And this is why I love librarianship. A while ago, I was sitting at the circ desk at job number 1. A gaggle of teenage girls came in with an older gentleman who had a very chaperonely air. Teenage girls are rare in this type of library, and they all looked very baffled, so the reference librarian asked if she could help them.
Basically, these were girls who go to some private school, and one of their treats for being honor students is that they get to come to Newport and go on some sort of scavenger hunt. They needed to acquire a book from our library, and also were looking for Mr. Potatohead.
Naturally, I found this very confusing, but it was explained to me that Hasbro is located in Pawtucket, RI, and some years ago (to increase tourism, to raise awareness, cause this seems to have been a trend in 2000?), the state decorated large Mr. Potatoheads and scattered them throughout the state. Unfortunately for these girls, no one knew where the potatoheads had been relocated, and 15 minutes of asking the internet and making phone calls only resulted telling us where the potatoheads had been, and confusing the people who were unfortunate enough to have answered the phones.
This made me curious, and I thought that it might be fun to sleuth out where the potatoheads had ended up, and make a day of finding them. So, I settled into my web-based research, only to unearth something a bit shocking: Mr. Potato Head Statue Said Rascist
By Gillian Flynn
Associated Press Writer
Friday, Sept. 29, 2000; 12:47 p.m. EDT
“WARWICK, R.I. –– A 6-foot Mr. Potato Head statue, one of dozens dotting Rhode Island as part of a tourism campaign, will be taken down because of complaints that the grinning, brown-skinned figure appeared racist.
The “Tourist Tater” was painted dark brown to appear suntanned and wore an ill-fitting Hawaiian shirt, glasses and a hat.”
And the best part:
“Kathy Szarko, the artist who designed “Tourist Tater,” said that she meant no offense and that several other spud statues are a similar color.
“He’s a potato. That’s why he’s brown,” Szarko said.”
Oh man, what a gift. Of course, you can judge for yourself.