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Big Rooster   Leave a comment

New digs at Antonelli's, November 2013.

New digs at Antonelli’s, November 2013.

Big wings, big thighs, big breasts, oh my!
Antonelli’s Poultry Company, 62 De Pasquale Avenue, Providence
(401) 421-8739

Nothing calls attention to your business better than a freakishly large fiberglass animal.

This fantastic fowl originally graced the sidewalk in front of Sollitto’s Liquor Mart at 905 Narragansett Boulevard beginning around 1969, when, at the suggestion of his brother, Domenic Sollitto bought it at an auction for $200.

It was stolen at least twice, once in the early 1970s by a Brown University fraternity that employed a pickup truck to make off with the bird, and once in the late 1990s by less-resourceful Johnson & Wales students who tried to drag it away on foot. The Brown students reportedly got caught because a postman saw them muscling the ungainly 150-pound cock into their dorm, and reported the sighting to Sollitto. The safe return of the rooster was brokered by the dean of students a few weeks later. Supposedly a case of bourbon was suggested as ransom, but whether that was the dean’s idea or the students’, we don’t know. The J&W kids didn’t do nearly as well. They were spotted by patrons of a nearby bar who gave chase as the students humped the statue down Indiana Avenue. Thinking only of their own interests, the kids dropped the chicken, leaving a minor crack in its skin. As a result of these shenanigans, the bird was subsequently brought inside the store each night to remove the temptation to larceny.

Sollitto's flag-waving message, photographed August 2, 2003.

Sollitto’s flag-waving message, August 2003.

The rooster became a booster for belligerent American patriotism sometime after 911, with the painted admonition, “USA, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.” Prior to that, it bore the harmlessly capitalistic and far less jingoistic “SPIRITS LOW, SEE SOLLITTO.”

The rooster was featured in a Zippy the Pinhead cartoon on May 30, 2006, which poked fun at the idea of a barnyard fowl spouting outdated messages of narrow-minded patriotism. Zippy pointed out that chickens are more closely identified with cutting and running than with stolid, staightbacked, clear-eyed dedication to cause, and the rooster agreed that “Cutting and running [is] the new patriotism!” Maybe the punchline hit home for Sollitto, because a year or two later the bird had been rendered messageless.

Sollitto’s closed in 2013 and the rooster was sold to Antonelli’s Poultry on Federal Hill, marking a sharp shift in the bird’s promotional career. The connection between fresh poultry products and an eight-foot clucker are obvious in retrospect, and forty-four years of shilling for booze are easily swept under the henhouse, especially with the aid of a fiberglass restoration and spiffy new paint job by Bob Connell of Nick’s Auto Body

Wright's big rooster, photographed November 6, 2004.

Wright’s big rooster, November 2004.

A second giant rooster once stood in a prominent spot at Wright’s Farm Restaurant in Burrillville. A comparison of photos shows that Sollitto’s and Wright’s roosters appear to have hatched from the very same clutch of fiberglass eggs. If not brothers, they are at least close cousins. Wright’s rooster can still be seen, but it’s somewhat hidden on the roof of a shed at the back of the restaurant complex.

Are two big roosters enough for the Biggest Little? No, there was a third that used to hang out at Kiddie Land at Rocky Point Park in Warwick. It was purchased at auction by Chris Gasbarro of Gasbarro Liquors who, in 2007, donated it the Tomorrow Fund, which refurbished it and auctioned it off at their annual fundraiser on November 3, 2007. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.

All three roosters were likely manufactured by International Fiberglass of Venice, California, in the 1960s. According to Wikipedia, “boatbuilder Steve Dashew established International Fiberglass in 1963 by purchasing and renaming Bob Prewitt’s workshop, Prewitt Fiberglass. The oversized fiberglass men, women and dinosaurs began as a sideline. Increases in costs to deliver the lightweight but oversized figures proved problematic and business declined with the 1973 oil crisis. International Fiberglass was sold and closed permanently in 1976. The moulds for the figures, originally worth thousands of dollars each, were not retained and are now lost.”

Sollitto's questionable color scheme, photographed January 26, 2008.

Sollitto’s questionable color scheme, January 2008.

You may well wonder, given their residence in Rhode Island, if these statues are of the famed Rhode Island Red breed of chicken. They are not. In fact, try as we might to find a picture online of a living rooster with a white body and a red tail, we came up empty handed. Perhaps, and this is just a guess, the paint scheme for both roosters was informed by depictions of the Warner Brothers cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. The 2008 version of the rooster at Sollitto’s bore a green wattle and legs. You can’t tell us that ever occurs in nature. In any case, these fiberglass roosters are found all over the country, and given that they’ve probably been painted many times since their manufacture, they share remarkably similar color schemes. See Debra Jane Seltzer’s page of Giant Roosters, Chickens and Turkeys for more compare and contrast fun.

Information

Cost: Free

Time required: Allow one minute to gawk, more if you’re shopping for dinner

Hours: During business hours

Finding it: From Route 95 take exit 21 to Atwells Avenue. Go under the pinecone arch and turn right onto Dean Street. Turn left onto Spruce Street. Park. Antonelli’s is located in De Pasquale Plaza, a small pedestrian plaza on the left.

Other Big Things in Rhode Island

  • Big Blue Bug
  • Big Coffee Mug
  • Big Handtruck
  • Big Ice Cream Cone, Lakewood Ice Cream, 140-152 Chambly Avenue, Warwick
  • Big Milk Can
  • Big Paint Can, True Value Hardware, Route 44, Greenville, Smithfield
  • Big Rosary Beads, Jesus Savior Church, 509 Broadway, Newport

* * * * *

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Big Coffee Mug   1 comment

The Big Coffee Mug in June 2013.

The Big Coffee Mug in June 2013.

King Kong-sized caffeine delivery system!
1065 Eddie Dowling Highway, (Route 146), North Smithfield
(401) 338-7100
theiceboxslush@yahoo.com

Update, January 2014: The Ice Box announced it was closed, apparently for good, via Facebook message on the 15th. No reason was given.

Update, May 17, 2014: The Big Coffee Mug was either demolished or carted away around this date. Everything that once stood on the lot is gone, down to bare earth. We have no further information at this time.

This huge travel-style coffee mug, perhaps large enough for two to three people to enjoy a hot java bath at the same time, serves as the sign for a small drive-up establishment. The sign is also a fountain, spewing clear water from the spout on its lid (when it’s working). We think the water should be colored a rich, dark brown so that potential customers won’t be turned off by the thought of a weak brew. A bit of steam to add verisimilitude wouldn’t hurt either.

The cup currently promotes The Icebox, a summertime stand owned and operated by RISD student Brianna O’Keefe. She opened the place in August 2013, serving Richie’s Super Premium Italian Ice to help finance her college education. The Icebox re-opened for the summer in early May 2013 and Brianna added ice cream to the line-up soon after. Next up: milk shakes! Then, possibly, coffee, to capitalize on the Big Coffee Mug juju.

As we hinted above, the fountain is not working as of this writing (June 2013). Brianna would like to have it fixed, but that may prove to be difficult, as it seems the mug was built around the pump. Brianna has installed a fog machine on top of the mug, and she uses it occasionally to draw the interest of passing motorists (didn’t we just say that would be a good idea?). If anyone knows of a small, talented monkey-mechanic that can go down the spout and perform the necessary pump repairs, please contact Brianna at theiceboxslush@yahoo.com.

The Icebox's menu board.

The Icebox’s menu board.

Coffee and Cream in 2005, when the fountain was working.

Coffee and Cream in 2005, when the fountain was working.

Richie’s Italian Ice, by the way, in case you’ve not tried it, is very different from what you get at Rhode Island’s many frozen lemonade places. It’s much smoother, like a sorbet, or an icy sherbet (but with no dairy). And it comes in a wide variety of flavors, like Banana, Blue Raspberry, Bubble Gum, Coconut Cream, Cotton Candy, Mango, Orange Creamsicle, Pina Colada, and Watermelon. You can even mix and match flavors as you please for a small added cost.

The landmark mug hath been running over since at least 1991. Before The Icebox, it was the sign for Coffee and Cream, a stand serving donuts, muffins, sandwiches, and, go figure, coffee. Coffee and Cream closed in 2009, a victim, apparently, of competition from a new Dunkin Donuts location just down the road.

We’ve heard from a friend that long ago, back in the mists of time, the Big Coffee Mug was originally a Big Coffee Pot. The only physical difference, apparently, was that the pot had a pour spout on the front. Anyone who can corroborate this bit of information, or better yet, provide a photo, please contact us at stuffie@quahog.org.

Former site of the Big Coffee Mug, May 18, 2014.

Former site of the Big Coffee Mug, May 18, 2014.

Information

Hours: The Icebox was open 11am-9pm daily during the summer. Now it’s CLOSED and erased from the face of the Earth.

Finding it: From Route 295 take exit 9 to Route 146 north (toward Woonsocket); Go 1.8 miles; You’ll pass the Big Coffee Mug on the left, on the other side of the divided highway; Get in the left lane and take a U-turn at Sayles Hill Road; Return south on Route 146 about 275 feet to the Big Coffee Mug on the right.

Other Big Things in Rhode Island

  • Big Blue Bug
  • Big Handtruck
  • Big Ice Cream Cone, Lakewood Ice Cream, 140-152 Chambly Avenue, Warwick
  • Big Milk Can
  • Big Paint Can, True Value Hardware, Route 44, Greenville, Smithfield
  • Big Roosters
  • Big Rosary Beads, Jesus Savior Church, 509 Broadway, Newport

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