Big John, Uber-Grocery Clerk
Big Johns are well-meaning hulks, hoisting car-sized bags filled with groceries in the parking lots of their Big John food stores. Often mistaken for classic Muffler Men, the Big Johns peacefully coexist with their roadside brethren.
Big Johns are 28 to 30 feet tall fiberglass statues, usually clad in checkered shirts, blue jeans, an apron and comical bulbous black shoes. Charles Lincoln wrote us that his dad carved the molds while working at General Sign Co., in or around Cape Girardeau, MO during the summer of 1967. The figures and grocery bags could be customized for different businesses. "In the mid 70s, Giant Food Stores co-opted them for a time, with the larger full torso apron (painted orange)."
When a Big John store goes out of business, someone repurposes the big guy.
That's what happened to the BJ in Cape Coral, Florida, which lords over a strip mall. He's been there since 1969. Big John's grocery bags are missing, but he's otherwise up to spec. He survived a close encounter with Hurricane Charlie in 2004, and is reportedly anchored to withstand 110 mph winds.
A roving Big John has been reported in Lake View, Mississippi, pressed into seasonal service like a portable M-Man.
Due to their rarity, Big Johns are sought after by collectors of Muffler Men. Glenn Goode's welcoming line of Big People include two Big Johns (they're not holding grocery bags, but Glenn has those stowed on his property). In Unger, West Virginia, George Farnham bought an unemployed Big John from a store closed in Benton, Illinois, and added it to his own back yard line-up of giants.
Other Big Johns of note:
- Carmi, Illinois -known as "Little Giant," changed hands and locations around Carmi for years, but eventually settled into his new role in front of a deli called Little Giant.
- Eldorado, Illinois - still stands at a Big John Super Foods Store.
- Metropolis, Illinois - Well-kept specimen at the local Big John store, but he's often overlooked because the Man of Steel stands just down the road.
- West City, Illinois - After his store closed in 2005, this Big John moved on to parts unknown (We probably have him listed somewhere, just not tracked back to his origin...)