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Road trip: Giant Life Savers honor town's favorite son

Emma Jacobs
Gouverneur's giant aluminum Life Savers were the gift to the town from a closing Chester, NY factory.


JOHN YDSTIE, host: Honey, Stop The Car! - that's what we've been calling our summer road trip.

We've visited monuments and statues that honor local heroes or events. We've gone in Indiana to a spot where a former president was purposely dumped in the mud; to Colorado, where a statue to the town founder is a traffic hazard; and to California, where a stagecoach horse was killed in a robbery.

This morning, Emma Jacobs of member station WRVO takes us to upstate New York, where there's a most unusual monument to a favorite son.

EMMA JACOBS: When you cross a bridge straight into Gouverneur's tiny main drag, the first thing you see is a giant pack of Life Savers hanging above the village green. It's longer than a car, shorter than a limo. The foil wrapper is open at one end.

NORTON TAYLOR: It's probably the biggest roll of Life Savers in the United States.

JACOBS: The roll came from a Life Savers factory that closed a few hours away. Norton Taylor was in the Rotary Club when it was donated to the community.

TAYLOR: Couple weeks later, I'm up in my office and they called from downstairs. Said, Mr. Taylor, there's a flatbed out front here with a Life Saver on it. What do you want me to do with it?

JACOBS: The factory offered the roll of peppermint Life Savers to Gouverneur because the village of 5,000 people is the hometown of Edward John Noble. He's called E.J. here. E.J. Noble had left town to become an ad man, and one day in 1912 he was given the account of one Clarence Crane who had created a round white peppermint candy.

TAYLOR: Original Life Saver was just a plain round disc and when he got it he was the one who put the hole in it.

JACOBS: Well, maybe not. Gouverneur's town historian says he probably didn't. But Noble did come up with a name for the candy - Life Savers - and a marketing strategy. And when Clarence Crane didn't like it, Noble bought him out for $2,900 and launched the Life Savers we know today, the same ones which loom large over the center of tiny Gouverneur.

TAYLOR: This put Gouverneur on the map at certain times, which we think is great.

JACOBS: Taylor says some in Gouverneur grumble over the placement of the roll of candies. Some think it should have gone near the hospital that bears Noble's name, because the building's a life-saver.

TAYLOR: You know, people think it's, you know, a monstrosity to have it down in the middle part of the park, but I think you've got to advertise your community. And I think this is one thing that does.

JACOBS: Life Savers made Noble's fortune. He used his money to buy into the ABC network and eventually served in the Eisenhower administration. But in his hometown, so many years later, he's remembered for his candy mints with the hole in the middle. It's hard not to be reminded, because they're right in the center of town. For NPR News, I'm Emma Jacobs.


YDSTIE: You can see photos of that really large pack of Life Savers and listen to previous installments of our Honey Stop The Car! series at NPR.org.

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