Yard Bird Statues
Residents of western Washington state are familiar with "Yard Birds" -- a home improvement chain popular in the region since the 1950s, until it went out of business in the 1990s.
The mascot of Yard Birds was a misshapen, gawky cartoon bird with hunched shoulders, gloved yellow claw hands, and a large beak. He seemed to be somewhat variable in his various incarnations -- as long as he was black, beaked and ugly, he was a Yard Bird.
At the height of Yard Birds expansion, many mascot sculptures stood at the entrances to store parking lots. We've received tips on statues in various Washington locations, sometimes misidentified as black crows, magpies or Hekyll and Jekyll's. Most have been destroyed or disappeared over the years. The vacant Yard Birds in Olympia, the state capitol, burned down around 1999, and apparently took its Yard Bird statue with it.
Two Yard Bird statues still stand at the former corporate flagship location in Chehalis. The sprawling building was constructed in 1971, now occupied by an assortment of businesses, including a grocery store and movie theater.
As we pulled up to the entrance, a half-dozen UFCW members were on a picket line below the 8-ft. tall Yard Bird statue. It was an "informational picket," we were assured, protesting the Shop 'N Kart Grocery's decision to stay non-unionized. The picketers didn't seem to hold anything against the defunct mascot, and cheerfully posed for our cameras.
They directed us to the rear of the store property, for an even more rewarding Yard Bird, a whale-size mass at least 30 feet tall and 50-60 feet long. A tiny auxiliary Yard Bird is attached to its side. This one more resembles a duck decoy, or kind of a Trojan Horse without the wheels....
Just up I-5 in Centralia, there is another Yard Bird, though it is hidden from street view. You can see it by taking RichArt's tour at his Art Yard environment at 203 M Street. His Yard Bird is about 8-feet tall, weather-beaten, and augmented with strings of plastic fruit and beads. It's nearly lost in a cacophony of styrofoam and junk art that completely covers his property.
Rich worked as a janitor for the Yard Birds chain for 30 years, until it went bankrupt. When the chain completely tanked, he convinced a manager to let him haul away a Yard Bird otherwise destined for the local dump.
"Yea, that's an authentic Yard Bird. There were 20 of 'em the company owned," Rich recalls. He remembers painfully, since it was his job to retrieve them when pranksters made off with one of the more portable versions of the Bird.
"They'd disappear and end up on the courthouse lawn or in a school yard. Someone would call the store -- 'Hey Yard Birds. Come get your YARD BIRD.' We were all over bringing them back."
Maybe Rich wasn't the only one who saved an extinct Yard Bird -- there could be others out there in private collections....