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Caveman - Grants Pass, OR
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NW_history_buff
N 42° 27.718 W 123° 19.378
10T E 473446 N 4701120
Quick Description: This giant caveman is 17-feet tall and stands in front of the Grants Pass Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center and greets tourists and visitors of the city.
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 1/7/2015 6:13:52 PM
Waymark Code: WMN6ZJ
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Team Farkle 7
Views: 16

Long Description:
Standing in front of the Grants Pass Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center with a large club is the infamous 'Caveman', a neanderthal being who has greeted visitors to the city since it was erected in 1971. The following verbiage comes from Roadside America which references Muffler Men:

Grants Pass Caveman

North of the Redwood Highway and California, an imposing representation of primitive man has guarded the entrance to Grants Pass since 1971, when the town's "Caveman Club" erected him. The caveman is 17 feet tall, on a rock pedestal. He was created by International Fiberglass (Muffler Men makers) to celebrate a strange brand of town boosterism that started in 1922. Local businessmen would don furs and animal skins, marching down Main Street brandishing their ceremonial spiky caveman clubs. The activity was to promote caverns at nearby Cave Junction.

In a traumatic event for Grants Pass, the caveman was torched by a couple of teenage morons in 2004. But the town rallied, repaired the statue, and had it back on its pedestal the following year.

Decades of economic evolution have buffeted the resident Neanderthal, leaving him on a small square of grass among fast food outlets. You're unlikely to find the mayor in bears skins nowadays, much less a civic-minded store clerk dragging a realtor by her hair. But the high school teams still compete as the Cavemen, and pride remains strong. As tipster Holly M. wrote us in April 2010: "NO ONE in GP is embarrassed by the statue! We are a proud city and proud of our caveman. Growing up one who loved here couldn't wait till we would be old enough to be Caveman or Cave Woman. One of the proudest days of my life was when I was able to graduate from GP High as a Caveman!"

In 2014 a tree that had blocked the Caveman from public view was cut down, and the statue received a full makeover at a local auto body shop.

There is a placard that stands next to the statue and highlights its history in more detail and reads:


The Oregon Cavemen, claiming to be direct descendants of the neanderthal man of ancient times, incorporated as a unit oct., 1922 in a ceremony held secretly in the depths of the Oregon Caves.....Their claimed homeland and a National Monument. The Cavemen is composed of local businessmen who travel far and wide spreading good will and tourist information. They appear at openings of national and local interest alike. They appeared at the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, a Broadway show and the Bay Area's Treasure Island Exposition.....Just to mention a few.

The Cavemen, dressed in animal skins, wearing horsehair wigs, buck teeth and "Big Horns" run rampant in parades and gatherings of the public, and usually have with them a rustic cage in which they imprison their victims and display them for the public to see. They are always on hand for a prank or a joke to be played on an important personality visiting in Grants Pass, or elsewhere, and are quick to spot and capture pretty girls who look like they could take a joke.

Their main purpose as an organization is to publicize Grants Pass and Josephine County. Their "rituals" include orientation of the members in the geographical and scenic features of the Caveman Domain and instruction in the caveman "tactics" of greeting visitors, including presentation of an inscribed chamois. Also, there are "secret rites" of initiation and installation of officers.

The governing body of the Cavemen is kept within a small circle of officers, including....."Chief Bighorn", "Rising Buck", "Wingfeather" & "Keeper of the Wampum". Also, they have a council of "Eagle Eyes" serving as a Board of Directors.

The Cavemen make their own rules as they go along, always calculated for the most fun and the best gag at the moment. With each new trick and each visit to a new area, they spread the good word for Grants Pass & Josephine County, calling everyone to come and see the Rogue River Valley where people are enjoying life to the full extent.


The Wall Street Journal even wrote an article on this caveman and it reads:

As Oregon Town Evolves, Caveman Heads the Way of the Dodo

Members of Pelt-Wearing Secret Society Debate Fate of 17-Foot Neanderthal Statue

GRANTS PASS, Ore.—The Caveman has stood guard for years over this town, bolstering its claim to be the gateway to the Oregon Caves National Monument.

A scowling, club-wielding fiberglass statue 17 feet tall, he stands on one of the town's main drags. But he is getting old, and a threat to his standing in the community has caused a rift among his principal allies, who are older still.

The Caveman exists in honor of a men's group formed in 1922, the Oregon Cavemen, who for decades met in private for secret rituals and, in public, appeared in town events dressed in furs and carrying clubs.

Today's club members, who claim to be "direct descendants of the Neanderthal," according to their bylaws, are mostly over 70 years old. Their statue is younger, having been around just since 1971, but too old for some townsfolk.

"History is great, but let's move forward," wrote one resident, Jim Long, in a recent letter to the editor of the Grants Pass Daily Courier. The statue "gives a 'male domination' feeling."

Gary Dalrymple, a retired police officer, thinks it would be a good idea to move the Caveman elsewhere. He isn't sure the statue projects the right image for this town of 35,000, which boasts of its proximity to a Shakespeare Festival in nearby Ashland. "I didn't like the connotation that we're a bunch of illiterates," says Mr. Dalrymple, 71. He says he has felt that way ever since he moved here 30 years ago but has mellowed a bit recently.

Then came the rift among members of the Cavemen. The brown and pink statue needed $1,000 in new paint, but the Cavemen had just $1,300 in their account. So, in February, Cavemen member Carl Rhodes approached Grants Pass High School—the home of Cavemen football—and suggested moving the statue to its campus, nearly 2 miles away, and let the school take over his care.

Other Cavemen fought back, taking the matter to a confrontational Cavemen meeting last month. "We want him to stay right where he is," says Hank Geiske, 78, a former leader ("Chief Bighorn") of the club, explaining the confrontation. "It's a good location and [the Caveman] brings a lot of people off the freeway down into town."

The Cavemen started as a group of local businessmen to promote Grants Pass and Josephine County for visitors to the marble caves 50 miles away. Wearing horsehair wigs and fake teeth, they often behaved as stereotypical Neanderthals during parades by capturing people from the crowd, according to a historical account by the Cavemen.

"I remember when I was a little kid they scared me," says Carolyn Harris, 53, a waitress and the daughter of Mr. Geiske. "I would hide under a car."

The Cavemen, who once numbered about 300, abided by certain rules. One couldn't become a Caveman before serving four years as an associate Caveman, says Mr. Geiske, a retired home-building contractor who joined in 1960. Activities often revolved around fun. "Just doing parades and making a fool of yourself," recalls John Clark, 70, a Caveman and retired mobile-home repairman.

In 1971, the Cavemen raised $10,000 to build the Caveman on undeveloped land on the outskirts of town. Businesses from towing companies to heating installers adopted the Caveman name. "I like everything a caveman represents—a bulldog mentality, and if he sees something, he goes after it," says Alan Sippola, 50, owner of Caveman Fence & Fabrication.

The Caveman, who is now surrounded by shops and businesses, has faced indignities before. In 2001, a big mask was fastened to his head to promote a masquerade ball. It was taken down after Cavemen complained. "Once you let somebody start doing something like that, then everybody will want to do it," Mr. Geiske says.

In 2004, a vandal set the Neanderthal on fire. Caveman Towing Co. towed the blackened Caveman in for repairs paid for by the Cavemen, and returned him to his post atop an 8-foot pedestal a month later.

The current threat is advanced age. The Cavemen are down to their last few active members, many over 70 years old. "We're not going to be around that much longer," says Mr. Rhodes, 82, the man who suggested moving the statue to the high school. "Once we're gone, who will protect it?" says Mr. Rhodes, a retired teacher who joined the club the same year the Caveman was put up.

School officials were receptive, even if some parents were aghast. "Some people think…'why would you move that monstrosity on campus,' " says Ryan Thompson, principal of the school. "Others thought, 'Why not, we're the home of the Cavemen.' "

Board members expressed support at a Feb. 26 board meeting of the Grants Pass School District. "He's not the friendliest-looking caveman, but he is our mascot," says school-board member Kathy Luther, 53. "I'd rather see him at the school." According to school history, the high school started using the name Cavemen in the 1920s.

About 20 Cavemen squared off against one another in early March at a meeting in a Chinese restaurant. Mr. Rhodes says he explained that a move to the school could safeguard the statue's future. "If nobody is to take care of it, it will just kind of deteriorate to the point it may be burned again," Mr. Rhodes says.

Mr. Geiske, at the meeting, called that a bad idea, saying the school district has a limited budget and that the Caveman might become the target of even more vandalism. Some of the Cavemen, Mr. Rhodes says, "jumped up and said I had given the Caveman away."

Mr. Geiske says it was Mr. Rhodes who was ticked off, refusing to vote when the others unanimously agreed to leave the Caveman alone. Mr. Rhodes afterward tendered his resignation from the Cavemen, who voted to keep the statue in its place.

The remaining Cavemen say the statue isn't necessarily out of the woods. The controversy renewed wider debate over his fate among non-Cavemen townsfolk, they concede.

And, Mr. Geiske says, his group can't defend him forever. "It just depends," he says when asked how long. "Maybe 20 years, 30 years. You never know."

Muffler Man Type: Hybrid

The Chamber Office
1995 NW Vine Street
Grants Pass, OR USA

Web Address: Not listed

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