Don Parks - Yard of Statues and Stuff
Viewed from the air, one Phoenix, Arizona neighborhood is like a medical culture under a microscope: rows of apparently healthy, clutter-free homes surround a single, disease-choked yard. At this one house, no empty space is visible -- the yard, front and back, completely covered with closely packed shapes. The disease? Collecting things.
Don Parks said he's been accumulating statues, signs and other stuff he likes for 40 years. "In high school my grandfather gave me a 1923 Model T Ford. It was the first old thing I ever got, and I caught the bug."
We recently spoke with Don because of tips we received that he was advertising on Craig's List to sell everything. He told us he was interested in selling items to raise a little money during tough economic times. But he didn't think most would be sold, and his yard would continue to be a local landmark.
Don is a Vietnam vet, and has worked as a helicopter and jet mechanic for Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas. He's also been a city school bus driver and a security guard. Throughout his working life, he's been an ardent denizen of swap meets and garage sales.
He bought his house in 1971 and started "decorating with junk." There are road signs, telephone booths, and fire hydrants. The statues include a lifesize elk, a Humpty Dumpty, a cowboy on horseback and even a Paul Bunyan Muffler Man.
To us, the density is startling, in contrast to the rest of the relatively unadorned neighborhood. Don said he's never had complaints or any problems with his neighbors. "For years I had no fence. There was never anything stolen."
His Paul Bunyan Muffler Man had been on an interesting journey. Don bought him in 1969 from a gas station on Broadway St. in San Francisco, "near the strip joints." The statue's feet were broken off, so Don added concrete feet and a base.
He sold the Muffler Man to a Phoenix safety shoe store. After they went out of business, they apparently sold the statue to advertise the Lumberjack lumber store. That closed too, and Don managed to buy back his old friend. But somewhere along the way the cement shoes had been removed and proper fiberglass footwear restored. "He was in better shape than when I'd sold him."
And now the big guy appears to be on the auction block again. But Don still invites the curious to check out his yard from the street. If you call ahead he might even be available to conduct a little tour.
We asked if he was taking a hiatus from his collecting while he was in selling mode. "No, I'm still buying things," Don said. "It's a disease!"
April 2012: Don bought the property across the street, and has filled that yard with his collection as well.