Where did the Black Bird come from?

One of Medford's most recognizable landmarks began getting a facelift on Monday by brothers Art (pictured here) and Gary McTevia. The Blackbird statue on West Main St. will soon be adorned with a fresh coat of paint. ROY MUSITELLI PHOTO/11-18-02

He's as unique as the store he represents and his presence has paid off in spades for what began as an Army surplus store named after him on West Main Street in Medford.

The Black Bird, a 29-foot fiberglass magpie perched in front of the 10,000-square-foot Black Bird Shopping Center, has been a landmark since 1965. That's when Lee Hobbs erected the big-beaked bird, hoping to entice customers into his new outdoor store that also handles Western wear, automotive goods and jewelry.

Hobbs was going to call the store Trade Mart, but Black Bird became a no-brainer name after Hobbs fashioned the oversized icon along the lines of similar fowl at Yard Bird stores operated by his friends Bill Jones and Rich Gillingham in Centralia, Wash. Those birds, however, were 10 feet tall.

The local Black Bird gets a new paint job regularly and his wardrobe matches the seasons. If it's Christmas, he'll be in a Santa suit. Come Pear Blossom Festival time, Black Bird will be in shape and attired with running gear. He's also been seen in a cowboy outfit and a clown suit, among others. His wares are prized among pranksters who have plucked his outfits from time to time.

Hobbs, who died in 1973, worked for Boeing, where he made aircraft templates. Concrete reinforcing bars provided the bird's skeleton.

Hog wire was clipped over the frame and fiberglass was sprayed across the hog wire. Pieces of the bird were bolted together. The fiberglass was smoothed out with a roller. The bird is concrete to the knees and is nested into the ground with underpinning 30 feet below the surface.

The big bird been a favorite of both local photographers and tourists and is even an attraction among those who are attractions themselves. Among those who have taken their picture with it are Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and Larry Hagman.

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