The monument spans 62 feet across alongside the railroad tracks in Arcola, Illinois. It was built by local Bob Moomaw. He had worked as both a tax assessor and railroad clerk, but disliked both jobs. He preferred painting messages on the side of his building with slogans such as “America you’re turning into a nation of minimum-wage hamburger flippers. Rebel. Think for yourself. It works!”
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He started the memorial, a rendering of his life in “junk,” in 1992, just after having bypass surgery and years after losing a leg to cancer. Each of the 62 feet of the artwork represents one part of Moomaw’s life: from the The Great Depression, World War II and 1950s hypocrisy on one end, rising in the middle to a colorful expression of the years when Kennedy and the hippies rose to the declining scrap of the Reagan years.
Although Moomaw died from a heart attack in 1998 his work lives on and still graces the town of Arcola with its hippie presence.
From a sign on site:
HIPPIE MEMORIAL DEDICATION SPEECH
Even after 30 years of marriage to Bob Moomaw, I was always surprised by his ideas — and this event is another surprise.
Bob said there have been sculptures built on more ridiculous concepts than my life — this is not ridiculous — this is my life: A HELL OF A MESS.
Why a memorial to hippies? He said the changed our society for the good. Because of them, he didn’t have to conform anymore. The sculpture represents his life — mounted atop a wall. Made of iron rods, junk parts and crafted metal.
The short portion on the left is the first 26 years of his life: which included the depression, World War II, the “RED” Scare and the hypocrisies of the 1950’s. He said it was like living in a coal mine with a 3ft ceiling: the tallest man he ever met was 3ft. tall. Society forced people to stoop.
The memorial rises to 6ft. representing the 1960’s to the 1980’s when the hippies hit and raised the ceiling off everything! Everyone got to stand up against oppression and repression. Bob said it was like growing up! They broke free from small town morality and during the “Kennedy Camelot” and the “Hippie Movement”. The metal shapes are brightly colored showing love and peace symbol and — individuality!
In 1980 Reagan necked society down to small-mind-ed-ness again.
The crossbars are the “webs of his life”. As his life passed through time, other peoples’ junk stuck to him and made him what he was — the product of leftovers from a previous existence. He said he never got to determine a thing in his life: it was determined for him. Bob said, he left the pieces raw — so they would rust — the way life is — junk collecting rust is all that life is.
Was Bob Moomaw a hippie? NO. He did have a beard and a pony tail while attending the university. He was THERE at the same TIME & PLACE as the hippies were, but he was raising his children then, to use the freedom of THEIR minds to search for knowledge in education as he did. As he said, “to his shame, he was no hippie”!
Hippies, he said, gave us room to BREATHE; and that is what aspect of their existence he was honoring. Bob would greatly enjoy this celebration of his life sculpture– thank you all for joining in our dedication of his work: MOOMAW — AMERICA’S — ONE & ONLY HIPPIE MEMORIAL!
Sherron Moomaw June 29, 1999
The One and Only Hippie Memorial
Location: Oak Street, Arcola, IL, just off of the railroad tracks
Hours: Always visible
Costs: Free to See
Date: July 14, 2007