UPDATE 12/1/2016: SpongeBob has his Santa Claus Suit on, stop by with the kids and have their picture take with him. Upload it to our Facebook page.
10/26/2016: Traveling home one evening in the fall of 1999, J.C. Dyson, President of Dyson Building Center, saw a Halloween decoration of a large spider in someone’s yard in Harwood, Maryland. While driving, J.C. thought to himself, I want to make one of these for their yard at his store.
The body of the spider was made out of a large round bale of straw and it’s legs spread out around it. As it turned out he was unable to put his hands on the round bale of straw and at about the time he was ready to give up, his daughters said to him, “let’s make a SpongeBob!” Just as a refresher, the SpongeBob cartoon show first aired on May 1, 1999. Melanie and Hillary, J.C.’s youngest daughters, loved the show and watched it whenever it came on. Since it came on in the evenings, good ‘ole dad got to watch it also. Being quite familiar with the show, J.C. thought, why not? We’ll give it a try. J. C. and his daughters did rough drawings of what SpongeBob would look like and once the base of SpongeBob was figured out and built, it seemed only natural to build the body out of bales of straw. They were stacked in the base and on top of each other to make the body. Items around the yard and a little imagination were then needed to make the eyes, mouth, arms, legs and teeth. A pair of old boots were nailed to the bottom of the legs for his feet and yellow gloves for his hands completed his look.
One of J.C.’s biggest challenges was how to paint the straw. A friend of J.C.’s and a local contractor, Jimmy Matthews, stopped by during the building of SpongeBob and told him to try to spray paint the bales of straw with a commercial sprayer like builders use on the big barns. This seemed like a great idea and Jimmy went to get one. The idea worked great! SpongeBob stayed made of straw for about four or five years. Since their customers and people of the community liked having him around, the decision was made to make him a more permanent structure. He was then built out of wood and the same elements to make up his face and limbs were used again. Wood was good because he could be painted as needed and the upkeep would hopefully be a bit easier. Not long after changing him to wood, Bowles Farm, in Clements, wanted to build a SpongeBob at their place and contacted J.C. to see if he would mind it they duplicated Dyson’s, of course the answer was yes and J.C. was able to give them tips on how to build their own.
It wasn’t long before they started talking about decorating SpongeBob for the holidays, his first Halloween costume was to be a ghost. They put a sheet over him and painted a face on it, problem was, the paint went through the material onto SpongeBob! Many of the Dyson family members are Redskin fans, so in 2008, Valerie, another daughter of J.C., volunteered to paint SpongeBob for the football season that year. His outfit was completed with a football and a thermos. For Christmas in 2002, they went all out and made SpongeBob a reindeer. J.C. had acquired an old cart and they painted it like a sled. Patricia, J.C.’s sister, made the Patrick character for them to become the Santa Claus. Unfortunately Patrick didn’t make it through the season. Vandals came one night and destroyed Patrick. It was a very sad day for everyone at Dyson’s. Once SpongeBob was made out of wood, Melanie designed a hat, painted it red, and then painted his pants area red for him to be Santa. They used this costume for Christmas for many years. He had other costumes painted on him over the years once he became a wooden structure. The problem with this was it often took us awhile to paint him back to normal!
As time went on and the family business stayed busy, SpongeBob often got neglected and it was very obvious that they either needed to fix him up or take him down. They did a survey on Facebook on whether they should rebuild SpongeBob or put up something different. They received a huge response and this also started quite the conversation in the community of what they should do. They quickly learned that their SpongeBob had become a landmark for many people in St. Mary’s County. They also learned that he is a landmark on Google Maps. People panicked when they took him down. They received many phone calls, emails, and lots of questions, both in the store and when they were out and about the community as to when SpongeBob would be returning! The response was overwhelming to bring SpongeBob back to life.
During the summer of her junior year in college, Melanie redesigned SpongeBob with better specs and many of their employees helped in his rebuilding. Melanie added eyelashes and dimples so that he looked more like the cartoon character. His first Halloween costume after the update in 2013 was a pirate. Melanie learned from past experience that she needed to be a bit more creative with putting him in a costume and the process of taking him out of costume. Taking a page from the “Mr. Potato Head” toy, his costumes are now painted separately on signboard and then screwed on. This way the larger parts of the body costumes can be more interchangeable and the original SpongeBob creation is easier to put back together! SpongeBob was Frankenstein in 2014, a vampire in 2015, and this year, 2016, Batman! Batmen, as well as the other costumes, take about two hours to transform him and approximately six hours to paint and design the look. The additions to his costumes are made out of everyday items, and again, items they have around the store and the lumber yard. They have used trash bags, corrugated plastic whiteboard, plastic road pipe, buckets, floor signs, and many other random items.
SpongeBob is a part of the Dyson Building Center family business. They are a family owned hardware, lumber and building supply store that originally began around the 1920’s as a sawmill by J.C.’s grandfather, Samuel Dyson. Samuel’s son, LeRoy, and his wife Marie opened the store in 1954 and the store is currently owned by six of their 8 children. All 16 of their grandchildren have worked at the store at sometime in their lives and currently three of the grandchildren are working there. They are a small business with knowledgeable clerks who have many years of experience and a vast inventory of items to help you in all areas of your home improvement and lawn & garden needs.
SpongeBob has been a great addition to their family business. He has been a Geocaching site, a GPS treasure hunt game to find the hidden container at the site and he is currently a PokeStop on the game, Pokemon Go. But most importantly, he has been a welcoming landmark to the Great Mills area. All the employees of their store enjoy seeing people, young and old, and from all walks of life, stop by and take their picture with SpongeBob. When you come by to see SpongeBob and take your picture, they invite you to also visit their store and see all the good products and service they have to offer!
Happy Halloween from Southern Maryland News Net and Dyson Building Center!!