Origin of the Species (Part 3)
The story of the early fiberglass giants, and who built them.
Interview with Steve Dashew, (Part 3)
RA: Now for a really important question: What was the original intent of the hand positions on the muffler men?
Steve: One night I had this dream , and the aliens told me....[Ha!] Actually, the hands were set up to hold Paul Bunyan's ax. The tooling was expensive, it was thousands to make new tooling. So we reused it for the other statues. To create the first Indian, we took the chest mold and added a plaster splash, which gave us the Indian look, and made new arms.
RA: Did you make accessories for them to hold?
Steve: Yes. We had different items. For spacemen, we made a helmet.
RA: The Alfred E. Neumans -- we call Happy Half-wits -- share the M-Man legs and arms mold. Those were yours, too?
Steve: We made those, that happy face . . . he had a hat, too. I think that was the "country bumpkin" we sold to miniature golf courses. The standard unit was 20 feet.
RA: What is the meaning of the white hand-numbering inside the torsos? [as revealed within the Birmingham M-Man that broke open in a wind storm]
Steve: The guys with big eyes told me to...! I don't know, those may have been lot numbers or something.
RA: Any interesting projects that never got off the operating table?
Steve: Oh, yeah....we were asked to bid on 150-foot oil driller. Same thing for a Jesus Christ -- some church group wanted the biggest. A hamburger chain out of Ohio wanted an Uncle Sam, for Uncle Sam's restaurants. We did that one and lost our tail...with the cost of tooling. It was a whole new guy. Almost did a bear for the Behr's alignment chain, and a Mustang (on spec) for Ford.
Some of the smaller orders worked out ... Yogi Bear's Honey Fried Chicken, in the Carolinas. My favorite of all of them was a "burger family": Mama Burger, Papa Burger, Baby Burger, a little larger than life-sized.
RA: Why did you ever stop making them?
Steve: The business was great fun. The only problem was that I had to spend a lot of time away from home on sales trips. Once I met my wife to be -- Linda -- I didn't want to be away as much.
So we put our skills into other fields, mainly the construction business. In '72 or '73 the statue business really tapered off...and eventually the "farm" as we called the display business, died a natural death -- I didn't have time to do it and deal with our expanding other businesses.
RA: So the molds are long gone?
Steve: They were destroyed a long time ago. I was never able to find anybody who could sell these. We had these huge yards full of construction equipment, and the molds were kept in one of them. When we sold that business, the molds were destroyed ....I think it was summer of 1976. The last of the molds was used 3 or 6 months earlier.
RA: Any final thoughts?
Steve: The irony of all of this is that we'd love to have one of these figures for our back yard -- and after producing literally thousands over the years -- we do not have a single sample!
RA: Wouldn't your neighbors object?
We're in the desert. But we live in an area where you can't change the color of your house without permission of the architects.... though I think I can work out something for the back yard.