Abbott: Hey, Costello. Have you heard about the giant cow heads in Detroit used to advertise Wilsonís Dairy?
Costello: Itís not a herd. Itís only two. And two cows donít make a herd.
Abbott: I didnít say it was a herd of cows. I asked if youíve heard about the two giant cow heads.
Costello: Of course I have. But I still say two cows donít make a herd.
Abbott: OK, lets make this simple. There are two giant cow heads that are used to advertise Wilsonís Dairy.
Costello: Just the heads?
Abbott: Youíve got it!
Costello: So if theyíre just the heads, how do they give milk?
Abbott: They donít have to give milk. They are icons.Costello: Icons? I thought they were Holsteins.
true! Detroit was once home to not one, but two giant cow heads. The Bovine
billboards were a unique advertising gimmick designed to help promote Ira Wilson
& Sons Dairy. For twenty five years one cow stood guard on the west side of
Detroit, the other still watches over a decaying east side Detroit neighborhood.
The west side cow was mounted above the main entrance of the
Ira Wilson & Sons Dairy, a huge complex located on the I-94 service drive at
the Jeffries Freeway. The dairy was founded in 1930 and soon became one of the
top three milk producers in southeast Michigan. The 14-foot tall plastic cow
head was installed in the late 1950s and was a favorite landmark for a couple of
generations of Detroit children.
In 1983 Ernest W. Sharpe, chairman of the board of Wilson
Dairy, decided to have the iconic landmark removed. The weathered cow had
never been repaired or maintained since its installation and was in bad shape.
Over the years the cow suffered major structural damage, including a rusted out
steel support frame and dozens of bullet holes. Sharpeís plan was to store the
cow head in a warehouse until repairs could be made, then reinstall it at a
different location. Ira Wilson Dairy was ultimately sold to Melody Farms, who
closed the I-94 dairy complex. The building is now used by the Detroit Police
Department as an impound lot. The whereabouts of the cow head are unknown.
In the late 1920s the corner of Mack and Lenox in Detroit was
home to a Puritan Oil filling station. Wilson purchased the property in 1955 to
build a dairy store. This was their third store on Mack Avenue; the other two
were in the Grosse Pointes. The Wilson Dairy Stores offered ice cream, baked
goods and candy. The Mack and Lenox location was the only one with a cow head
on the roof.
closed the Mack and Lenox store in the early 1960s. It reopened as Dairy Ann,
and served soft serve ice cream until the early 1980s. It reopened briefly as
the C & P Ice Cream Bar, then a take-out barbecue joint, but the building
has been closed for more than thirty years.
The cow head had its fifteen minutes of fame when it appeared
in the 2002 Eminem film 8 Mile. The filmís producers pried the plywood
off the long abandoned ice cream storeís windows and gave both the building
and the cow a fresh coat of paint. In the film, Eminemís character and his
posse drive in front of the building and shoot the giant cow between the eyes
with a pink paintball. The owner of the building at the time didnít want his
cow defaced, so the paintball splat was created with computer graphics.