LIVINGSTON, Ill.– You can “Get your kicks on Route 66” but one stop offers giant kitschy statues, fudge, candy, antiques, souvenir photos, and much more. Just roll into the Pink Elephant Antique Mall just off I-55 in Livingston, Illinois.
Dave and Bernice Hammond have owned multiple antique malls over central Illinois but wanted to set roots in one spot at the Pink Elephant. The business has been offering tourists something interesting sine 2005.
“Route 66 has thousands of destinations along the way,” Dave Hammond said. “So if you’re taking a trip down Route 66, there’s a new destination at every stop.”
Hammond said that they have visitors all over the world. On the day I visited they had a couple from England and Australia. When visitors enter the antique mall they can leave a message in the sign-in book to let everyone know where they are from.
You can even get a meal from the Route 66 themed dinner. The restaurant looks as if they stepped into Pop’s Diner in an Archy comic or a Riverdale episode.
“They come here, they smile, they take their pictures and they’re happy and it makes me happy,” said Hammond. “It makes me happy to see people from town, bringing their kids, pulling them in a wagon to come down here and get ice cream or something to eat.”
Some of the statues that Hammond has around the property are tall and rare. Such as the Spaceship.
“It’s called Futuros house. They, made 96 of them, but a guy named Matt Surronen, designed them back in the 1960s,” said Hammond. “And, 19 of them made it to the United States. There’s only a handful of them left in the world. I’ve got a guy he keeps calling me, offering me $70,000 for it.”
Hammond said he won’t sell the structure. He had originally picked it up in Springfield by the airport with his late wife.
“The old chief of police there from Livingston said, ‘Hey, did you ever see us space up by the airport?’,” Hammond said.
Hammond had no idea what the Police Chief was talking about but he went on the hunt with his late wife, Cheryl Hammond.
“And so me and my late wife, we got in the car every weekend and we went up there driving up and down the road, trying to find it,” Hammond said.
Hammond said that Cheryl was a beautician. They spotted a barber shop and went in to ask them about the spaceship.
Hammond said his wife was right. “They knew the guy’s name, everything else. And he owns a big tree nursery in Springfield.”
Hammon said he called and they were selling the craft.
“I had to stand on the hood of my car to see where the spaceship was. It looked like it landed there. A lake was out in front and the spacecraft was surrounded by pine trees.”
Hammond said they ended up settling on a price and were allowed to take the spaceship home. Originally the spaceship was made to be home. Something similar to the tiny homes we see today.
A fully equipped Futuros home had a sofa surrounding the edge of the spacecraft, a furnace, a kitchen, and even central heating and air conditioning. The one that Hammond has today gutted it so it is more of an empty shell waiting to be restored.
Next to the cone-shaped building, that Hammond and his father got in a blizzard in Carrollton, Ohio, is a large statue of a woman in a bikini.
“There’s only, uh, 13 of her in the world. She was called a Uniroyal gal and she was made in the sixties by International Fiber,” said Hammond.
When the original owners found her in a swamp they pulled her out and used her as a creature in a haunted house. Hammond saw the statue go up for auction and bought it.
“The big dude that’s out here, he came from Oshkosh, Wisconsin,” said Hammond. “He was in the movie Flatliners with Keith Sutherland and Julia Roberts. In the movie, he’s, he’s standing there, he’s in gray primer. He’s just gray and they got scaffold around him and they got clear plastic gripped over him.”
To take a peek at what Hammond is talking about check out this link it is the third photo down on the list. The legs of the statue can be seen with the scaffolding around it.
“It shows the actresses around him, like twice, two or three times in the movie and that’s it,” Hammond said. “They chopped him up. They chopped his legs off and his arms off and stuff and kind of discarded him.”
Hammond found the statue for sale and bought it He brought it back to his business where he found a permanent home.
Hammond said the building was originally Livingston high school. The last class to graduate was in 2004 and they bought the building in 2005. They added on the candy shop and added on the diner.
They originally bought the school to make it into a teen hangout. They had plans to put sand on the floor and make the gym into a volleyball area.
“But, one of the antique malls up the road called me and said that they were closing. A lot of dealers need a place to go,” Hammond said. “And we ended up turning it into an antique mall.”
The gym is full of different types of booths that visitors can shop around in. It is easy to get lost for hours in its hidden treasures. But that’s just the gym, there are booths up on what used to be the stage, both downstairs, and booths on an upper level.
“They can find that thing that they had when they were a kid or when they went to their grandma’s house for brownies and played with the toys there,” Hammond said. “They’ll buy it because of that feeling they had when they were a kid and the memories take them back.”
Hammond said part of his job here is to sell the 60, the 50s, and 40s. Nostalgia is what their consumers are looking for when they travel Route 66 and stop at the many locations.
“They can go over to the candy fudge shop and eat, get some candy to take with them,” Hammond said. “We make our fudge here. We got every kind of old-school candy, if we don’t have it, we’ll try to get it. That’s our big thing.”
Hammond says he started this business venture with his father, David Hammond, who supported him through all his decisions.
“He is always agreeable,” Hammond said. He said his dad always said, “do what you want.”
Hammond said his dad would go on all the trips when new statues or buildings were bought. There is even an alien that greets customers at the door that was created after the image of Hammond’s father.
Hammond said another big supporter was his wife, Cheryl, and that he will never forget all their adventures together.
“You know, my dad and my late wife and I started this adventure and she had cancer for 11 years,” Hammond said. “I knew my late wife since she was eight years old. We’ve been dating since she was 12. We didn’t always get along because her brother was my best friend, you know? She would tag along with us all the time. We had been together for 38 years when she passed.”
Hammond and his current wife, Bernise who was Cheryl’s best friend and a big supporter of Hammond when Cheryl passed, are now going into another business.
“I’ve always got ideas. I bought this property next door and I was going to put in a full hook-up campground called Area 66,” said Hammond. ” I’ve got an alien family being made right now; a mom, a dad, a boy, a girl, and like a pet on a leash, an alien pet.”
Hammond has plans to move the alien family around the property. The alien family is going to look like tourists who just landed and take photos just like their human counterparts.
“I want to have three smaller spaceships made to where people could spend the night in,” said Hammond. “But whether I get to that point, I don’t know if I’ll make it.”
Come visit The Pink Elephant Mall at 908 Veterans Memorial Dr. Livingston, IL 62058.
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