Wolcott Historical Society News - June 2022
By Florence Goodman
A landmark is "an object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish their location." When I think of landmarks in our town, I think of places like our town green, lakes and reservoirs or buildings found here. This month I'd like to share the history of an interesting landmark that is not your typical one, but one that most people know, and it has only been around since the late 1960s.
The Mickey Mouse rock is located at the intersection of Spindle Hill Road and North Street. If you live in the northern or western section of town you know exactly where this rock can be found, but those residents who live on the eastern and southern section of Wolcott may not. Over the years different residents have stepped up to care for this interesting landmark, but no one really knew the exact history of it. In January of 2022 I was following a Facebook post as various residents commented about this rock and how it came about and who was responsible for its origin and upkeep. The information varied until Rick Miller Sr. decided to set the record straight. I never knew the history of the rock and thought it was time to share Rick's knowledge with my readers.
Rick's family moved to Lakeview Drive, which is in the Cedar Lake section of Wolcott in 1955. The Millers had eleven children and this neighborhood was a great place for them to grow up. There were many young families moving into the area, so the neighborhood was filled with kids of all ages. As the kids grew older, they were always looking for places to hang out. Around 1965 it was Rick's oldest brother, Eddy who first painted the rock. He painted it black, and his mom suggested that he call it the "Thinker Rock" after the TV sitcom "Dobby Gillis." This became the neighborhood hang out for the high school age kids in the lake area. Rick remembers the names of some of the families that lived in the neighborhood at the time. There were: Booker, LaFrance, French, Patnaude, Yeno, Pisino, Small, Tyndall, Riley, Homes, Keith, Fortier, and Markure. After most of the guys that hung out at the "Thinker Rock" graduated in the late 60s the rock received a "make-over." Around 1969 Rick Miller Sr. and Matt Tyndall came up with an idea to paint Mickey Mouse on the rock. They asked Steve Patnaude who was the artist in the neighborhood and good friend of Eddy's to draw Mickey on the rock and they would paint it and the "Mickey Mouse Rock" was born.
Rick went into the military in 1973 and if his memory serves him correctly, he stated that his younger brother Pat and Mrs. Tarnowski took over the upkeep of it with her son Mike and daughter Barbara. They continued to do so until 1983 when Rick and his family moved into the Riley home on the same street where he grew up. He was then able to oversee the upkeep of this well-known landmark in the northern section of town. Rick said there may have been others who were part of the upkeep crew while he was away, but he does not remember who they were.
Presently Rick's 13-year-old grandson, Joey Finke who also lives on Lakeview Drive has kept up with the painting of the rock, shoveling the snow around it in the winter and weed whacking the area in the spring and summer. Rick hopes that Joey will continue to do so for years to come. Rick and his family take great pride in making sure this wonderful landmark will be here for generations to come. He hopes to repaint the rock this summer, so it looks like the 1970s version that Tony Marino posted on Facebook because it has gone through changes over the years, and he'd like to get it back to its original look.
Rick stated that back in 1969 he, Steve and Matt just wanted to do something special for the neighborhood kids. Little did they know that it would become the talk of the town for years to come as well as a well-known landmark.
(Information for this article was taken from a Facebook post in January 2022 by Rick Miller Sr and a photo on Facebook from Tony Marino)
Eddie Miller after painting The Thinker Rock.
The Mickey Mouse Rock in 2022. This photo was taken by Flo Goodman.
The Mickey Mouse Rock in 1970 and 2014. This photo was posted on Facebook by Tony Marino, but the upper lefthand corner credits Jonnie Kight for the 1970 photo.
To view past installments of the Historical Society News, click here.