Not so with the lumberjack that stands at 1405 Main Avenue in St. Maries. You’ll see stories about him that say he’s standing in front of the High School, where the sports teams are called the Lumberjacks. Well, the high school isn’t far away, but he’s really on the lawn of an elementary school. And, is he standing? He’s not sitting, but he also doesn’t have feet, so…
Often, you’ll see the lumberjack referred to as Paul Bunyan. He’s really a generic lumberjack. He’s also a Muffler Man.
What? It turns out that giant Fiberglass men are referred to in general as “Muffler Men.” The St. Maries man is holding an axe, but many of the early giants held mufflers in their hands to advertise automotive service shops. The vast majority of them were made in California by International Fiberglass, a boat builder, beginning in 1962. The first “Muffler Man” was actually a lumberjack. Specifically, it was a Paul Bunyan statue used to advertise a restaurant in Arizona on Route 66.
Thousands of them were made over the years from the same mold, but with some variations. They were cheap—$1,000 to $3,000—and they caught your attention. They held all kinds of jobs, promoting gas stations, restaurants, and roadside attractions. They were dressed as Vikings, football players, astronauts, pirates, soldiers, chefs, and cowboys. There’s a cowboy along the interstate near Wendell holding a stop sign in his hands, hoping you’ll stop by an RV dealership.
The third known Muffler Man in Idaho has a cushy job. He doesn’t even have to stand outside in the weather. Big Don, as he’s known, towers inside Pocatello’s Museum of Clean, where he wields a giant mop. Needless to say, he’s spotless. Word is that he has a cowboy hat, too, but he doesn’t wear it indoors.
But back to that lumberjack. Although he’s generically a Muffler Man, he’s specifically a Texaco “Big Friendly.” There were originally some 500 of them, but only a half dozen exist today. He’s a little taller than the average Muffler Man, although there’s the issue of the feet. There’s a story that says he arrived with his feet on backwards so those were chopped off and he was mounted in concrete. There’s also a rumor that the lumberjack fell off a truck or was found in the woods.
Wherever the St. Maries lumberjack came from, he’s not the only one of his kind in Idaho. His brothers in Wendell and Pocatello also have at least one sister in the state, a Jackie Kennedy Onassis lookalike in Blackfoot. Her name is Martha and she advertises Martha’s Café. She was “born” a Uniroyal Gal. There are maybe a dozen of them left around the country. Martha is conservatively dressed, but she originally hit the streets wearing a bikini.
Alert readers who are certain there’s another Muffler Man or woman in the state are requested to send photographic evidence of same. Maybe we’ll put together a reunion.