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This 18-Ft Snowman Brings Back Warm Holiday Memories

Snowmen aren’t built to last, but this one lasted longer than most.

The 18-foot giant at Tallmadge Circle was a sight to behold at Christmastime in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Wearing a top hat and clutching a candy cane, the big fellow greeted everyone with a friendly smile outside the old First Congregational Church at the center of the community.

Unlike Frosty, this guy couldn’t melt. Unlike Archie, this guy couldn’t speak. Unlike Olaf, this guy couldn’t walk.

But for three holiday seasons, he was a familiar figure in town.

Unless it got too windy. Then look out.

The Tallmadge Jaycees, who were in charge of decorating the circle, came up with something special for Christmas 1969.

“I was very excited about doing that project,” recalled former decorating chairman Eric Nicodemus, 73, an Akron native who lives in Johnson City, Tennessee. “I really was anticipating a great time with the guys.”

It’s was Nicodemus’ idea to build the giant snowman. After he proposed the project at a Jaycees meeting, the members put it up to a vote and overwhelmingly approved the funding.

“This was something that the fellows were interested in, and I was very pleased,” Nicodemus said. “I designed the thing myself.”

Building a snowman

At the time, Nicodemus worked at General Tire in its retreading facility in Akron. He said he has always been mechanically inclined. He and three or four other Jaycees constructed the snowman with a 2-by-4 frame, Masonite and enameled papier-mache.

“It was designed with three separate parts just like you would design a snowman out of snow,” he recalled.

The three frames were basically rectangles of different heights. The first one, probably 6 or 7 feet tall, formed the main ball. The center one was a bit smaller and the head was smaller yet. They were designed to sit one on top of the other.

The Jaycees took strips of Masonite and connected them to the top and bottom to create the ball effect. They covered the figure with enameled papier-mache, formed the arms, hat and candy cane, and finished it off with eyes, nose, mouth and four buttons.

The men assembled the components in the driveway of President Tony Paduchik’s home and then trucked the figure downtown.

They hired a crane service to set up the snowman on the western arc of Tallmadge Circle and staked it down near a billboard reading “Season’s Greetings.” Floodlights illuminated the character at night.

Nicodemus said the public’s reaction was very positive.

“We were very proud of that project that we did,” he said.

It was an era of giant snowmen. Only 2 miles away at Chapel Hill Mall, a 20-foot character named Archie entertained children at Christmastime. That snowman, which debuted in 1968, was made of plywood, chicken wire, cotton batting and spun fiberglass.

An operator hid in a little house with tinted windows and spoke through a loudspeaker to mall visitors, creating the illusion that the snowman was talking.

Archie was lucky to be shielded from the harsh elements of winter. His unnamed cousin in Tallmadge didn’t have such good fortune.

When the wind blows

The Jaycees took their snowman out of storage and reassembled him in unseasonably warm weather after Thanksgiving 1970. A few days later, a cold front moved through Ohio.

Packing winds up to 40 mph, the storm knocked down trees, tore roofs off buildings, downed power lines and toppled a hapless snowman in Tallmadge.

The storm smashed open the big fellow’s head like a piñata.

“The Tallmadge Snowman, December 1969 to Dec. 3, 1970, died a blustery death, blown over and apart still gripping his candy cane — and before the first snow!” the Beacon Journal reported.

But rumors of the character’s death were greatly exaggerated. The Jaycees gathered around their creation, repaired the damage, stood him upright and bolstered him with guide wires and stakes.

He smiled upon passing motorists for the rest of the holiday season.

The Jaycees brought him back for December 1971. The snowman made it through Christmas but collapsed in a post-holiday storm 50 years ago. That apparently was the last hurrah.

“I don’t remember its demise,” Nicodemus said with a chuckle.

Over the decades, he has worked on various theater projects, including constructing sets for plays.

But never again did he build an 18-foot snowman.

“It’s the only time in my life that I ever attempted to do this, yes, sir,” Nicodemus said.

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