Roadside relic lives to cluck another day
MARIETTA, Ga. – On the whole, road food doesn’t have the same flair that it once did. Fast food restaurants have moved to a middle-of-the-road conformity, seemingly content with a bland approach to design, food and charm.
The Big Chicken, located along Cobb Parkway in southern Marietta, is a throwback to another time, one when roadside eateries meant something different, and owners did what they could to draw people driving past.
In the early 1960s, S.R. “Tubby” Davis saw a potential with the relatively newly repaved Cobb Parkway, a divided highway that predated freeways as we know them today. Wanting to lure hungry travelers into his Johnny Reb’s Chick, Chuck and Shake restaurant, he erected a 56-foot-tall big chicken. After Davis sold the restaurant to his brother, it became a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.
Today, the Big Chicken is a bit of an anomaly, something unique at a fast food restaurant. Cobb Parkway is a string of urban sprawl, one fast food joint after another. Maybe that’s what makes the Big Chicken so unique. Originally built as more or less a marketing gimmick, it has been embraced by locals and is has remained a landmark – even for directions – for more than 45 years.
After it was damaged by a storm in 1993, KFC debated whether to rebuild the Big Chicken. The community seemed to be in agreement: the Chicken was a local landmark, and it needed to remain.
Today’s incarnation of this local icon features a moving beak and rotating eyes. While the original Big Chicken also featured a moving beak and eyes, the machinery apparently caused serious vibrations strong enough to break nearby windows, according to local sources.
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