Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Big Chicken - You Are Here


Paris has the Eiffel Tower; New York City has the Empire State Building (pardon me if something is newer or longer lasting); Atlanta has The Peachtree Plaza; and Marietta has The Big Chicken.

Before the structure was The Big Chicken it was first a Zesto, which served custard type of ice cream. I remember when that Zesto first opened. I never had an ice cream that poured instead of scooped before. Then, about a mile away, also on Roswell Street (it becomes Roswell Road as you cross Cobb Parkway) a Dairy Queen opened up. I did not like the Dairy Queen. The ice cream was as good, but in my book they were copying Zesto. And not only that, but Zesto had a birthday club. You got a free ice cream on your birthday. I think I was about 12 then and a free birthday ice cream meant a lot.

The competition of Dairy Queen put Zesto out of business I think. The fact that the Dairy Queen was closer to town and Zesto was practically out in the country at that time. That is not the case now. It has just about flipped the opposite way.

After Zesto went under Miss Georgia opened it up as a kind of ice cream and milk shake bar. They were like Howard Johnson’s, with many flavors. I think other than chocolate and the butter pecans, all their ice creams with all the different flavors were one flavor, vanilla, and they had a big array of bottles with colored liquids in each that would give the flavor you wanted. That was before Baskin and Robbins.

Miss Georgia lasted a good while, it was something like a chain.

Then came Johnny Reb’s. The Johnny Reb restaurant chain in Metro Atlanta was owned by Tubby Davis. Johnny Reb had different type of restaurant. He had one on Cobb Parkway (then the “4-Lane” on Riverhll, just above the Chattahoochee River and behind it was a Disneyland-type of place called Storyland. And I think he had another one in downtown Atlanta. The one in front of Storyland and the one in downtown were nice restaurants. They were the kind of place you could carry your date on prom night and the waiters would kindly look the other way while you spike you and your date’s drink.

The Johnny Reb that was destined to become The Big Chicken wasn’t as upscale. I think the name of it was Johnny Reb’s Chicken Shack or something similar. Tubby Davis hired a 1957 Georgia Tech graduate who was working for Atlantic Steel to make a huge advertising statement that would stand out. The engineer designed a steel structure shaped somewhat like a chicken. It had a moving beak and rolling eyes.

In 1993 strong winds just about dismantled the metal sheets. Kentucky Fried Chicken bought the business and just about decided to flatten it and just make a standard free-standing KFC place when they realize the locals considered it a tacky landmark that was worth defending. KFC remodeled the chicken and it is still standing and flapping its beak today.

By the way, the top edges of the monstrosity is caked with pigeon and starling shit. The Big Chicken is also a good roost.

Being that it is a Kentucky Fried Chicken is probably appropriate. But, what some feel is not appropriate is the Pepsi sign on The Big Chicken. This is Coke country.

About a block away is east on Roswell Road is where Frey’s Gin was. That is the sight of the infamous Leo Frank hanging in 1913. He was accused of raping and killing 13 year old Mary Phagan. But that has nothing to do with this blog entry – or does it? I might one day in the future make an entry about this terrible happening.

The Big Chicken is a 56 ft tall structure that is something of a beacon in Marietta. Well, not really a beacon but a landmark. It is a perfect landmark for giving directions. It is at the corner of Roswell Road and Cobb Parkway (the “4-Lane” to us natives”). The two roads are the most traveled in Marietta. Everybody new and old know where The Big Chicken is located. That makes it an ideal landmark for giving directions. At that corner, almost at the center of Cobb County you can go in the four main directions. It is easy to give directions from that point, because you know the newcomer knows where The Big Chicken is.

It is also on two passing crossing highways, State Highway 120 which goes to Roswell, Georgia, if you go east and Dallas, Georgia, if you go west. Cobb Parkway runs north and south and is the US 41 Highway. If you go south you go to Atlanta and if you to north you will go to towns north, the most known is Chattanooga and Chicago.

That is true for directions. Even far out of state directions. I had a Navy friend that lived on South Troy Street in Chicago, which crossed the US 41. Before I first went to visit him he gave me directions: he said get on our street, which ran into Cobb Parkway, turn left and stay on it for about 850 miles until you get to Troy Street and turn left again. Two turns.

Maybe all roads lead FROM The Big Chicken.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Suzanne said...

This is a really great post (along with all the pictures you subsequently posted) because I love buildings that have unique tacky architecural elements. And it is hilarious that all roads lead to Big Chicken! I do believe you are right about that.

6:56 AM  
Blogger ET said...

Suzanne,
Thanks! And here's to the gaudy Big Chicken!

12:40 PM  
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