By Dan Carrion, E Clampus Vitus Historian
One of the Valley’s most famous landmarks was located on Highway 99 at Fairmead. The “Mammoth Orange,” and its sister across the highway the “Whoa Boy Giant Orange,” served voyagers on Highway 99 for over 50 years. The Whoa Boy was built in 1941 on the west side of Highway 99 near the intersection with Road 19. It lasted at that location until the 1980s, when it fell into disrepair, burned, and was finally torn down in 1999.
The Mammoth Orange was originally located in Chowchilla, built there around 1947. When the new Highway 99 was built bypassing Chowchilla, the name was changed to Mammoth Orange, and it was moved to its most famous location, near Avenue 22 ½ and Highway 99. It was on a slice of property owned by the railroad on the east side of the highway. It lasted on that site until freeway expansion forced its removal around 2007.
It is ironic that underneath the site at Avenue 22 ½, there probably are remains of mammoths, making its name “Mammoth Orange” even more fitting. Fortunately, the orange is now located at the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County, just a stone’s throw from where it was previously located, where it will soon become a concession stand.
There were many “Giant Oranges” located all over California, with at least 16 of them on Highway 99 alone. Some used the words Giant Orange in their names, and some didn’t. But the Mammoth Orange in Fairmead was the last one in operation on Highway 99. Do you have memories of one or more of these orange buildings? If so, where were they located and what was the name on them?
At the Fossil Discovery Center, members from E Clampus Vitus will be placing a monument commemorating the history of the Mammoth Orange, but we would like more information. Where was it actually located in Chowchilla? Obviously, it was near the highway, but where? Rumor has it that it was originally painted as a lemon juice stand. We would like to know if that is true. Are there any photographs of the orange in Chowchilla still in existence? Any help would be thoroughly appreciated.