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Lake George’s “Giants”: The “Muffler Men”

By Joseph W. Zarzynski

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

There is a race of silent “giants” in America and fortunately a few can be found standing around Lake George, too. You may have seen one, but possibly have not recognized these tall fiberglass figures that today are commonly called “Muffler Men.”

“Muffler Men” is a popular culture designation for the 18 to 25 ft. tall fiberglass statues of humans who were originally designed and built as gigantic “attention getters” to promote various businesses around the country. The first colossus, a statue of Paul Bunyan, was constructed in 1962 for the Paul Bunyan Café on Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona. A year later in 1963, a fiberglass boat builder named Steve Dashew purchased the fabrication business that molded the first Paul Bunyan gargantuan. Dashew’s International Fiberglass, a California-based company, did big business for over a decade by fabricating a variety of different fiberglass behemoths that still dot American roadways.

One popular design was of a giant man holding a muffler that stood next to auto shops and car service stations all around the country. Today these colorful figures have mostly been relegated to theme parks, miniature golf courses, and elsewhere. Rather than holding a muffler like many of the initial designs, today’s “Muffler Men” might hold an ax, a large hot dog, a giant ball, a baseball bat, or some other object.

This area is indeed fortunate to have an inordinate number of the “Muffler Men,” making Lake George a candidate for “The ‘Muffler Men’ Capital of the USA.”

Magic Forest is a small theme park on Route 9, south of the Village of Lake George. It opened in 1963 and it has several “Muffler Men”: The Woodsman, The Amish Man, Pecos Bill, and The Clown.

Another Magic Forest fiberglass statuary is an Uncle Sam figure that stands in front of the quaint theme park. At 38 ft. in height, it is said to be the tallest Uncle Sam statue in the world. Furthermore, the red-white-and-blue hulk is located in the parking lot of Magic Forest and thus there is no cost to get a quick photograph of a genuine piece of 1960s and 1970s American roadside architecture.

Around the World Golf, a miniature golf course, located on the Beach Road east of the Steel Pier in the Village of Lake George has a Paul Bunyan goliath. The skyward character stands beckoning the public to venture inside for a game of miniature golf, a traditional Lake George summer pastime.

If you wish to track locations across the USA where there are various versions of “Muffler Men” then peruse their website: www.roadsideamerica.com

Or better yet, grab your camera, get a few dollars, and take a short ride around Lake George to see a vanishing colony of inanimate titans—“The Muffler Men.” It’ll be humongous and affordable family fun!

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