Seeing pink elephants: Ray Cox talks history, future for Fortville’s mascot

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Fishers resident Ray Cox came upon what Fortville residents call the “Pink Elephant” in 2006 when he purchased the Wagon Wheel Liquor Store at 308 W. Broadway St in Fortville.

“It was part of the store. It had been there at the store for quite some time,” Cox said. “The story I got was there (were) about a half a dozen of them made before the mold was broken, so there may be a half dozen of these actual pink elephants around the country.” 

The Pink Elephant is, as its name implies, a giant pink elephant mounted on a trailer. It sports sunglasses and grips a martin in its trunk.

“The term ‘pink elephant’ comes from the phrase. ‘I’m seeing pink elephants,’ which means that either you’ve had way too much to drink or you’re coming off of a huge hangover, and that’s why the Pink Elephant has sunglasses on and a martini,” Cox said.

Intrigued by the elephant’s history, Cox began to research where it came from and where any others might be.

“I’ve seen on the internet a couple others. One of them I know is in Illinois,” he said. “They’re really pretty rare.”

Cox traced Fortville’s elephant’s origins as far back as he could. He discovered that it was placed for a time during the mid-1960s at the Cohron’s Mobile Home Office in Lawrence. Then, he said, it somehow ended up at the Wagon Wheel Liquor Store.

Now at Elite Beverage, the Pink Elephant has remained on display outside of the liquor store. Cox said the elephant’s original name was Telmadge, but people now call it “The Pink Elephant.”

Elite Beverage, 308 W. Broadway St., Fortville, is being renovated, but the Pink Elephant will return to the store when construction is complete. (Submitted rendering)

Cox is renovating Elite Beverage, so the Pink Elephant has been moved to a temporary home at the old filling station on Broadway Street, just blocks from its permanent home. In late 2018, Elite Beverage and three nearby homes were demolished. In its place, Cox is constructing a 5,600-square-foot modern liquor store that will continue to operate as Elite Beverage.

“The first question everybody asks me, including the town manager to everybody I talk to, every customer, is ,‘Are you going to keep the Pink Elephant?’ and the answer is, ‘Of course,’” Cox said. “We will bring the Pink Elephant back. It will have its own pad and some small landscaping around it. We may call it the Pink Elephant Garden. The Pink Elephant’s home will be bigger and better than ever.”

Cox said renovations should be complete by the end of March. As part of the reopening celebrations, he plans to have a naming contest for the Pink Elephant.

In addition to updating the elephant’s home, Cox said he plans to mount it on a new trailer. The current trailer makes the elephant move tail-end first when pulled behind a vehicle. Although the elephant is made of hollow fiberglass, Cox said he’ll need a crane to move it.

Two summers ago, Cox’s wife and stepdaughter repainted the elephant and added more details to its feet and toes.

“It’s a little pinker than it used to be,” Cox said.

Cox allows the Pink Elephant to be used for nonprofit events and Fortville’s annual Winterfest parade. He said he’s very particular about who he loans it to. The elephant has a wardrobe of four hats depending on the season – one each for Thanksgiving, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day and the Fourth of July.

Cox encourages anyone who knows anything about the elephant’s history to email him at elitebeverages1@aol.com.

A senior prank: Stealing the Pink Elephant in 1973

In 1973, Ray Cox said the Pink Elephant was stolen as a senior prank by a Mt. Vernon High School senior. Cox said the alleged thief was Larry Fort, whom the Town of Fortville is named after, but nothing was ever proven.

“It was found at I-69 and State Road 13, because where can you hide a pink elephant? You can’t hide it. What are you going to do with it after you steal it?” Cox said.

Eventually, it was returned to its rightful spot. Cox said he wasn’t sure if anyone was punished for the prank. 

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