Groovy. Illinois Is Home To The World’s Only Memorial To Hippies
If you haven't been to Arcola, Illinois, you're not really missing too much.
I had the pleasure of spending 2 days in Arcola about 25 years ago. I honestly don't remember why I was down there. I went there with my dad and we stayed at an older couple's house because there aren't any hotels in Arcola, I don't think.
Actually, I stand corrected. There is an Arcola Inn that 100% doesn't look like a hotel that you'd be murdered in.
I'm sure the staff is very nice at the Arcola Inn.
The main thing I remember about Arcola was that there wasn't anything to do in Arcola. My dad had some meetings to go to with the guy we were staying with when we were there, so his wife was "in charge" of entertaining me for the day.
I couldn't drive yet, so I was dependent on her to go anywhere. She took me to the most exciting place she could think of in the area and that was the Tuscola Outlet Mall.
Not a mall where teenagers sometimes liked to hang out in the 90s, but an outlet mall with 3 fast-food restaurants and none of them were Sbarro's. I spent roughly 4 hours in a "food" court reading a Sports Illustrated I bought from the newsstand. What was I going to do, walk through the Banana Republic store? I was 14.
I also had no phone, obviously, so I just had to wait for her to come back. It was very boring.
Should she have taken me to the Hippie Memorial instead? Honestly, probably not. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing a 14-year-old would be into, especially me.
Today however? Let's go! This place looks pretty cool.
Like all things "hippie" there's a deeper meaning to the whole thing that is explained in a plaque that transcribes a speech given by the artist's widow after he passed away.
The speech is actually pretty moving. It can be hard to read in that image so here is what it says:
Even after thirty years of marriage to Bob Moomaw, I was always surprised by his ideas -- and this event is another surprise.
Bob said there have been sculptures built on more ridiculous concepts than my life -- this is not ridiculous -- this is my life: A HELL OF A MESS
Why a memorial to hippies? He said they changed our society for the good. Because of them, he didn't have to conform anymore.
The sculpture represents his life -- mounted atop a wall. Made of iron rods, junk parts and crafted metal
The short portion on the left is the first 26 years of his life: which included the depression, World War II, the "RED" Scare and the hypocrisies of the 1950's. He said it was like living in a coal mine with a 3 ft. ceiling: the tallest man he ever met was 3 ft. tall. Society forced people to stoop.
The memorial rises to 6ft. representing the 1960's to the 1980's when the hippies hit and raised the ceiling off everything! Everyone got up to stand up against oppression and repression. Bob said it was like growing up! They broke free from small town morality during the "Kennedy Camelot" and the "Hippie Movement." The metal shapes are brightly colored, showing love and peace symbol and -- individuality!
In 1980 Reagan necked society down into small-mind-ed-ness again.
The crossbars are the "webs of his life." As his life passed through time, other peoples' junk stuck to him and made him what he was -- the product of leftovers from a previous existence. He said he never got to determine a thing in life: it was determined for him. Bob said, he left the pieces raw -- so they would rust -- the way life is -- junk collecting rust is all that life is.
Was Bob Moomaw a hippie? NO. He did have a beard and a pony tail while attending the university. He was THERE at the same TIME & PLACE as there hippies were, but he was raising his children then, to use the freedom of THEIR minds to search for knowledge in education as he did. As he said, "to his shame, he was no hippie!"
Hippies, he said, gave us room to BREATHE: and that is what aspect of their existence he was honoring. Bob would greatly enjoy this celebration of his life sculpture -- thank you all for joining in our dedication of his work:
MOOMAW -- AMERICA'S -- ONE & ONLY HIPPIE MEMORIAL!
Is it worth the 3+ hour drive to Arcola to see? Probably not. Will you ever accidentally be in Arcola? Absolutely not. Will this article be the closest you'll ever be to Arcola? Most likely. But at least now you know one more bit of useless trivia when you need an ice breaker at the next party.
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