Despite having occurred over just four days in October, I still haven't posted about everything my mom and I saw on our road trip to (and from) South of the Border. On the second day, before we reached South of the Border—and in between visiting the World's Largest Frying Pan and the World's Largest Tire—we made a slight detour around Delco, North Carolina. I had an address on my map with the note "UniRoyal Gal and fiberglass animals in yard."
It was getting dark and we were nearing the end of our route for the day. I was eager to get to South of the Border and debated internally whether or not this mystery address was worth the detour. My mom wanted each stop to be a surprise, and although I pre-planned most of our destinations, even I wasn't exactly sure what we'd find at some of them. My mom had actually been the one to point out my first UniRoyal Gal on a road trip in 2016 and they're very rare (I saw my second in Florida last year), so I ultimately decided that even the possibility of seeing one was worth the extra drive.
We were getting close to the address but I was confused because we were on a pretty busy road (Highway 74) and just as I was doubting my intel, we passed a house set back from the road with a yard full of fiberglass animals. It was very obviously a private residence and we debated if we should even pull into the driveway. We quickly decided to take a chance, figuring that the owner of such a whimsical collection couldn't be too upset with a mother and daughter who were on a road trip specifically to seek out such things.
We didn't see anyone around, so we parked and got out to snap a few quick photos. I'm usually painfully shy and will avoid talking to strangers at any cost, but I was secretly hoping that the owner would see us and come out to chat about his enviable collection—one that we soon realized included not one, but two UniRoyal Gals. After a few minutes, I got my wish and we were greeted by one of the nicest men I've ever met, Hubert Graham.
Graham introduced himself as the owner of the property, which we later learned he refers to as Grahamland. When my mom asked if he had restored the UniRoyal Gals himself, Graham said, "Oh, I made those. I have the original mold." Most of the UniRoyal Gals were made in the '60s by International Fiberglass (makers of most Muffler Men) and UniRoyal stopped using them as promotional tools in the '70s. American Giants says they know of 17 Gals, 12 of which are on display currently. The original mold somehow made its way from California to North Carolina, where Graham bought it from his mentor in the fiberglass business.
He has two completed—the beach gal and the cowgal—and has plans to make a Native American and a black woman. When the fiberglass company Graham once worked for went out of business, he bought all of their fiberglass, resin and molds. He makes every one of the fiberglass figures on his property and his girlfriend helps paint them.
Grahamland is more than just a whimsical yard—Graham has dreams to turn it into an amusement park and mini golf course. He has plans to put some of the animals on motorized bases, and envisions a seafood restaurant topped with a lighthouse, talking cars and flying horses. When we mentioned that we were on our way to South of the Border, Graham told us to look out for a dozen of his pink flamingoes.
My mom and I were overwhelmed with the generosity and kindness of Graham, and luckily he said that he loves visitors. He even took our photo, which I later found on his Facebook page, and I instantly regretted not snapping one of him too. Unfortunately, Graham was on his way to work—he has a "real" job laying fiber optic cable—so we couldn't stay very long, but we were thankful that we caught him before the gate closed for the night.
Later in our hotel, we read all about Graham's ambitions and fell even more in love with his vision. But even if Grahamland never fully comes to fruition, I have so much respect for people like Graham—hard-working, passionate, generous and slightly eccentric people who make the world around them a little brighter.