As It Was: Blackbird beckons customers to shopping center

By Luana (Loffer) Corbin
Southern Oregon Historical Society

Posted Jun. 1, 2016 at 5:16 PM

It was 1965 when Lee Hobbs founded the Blackbird Shopping Center as an army surplus store in Medford. To attract customers, Hobbs built a huge statue of a blackbird in the parking lot.
He did the work himself, using skills he learned at Boeing making aircraft templates. Concrete bars provided the skeleton of the bird, followed by hog wire clipped over the frame and smooth fiberglass sprayed over the wire. The 29-foot blackbird emerged, its underpinning 30 feet below the surface. The yellow and black head, wired with a speaker, sat on wide shoulders. The bird had three talons on each hand and two on each foot.
Fifty years later the blackbird still stands. It gets a paint job when needed and wardrobe changes reflecting the season. Originally, several mynah birds in the store screamed and talked to customers. One still remains. A smaller five-foot-tall blackbird statue on wheels once hauled sales out to cars, but no longer.
Under the mascot’s left foot, a small plaque memorializes Hobbs, who died in 1973.
Sources: “Medford, Oregon: Big Goofy Black Bird.” Roadside America. Web. 30 Aug. 2015.; “Giant Blackbird: Medford, Oregon.” Smithsonian Art Inventory Sculptures. 9 May 2010. Web. 31 Aug 2015;; “Where did the Black Bird come from?” 6 Apr 2007. Web. 30 Aug 2015; “Outdoors Gear in Medford, Oregon – About the Bird.” Web.30 Aug. 2015.
As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at

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