The quaint town of Joshua Tree has more to offer than just its magnificent National Park. That’s quite the tall order, you say? Meet 20 ft tall Big Josh, formerly known as The Mecca Cowboy who stood in front of Poor Richard’s Pawn Shop and Mini Mart since 1965. He now lives at The Station, a former Richfield Gas Station built in 1949. JT residents Glen Steigelman and Steve Halterman bought the rundown place 8 years ago, eventually turning it into a fun gift shop after rescuing the giant mascot from the Yucca Valley Swap Meet four years ago. The Station opened the following year and has since remained one of Joshua Tree’s favorite attractions.
Statues like Big Josh were originally known as the Muffler Men, created in an era where two-lane highways were bypassed by freeways and roadside businesses needed to catch the eye. There are still a legion of Muffler Men across the United States and Canada to attract customers. Most have their own unique names. You will find the likes of Chicken Boy in Highland Park, California, Mutant Man in Yuma, Arizona, Big John at the state line in Memphis, Tennessee and The Pirate in Ocean City, Maryland.
There are even eight “UniRoyal Gals” in such places as El Paso, Texas, Blackwood, New Jersey and Bolton, North Carolina. Some statues across the country wear cowboy hats, some are lumberjacks, Indian chiefs, astronauts, Vikings, soldiers or extraterrestrials. These attention grabbers stand anywhere from 18-26 feet tall. Boatbuilder Steve Dashew established International Fiberglass of Venice, California in 1963 and constructed most of the Muffler Men before closing in 1996.
At the time Glen first spotted him at the swap meet, bearded Big Josh was in pretty poor shape. He’d even been decapitated in his former town of Mecca near the Salton Sea, 14 years ago. Glen refurbished the giant fiberglass hulk, giving him a new life along with his new name. What makes this beloved landmark extra special is how he’s creatively accessorized for holidays.
Recently, Big Josh wore a surgical mask and gloves to honor health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Big Josh currently covers his smile with a ginormous bandanna in recognition of the state mandate for face coverings. Masks aren’t new to Big Josh however, he wore a giant vampire mask for Halloween. During the winter holidays, he is festooned with colorful lights and a giant wreath. During Gay Pride month, Big Josh sports a Gay Pride Flag and on 4/20 you may catch the big guy holding the mother of all doobies in his massive Paul Bunyon hands, sans an axe.
Big Josh is not the only attraction at The Station though. Glen and Steve are avid automobile collectors. You may see a 1979 Jeep Cherokee Chief 4X4, 1967 Ford van or a vintage 1970s-era Volkswagen Thing. They sold their rare Berry Mini-T and ultra rare “Boonie Bug” last year but you can be sure their collection is ever evolving. Don’t be surprised to see a car show popping up at The Station every now and then too.
Trivia? You’ve got to have trivia! The Richfield Oil Corporation was founded in 1905 and entered the petroleum business in 1915 as the Rio Grande Oil Company of El Paso, Texas. Richfield merged with Atlantic Refining to form Atlantic Richfield Corp in 1966. You may know it as ARCO. Then BP purchased ARCO in 2000.
You will find all kinds of fun things to browse inside The Station, as well. Products like Wonder Valley Olive Oil, Mayana Chocolate, Yucca Fins, Old Pal, Fartco@69 and Joshua Tree Candle Company candles are just a few.
Vintage magazines such as Official UFO and High Times, Heavy Metal, Easy Rider and even True Stories of the Strange and Unknown, issues from 1971-1975 are popular. Don’t miss out on the latest quarterly of Desert Oracle by podcaster and Ancient Aliens guest expert Ken Layne.
You may find other collectibles like Joshua Tree artist Howard Pierce pottery. After crafting pottery since 1945 in Claremont, Pierce moved to Joshua Tree in 1968 and continued making pottery until 1991. The 29 Palms Schoolhouse Museum has many of his items on display. Please read our sister article about the museum for more details.
The Station also offers an impressive assortment of t-shirts, hats, sunglasses, decals, gag gifts, iron-on patches, magic-drip candles, magnets, koozies, Grateful Dead bath salts, old-school bongs and other whimsical ephemera for sale.
Cacti are also available for purchase in the covered patio out back. There’s really something for just about everybody at The Station.
During the cooler months, you can order up a hot drip @canyoncoffee and hot adaptogenic tea @niukatea. The Station offers a wide array of bottled cold drinks too, including Chef Tanya’s Kitchen Gourmet Vegan sandwiches and salads.
The back patio is a venue that can be rented for weddings and other special events. Most of its picnic tables are currently in storage due to social distancing requirements but are available when needed. We love the nostalgic 70s fireplace turned chemeneya.
Fun Fact: Did you know there are 194 Jerry Cans surrounding The Station patio? Now you do.
Where and When
61943 29 Palms Hwy
Joshua Tree, Calif 92252
Temporary Store Hours:
Friday and Saturday – 10am – 6pm
Sunday – 10am -5pm