This interview was recorded at the Are We There Yet: Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions Symposium, April 10-12, 2018, Tulsa, Oklahoma
What drew you to this symposium?
I think what drew me to this symposium is when I heard about what you were doing, and you contacted me, and I looked into it a little bit. I thought, “Well, this is a perfect match.” What your interests were and what you guys wanted to do and preserve was very much in line with what we were doing and so I thought it was a perfect fit.
What are you latest and upcoming projects?
Our latest and upcoming projects are basically continuing to look for these giants, wherever they are, and bring them back. I like to find the ones that are in barns, in the field, have fallen off the map so to speak. We’ve discovered, recently, one of the American Indian chiefs that were made, very hard to find, in a campground down in Florida. We found it a number of years ago and have been pursuing them a little bit about getting this thing restored, and they finally realized, yeah, it probably doesn’t have a future. Get that one and fully restore, and also make molds of it because the Indians were made a little different, so therefore we don’t have the parts we need, so we’re going to make some molds of it, so we continue to repair others just like it. That’s one of our big projects right now.
What do you hope to take away from this symposium?
This symposium is offering some really interesting perspectives for all of us who are interested in restoration. I really enjoyed Kelly’s talk about the restoration they were doing. Whether it’s fiberglass or concrete or whatever it is, it’s really neat to see the different techniques different people are using. And also, the good thing is to make contacts, because I have found giants that are very close to the area where she’s working, so now I know I can go talk to her about maybe possibly finding old archival pictures, so you can collaborate and help each other a little bit.
What draws you to roadside architecture?
I think, for me, my love for roadside architecture has grown. The more you get into it and the more you look into it, I think, the more it pulls you in. And I’ve never been able to fully put my finger on exactly what it is, because you just keep learning more, and your passion just continues to grow, but I know that in all the history and doing all the research, I think the underlying thing is restoration. How can we keep these things that were so memorable to our parents and our grandparents, how can we keep those alive for us and our kids? Like many people, I’m drawn to the big eye catchers. That’s why I love the giants. There’s just something larger than life about them, so anything relating to fiberglass and big, large figures. That’s my passion.
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.