Cicero's Hot Dog Giant
Hamlet A. Stephens has owned and operated "Bunyon's," a hot dog establishment outside of Chicago, for over 40 years. So naturally he was dismayed when he saw RoadsideAmerica.com had declared his roadside statue "not really a Bunyan."
The Bunyon's building was constructed by Hamlet, a former self-employed mason and builder. He augmented his fast food business with the eye-catching muffler man in the 1960s, ordered with the custom giant Hot Dog accessory (likely from International Fiberglass in CA).
"He used to be on top of the building, and I took him down so the kids could touch him and sit on his feet," Hamlet noted. "You could walk thru his legs to get into the restaurant." Big Paul Bunyon has been a beloved fixture on Ogden Avenue, only suffering when "some teenagers shot arrows into him one night."
Hamlet can't deny the big guy is an effective advertisement -- and tasty road food helps. "My most popular item is the hot dog, although we are very well known for our hot beef and sausage sandwiches. We also have people coming from afar just to buy our homemade hot giardinair, which we sell by the gallon -- once rated by the Chicago Tribune as the best in all of Chicagoland!"
We explained to Hamlet that the Bunyan category of muffler man is clearly defined by the beard and the wool cap, while his muffler man obviously has the head and body of a classic muffler man. But he pays tribute to the mighty tree-biter with"Bunyon's" -- a misspelling that is part oversight and part-trademark differentiation.
This is a great muffler man, so we don't want Hamlet climbing up there to paint on a beard just to meet our criteria. In the interests of commerce and in the true spirit of Mufflerkind, we've declared Paul Bunyon a provisional "Bunyan."
Get a life -- yeah, we know, we know...
June 2012: Hamlet A. Stephens passed away. His Hot Dog Giant endures as a popular Rt. 66 landmark in Atlanta, Illinois.
Oct. 2003: The town of Atlanta, Illinois is the new home of the Hot Dog Muffler Man. After Bunyon's closed, several towns vied for the big statue. Atlanta made a free, long-term loan arrangement with the owners to display the statue on Arch Street as a symbol of Route 66. Latest word was the concrete base was being poured and the M-Man was stored in an "undisclosed location."
Oct. 2002: Bunyon's closes - Hot Dog Muffler Man for sale. Elise Star, daughter of Bunyon's owner Hamlet Stephens, informed us the restaurant is being sold, and the famous Hot Dog Muffler Man will be evicted, or at least sold separately. "The neighborhood has changed over the past 40 years. My father built this hot dog joint himself and made it what it is today."
Hamlet Stephens turned 80 years old October 26th. "He still puts in 55 hours/week because his manager has been too ill to work."
Bunyon's (a mispelling of Bunyan for trademarking reasons) has been a landmark in Cicero for decades. "I can't tell you the number of people who are crying about the closing of Bunyons. I am talking about customers; where are they going to get the best beef and hot giardinair? My father is really touched."