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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rhiannon Samoyedny was born and raised in South Florida. She has lived in Oakland Park for over 25 years and purchased her home in Garden Acres in 2012 where she resides with her husband, two teenaged boys, a few rescue cats, and her dog.
Her professional career began as a project manager and estimator for a small Oakland Park construction company and she later went on to earn her degree in Court Reporting, where she later incorporated her own small business RS Reporting, Inc.
She has a passion for gardening and attends many horticulture classes and workshops. She is also an LGA (Local Government Academy) graduate, class of 2019, and an active community volunteer and activist. You can usually find her around town at various Oakland Park meetings and events with her notebook, so be sure to say hello.