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What Do Arts Cars, Funerals, and Presidents Have in Common?

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What do art cars, funeral history and giant president heads all have in common? They ‘re all located in Houston! Back in 2014 during my first visit, I met some wonderful Houstonians and one even influenced me to write this blog. Because I ended up hanging out with my new found friends, rather than doing what I had planned, I had to come back (I’m easily distracted). The truth is that I would’ve come back anyway because the Art Car Parade is in April, and I visited in December.  Along with the Art Car Parade, I visited the National Museum of Funeral History and giant president heads.

When looking for unusual museums, like I typically do, I came across the Art Car Museum. It’s actually a really small museum with space for about two art cars.  I really didn’t know what an art car was, but according to the official Wikipedia definition, it’s a vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression. And now you know what an art car is too. After looking and reading about the cars in the museum, there was a video playing in a little enclave that showed the Art Car Parade. I was immediately enthralled and knew that by hook or by crook, I would see this parade in person.

Art Car Parade

On the day of the parade, April 9, I set out to find it. I had just arrived in Houston the night before and because of a late landing, a snafu with my rental car and a wrong turn here and there to my Airbnb lodging, I had a really late night and had trouble waking up the next morning. So, I didn’t get as early a start as I had hoped. It seems like it’s important to get there early so that you can get a good spot.  Also, had I prepared properly, I would’ve gotten the VIP ticket (which I overlooked on the website somehow, but were now sold out) or at least brought a chair to sit in. I knew there was going to be a crowd, so as an introvert, I had to prepare myself mentally. Plus, I’m not fond of uncontrolled crowds because anything could happen, but I sucked it up and pressed on. When I arrived, I had to find a good spot to stand that wasn’t too crowded, shaded and where I had the best view. Once I found that spot, I was set to enjoy this spectacle that I had waited 1.5 years for and it was everything I thought it would be! The creativity of the art cars were spectacular. Additionally, the parade seemed like it was open to anything or anyone on wheels, so there were no limits. I’d definitely go see this parade again if I was in the Houston area again during this time. If you want to see actual video of the parade, click here.

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National Museum of Funeral History

Ok, so I’m not a morbid person but I also don’t think lots of things are very morbid. I mean, I work in healthcare, so you have to develop a different sense of what is morbid, but I digress. So when I told friends/family that I wanted to visit the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, they gave me a funny look and said that was morbid. I can understand that sentiment completely, but I actually found it to be quite engaging and rather fun.

The National Museum of Funeral History is located in a nondescript, brick building in a residential area. You will need GPS because it’s not likely that you’ll discover this place on your own. Once inside, you pay the fee and they give you a quiz to fill out and if you complete it, you’ll receive 10% off a gift shop purchase. Anyway, there are all manner of hearses, caskets/coffins and all things funeral-related. Evidently, Cadillac is big in the hearse business and has been for years. Some of the hearses doubled as ambulances too. There was a funeral bus that didn’t do so well because when it went up a hill carrying the body and the family, it tipped backward and everyone, including the body fell out. No bueno! Needless to say, that was the first and last trip that funeral bus ever made. I did snicker a little after reading about the event. See, not that morbid!

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Cadillac hearse
Cadillac hearse

 

Funeral bus that never made a second trip
Funeral bus that never made a second trip

 

There were numerous styles of caskets and how they’ve changed over the years. There was the glass Snow White casket that was never used, but there was also a REAL glass casket that was used but there were a few problems with its functionality. A money casket was very cool because the money on it is real money. There was a three person casket for parents and their child, which was a sad story with a twist.

Snow White glass casket
Snow White glass casket

 

Money casket
Real money casket- who says you can’t take it with you?

 

Three person casket
Three person casket

 

However, the most intriguing caskets to me were the fantasy coffins. They started being built by a man named Kane Kwei from Ghana in the 1950’s. These coffins represented prestigious people or people with prominent jobs. They could also represent a person’s hobbies, interests or personality/characteristics. For example, the bull coffin would be used for a tribal leader or cattleman or person who loved airplanes may have a coffin built in the shape of an airplane. I did further research into these unique coffins and the story is utterly fascinating! The workshop is still open today and is still in the family with Kane Kwei’s son and grandson operating it. To read more about it, click here. The museum has the largest collection of fantasy coffins outside of Ghana.

Fishing boat fantasy coffin
Fishing boat fantasy coffin

 

Animal fantasy coffins
Animal fantasy coffins

 

Plane fantasy coffin
Plane fantasy coffin

They also had lots of information about presidential funeral history as well. All of it was very engaging and I would highly recommend anyone go who wants to visit a museum that you can’t readily go to anywhere else.

Replica of Abraham Lincoln's casket
Replica of Abraham Lincoln’s casket

 

Presidential hearse
Presidential hearse

Giant Presidential Heads

Last, but not least on my quest for the unusual and interesting in Houston, were the giant presidential heads by artist David Adickes. These bizarre, giant president heads have apparently been moved around quite a bit, even out of the city. The fenced-in area is way out in some industrial part of town with not much around. That was good for me because I was able to take pictures undisturbed. A family was arriving just as I was leaving so there are a few people who know about this place as well. But much like the National Museum of Funeral History, you won’t be just running upon this. At one time it seems that people were able to see them up close and touch them, but when I finally tracked them down, they were locked up behind a fence. I did the best I could to see as many of them as possible given the limitations. I was able to see President Obama’s giant head as well as a few others. As of April 2016, they’re located at 2401 Nance St., Houston TX, but that could always change.

Fenced-in presidents
Fenced-in presidents with Charlie Chaplin

 

I can identify some of them
I can identify some of them

 

Zoomed in pic of President Obama bust
Zoomed in pic of President Obama bust

 

How many can you identify?
How many can you identify?

 

Did you know about these activities or places in Houston, TX? What are some unusual things that you’ve found to do in Houston?

 

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