Half a dozen half-baked facts about Winlock’s iconic giant egg

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Unique roadside artifacts are a decades-old method of making a community or neighborhood stand out. Around Seattle, many examples come to mind, including the pink tipped truck which was parked at the old Lincoln Towing on Mercer Street, the Elephant Car Wash neon sign on Denny Way, and the Twin Teepees restaurant along Aurora Avenue North in Green Lake.

Those artifacts are all gone, of course, but 100 miles south of town and a few miles west of I-5, a giant egg – which this week turned 98 – remains. in Winlock.

Winlock is in Lewis County, not far from Chehalis. The town was founded in the 1870s and is named after Land Surveyor General Winlock W. Miller, a contemporary of Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens. Winlock became the center of a bustling egg and poultry producing region and the headquarters of the Washington Cooperative Egg and Poultry Association in the early 20th century, and community leaders were adept at attracting attention and generating positive media coverage.

For example, when it was learned that President Warren G. Harding would be doing a summer visit in the Pacific Northwest, the Tacoma News Tribune of May 12, 1923 reported that Winlock executives sent a telegram to President Harding urging him to pass:

“Winlock, the great egg production center of the Pacific Northwest invites you to stop for a few minutes to show you how the hundreds and thousands of White Leghorns here, confined in egg-laying pens, are converted into egg-laying machines. lay.”

In July, Harding passed Winlock on his special train; he had already fallen ill and would die a few days later in San Francisco.

In honor of Winlock Egg’s birthday – and those long-ago Winlockians who made the media know all about it – here are half a dozen half-baked facts.

Number 1

The original “big white egg” was part of a parade float – it was stuck to the back of a big truck with a sign saying “Winlock, the house of the white leghorn”.

The parade was actually a caravan of hundreds of vehicles that drove from Olympia to Salem, Oregon on October 25, 1923 – 98 years ago this week – marking the grand opening of what was then called the Pacific Highway. The route was described at the time as “700 miles of causeway from British Columbia to northern California,” and it later became US 99, many parts of which still exist.

The caravan consisted of 176 cars as it headed south from Olympia. By the time it reached Vancouver, Washington, the number had grown to 355. The route included a stop on the 1917 Columbia River Bridge – still in use 104 years later – and speeches by Washington Governor Louis F. Hart and Governor of Oregon Walter M. Pierce. The hanging, in effigy, of a model named “Old Man Detour” was also part of the festivities.

Winlock was not located on the Pacific Highway. So after the trailer was completed, the large egg was displayed on a large base along the busy main railroad tracks.

The idea for the big egg is attributed to John C. Lawrence, director of the Washington Cooperative Egg and Poultry Association, based in Winlock. In a speech eight months before the parade, Lawrence called Winlock the “home of the big white egg” – which likely means the large but fully edible eggs that Winlock was already widely known for at the time.

Number 2

A century ago, Winlock was apparently strong in celebrating the new highways.

Two years before the big egg hatched, the townspeople held their first “Poultry and Egg Day” celebration on Saturday August 13, 1921, to mark the completion of the paving of a road. connecting Winlock to Cowlitz and Toledo. A press article at the time said: “Governor Louis F. Hart was invited to speak but expressed his inability to attend.”

Egg day has been celebrated almost every year since, and the event marked its centenary last summer.

Number 3

The original 1923 parade float egg was made of wood with a canvas stretched over it. These materials apparently did not last long over time, and accounts vary on how the later, more permanent eggs were made. Some old newspaper articles say that an entirely new egg was made of tin, and others say that the original old canvas egg was reinforced with concrete and plaster.

In November 1925, the Tacoma Daily Ledger described the Winlock monument as follows:

The egg is 12 feet long, 8 feet in its largest diameter and is covered with an outer layer of shell cement painted white. It represents the ideal egg, the length being 1 1/2 times its greatest diameter, the surface curving at each point. The frame on which the hull was formed weighed 500 pounds and the hull material 1,500 pounds, for a total weight of 2,000 pounds.

Towards the end of WWII, the old egg was refurbished or, perhaps for the second time, an entirely new egg may have been created. As Winlock historian CC Wall wrote in 1952: “In 1944, when Johnny Simpson’s Plastic Company came to town, they did it with this plastic material, which held up pretty well.

Number 4

On an otherwise quiet Saturday night in Winlock in July 1958, the 1944 edition of the egg fell off its platform and, according to the Longview Daily News, “crashed to the ground in a pile of rubble.” After nearly 35 years, Winlock was suddenly without his iconic symbol, and a rotten base was blamed.

The Winlock Lions Club had planned to rebuild the base earlier that year, but decided to postpone work after this year’s Egg Day celebration.

Despite the Lions Club’s best intentions to replace him much sooner, the Egg Winlock was absent for almost seven years. The new one was installed in May 1965, half a block north of the original location. It was made of fiberglass, measuring 15 feet long and 7 feet high. It weighed 1,200 pounds and was mounted on a steel pole alongside the railroad tracks. The Winlock Garden Club and the Jaycees landscaped the area and installed a fence and lighting to create a small park.

Number 5

Another West Coast town that claimed “Egg Capital” status in the 1920s was Petaluma, California, where it called itself “the egg basket of the world.” In Petaluma, a farmer built a statue of a giant hen – also originally for a parade, but in 1918, five years before Winlock’s giant egg.

Petaluma’s chicken statue was named Betty, and a 1922 newspaper article described her as “12 feet tall, snow-white, upright, and proud of her triumph.”

“She is resplendent at the Petaluma station,” the article added.

Unlike Winlock’s Egg, Petaluma’s Betty only lasted about 20 years, until October 27, 1938 – or 83 years ago last Wednesday. Late that evening, someone blasted poor old Betty up and smashed her to bits. Local students have been suspected, but no charges have ever been laid.

This actual quote from the front page of the Petaluma Argus Courier the next day could be one of the funniest lines unintentionally ever printed:

The explosion surprised customers at [a restaurant called] “The colony” located about 500 meters south of “the old chicken”. Tony Mitchell, one of the owners, said the whole building shook as if there had been an earthquake. Ben Glazier, who lives nearly a mile from the stage, reported that “the windows and dishes in his house were shaking” and “it looked like the walls were going to collapse.”

Number 6

Winlock may no longer be the egg and poultry capital of the Northwest, as the business has changed somewhat and moved beyond the cooperative model and the Washington Cooperative Egg and Poultry Association that made Winlock famous. However, in 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture said Lewis County was still number one out of 39 counties in Evergreen State for total egg production and was ranked 244th among counties in Evergreen. nationwide.

The large white egg requires regular cleaning and maintenance, and occasional repainting, which the Lions Club has been responsible for for many years. In addition to the eggshell white, the monument to poultry production has been painted several times over the years with special designs, including the post 9/11 American flag and the Seahawks logo during Super seasons. Team Bowl in the mid-2010s.

Thankfully, the roadside Winlock icon has never been treated so brutally as Betty the hen from Petaluma, forcing no journalist in the Northwest to invoke the tragic phrase “old egg.”

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News, find out more about himhere, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea, please email Felikshere.


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