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"Hollywood" - Hayward, California halfwit -- before his upgrade and spray tan makeover.

The Happy Halfwit

This giant jug-eared fellah offers comic relief among the otherwise down-to-business fraternity of Muffler Men statue giants. The Happy Halfwit (a nickname we coined decades ago, while categorizing fiberglass roadside statues) is clearly related -- with the Muffler Man's manufacturing origins, generic molded torso, arms, legs, and shoes. In fact, sometimes the only thing that distinguishes a Halfwit from other Muffler Man is his oddball head.

Ken's Mufflers Muffler Man Halfwit, Dallas, Texas.
Ken's Mufflers Muffler Man Halfwit, Dallas, Texas.

Produced by California's International Fiberglass, the Halfwits were marketed in a 1966 catalog and price sheet as a Giant Spectacular under the product name "Mortimer Snerd." They were originally sold for $1,860 in heights as tall as 21 feet, but many of today's survivors are derived from a smaller set of molds, yielding a figure closer to 14-15 feet. They were apparently never as widely popular as their Muffler Men brethren, such as the lumberjacks and cowboys. Few Halfwits survive today.

The Happy Halfwits were designed to appeal to leisure destinations such as miniature golf courses and amusement piers. Nevertheless, they were purchased by a variety of businesses, and their classic arrangement of arms and hands have held everything from mufflers to terrifying axes.

The Halfwits were introduced during the 1960s rustic comedy heyday of The Beverly Hillbillies and the popularity peak of Mad magazine, which employed a similar character, the "idiot kid" Alfred E. Neuman, as its mascot on every issue's cover. Perhaps to avoid legal friction with Mad, International Fiberglass dubbed the character "Mortimer Snerd" -- the name of a ventriloquist dummy from the 1930s with a similar goofy expression. Mad's Alfred E. was no virgin original; an almost identical character kept cropping up in print ads in the early decades of the 20th century, the earliest in 1894. Part dimbulb, part shrewd imp, that freckled, gap-toothed grinning redhead was already in the collective unconscious.

Minigolf Muffler Man, Seaside Heights, New Jersey.
Minigolf Muffler Man, Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

Halfwit in Beaumont, Texas.
Halfwit in Beaumont, Texas.

Despite its official name, the Halfwit is arguably more Neuman than Snerd. Many of the statues, including a few with detailed spray tan makeovers, continue the missing tooth traditions.

The Mortimer Snerd model was originally offered in the caricatured attire of a hillbilly -- a bright yellow shirt, with hand-patched pants held up by suspenders. Some statues retain the Lil' Abner hand-me-down effect and some don't. Some figures don't even have necks. Most Halfwits are outfitted with straw "boater" hats that were commonly seen on barbershop quartets or political campaigners. And yet, the Halfwit's brawny arms, broad shoulders, and barrel chest, standard on almost all Muffler Men, suggest an American life of farm labor.

We didn't know the original product name -- or even where the fiberglass statues came from -- until well after we hooked Muffler Men fans with our identification schema. So you can call them Snerds, or Halfwits or Country Bumpkins or Alfalfas or Howdy Doodys... they'll just keep grinning.

Mortimer Snerd in Winslow, New Jersey.
Mortimer Snerd in Winslow, New Jersey.

Also see: Muffler Men Home Page | Muffler Men Map

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