Most of us have passed her on our daily commutes down Dixie Highway. She stands outside of Oakland Park’s Auto Shop, a Mom and Pop auto repair shop located at 3185 N. Dixie Highway one block north of Oakland Park Boulevard. There she stands all day long. Unassuming. Her outfits are typical of the climate. Daisy Dukes in the summer, a long red sequined dress party dress with a Santa hat during the holidays, her name is Matilda and she’s been an Oakland Park staple since 2009.
Matilda’s Arrival: Surprise in the Trunk!
Shop owners Missie and Marty Fishbone take a moment to wheel Matilda in the shop to tell me her story. It all started with a client who was giving away some used goods from her estate. She called Missie and said, “I think you will want something. I’ll bring it by the shop”. To her surprise, when her client opened the trunk, it was a dismantled mannequin.
Honk If You’re Happy
Missie thought, “What in the world am I going to do with this?”, but then she realized, she knew just the thing. 2009 was a time when our country was in a deep recession and auto shops were not immune from it, and were downright struggling along with the rest of the country. Missie thought, “Maybe I can assemble this, dress her up in my clothes and make people smile.” That’s precisely what she did. With the help of her friend Michael Miles, A.K.A Mik. Using Missie’s clothes, they dressed her and put her outside with a sign, “Honk if you’re Happy” and people did just that.
Fashion Icon and Best-Dressed Girl in Town
Soon people were stopping to take photos with Matilda, going in the shop to meet the owners, and eventually becoming clients of the auto repair shop. Mik soon started bringing wigs, shoes and more elaborate outfits. His career as a Miami Opera House costume designer certainly helped. With the help of Mik and community donations, Matilda was arguably the best-dressed girl in town.
“She’s had some plastic surgery.” Missie says as she searches for a tote full of Matilda’s clothing. “She’s from the ’50s and needs some repairs,” Missie spoke fondly of Matilda and went on to say that the shop once flooded and most of Matilda’s clothing was lost as were many pictures from their 25 years in business. “I can’t find her shoes,” Missie says as she delicately places Matilda’s arm in the gown and fashions hers with a short black wig.
Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Project
During October, you may see her bald and it’s not because her wig blew away. It’s because Missie and Marty have been huge supporters of Go Pink, a breast cancer awareness project. Oakland Park Auto even had vans in their parking lot to offer mammograms for women in the community. A recent foot injury has kept Missie from doing it the past couple of years, but she hopes to bring that back to the community in the future.
This Lady is Gonna Make You Smile!
As for Matlida, she certainly looks great for her age, her needed repairs are putting a strain on her and she doesn’t change as often as she used to, but her message still stands strong. “She’s here to put a smile on people’s faces,” Missie says as Marty wheels her back outside as traffic stopped on Dixie highway looks on. “She had a boyfriend once, but he was way too young. It just didn’t work out.” As she secures Matilda’s hat and as if on cue, someone honks their horn.
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About the Author
Rhiannon Samoyedny is a Florida native. She lives in the Garden Acres subdivision of Oakland Park with her family. Her passion for horticulture started in high school where she took horticulture classes and worked in a garden center after school. Her education continued by self-study and attending many local gardening classes and workshops. Her garden philosophy is to keep it as simple, native and as organic as possible.