Often The Butt Of Jokes, S.C.'s Giant Peach Is Ripe For Renovation

Often The Butt Of Jokes, S.C.'s Giant Peach Is Ripe For Renovation

7:17pm May 20, 2015
The restoration of the landmark, popularized by a House of Cards episode, has some fans wondering whether the giant peach will lose its giggle-inducing appearance.
The restoration of the landmark, popularized by a House of Cards episode, has some fans wondering whether the giant peach will lose its giggle-inducing appearance.
Michael Tomsic / WFAE

You can't miss it as you drive down I-85. The Peachoid, as it's called, is a massive peach-shape water tower near the North Carolina border.

When maintenance crews sandblasted the paint off the water tower recently, people were furious.

Just ask Claire Huminski, with the city of Gaffney.

"We have actually had a lot of people call and via social media complain to us that we are taking down the Peachoid and that we do not need to do that because it is a landmark," Huminski says, "and they were really upset, tweeting angry tweets at me, I'm like, 'We're not taking it down, I promise!' "

In Gaffney, the Peachoid is more than a water tower.

The city's tourism director says she's talked to people from Canada, Germany and Japan, who stopped through this city of almost 13,000 people just to see it.

Some of them first saw it on the Netflix hit House of Cards.

In real life, the tower has never had a thorough repainting since the original job was finished in 1981. So, Eric Henn climbs into a construction lift with a heavy steel door.

Henn rises more than 100 feet with paint rollers and a few shades of orange and yellow.

The longtime publisher of the local paper, Cody Sossamon, says the idea was to create a landmark for an area with a large peach farming community.

"I loved it and still do even though it's, to use the term loosely, the butt of a lot of jokes," he says.

For one, the tower has the colors — and curves — of an actual peach. Looking up at it, Gaffney native Leonard Wyatt says the crease is hard to miss.

"When you see the crack right here," Wyatt says, "going down the interstate, you'll see that's one of the first things you'll see, and people say it's a baby's butt with a rash."

House of Cards played up that idea. Kevin Spacey's character, Frank Underwood, is the subject of an attack ad about the Peachoid: "It's vulgar. It's an embarrassment to the county. But time and time again Frank Underwood has fought to keep it standing."

That episode is the reason James Burroughs pulled over on his way from Atlanta to Raleigh.

"I decided to take a picture today so I can show some of my friends that yeah, see, the big peach does exist," he says.

Burroughs says his friends in Georgia — the Peach State — wonder why it's here. South Carolina actually produces almost twice as many peaches as Georgia, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Some have asked if the renovation will make the Peachoid look less like a human backside.

The answer is no, says Kim Fortner of the Gaffney Board of Public Works.

"You know it's kind of like, I'm sure you've heard the phrase, 'I don't care what you call me as long as you call me?' " Fortner says. A lot of people know where Gaffney is by this tank."

Even if it is, on occasion, the butt of a joke.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A South Carolina landmark that is both loved and lampooned is under renovation. You can't miss it as you drive down Interstate 85. It's a massive peach-shaped water tower near the North Carolina border. The Peachoid, as it's called, has gained national attention because of the Netflix show "House Of Cards." The peach's bright paint has soured over the years, so it's getting a new coat. From member station WFAE, Michael Tomsic has more on the story.

MICHAEL TOMSIC, BYLINE: When maintenance crews sandblasted the paint off the giant peach water tower recently, people were furious. Just ask Claire Huminski with the city of Gaffney.

CLAIRE HUMINSKI: We have actually had a lot of people call and via social media complain to us that we are taking down the Peachoid and that we do not need to do that 'cause it is a landmark. And they were really upset, tweeting angry tweets at me. I'm like, we're not taking it down. I promise.

TOMSIC: In Gaffney, the Peachoid is more than a water tower. The city's tourism director says she's talked to people from Canada, Germany and Japan who stopped through this city of almost 13,000 people just to see it. Some of them first saw it on the Netflix hit, "House Of Cards."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE OF CARDS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) The peach what?

KEVIN SPACEY: (As Frank Underwood) The Peachoid. It's a giant water tower in the shape of a peach.

TOMSIC: In real life, the tower has never had a thorough repainting, so Eric Henn climbs into a construction lift with a heavy steel door.

ERIC HENN: I'm going to hook up my safety harness and crank her up.

TOMSIC: Henn rises more than 100 feet with paint rollers and a few shades of orange and yellow. The original job was finished in 1981. The longtime publisher of the local paper, Cody Sossamon, says the idea was to create a landmark for an area with a large peach farming community.

CODY SOSSAMON: I loved it and still do, even though it's - to use the term loosely, the butt of a lot of jokes.

TOMSIC: About those jokes - the tower has the colors and curves of an actual peach. Looking up at it, Gaffney native Leonard Wyatt says the crease is hard to miss.

LEONARD WYATT: Because when you see the crack right here - you go on that interstate, you'll see. That's one of the first things you'll see. And people say it's a baby's butt with a rash.

TOMSIC: "House Of Cards" played up that idea. Kevin Spacey's character, Frank Underwood, is the subject of this attack ad about the Peachoid.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE OF CARDS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) It's vulgar. It's an embarrassment to the county, but time and time again, Frank Underwood has fought to keep it standing.

TOMSIC: That episode is the reason James Burroughs pulled over on his way from Atlanta to Raleigh.

JAMES BURROUGHS: I decided to take a picture today so I can show some of my friends that yeah - see? The big peach does exist.

TOMSIC: Burroughs says his friends in Georgia, the peach state, wonder why it's here. But South Carolina actually produces almost twice as many peaches as Georgia according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some have asked if the renovation will make the Peachoid look less like a human backside. Nope, says Kim Fortner of the Gaffney Board of Public Works.

KIM FORTNER: You know, it's kind of like - I'm sure you've heard the phrase, I don't care what you call me as long as you call me. A lot of people know where Gaffney is by this tank.

TOMSIC: Even if it is, on occasion, the butt of a joke. For NPR News, I'm Michael Tomsic. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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