St. Charles Herald-Guide

Spinning in the wind

By M. Susanne Hinkle - April 5, 2006

If you're an area local, chances are you have seen Harold Vicknair's 'whirlygigs' spinning in his front yard on the corner of River Road and Barton Avenue in Luling.

Over the years, Vicknair's birds, flamingos, ducks, parrots, lumber jacks, and other whirlygigs have been spinning, flapping, and chopping all over his yard.

"It all started when I got a magazine full of designs for whirlygigs. I retired from Monsanto in 1984 and made the birds and things to supplement my income," said 80 year old Vicknair. After the death of his wife, Vicknair decided to retire from making the familiar whirlygigs, sending locals scrambling for a piece of Barton Avenue history before they are all gone.

"I think I started making birds around 1992. Since then, I have sold hundreds of them, all different sizes and styles. My wife died after 52 years of marriage and I just stopped making the whirlygigs.

In his prime, Vicknair's yard was alive with spinning 'whirlygigs. Neighbors would buy them for friends and strangers would stop from all over to grab a whirlygig of their own. "I didn't even have to advertise, people would pass by and stop to buy a whirlygig," Vicknair said.

"I have shipped them all over the world. For instance, a couple came down from Germany to Louisiana for Jazz Fest. On a trip to the country side they spotted the birds in my lawn. So, there is one of my whirlygigs somewhere in Germany. There are also some in Canada and England," the whirlygig maker said.

At forty dollars a piece, people have complained that that Vicknair charges too much for the whirlygigs. To this claim Vicknair replied, “I say there is too much work that goes into each one for me to sell them for too cheap. One guy came by and said they were too expensive so he went home to try and make his own. He came back and bought two from me. He realized how much work goes into them," Vicknair said as he chuckled.

There are just a handfull of whirlygigs still for sale at Vicknair’s residence and he has quite a variety to choose from. The whirlygigs are a landmark of sorts for residents of the West Bank of St. Charles Parish. When all the birds in Mr. Vicknair’s yard have flown coop, they will surely be missed by residents and passing motorists.

Harald Vicknair points to some of his best selling ‘whirlygigs’ in his front yard in Luling.
Susanne Hinkle
Harald Vicknair points to some of his best selling ‘whirlygigs’ in his front yard in Luling.