Cadillac, Big Boy, Hamburglar, Farmall tractor in Cudahy WI yard
For my last birthday, our wonderful friend Tracey gave me an engrossing book called Weird Wisconsin which catalogs all sorts of legends, ghost stories, local loonies, roadside oddities, peculiar collections, large fiberglass objects, and unusually positioned automobiles throughout America’s Dairyland. Tracey said she knew I would love this book, and I do. The place pictured above, however, is not listed in Weird Wisconsin.
The weather was finally very nice yesterday, so Amy and I went on a little afternoon safari, generally following Wisconsin State Highway 32 — the “32nd Division Memorial Highway” or “Red Arrow Highway” — north out of Racine, through Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, Cudahy, and up into Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood.
The corner of S. Lake Drive and E. Armour Avenue in Cudahy caught our attention for a couple of reasons.
Looking west, Amy said, “Oh, there’s that house with all the stuff in the yard.” She had driven past the house a couple of times before. We made a left turn and circled back around the block to check it out.
In addition to the partially-buried 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood, the yard, at 4531 S Lake Drive, features a 1946 Farmall McCormick tractor with a mannequin farmer driving it and waving an American flag.
There’s more stuff arranged along the south side of the house — another mannequin, this one riding a snowmobile, plus a giant skull, and the stern of a motorboat. The backyard is filled with more figures — plus Milwaukee Harp street lights, an old City of Milwaukee emergency call box, a traffic signal, and a large, pointed pink gazebo from an establishment we do not remember. Was it a local toy store? A bookstore?
At the home’s back door, a neighbor was chatting with a woman inside, a very nice lady who disavowed responsibility for the collection, explaining that she is merely “the girlfriend.” She did, however, permit us to step up on the deck to photograph more of the display — The Hamburglar and Captain Crook from McDonaldland, a huge shark that’s being prepared for the garage, tractor seats, plastic animal figures.
It goes on and on — a telephone booth, a Big Boy restaurant statue on the garage. The man who has collected, cleaned, repainted, and positioned all of these things is Rick Serocki. He wasn’t home at the time we visited, and his neighbor speculated Rick might be out acquiring some more.
Reportedly, this mannequin on a motorcycle was the object that started it all, back in 1995 or thereabouts. Googling around, I found a number of news stories and blog posts about this increasingly famous yard, including photos of Serocki and his answers about the motivation behind all this. “What I’m trying to do is make Cudahy fun again,” he has said.
- Cudahy Now (April 15, 2009): Pop culture icons fill Lake Drive yard
- Bay View Compass (February 2008): A monumental yard
- Keith Stokes (October 1, 2006): Grassroots art environment
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (April 26, 2000): Buried car as yard art draws criticism
- And, for a treasure trove of general Milwaukee nostalgia, see the excellent Retro Milwaukee section of RetroCom.com.