"...turn left at the Big Chicken."
Landmarks, before the era of GPS navigation, physical places, man-made or not, were often used in directions to help get from one place to another.
"...one mile South of the Big Chicken."
On US 41 in Marietta, Georgia - a 56-foot tall red-and-white chicken - complete with a moving beak and rolling eyes - dominates the suburban commercial strip. You can see it from nearby Interstate 75 - it's simply known as The BIG Chicken.
The story of The Big Chicken dates back to 1963. Stanly "Tubby" Davis wanted a unique way to promote his Johnny Reb's Chick-Chuck-'N'-Shake. The restaurant served fried chicken, hamburgers, and milkshakes. It also was a drive-in offering curbside service.
Davis commissioned a local Georgia Tech student, Hubert Puckett, to design the roadside attraction. Puckett would later be involved in renovations to the structure after it sustained significant storm damage in 1993.
|Close-up of the moving beak and rolling eyes of The Big Chicken.
Kentucky Fried Chicken would become the new home of The Big Chicken in 1974. Puckett sold his business to his brother, who would convert Johnny Reb's to a KFC franchise.
The seven-story attraction has survived numerous attempts to dismantle it. At first, Kentucky Fried Chicken did not like the locally beloved landmark. It would later try to move the bird to another Atlanta location. However, a January 1993 windstorm would cement The Big Chicken permanently at the corner of Cobb Parkway and Roswell.
|The 1993 renovated version of The Big Chicken - (Joe Babyak - January 2008)
High winds had dislodged several steel panels from the body of the chicken. KFC officials were ready to move on and tear it down. Marietta and area residents protested as it had become a local attraction. Aircraft pilots also stepped in to support The Big Chicken. They used The Big Chicken as a landmark on their approaches to nearby airports. KFC relented - and a renovation project would restore the chicken back to operation the following year.
|KFC enthusiastically embraced The Big Chicken in the 2017 remodel.
The Big Chicken would undergo a second renovation in 2017. A $2 million renovation updated the chicken, restaurant, and accompanying gift shop. The restaurant was updated to modern-KFC standards. And, to show how far KFC-corporate has changed its view of Puckett's chicken, the BIG Chicken is the centerpiece of all the local branding.
All photos taken by post author - March 2023 - unless otherwise noted.
Sources & Links:
- The Big Chicken ---Marietta.com
- The Big Chicken ---RoadsideAmerica.com
- The Big Chicken ---AtlasObscura
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