Giants on the Trail
Fifty years ago the Old Spanish Trail highway was in the middle of getting its fifth makeover.
Struggling to compete with Interstate 10, a new organization, the Old Spanish Trail Inc. formed in Tucson to link–once again–Florida to San Diego.
One of its members, Joe Maierhauser, promoter of Colossal Cavern outside of Tucson, saw in the new effort a way to get tourists to his business.
With his experience in billboard advertising, Maierhauser came up with an idea to market the trail: a giant, eye-catching conquistador.
The giants were not to be the proud, blood-thirsty conquerors of the Black Legend variety, but benign helpers, guiding motorists to the next Old Spanish Trail attraction.
Standing nearly nine feet tall, the helmeted and goateed figure held a banner announcing: “Next on the OLD SPANISH TRAIL.”
The organization planned to fabricate 250 of them; how many were actually made is a mystery.
One rare sign is tucked away at the archives of La Posta Quemada Ranch at Colossal Cave Mountain Park.
J. J. Lamb, the park’s education director found it several years ago in a dump pile at the park. She didn’t know what it was, but had the good sense to bring it to the archives.
Aside from the Colossal Cave conquistador, the only other confirmed sign stood in Van Horn, Texas.
Last spring, an odds and ends seller outside of Oklahoma City put one half of a conquistador (they are double-sided) up for auction on eBay. He wanted an exorbitant five-figure price.
No one bit, and the seller took it down, later shipping it to a sign auction in Kansas.
And with it, perhaps vanished the only other known conquistador… unless his other half turns up some day.