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Harvey Probst changed the customized paint, pinstripes and designs on his green Buick whenever he had an idea of how to improve it. Submitted photo

The Green Goddess returns; car event prompts first appearance in 20 years

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The next Summer Cruze-In car event 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 8 will include a unique car that hasn't been seen in River Falls for at least 20 years -- not since the local artist who painted it, Harvey Probst, died.

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One of his daughters, local artist Mary Jo Nelson, says many will remember the Green Goddess, a 1960 Buick LeSabre that served as the family car and one of Probst's many canvases.

With a laugh Nelson says, "Dad's car would certainly not be politically correct today."

Probst liked to have fun with his art and though he painted the car with many one-of-a-kind designs, the thing people remember were the subtly placed, semi-hidden women's breasts.

The family called it Green Goddess, while others called it the "breast mobile."

Nelson said sometimes her dad painted cartoonish figures, often fancy pin striping or shapes and other designs that were certainly original and usually quirky.

She recalls custom upholstery inside that incorporated funny sayings.

His daughter said most of the bosoms are on the underside of the hood, but a close look reveals them, as well as flames, fish scales, a big spider web and various characters.

Nelson clarifies that the car is not a hot rod or muscle car: "When you're walking around these car shows, it's just something fun to look at."

She said since shortly after her father's death, the Green Goddess has been kept by her sister, Lisa, in Duluth, Minn.

She and her husband take it to car shows and decided to bring it to River Falls for the July 8 event.

In the family, around town

Harvey was a native of River Falls and married to longtime local Bernetta "Bernie" Probst.

His parents, John and Emma Probst, were also from River Falls.

Johnson has five siblings: Harvey, Lisa, Michelle, Roger and Shari.

They occasionally held onto each other for safety during the times when her dad would remove the doors for painting. None of the kids got to drive the car, either.

She said he never let any of them drive the Green Goddess.

The Probst kids remember their father's custom horn that plays the tune "La Cucaracha." It's also hard to miss its whitewall tires or fringed tassels inside.

When he joined the service, he painted things onto airplanes. When he returned to River Falls, Probst continued pinstripe work on the school-district buses.

Nelson said he did similar work on boats for a man who owned a marina in Hudson.

He lettered and striped many, many vehicles from Ellsworth and always went to that big, popular car show every year. Probst also did work for the Moody's car dealership, as well as some of its new-car customers. Nelson said the Green Goddess brought home many car-show trophies -- usually for people's choice.

During that era, says Nelson, everyone wanted fancy pinstripes and custom designs made with them. She recalls her dad doing that kind of work freehand.

The Probstes did some interior-design type work for local people, and his parents did similar work in River Falls. Nelson said people used to comment about her grandfather's work truck - a former milk truck, onto which he'd painted a tastefully nude woman lying on her side.

Not everyone recognizes these generations of artistic detail, but the family figures most anyone could enjoy the novelty of the 52-year-old Green Goddess, as well as the nostalgic fun it brings with it.

Read more on this story in the July 5 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

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