Now, I work very closely with a guy in California, who has made new molds, so we can make pieces, and spare parts of these giants, which is great. So, there are molds that exist today, but they’re not the originals. I also have tracked down and found a painter, who was also pretty in his 20s back in … I think he worked for them from 1967 to 1969, or something like that. And this guy kept everything. Like, all the original advertising. He had whole books of slides that he’d never even looked at, that he let us develop and scan. So, it was like a treasure trove. So that, was extremely value, and a lot of the pictures, you saw today, were his. So, he’s brought a lot of … he’s brought, actually, a lot more to the table for us, than even Steve, the owner, did.

Speaker 5: Fantastic. And was International Fiberglass the only one who produced these? Or were there other companies?

Joel Baker: Sure. Yeah, there were other companies. There was a number on many of them, that were around back then, are not around today. I would say International Fiberglass, in its time, was the biggest, by far. But there was another one in Wisconsin. In Sparta, Wisconsin called Fast. F. A. S. T. And they’re still around today, and they still a lot of giant fiberglass advertising for different people, and make all kinds of things. Yep.

Speaker 2: Okay, I’m coming to you next. As I walk, I’m going to comment that I grew up going past a giant between St. Louis and Louisville, Kentucky, and it was a giant snowman at Bustler’s Truck Stop in Evansville, Indiana.

Joel Baker: All right.

Speaker 6: Thanks for a great presentation. My question, you were talking about painting the giants, and how that, that actually can just cover up problems as opposed to fixing them. And I’m wondering if you have advice for those who are stewards of some of these giants, who I know are painting them. And just, what you recommend in terms of prolonging their life, and how to be a good steward, either of one that has not yet been restored, or maybe for the ones that have been restored, that hopefully will be around for the next 50 plus years.

Joel Baker: Yeah. We understand that doing it the right way is expensive, and time consuming. And that’s why a lot of people will go down to Walmart, buy some more paint, and put the next layer on. I think that’s better than nothing, because it still protects the giant, in a way. But it also makes real restoration harder, because you’re going through that many layers of paint. So yeah, I would encourage owners, like you were mentioning, to try to get the community behind it, because oftentimes, that’s where you can get funding, and oftentimes, that’s where you find hidden talents. People in your community that either know someone, or can do sanding. I mean, just about anybody can sand. You need to learn a little bit of the what to do’s, and what not to do’s, when you’re sanding, but that’s the most consuming thing. Once you get that giant sanded, you can take him to a professional paint shop. We use auto paint, because your car, when you buy your car new, that paint job, you’re not going to start seeing peeling for many, many years. Hopefully ten, 15 years out. So that’s what we do to the giants, so they will last as long as possible. So, that’s what recommend. We understand that comes with a cost, so those are some ways to help those costs, is get your community behind it, because they really do care.

One of the Uniroyal gals was in Mount Vernon, Illinois for years. And the business she was at went up for sale. It was not secret. The entire community knew that it was being sold, but they didn’t really do anything. And so, when the owner sold the giant out of state, the whole town was up in arms. But when they had a chance to do something, they didn’t. So, I think it’s really good for owners to reach out to the community, let them know what’s happening, so they have a chance to get involved. And oftentimes, there is money there, or resources, or talent, to save these guys properly.

Speaker 2: Okay, and last question goes to Marsha.

Marsha: Is there any place where all of these figures, or a lot of these figures gather together, and they’re all in kind of one place? Like a park or … is there anything like that?

Joel Baker: Yeah.

Marsha: Or are they all just on their own, individual path?

Joel Baker: For the most part, they’re scattered all over the place, individually. We currently, I think we have six of them, currently. And they’re all in various stages of restoration, and a lot of people are like, “Oh, you need to put them all up.” That would be nice. Not sure if it’s realistic for us, but to answer your question, there are a few places you can go and see a lot of them together. The gentleman I was telling you about earlier who has made molds, so we can make spare parts, he has a very good collection. Bell Plastics. Hayward, California. Look it up. You can go to his business, and he’s got at least a half a dozen giants lined up. And a lot more than just the Muffler Man. He has some Sinclair Dinosaurs, and Bob’s Big Boys, and all kinds of things. And he restores them fully.

Also, Texas. Gainville? Is that the right name? Just north of Dallas-Fort Worth area, a little bit, the gentleman has since passed away. His name was Glen Good. I had the pleasure of meeting him, and going down there, and actually doing a documentary with him, shortly before he passed. But his front yard has quite a few of the giants, all lined up in a row, so you can go visit them. So, those are two places.

Speaker 2: Thank you, Joel.

Joel Baker: Thank you.

Joel Baker discovered Muffler Men in early 2011, and what started out as a bit of fun grew into a real passion for tracking down and finding muffler men and sharing their stories and history. He launched the American Giants website in January of 2013 and started producing a YouTube series shortly after. Joel has recognized the interest many travelers have in Americana, and the unique roadside attractions popular in the 1960s. He has worked hard to provide detailed history of these fiberglass giants and also rescues and restores them so they can be enjoyed for many more years to come.

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