giant-sized The big beach girl in the bikini is a landmark of sorts, one that greets drivers
coming and going from Wilmington on U.S. Highway 74.
She stands next to a lagoon, facing the road, holding a beach ball in her upraised
hand. Travelers on the stretch of highway between Delco and Bolton in Columbus
County can’t miss her. You tend to stand out when you’re almost 20 feet tall.
“It blows people away,” Hubert Graham says with a laugh. “I had one dude
come here, he said, ‘We see her every time we pass by. We’ve got a name for her.
We’ve got to take a picture with her.’”
The beach girl is more than a peculiar and popular roadside sight. She’s an iconic
piece of Americana. The figure is a Uniroyal Gal, one of the few remaining giant
fiberglass statues originally intended to lure customers into stores selling Uniroyal
The company commissioned International Fiberglass in Venice, California, to
make Miss Uniroyal statues in the 1960s. They were used in promotions, and
moved from store to store. Uniroyal stopped using them in the early 1970s, and the
statues began to disappear.
As they became rare, Uniroyal Gal spotting became a popular pastime among
certain tourists who delight in unusual sites. There are websites dedicated to offbeat
attractions that list the locations of the statues around the country.
Graham popped up on their radar when he positioned his statue in view of the
highway about six years ago.
“There are people who just look for these Uniroyal girls everywhere,” Graham
says. “A guy came here who goes around and does stories on them. He said there’s
only 15 of them left in the whole United States of America.”
Most of them date back to the ’60s, when International Fiberglass first made
them. But Graham’s is a newer model, made from the original mold that made
its way from California to Rocky Mount, where it ended up in the hands of Bill
Sharpe, his mentor in the fiberglass business.
“Bill never produced them, because he never had the material or the workers,”
Graham says. “I bought the mold from Bill. I made her, and I said, ‘I’m going to
stand her up and make her a beach girl,’ because she already had the bikini on. It
took a month just to paint her.”
The giant statue that catches motorists’ eyes on U.S. Highway 74 is a Uniroyal Gal,
a cultural icon from the ‘60s. She is just one of the fantastical fiberglass figures on
Hubert Graham’s land.
The beach girl on Highway 74 could 38
WBM august 2017