In April 1929, Sanderling Pottery owner Allaster Sanderling, my great-grandfather, took to the open road in his new Drayson-12 automobile to see the great natural wonders of the land and humble himself before the majesty of God’s creation. Allaster found inspiration aplenty, but not from the sublime vistas of the Almighty. Mountains and canyons and deserts and buttes may inspire, but to Allaster, they could hardly compete with the manmade sights of Route 66.
“I bought gas at an airplane, ate a hamburger in a dinosaur, drank a milkshake in a spaceship, bought a postcard in a giant sombrero, and spent the night in a two-story elephant,” he told to his wife, Rebecca, on the telephone. “In the morning I’m having breakfast in an alligator, and for lunch I’m eating hotdogs at a giant teapot.”
My great-grandmother didn’t believe him.
Inspired by these eclectic roadside attractions, Allaster began construction of Sycamore Shadows’ greatest man-made landmark soon after his return. On the present-day site of the gazebo in Marsuoin Park, Sanderling built an exact replica of the pottery’s iconic product, wood framed, two stories, covered with a sheet-metal skin intended to resemble porcelain, the Sanderling logo painted between two casement windows near the top. Many miles from the wide-open vistas of the west, snug in a secluded valley in eastern Ohio, Allaster Sanderling had erected the world’s largest urinal, now recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of Sycamore Shadows.
Tourists could purchase souvenirs and snacks at the building: snow globes, pennants, pencil sharpeners, ball caps, decorative spoons and thimbles, hamburgers, hotdogs, coffee, tea and—please forgive me, but this is the historical record—lemonade. Few people passing through town in the several years of the building’s heyday could resist stopping for a snapshot in front of the unusual landmark; for tourists and visitors entering from the east, it was their first impression of our town, one they would never forget.
When the Shadows Road collapsed in 1932, isolating our community from all but local traffic, the noble structure fell into disrepair. Plywood soon covered the windows through which workers had passed steaming coffee and hot dogs to hungry tourists. “Bob loves Bubbles” and “For a good time call Dagmar, Sycamore 6237” concealed the once proud Sanderling Pottery logo. In 1936, after six short years of glory, the town razed the structure and built the gazebo in its place.
The lovely Abigail Padden, director and curator of the Museum of Sycamore Shadows, has recently dedicated a small area of the museum to the landmark that brings both pride and embarrassment to those who remember it. The exhibit includes a photo of the dedication ceremony, a brochure with a menu, some postcards, urinally shaped salt-and-pepper shakers, several photos, and my favorite item, a broadside printed soon after the opening ceremony. The unfortunate wording, though amusing, must have confounded travelers entering town from the west:
“Welcome to Wonderful Sycamore Shadows! Cool drinks at the Urinal!”