Staring out at you from behind those rusty gates; thousands of tightly packed, unwanted objects from the past sit in an eerie silence, almost as if they might just come alive as soon as you turn your back. Each and every single one has been collected by Kentucky’s King of Junk, who has made a temporary home for them in his wild and tangled fortress…
Most people have heard of Louisville, Kentucky for hosting “the most exciting two-minutes in sports”, aka, The Kentucky Derby. The first Saturday in May, locals and celebrities alike sip on mint juleps and watch the best horses in the world race. But most people don’t venture around Kentucky’s biggest city to find its quirky gems.
Louisville’s Clifton neighbourhood is eclectic. Antique shops, used bookstores, and vintage clothing boutiques line the street along with some of the best restaurants in town. As the road dips down towards the Ohio River, a technicolor junk yard sits on the corner of Frankfort Avenue and Williams Street. Most people don’t actually notice while driving by. Even the locals have become blind to the sight of Jerry’s junk yard of weird and whacky memorabilia.
Jerry Lotz is a retired machinist and iron worker who started his collection in 1946 at the age of eight. Along with his main “display,” he owns four other houses in the neighbourhood, all equally filled with “junk”.
Driving his 1951 Studebaker, he visits flea markets to collect items for his “buy/ sell/ trade” business, though he tends to buy more than sell. “I can’t sell it,” he said. “I wouldn’t know where to get more.”
Jerry is somewhat elusive, and lives on the upper floor of the house; though if you do happen to catch him, he’s friendly and approachable and he can talk for hours. Visitors have reported that this zany old man has approached them while they gawked at his collection and taken them on tours that lasted anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours. One commented that the funniest part of their tour was that he dragged around a rake the entire time, making it almost impossible to hear him!
He says if you search “number one trap attraction in Louisville,” sure enough, Jerry’s Junk comes up. Jerry’s Junk, as he himself calls it, has also been featured on the History Channel’s “American pickers,” whose cast and crew he called some of the rudest people he’s met.
His lot is filled with incredible items: a statue of liberty with Nixon’s face, a second “normal” statue of liberty, a L&N caboose, a Buddha, ET in a telephone booth, a miniature biplane salvaged from Disneyland, dinosaurs, vintage cars, a buffalo, a giraffe, and everything in between. One thing is certain: if it’s “ornery, unusual or different” he wants it, and he will find room for it.
If you do happen to catch Jerry and he gives you the tour, you may end up with a souvenir like a lucky horse shoe. If you don’t see him hanging around, give a yell, “Hey Jerry!” Chances are, he’ll soon appear, ready to share his story.