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Welcome to Wiser Now’s weekly email blast which reflects my eclectic interests and, I hope, yours. Today is Pink Flamingo Day, Pink Day, and June is Whirligig Month so this week, my focus is on Tacky and Terrific Lawn Ornaments.

I hope you find these offerings fun, and perhaps even useful, and welcome your feedback. (Kathy@WiserNow.com) And if you haven’t yet pressed the subscribe button so this newsletter doesn’t go to spam, please do so now.

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The Quirky Facts
Whirligig is an old-fashioned word that refers to an object that spins or whirls or has at least one part that spins or whirls. There are many types, but those that are lawn ornaments or weathervanes tend to be driven by wind, have been around for hundreds of years, and may be as simple as a pinwheel. Wooden painted birds with furiously spinning wings are one of the most common subjects.

The plastic pink flamingo lawn ornament was invented by sculptor Don Featherstone in 1957. You can learn much more about both flamingos and him by taking our trivia quiz.

The original flamingos were paler in color and they faded and cracked easily, but in later years they were brighter and made of sturdier plastic. The popularity of these paired flamingos (one standing tall, and one with neck bent in search of food) has varied over the years, but today the flamingo motif is everywhere. You can still order the flamingos, but the price of less than three dollars for the pair has skyrocketed since 1957. That means that if you’ve been “flocked” – surreptitiously inundated with 40 or 50 pink flamingos on your lawn by those who want to celebrate a significant birthday – your friends have likely made a large investment in your happiness, even if they only rented them.

The Quirky Quote
Spain travel tip: If bathroom genders are indicated by flamingos, the boy flamingo is the one with a hat. I learned this the hard way. ~ Dave Barry
 
The Quirky Observations
As for other lawn ornaments, the wooden cutout of a woman bending over as she gardens that I believe also came out in the 1940s or 50s is almost universally panned, but the red-hatted ceramic garden gnome which originated in Germany in the mid-1800s is a case of “love ‘em or hate ‘em. They now come in endless varieties (playing soccer, barbecuing, lying in hammocks, etc.) There are even prankster gnome liberation groups (see Resources) who believe gnomes come alive at night and are longing to be free, but exactly where they are freed to, is not always clear. Barga, Italy considers itself a gnome sanctuary. There are also roaming gnomes taken to travel spots around the world.

For the modern homeowner seeking garden ornaments, the possibilities are wide-ranging, including some that could be considered tacky, especially by those who disparage plastic pink flamingos. There are recycled tires made into swans, a topiary peeing dog, stacked stones, and some that I would qualify as true art objects. These include the modern (and expensive) whirligigs known as kinetic lawn ornaments. I am fascinated by all of it, but admit that on Pink Day, pink flowers are uplifting enough.

The Question
I once bought a house that came with a pink flamingo on the front lawn and decided to embrace its presence by decorating it for every major holiday. Doing so always made me smile. Do you now have or did you once have one or more lawn ornaments? What was it? Were you proud of it? Share your memories with others (including me, if you are inclined. Kathy@WiserNow.com).

Featured Product
My newest slide show is Fruit to Nuts, which you can purchase here. While it would have fit last week’s banana theme much better than this week’s, it wasn’t quite ready in time. And truth be told, its many trivia quizzes on popular fruits and nuts along with punny word games and wuzzles make for exercises that are appropriate throughout the year. I love writing Wiser Now Wednesday, but the exercises I create for these slide shows have an eye-popping visual impact on a tablet and especially a large screen (TV or computer) that can’t be matched in print. Try it; you’ll like it.

The Quiz
1. After being charged by his employer, Union Products of Leominster, Massachusetts, to create three-dimensional lawn ornaments, Don Featherstone went to the local zoo to get inspiration (and photos) for molding his flamingo models.
True ___               False ___

2. When they came out in 1957, they were popular with housewives living in post-World War II subdivisions where every one of hundreds of houses looked virtually alike. Pink flamingos set them apart.
True ___               False ___

3. It helped that pink was the “in” color of the 1950s popularized by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower who used it every place she could. That was the era of pink bathroom tile and pink bathroom fixtures, pink “princess” phones, pink poodle skirts, pink button-down shirts for men, and so much more.
True ___               False ___

4. The flamingos then weathered a period when they were considered tacky in the 1960s, but soon regained popularity for their “campiness.” In 1977, the governor of Massachusetts proclaimed the plastic bird “an essential contribution to American folk art.
True ___               False ___

5. After his initial success with flamingos, Don Featherstone never created another lawn ornament.
True ___               False ___

6. How many flamingos did Don Featherstone keep on his own lawn?
a. None ___       b. 2 ___      c. 57 ___       d. 100 ___

7. Don Featherstone died in 2105, but seems to have had a quirky sense of humor all his life proven by the fact that:
a. He and his wife dressed alike for 35 years.
b. He always carried a pink flamingo key chain.
c. He graciously won and thereafter helped distribute to others an Ig Noble award (spoofing the Nobel prizes) for inventing the plastic pink flamingo.
d. Only a and c are true.
 
The Shameless Request
Please share Wiser Now Wednesday with anyone you think might be interested, and if you represent an organization that would like a customized version, send me a note at Kathy@WiserNow.com.

The Resources

Answers to the Quiz
1.False: He used a National Geographic photo spread.
2. True
3. True
4. False: The proclamation wasn’t issued until 1987
5. False: He designed over 600 garden tchotchkes. The other birds included pheasants, roosters, swans, pelicans, and penguins. This article describes some of those other creations including the elephant watering can pictured here.
6. 57, presumably in honor of its birth year
7. d. I think. If he had a flamingo key chain, I haven’t found evidence of it. Among their matching outfits were 40 made of flamingo-themed fabric.
My multiple goals are to amuse and inspire you, to share what I and people whom I admire are doing, to stimulate your curiosity and spur you to action. I hope you enjoyed this offering. You can access previous issues here. We welcome your feedback. (Kathy@WiserNow.com)
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