Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Land of the Giants (3/26/10)

Crystal City's statue of Popeye: It doesn't really look like him,
but it's the thought that counts

In looking for today's Spark topic, we were interested to see that on March 26, 1937, Crystal City, Texas erected a statue in honor of Popeye the Sailor. This struck us as odd, seeing as how we had visited Chester, Illinois last year, specifically to see their statues of Popeye and J. Wellington Wimpy. "Surely," we thought, "there couldn't be two. Popeye's well-known, but he's not that popular, is he?"

Imagine our surprise to find that there are not just two statues of the cycloptic sailor, but four, with Alma, Arkansas and Springdale, Arkansas joining the fun (though, personally, we think the Alma statue looks more like Mr. Clean than Popeye). The whole thing got us to wondering what other wonders we'd been missing in this great land of ours.

We knew about - and have even visited - the giant statue of Superman in Metropolis, Illinois, but we didn't realize that Metropolis (a community of only 6,500) also boasts a giant statue of a grocery bagger as well as the grave of Robert Stroud, the "Birdman of Alcatraz." 

We'd also visited Collinsville, Illinois to see the world's largest bottle of ketchup (though we were mighty disappointed to find there was no gift shop. What’s up with that, Collinsville?). What we didn't realize was that Illinois must be suffering from some sort of inferiority complex, as it's also home to the world's largest statue of local-boy-made-good Abraham Lincoln, a giant generic guy in a bathing suit, and "the tallest totem pole east of the Rockies."

Of course, the Land of Lincoln isn't the only home of "what the hell is that?" attractions. There are the dinosaurs in Cabazon, California (made famous in "Pee-wee’s Big Adventure"); the Mother Goose House in Hazard, Kentucky; the five-story-tall muskie that houses the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hayward, Wisconsin; the Big Duck of Flanders, New York; and Lucy the Elephant in Margate, New Jersey - a monument that used to be a hotel. (And need we mention the late, lamented Bull Dog CafĂ© in Los Angeles?)

Not all the monuments are animals, though. There's the aforementioned ketchup bottle, but there's also the "Shoe House" in Hellam, Pennsylvania (and, yes, an old woman did live there); the Castroville, California artichoke; a giant baked potato in Blackfoot, Idaho; an office chair in Anniston, Alabama; a chest of drawers in High Point, North Carolina; a milk bottle in New Bedford, Connecticut, and a paper airplane in Mukilteo, Washington. There's also a penny in Woodruff, Wisconsin that claims to be the world's biggest, but Batman might disagree.

Some folks plan their vacations around seeing such sights (not us, of course ... ), but it's just as delightful (if not terrifying) to stumble across Mickey Rooney's giant head unexpectedly. We don’t know what it is in the American character that makes us want to eat in a giant hat or go gawk at a giant orange, but it's a treat to find a town or a company that commemorates something in that way. Dr. Freud might have something to say about this quest for size, but sometimes a giant ear of corn is just a giant ear of corn.
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