October 2011

Poo Monkey stands tall... about 17 feet tall if you include his concrete tree.

There are a lot of interesting things in America, but they are disappearing fast. One website dedicated to the subject is RoadsideAmerica.com.

Below, the Unknown Editor will contrast some preservation efforts of New Jersey, which has the second highest per capita income of all the states, with some superior efforts in Tucson Arizona, where the average Jose might not have two pesos to rub together.

Palace of Depression

One of New Jersey's weirdest attractions was the Palace of Depression, featured in the 1983 movie Eddie and the Cruisers. You might remember the song "On the Dark Side", sung by John Cafferty and Beaver Brown band for the made-up Eddie Wilson. A movie that belongs on your Netflix queue for sure!

There is a scene in that movie which shows a re-creation of this palace, it was long gone by 1983 when the movie was filmed, but would have been still standing in the 1960's era that the movie portrays. If you rent Eddie and the Cruisers, you might as well rent Eddie and the Cruisers II, it is not as good but there are plenty of references to "a monkey on his back" referring to the sax player's heroin addiction. Sorry in advance if this reference doesn't translate well...

Palace of Depression was built by George Daynor after he lost his wealth in the Great Depression, a fitting monument, in Vineland New Jersey. Although it was razed in 1969, there are new efforts to restore it to former glory. Too-little-too-late might summarize this, but to volunteer for the restoration project go here. To learn more about the Palace of Depression, visit RoadsideAmerica.com or check it out on Wikipedia.

Palace Amusements

Asbury Park was once a premier resort for New Jersey, an oceanside resort originally developed in late 1800s. In 1888 Ernest Schnitzler built the Palace Merry-Go-Round on the southwest corner of Lake Avenue and Kingsley Street, which later became the site of Palace Amusements. Sometime during the 1970s the town became almost deserted, but it is on the rise again, and now known as a gay-friendly destination, which today can translate into increasing property values for depressed neighborhoods.

Palace Amusements fell on had times in the 1980s. In 1988 the carousel went to auction, and the hand-carved animals were sold off one by one, the worst thing you can do to such an historic treasure. One of the cool things about the Palace carousel is that it had the ring dispenser, so you could grab for the brass ring and earn a fee ride. The most skilled riders could grab three or four rings at each pass!

"Tillie" was added as a mural to Palace Amusements in 1956, as a tribute George Cornelius Tilyou, founder of Coney Island's Steeplechase Park, another attraction that is long gone. When the Palace was about to be torn down, concerned citizens got together to try to preserve it or as much of it as they could. In the end, it was destroyed, and just a few artifacts were kept, including Tillie's neon hair locks, one of which appears to be broken in the picture to the right. Way to go, guys.

Visit the Save Tillie foundation website.


George Tilyou's Steeplechase Park

Asbury Park has been a musical Mecca for many decades. Asbury Park still has its share of attractions, the boardwalk is still there, so is the Convention Center, and the Stone Pony still packs in the crowds, unlike CBGB's in New York which is but a faded memory and an apparel line for people that never attended a concert there. Even Madame Marie's Temple of Knowledge has reopened, with Marie's granddaughter providing readings. Howard Johnson's unique circular restaurant no longer serves 28 flavors of ice cream or "frankfurts grilled in butter" but is open for business as a bar. Watch Southside Johnnie and the Asbury Jukes sing "Love on the Wrong Side of Town" below. Asbury Park was a happening place back in 1973!

Asbury Jukes on the Old Grey Whistle Test

One final palace that was considered musically is the Palais that the Kinks sang about in Come Dancing, which gets torn down to make room for a bowling alley.

Come Dancing!

Valley of the Moon

Like New Jersey's Palace of Depression, Tucson had its own strange place built out of junk, the Valley of the Moon. Here's a quote from their web site:

George Phar Legler was born in Evansville , Indiana on November 19, 1884 (there is some controversy here: he may have been born as late as 1887). A gentle, peaceful man who saw the need to heal the mind and soul, as well as the body. A devout pacifist, some time in his middle years he decided to dedicate his life to spreading happiness and to the mental and spiritual health of all mankind, especially children. George's greeting was A-ZE-O, which means Health to All. Since 1923 all of George's works, including Valley of the Moon, have had one central theme, that Kindness to All is the Golden Key to Happiness.

Unlike New Jersey, Tucson found a way to keep the Valley of the Moon a permanent exhibit. It inherited some of the figures from Magic Carpet Golf, which is where Poo came from.

Magic Carpet Golf and Poo Monkey

Magic Carpet was a miniature golf course built more than 50 years ago. The figurines were made from reinforced concrete and sand plaster and served well at their location on Speedway. In 2009 the owners decided to exit the business, selling to a car lot (this was back before the car companies started to go bankrupt). The car lot did the right thing and did NOT raze the structures, but allowed concerned citizens to move the attractions as best they could. They were auctioned off in March 2009, we bid on the bull and the monkey. A local tavern outbid us on the bull, but we won the monkey. You'd think there would be a bidding war over a giant monkey as a local brew pub has a monkey for a logo... your loss and our gain, suckers!

Here's some photos from the final day of golf. Poo was hole five on the Magic Carpet course. He was called Poo because of his strange tail, which has a motor that causes it to wag, as an obstacle to the golf hole.

With the winning bid for Poo, in April 2009 we had him cut down and transported to his new home near Tucson's downtown, close to University and Stone. For 20 months he sat on his rump while we did some other renovations to Poo's 100-year-old adobe house. Poo was not happy, he was starting to fall apart, as the weather started to eat away at his paint, plaster was cracking off, and rebar was rusting away. As my favorite material science professor at Steven's Institute once told us, corrosion never sleeps.

If you want to start such a project, you will need deep pockets. It helps if you have access to:

  1. 30 inch diamond saw
  2. 60 foot crane
  3. Flatbed trailer that can carry 14,000 lbs.
  4. Portable welding shop
  5. Bosch electric hammer (the biggest one)
  6. Bobcat (the smallest one)
  7. Sandblast equipment
  8. 14 foot (or higher) step ladder
  9. A local artist who has painted giant monkeys before
  10. A local contractor who specializes in historic adobe and plaster repairs
  11. Scaffolding
  12. Cold beer

Actually, the list of equipment is not as important as the list of local contractors that helped with the project, all charging less than their work is worth as everyone wanted to see The Monkey finished and be able to say they were a part of it. Thanks to DK, Kristen, Sean, Joe...

Also, you probably don't want to try this if your home is subject to the tyranny of a homeowners' association. Without an HOA, there are few legal restrictions and no permit required for installing sculptures on your own property. No one in Poo's new neighborhood has stopped by to complain, his reception has been quite warm.

Below are some images of the resurrection of Poo. There are many more pictures, we'll post a few more when we get some free time.

Cutting and welding



Arm and tree ready

There's over two cubic yards of hand-mixed concrete below those feet

World's cheapest wheelbarrow, not sure why we use this toy instead of the old Jackson 6

Concrete sandals and view of the tail

Joining the tree was the most dangerous part. Rebar alone can't support the weight

110 volts for lights and motor

Eeeeww Daddy do I have to pose?

Below is the finished product. If you look closely you can see Poo is complete down to painted fingernails and toenails. His right arm was filled with concrete using an old stove pipe and some strap clamps, the "fur" was put back on using an angle grinder. Local artist Joe Pagac had painted monkeys before so it was a no-brainer that he painted Poo, after we had him sandblasted. And we checked, there was no lead paint.

Poo is enjoying a festive beverage

Poo's tail motor works but needs to have some linkage pieces fabricated. There are light bulbs behind the eyes that need some wiring, but no one has small enough hands to reach in and rewire them, so that detail might require some surgery with a sledge hammer. The golf hole is being designed and will soon take bids, we'll add some photos of it once it is done.

Many of the other statures from Magic Carpet Golf are scattered around Tucson, one of these days we'll write down all of the addresses and send the information to RoadsideAmerica.com.

Magic Carpet's Spaceman is also at a private residence

Poo's cousin?

Roadside America puts the oldest surviving "statued" miniature golf course at being developed in 1958, the year that the Unknown Editor was born. Goofy Golf in Fort Walton Beach served as the prototype for Magic Carpet. Tucson's Poo has a cousin at Goofy Golf, obviously created by the same concrete monkey craftsmen! Poo originally stood on the same narrow posts so that his toes stuck out over the green, we decided that the sandals added additional reinforcement. Only a fool would stand under Goofy Monkey during a hurricane, the angle of that concrete tree is insane.

Fort Walton Beach Goofy Golf Monkey.

Other Tucson Treasures, Lost and Found

We are sad to report that Tucson lost Fred Imus on August 8. Fred's Trailer Park Bash was carried by XM Sirius Radio, broadcast from Fred's trailer. Fred was often the funniest thing going on on brother Don's nationally syndicated show. On the bright side, that Autobody Express shirt's value just went up a couple of bucks.


Dirk Arnold is a local artist and sign preservationist. He designed the 30 foot saguaro that adorns Tucson's Miracle Mile.

For this and other efforts Dirk won 2011 Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation award. Bravo!

Check out the miniature signs Dirk sells as refrigerator magnets, tell him the Unknown Editor sent you when you buy a couple for holiday gifts.

Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!