(Like that alliteration?)
This is a love letter to that big-boned beauty who has been placidly observing commuters on Route 309 in Wilkes-Barre for 48 years. It has only very recently occurred to me how truly weird it is to have grown up being given directions like “make a right by the big cow.” I never even questioned why there was a giant cow there in the first place. As a little kid, why would you? Giant cow is giant and funny and entertaining, and when I see it, I know we’re not far from the movie theater. The giant cow was there to bring me joy. End of discussion.
But I’m not the first townie to delve into the giant cow’s storied life, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. According to a 2002 story from the Times Leader , the former Gorman’s Dairy operated a plant and retail storefront in what is now Krugel’s Deli & Beer on the part of Rt. 309 called the “Ashley By-pass,” just down the hill from GAR High School (that’s Grand Army of the Republic High School, for you non-Wyoming Valley folk). In 1967, Margaret Gorman, the dairy’s owner, decided to buy the 2,000 pound cement-and-fiberglass bovine to attract customers to their then recently opened retail storefront and plant. Painted to resemble Gorman’s “golden” guernsey dairy cows, the replica stood about 13 feet high and 17 feet long, grazing in a grass yard alongside of the store’s parking lot. Now, she stands in a well-kept patch of grass, with her own white picket fence and all.
I could have sworn to you that her spots used to be painted different colors on a regular basis during a certain period of my childhood, but apparently I fabricated that memory. My mother, and the Times Leader, both tell me that her spots only changed colors twice, then recently went back to her classic guernsey colorway.
Not long after her arrival, a local radio station held a contest where listeners could vote on a name for the statue. For God only knows what reason, they settled on “Three-Oh-Ninah.” (Get it? She sits on Three Oh Nine? Route 309? Clever. Or something close to it.)
The greater Northeastern Pennsylvania region used to be home to quite a few dairies, as it turns out, but Gorman’s was the only one with an attraction like Ninah. The company that produced her, Sculpture Advertising of Sparta, Wisconsin, made dozens more just like her, all fated to become the mascots of dairies, creameries and cheese producers across the Midwest and the Eastern seaboard. It kind of makes me feel warm and fuzzy that, somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin, there are a bunch of kids who also know the pleasure of giving directions to an out-of-towner that begin with “So you take a right at the giant cow, and…”
Did your local dairy have one of these beauties? Have you ever driven by one before? Where, and what’s the name of the dairy? (Might compile these into a potential road trip theme some day!)