Mammoth Orange Moves to Chowchilla

5/2/2008 Chowchilla, CA For decades, the Mammoth Orange sat off Highway 99 in Fairmead, just south of Chowchilla. Moving day for this giant fruit-shaped shell came with mixed emotions.

Ron Heffington, Chowchilla resident, says "It's kind of sad in a way, but it's kind of cool to see Chowchilla actually keep it in everybody's memory."

The City of Chowchilla recently purchased the Mammoth Orange after a highway expansion project blocked access to the dusty gravel parking lot and forced the long-time owners out of business in July. The closure marked the end of an era for the citrus-shaped burger and juice joints that once lined the California corridor.

But the arrival of this tow truck Friday morning marked the first step toward restoring the restaurant to its former glory.

Frank Sustaita, Fresno Bulldog House Movers, says "Once it's on the trailer, everything's a piece of cake."

With the trailer securely attached, movers began the slow, four mile trip to Chowchilla. Along the way, several on-lookers stopped to take in the strange sight.

Dwayne Lea, truck driver, says "I think it's pretty neat that they're moving it and not destroying it."

Linda Hamilton, Merced resident, says "Very unusual! And that's what's neat about it."

The eye-catching journey ended at the city's repair yard, where the orange will stay planted until it's fully restored and ready to be moved again. The redevelopment agency is hoping to re-open the drive-in as part of an historic heritage area in a new retail center.

Nancy Red, Chowchilla City Administrator, says "By fall we should have a good idea if this is going to work into that design."

But the move not only gives new life to the recently rotting orange, it also brings the drive-in back to its original location. The restaurant sat alongside the old Highway 99 in Chowchilla before moving to Fairmead in 1954.

Cathy McCarter remembers eating there as a kid when burgers were five for a dollar. And now she's happy to see a part of her history come back home. "That's something that my grandkids can look forward to, seeing it, and I thought it was a landmark."

The former owners of the Orange says while she's sad to see the drive-in go, she's very happy the city stepped in and saved it from the graffiti and theft it's been suffering since the doors closed in July.

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