Cutting Mr. PG down to size

Q: What happened to Mr. PG's legs? Did they get shorter when the city moved it?

A: In September, 2012 Tourism Prince George and the city removed Mr. PG -also known as Mr. PeeGee or Mr. P.G. -from its location by the tourism office on the southeast side of the intersection of Highways 16 and 97.

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After it was repainted, Mr. PG was installed on the southwest side of the intersection by the Prince George Playhouse. The City of Prince George and Tourism Prince George websites list Mr. PG's current height as 8.138 metres (27 feet).

The current incarnation of Mr. PG is actually the fourth version of the statue, which has varied in height substantially over the years.

Former mayor Harold Moffat created the idea of Mr. PG in 1960 after seeing the 9.4 metre (31 feet) tall Paul Bunyan statue built in 1959 in Portland, Ore. to celebrate the state's centennial.

Moffat told the story of how Mr. PG came about during a city survey on Mr. PG in the 1980s.

"[Clear Lake Sawmill owner] Hans Roine created the first one out of wood for a Rotary convention in about 1960, and the idea ballooned from there," Moffat said.

The first Mr. PG statue was only four or five feet tall and was placed in front of the Simon Fraser Hotel.

In 1961 city special projects officer Bill Jones used the idea to create the second Mr. PG: a 9.75 metre (32 feet) tall parade float. The mobile Mr. PG float was made of wood and had joints in its ankles and waist so it could bend down to pass below overhead wires or to talk to people along parade routes through a loudspeaker built into its nose.

Mr. PG took first place in the Kelowna Regatta parade in 1961 and second prize at the Vancouver PNE parade in the same year. In 1963 the Mr. PG float was part of the Vancouver Grey Cup parade.

That first, wooden Mr. PG was then installed at First Avenue and George Street by the cairn of stones called the Alexander Mackenzie monument. At the time the Prince George Chamber of Commerce office was located there.

In 1970, the city rebuilt Mr. PG and installed it by the tourism office at the junction of Highways 16 and 97. The rebuilt Mr. PG was only 8.08 metres (26.5 feet) tall.

The third wooden Mr. PG stayed in place there until 1983, when it was found to be rotten.

Jones, the creator of the Mr. PG float, reported to the city council of the day that internal wood support in Mr. PG's neck had rotted through, its body was rotten and weak, and its fibreglass skin was not worth saving.

The statue's hardhat and left arm were entirely missing.

By a narrow vote, the city council of the day approved spending $6,700 to rebuild Mr. PG out of a steel septic tank and fibreglass.

On July 25, 1983 then-mayor Elmer Mercier installed the Canada flag in the hand of the rebuilt Mr. PG statue. According to The Citizen from July 26, the statue included three weatherproofed time capsules in its upper torso containing a dozen items representing Prince George in 1983. Included in the time capsules is a letter from the mayor, a recorded radio broadcast of 1983's popular songs and copies of The Citizen reporting on the news of the day.

According to Tourism Prince George CEO Erica Hummel, the fourth and current version of Mr. PG was nine metres (29.5 feet) when it was first built in 1983.

So what happened?

"He used to be nine metres, now he's 8.13[8] metres high," Hummel said. "He was actually in the ground in some concrete. They weren't able to get his legs out [when it was moved in 2012], so they had to cut them."

Hummel said she didn't know how Mr. PG is currently mounted in the ground, and the engineer's report on the relocation was not available as of press time.

But the net result is Mr. PG's legs are 82.6 centimetres smaller, making the statue 9.6 per cent shorter than it was from July 1983 to September 2012 (but still taller than it was from 1970 to 1983).

But given Mr. PG is turning 65 next year, the city's icon still looks pretty good for its age.

Do you have questions about events in the news? Are you puzzled by some local oddity? Does something you've seen, heard or read just not make sense? Email your questions to awilliams@pgcitizen.ca, and award-winning investigative reporter Arthur Williams will try to get to the bottom of it.

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