A Year to Remember
9 Jiggs residents were featured in 1965 VW national advertising campaign
By Dianna Troyer
It sounds like an April Fools’ Day joke: The remote community of Jiggs was nationally renowned in 1965, and 9 residents were celebrities. It’s true, though.
That year, Jiggs residents became the familiar faces of a nationwide yearlong advertising campaign for the Volkswagen (VW) Deluxe Microbus. Described as a microbus in Europe and a station wagon in the United States, it boasted a seating capacity of nine with the proud motto, “Roomy enough for an entire town.”
Jiggs residents were photographed sitting comfortably inside a bus in front of a weathered brown barn in the townsite. Built between 1951 and 1967, the bus was called The 23-Window Wonder and was designed for European sightseeing adventures, especially the Alps.
A copy of the two-page magazine advertisement is framed and prominently displayed at Jiggs Bar.
“No one knows why Jiggs was picked or how they even heard of it,” says local rancher Tony Zunino, 65, who is in the photo.
“Of the people in the photo, I’m the only one left,” he says. “Everyone else either passed away or moved away.” Wearing his cowboy hat, Tony is the boy standing and peering out of the sunroof.
“There were only 5 people living in Jiggs, so the film crew said to find 4 more kids from the closest ranches,” says Tony, who was 7 at the time and lived about 2 ½ miles away.
In 1965, Jiggs’ residents included Mrs. Gruenhagen, the Mound Valley Elementary School teacher; Oliver and Ruby Breschini, who owned Jiggs Bar; and postmaster Gertrude Peters and her husband, Will.
Local ranch children rounding out the cast were Tony and his brother, Bill, and neighbors Wyatt and Dana Gibbs.
“We had to ride around in the bus for about 2 to 3 hours a day for a week so they could do all the photos and filming they wanted,” Tony says. “It never got me out of chores, though. It was fun, and they even paid us.”
Tony, the fourth generation to run Zunino Ranches, says he never left the valley because “this has always been home to me.”
The photo is still sentimental for the community, says Tony’s daughter, Candice Roderick, who lives on the family ranch where she and her late husband, John, worked with Tony and raised their son and daughter.
“People still enjoy seeing the photo and reminiscing about the people in it,” Candice says. In the photo, Tony stands behind Mrs. Gruenhagen, who taught about a dozen students from kindergarten to eighth grade.
“She’s a reminder of the caring teachers we’ve had at our school,” Candice says. “Our kids get a good solid educational foundation here that makes them nationally competitive. Our son, Riley, earned an academic and rodeo scholarship to Oklahoma Panhandle State University.”
The ad photographers posed the Peters in the middle section of the bus behind Wyatt and Tony’s brother, Bill. In the front, the Breschinis sat behind Dana.
The 2-page magazine photo was accompanied by narration from advertising copywriters with a sense of humor. They described Jiggs as a place where the town dog disliked photographers and gas pumps were as sparse as the population. Jiggs had one pump: the next nearest gas pump was 25 miles away and could be reached on 1 gallon of gas.
Will, a ranch hand and trapper, was touted for his skill at “making the best coyote bait in Elko County and remembering the winter of 1936 when the temperature plunged to minus 50 degrees.”
Residents relied on Gertrude, who juggled several crucial jobs. From 1936 until 1969, she was Jiggs’ postmaster. She was also the telephone operator, ran the weather reporting station and taught school in nearby Huntington.
The Breschinis owned Jiggs Bar and eventually sold it to Will Peters’ cousin, Harry Peters. Harry and his wife, Isabell, ran the bar for many years, and their daughter Marcia Scott manages it now.
“The Gibbs family worked on Circle L Ranch and eventually left,” Tony says.
Tony’s brother Bill became an electrician and found work in Idaho and eventually retired to Arizona.
The famous photo’s appeal has never waned. Listed as the 1965 Volkswagen bus in Jiggs, it is available on eBay as a decorative metal replica for $24. Other vintage advertising websites also sell copies of the cherished magazine ad.