One of the wonders and astonishments of a childhood in the South Bay area of Los Angeles for the last 53 years has been the monstrous, toothy nighttime glow of Smilin’ Jack, the world’s largest jack-o-lantern, grinning in the distance, heralding that trick or treat is nigh.
I vividly recall the awe this massive, magical orb generated in we kids over 40 years ago, and recall the sadder-but-wiser moment when I realized Jack was in fact a painted, pumpkin-shaped, 3 million-gallon storage tank at the ConocoPhillips (formerly Union Oil) refinery in Wilmington.
Preparing Smilin’ Jack for his annual appearance requires more than 100 gallons of orange, black and white paint. According to refinery engineers, if the giant jack-o-lantern were filled with pumpkin meat, there would be enough to make 26,800,000 pumpkin pies – but they would be very oily pies.
This year, ConocoPhillips is once again inviting the neighbors to see Smilin’ Jack up close, snag some caramel corn, and shatter childhood illusions amidst the pungent gas and piping of its Anaheim St. petrochemical palace on the nights of October 30 and October 31, from 6 to 9 p.m. More than 30,000 costumed kiddies and their escorts are expected to stop by.