Smart Message From A Dummy

“Frank” stands guard on Orange Grove Boulevard this week with his message to drivers. Photo by Henk Friezer

Meet Frank. He’s a bit creepy looking, but his neighbors on Orange Grove Boulevard between Hawthorne and El Centro don’t seem to mind. In fact, they’ve come to like him, and want him to keep hanging around.

Frank is a 6-foot-tall dummy, secured to a utility pole and decked out as a roadside worker, complete with faded jeans, flannel shirt, work boots and gloves, a yellow safety vest and red hardhat.

But his most important accessory is the octagonal yellow “SLOW” sign he’s holding that warns drivers to ease up on the gas pedal as they navigate what’s become, at times, a challenging street for pedestrians to cross, residents say.

“We heard from the neighbors, ‘Can you leave that guy up? It’s really gotten people to slow down,’ ’’ said Bob Bridges, a longtime resident of Orange Grove who deployed Frank just before Halloween as part of his holiday decorations — combining the spirit of the occasion with a safety message.

“We do a lot of Halloween decorations here, and as part of our decorations we wanted to add a little to our theme of The Nightmare Before Christmas,’’ Bridges said. “This guy was not really part of the theme, but we thought it might slow down traffic a bit – and if it helps, it would be great.’’

Apparently, it is helping slow down speeders. In fact, Bridges said, a cable guy recently needed to use the utility pole, and Bridges asked if he should move Frank.

“The cable guy said no, he’s fine — he’s actually helping out,” Bridges said.

Bridges, a 66-year-old retired software developer for Kaiser Permanente, has lived in the house where Frank was created since 1991. His wife Diane grew up there, moving in with her family in 1964 before marrying Bridges.

Bridges said there’s been a distinct increase in traffic, and speeders, since the old days.

“Since the Gold Line went in we have more traffic now,’’ Bridges said. “My wife … remembers a time when you could go out and play on the street.’’

Bridges said his stretch of Orange Grove is not necessarily more dangerous for pedestrians than most other South Pas thoroughfares — but that his (and Frank’s) safety message is important nonetheless. 

“We get our fair share (of speeders) like I’m sure many other streets do,’’ Bridges said.

As for Frank’s name, Bridges said it comes from “Frankenstein” — the previous use for the dummy in the Bridges family’s Halloween decorations.

“His torso is what we used before, with a Frankenstein mask,’’ Bridges said. “We just put a different mask and head on the Frankenstein body.’’

As for Frank’s long-term future as a safety sentry, Bridges has no plans to remove him. He said police cars regularly drive by, and no officers have expressed any problems with Frank — who’s presence is hard to miss.   

“Nobody’s asked me to take him down,’’ Bridges said.

Sgt. Robert Bartl of the South Pas Police said that Frank, apparently, is violating no laws.

“It is legal,” Bartl said. “He’s not out on the roadway. He’s the same as any pedestrian on the sidewalk. I’m not aware of any legal issues with it or any municipal codes.

“It’s funny, though.”