Giant Orange San Jose by Wayne Hsieg, Alum Rock, CA  Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Orange shaped-and-colored refreshment stands used to be numerous along the highways of California, New Mexico, and Arizona. During the 20s and 30s, they provided the perfect outlet to utilize fallen fruit and sell it in the form of juice. Later, when oranges became synonymous with these regions, tourists were compelled to sample the best local fruit groves had to offer.

You see—more than a half a century ago, soda pop was reserved for special occasions. Back then, freshly squeezed orange juice was the real thing and people didn’t mind stopping on the side of the highway to get some. As the motorcar transformed America, rotund shacks splashed with paint prospered by supplying tourists with a naturally refreshing drink. All along Highway 99 and the western expanse of 66, giant oranges flavored the roadsides.

Today, all but a couple of those memorable stands has slipped into obscurity. Two of the remaining survivors are owned by Jim and Doris Stiggins of Chowchilla, California and are still pleasing palates along old Highway 99.

Just south of town at Avenue 22-1/2, the couple’s Mammoth Orange stand has grown to become a local landmark for the Fairmead area. Across the highway out on Road 19, they own a second stand built in 1962 by the late Gene Jay. The Stiggins family leases this satellite location and runs the always-popular Mammoth stand with an unflagging appreciation for history and unusual roadside architecture.

Originally, it was established by Peggy Doler, now retired and living at Garden Grove. During the 1940s, she began the operation in her front yard to take advantage of the business rolling by on 99. With the arrival of the new freeway, she was bypassed. As her lifeline was re-designated Chowchilla Boulevard, business dropped. Doler moved the hut to its present site in 1953 and five years ago, the Stigginses purchased it.

Today, truck drivers still inquire about Doler and reminisce about the days when the spring opening meant free food for all of the truckers. Some four-wheel customers say they have been stopping there for more than 25 years. Baby-boomers recall wheeling in for a chilled flagon of juice with their parents! Taste buds never forget.

Unfortunately, the days are numbered for Chowchilla’s Mammoth Orange. Despite all the nostalgic fervor, the rethinking of the roads may once again jeopardize its future. Eventually, an interchange will be built by the Department of Transportation at Avenue 22-1/2. A concrete slab would slice through the current location of the orange orb—abruptly ending a fifty-year tradition of hand-made, freshly squeezed orange juice.

When that happens, there will be only one giant orange left. Unofficially, the age of the orange-shaped roadside stand in America will be over.


 

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