Sunday, March 6, 2016

Many Hands to Serve You

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

On a Sunday morning in early August of 2012, Joann and I decided to photograph around Madison. We had seen several things disappear recently and thought we should capture things we took for granted, and had never stopped to photograph.

Our first stop at dawn was the Octopus Car Wash on University Avenue. For as long as we could remember, the blue-green “Ozzie” the Octopus had been visible whenever we drove down University Avenue. He was a Madison landmark.

We made our way around town photographing various signs and buildings on our list, but we made sure to capture each of the three Octopus statues in town.

Then came the news in December of 2015 that the iconic octopus sculptures were coming down. The three Madison locations, along with the two Rockford, Illinois locations had been sold, and the new owners were removing the old signage in preparation for their own.

Wow! We breathed a sigh of relief that we had actually taken the time to capture each of the octopus sculptures. We often take things for granted that have just “been there forever,” but we continue to learn that things disappear at an alarming rate and we need to pay attention and photograph them now rather than to wait. If we wait, it might become too late.

The Ozzie sculptures were 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide. The original Ozzie was created at a Wisconsin factory around 1965. There were approximately 25 statues created. Ozzie had a smiling face with big eyes. His many arms held cleaning instruments for the car wash: sponges, towels, sprays, buckets, squeegees, and for most locations, a vacuum cleaner.

Of the Madison locations, only the Park Street location was a little different. His front arm curled back rather than forward holding a vacuum.

If you live in Wisconsin and you need to see Ozzie again, you can travel to the north side of Milwaukee and visit the Octopus Car Wash location which is independent of the chain and was not part of the deal when the Madison and Rockford locations were sold.

We haven’t found and photographed that location yet, but he’s on our list. Knowing how these things go, we hope to capture another octopus before he, too, is gone.

Happy Shunpiking!



  1. I love how you help me remember not to take things for granted. It's easy to overlook things that have always been there. Your blog reminds me to try to notice and appreciate the things I see every day.

    1. Diana, thanks. It's easy to take things for granted with today's fast-paced world. We're glad that, in some small way, we can remind people to notice the things around them and to appreciate the historical and nostalgic treasures that will surely disappear at some point.

  2. I remember a newspaper article from late last year that the former owner of the car washes was planning to find a place to display the Ozzies from Madison. Not sure if that will actually happen and if so, where that might be. Thanks for capturing photos of them while they were still high in the sky around Madison.