Joe Palooka.

Joe Palooka Statue

Field review by the editors.

Oolitic, Indiana

Joe Palooka was the most successful sports comic strip ever, its title character a dumb but good-hearted boxer. The strip was at its peak of popularity when the Indiana limestone industry decided to identify itself with Joe by carving him into a limestone statue. 4,500 people came to the statue's dedication in Bedford On June 14, 1948, including "Ham" Fisher, the strip's creator, who otherwise had nothing to do with it. A tiny plaque at the bottom of the statue calls it a "cornerstone of freedom."

Joe Palooka statue.

After its unveiling, the statue became a favorite target of vandals, probably the rough and tumble kids of the local stone cutters. To escape his tormentors Joe Palooka was moved to a local park, then to a local limestone mill, then to another park, and finally in 1984 -- the same year that the comic strip was canceled -- Joe Palooka was given to Oolitic.

The statue, 10 feet high and 20,000 pounds, still stands on Oolitic's Main Street. Clad in boxer trunks and gym shoes, Joe is captured at the moment that he sheds his fight robe, sporting a confident grin above his lantern jaw. A cowlick of sandy hair hangs over his forehead. These details, however, are overwhelmed by the statue's most noticeable features: Joe's blank zombie eyeholes and his cadaverous ribs, which makes him look like one of those corpse effigies carved during the Black Death.

Joe's left cheek and nose appear to have been glued on after being smashed by something much harder than a right uppercut. Yellow moss stains the top of his head. Sadly, the rest of the town doesn't look much better than Joe. Oolitic's impressive limestone school is empty, as are many of the other limestone buildings on Main Street, former banks and businesses.

Idaho Springs, Colorado, was impressed by the Joe Palooka statue, and paid the Indiana Limestone Company $12,000 to carve another comic book hero, Steve Canyon, which was dedicated in Idaho Springs in 1950.

Joe Palooka Statue

Address:
Main St., Oolitic, IN
Directions:
Hwy 37 to Oolitic exit. Take Main St. through blinking traffic light into downtown. Statue is on the left, between the post office and town hall.
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