Milk Jug Lady - Gone
Mays Landing, New Jersey
We met Josephine Stapleton, the milk jug lady, in 1994. By then she was already well-known for her front yard, which was covered with translucent, plastic, one-gallon milk jugs, filled with water that she had colored with food dyes. Her signature piece was an American flag, made of 1040 jugs. She had a collection bin so that that passers-by could drop off their jugs, if they weren't using them for other purposes.
Josephine told us that her art was just a way to keep kids from running on the lawn and ruining the grass. At first she had thrown cinder blocks all over the yard, but she was afraid that cars might skid off of US 40 and hit them. She also told us that "an art school in North Jersey" taught her craft, and that "Egyptians" on their way to Atlantic City sometimes stopped and drank the colored water. That annoyed her.
Many years have passed, and on a recent drive-by we saw no sign of the milk jug lady. The American flag is still here, but the other jugs are gone -- and those that remain are no longer clear and filled with colored water, but seem to be made of red, white, and blue plastic (or maybe they're painted). It must have been a chore to top off 1000+ milk jugs, so we understand the change, even though we miss the old, labor-intensive version.
US 40 in these parts is an empty road, so we were surprised to see lots of people standing on its shoulders, waiting for busses. Car-less immigrants, we guessed, commuting to jobs in Atlantic City. These new Americans need inspiration, and Josephine's jug flag provides it. It's patriotic nectar for the Melting Pot, even if it's no longer drinkable.
February 2009: Josephine Stapleton has moved out of her house and into an apartment. The milk jug displays have been taken apart.