The Pioneer Pie Lady of Frackville

For nearly four decades the Pioneer Pie Lady has beckoned to travelers from her perch over-looking Interstate 81 and Route 61. Sadly, this quirky colossus has been taken down. She stood tall, with pie in hand, a creepy young child by her side and, let’s not forget, the kid’s headless doll. Definitely, an oddity and one of Schuylkill County’s best, if you ask me.

The creepy mother, daughter and decapitated doll were originally clad in green. It was repainted in these brighter colors in the early 2000s. She stands about 15 feet tall.

The statue stood outside Granny’s Motel in Frackville and was well known to residents of the area. It had been some time since I had driven through “Mountain City” and the void was immediate. I pulled over and made my way to the old building to investigate. So many questions rushed through my head: Where did she go? Where is she now? And where they heck did she come from to begin with?

Granny’s has been closed for awhile. I remember they served good food and rented out small rooms upstairs from the restaurant. Their decor was odd, almost kitschy. It opened its doors in 1986 and procured the statue from an old eatery (supposedly the Pot-O-Gold Diner) in Hamburg around the same time. I wonder when the doll’s head fell off; maybe during the move from one county to another. Perhaps that’s why the little girl looks so shocked. I remember when my brother ripped the head off of my Holly Hobby doll… believe me, I was wide-eyed and shocked.

People have often attributed this curiosity to Rod Shutt, an artist specializing in roadside giants. Some of his most popular creations can still be seen today: the Amish couple that used to sit outside Roadside America in Shartlesville, the Dutch Boy statues that are displayed during the Kutztown Folk Festival, and the York Barbell Man that sits atop the York Barbell Retail Outlet. I could find no evidence that definitively points to Shutt, but they all have a very similar look, especially the PA Dutch inspired ones.

The Budget Inn has taken over Granny’s Motel. The creepy mom and daughter were sold through Amazon Marketplace. After a few Google searches I discovered it was purchased by a young Frackville resident whose parents own and operate the Thrift Store located at the northern end of Frackville. It is there, in an adjacent lot where the statue currently resides, laying on its side.

I had a really nice conversation with the owner. She was so pleasant and friendly and totally willing to talk about the Pioneer Pie Lady and her son’s plans for it. The twenty-something young man wants to give it a new paint job and possibly replace the doll’s head. His mom praised his initiative and his hope to keep it local.

The borough of Frackville is probably not on your radar as a travel destination. It’s one of many small towns that thrived during the height of the coal industry and now struggles to keep its community pride and economic prominence from decreasing. Old coal towns were inhabited by various religions and ethnicities. The people who settled these patches were striving to achieve the American dream. There is no more perfect mascot to represent that passion than a pioneer.

She has been known by different names; the Pioneer Lady, the Pie Woman, Grandmother – just to name a few. No matter what name residents of northern Schuylkill County know her by, I think everyone would agree that she was, and still is, a roadside celebrity. She always reminded me of the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and lifestyle that permeates this region. She was truly a beacon to passersby. Perhaps, once she finds a new perch, she can shine again. Odd, creepiness welcomed!

Articles about the statue and its removal:

https://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-nws-granny-statue-20220406-pxybxikbyrbuzetsqgbkv5hgoq-story.html

https://coalspeaker.com/2022/03/20/a-requiem-for-a-granny-and-we-think-we-know-who-made-her/

For more information on the statues of Rod Shutt, check out the following link:

https://www.roadarch.com/giants/pa.html

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