Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Big Chicken



Impressions. The first time I saw the Big Chicken was as a child, in a car, while waiting for a red light to change. Until I-75 was built a few blocks over, Hiway 41 (aka "the four lane") was the main drag between Michigan and Florida. 41 is still a busy road, becoming the Northside Parkway at the Chattahoochee River, then Northside Drive, then Metropolitan Parkway. Metropolitan Parkway was once known as Stewart Avenue, and was the sleaziest street in Georgia. The new name has only marginally improved it.

The Big Chicken is a landmark, an icon, and a symbol of everything regular and extra crispy about America. It is described in several online guides to American idols.

Roadsideamerica is a good place to start. There is the standard history of the sheetmetal bird..."In 1963, Tubby Davis had the Big Chicken built to advertise his Johnny Reb's Chick, Chuck and Shake. Its moveable beak, eyes and comb attracted enough attention, like Providence, RI's giant termitethat it became a popular landmark in directions to city visitors."
Indeed, for years, "go down the four lane and take a left at the Big Chicken" was standard directions in Mayretta. Some folks would still be lost if it were not for the big bird.
More of the history and culture of sheetmetal poultry can be found here.

Unfortunately, not everyone is impressed with the Big Chicken. Naysayers would have you believe :"The Big Chicken is perhaps the tackiest beloved icon in the country. It is ugly! It has no aesthetic value. It is an example of commercial hucksterism at its finest. But it stands at one of the most important intersections of the Atlanta, Georgia suburb of Marietta."

Negativity is so common. To hear some say it:
"Its a dumb chicken type billboard/sign. Not worth even looking at if you drive by it."
As a transplant said:
"We moved to Atlanta a couple of years ago and had heard about the Big Chicken. When we finally saw it we were stunned! How can a classy city like Atlanta think this is something to be proud of?!? Don't waste your time finding this dud." Of course, this person thinks Atlanta is a classy city.
But don't despair. There is one person who knows what it is all about.
"The cultural significance of the Big Chicken can't be overstated. Through war, through the Olympics, through terrorist attacks on American soil, the B. C. has kept Marietta grounded, anchored to the here and now in an ever-changing world. As such, it's nothing less than a symbol of local pride, of man's determination and capacity to sell fried chicken to his fellow man in good times and in bad. The Chicken keeps us abreast of our creator-derived freedoms."

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