Home/Stories of the Road /Seeing Pink and Saying “Cheese”
Seeing Pink and Saying “Cheese”
Along Route 66, near I-55's mile marker 37, is a land of giants and colossal pink elephants, giant ice cream cones and gingerbread gazebos, spaceships and other-worldly possessions. These collectibles sit outside the Pink Elephant Antique Mall. Since 2005, this yard art has enticed interstate travelers to stop for a closer look. Owner Dave Hammond traveled all over the country to salvage these oddities and bring them home to the front yard of I-55. Why? Because he likes to see people smile. Hammond said that you wouldn’t believe how many people over the years have stopped just to have their picture taken next to one of these objects. After he met several enthusiastic road-tripping photographers who stopped to take pictures of his first lawn creature, the pink elephant, he liked the idea of adding more and more, just for fun.

Getting these structures here wasn’t always easy. When Hammond and his father traveled to Ohio to purchase the giant ice cream cone, they found it scattered in pieces in a snowy ditch and, fittingly, frozen to the ground. In eight-degree weather, they painstakingly freed it during a snowstorm that dropped ten inches of snow, making it an icy ride home for their ice cream cone. Hammond used a forklift to haul the twenty-six-foot-tall “Beach Guy” out of a densely wooded Wisconsin forest—a true Bigfoot. The Beach Guy originally held a Pepsi-Cola can and had a brief cameo in the 1990 film Flatliners. The gazebo was rolled in from Branson, Missouri, and the spaceship was transported from Springfield, Illinois. The Muffler Man was moved in from Kentucky, and the half-elephants were hauled from Mills Mall in St. Louis. The thirteen-foot tricycle was pedaled in from just down the road, and as for the famous pink elephant, it has been on Route 66 for years. It just migrated a bit farther north from its spot at a Mexican restaurant in Granite City.

The antique mall’s building dates back to 1949, when it was the Livingston High School. The old classrooms in the upstairs are now storage rooms, while the gymnasium floor is covered with antiques and collectibles. Wouldn’t Hammond’s lawn have been the perfect school playground?

- Excerpt taken from Traveling Through Illinois: Stories of I-55 Landmarks & Landscapes Between Chicago & St. Louis, Cadden, LuAnn & Cable, Ted. Arcadia Publishing & the History Press, 2013.