Monday, June 9, 2014

Go Do This: Ride The Red Cars This Weekend

PERRIS - If there is one thing that lives in the imagine of any true Southern Californian who knows their history, it is Pacific Electric, or otherwise commonly known as the red cars.

Okay, maybe you are new here and not too sure what these red cars are, or you are a young Southern Californian and have trouble believing that we actually had one of the best public transportation systems in the World. Well, this weekend you can see the evidence yourself, and ride it!

This weekend, Saturday June, 14, and Sunday June, 15, The Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris is having its Pacific Electric Weekend.

The museum's large fleet of Pacific Electric rail cars is very impressive, and now you can ride it.

An extra bonus if you happen to go Saturday, because that is also Rods and Rails Days.

According to the museum, 

The 15th Annual Rods and Rails sponsored by the City of Perris features cars from the 1920's through the 1970's. The event also features games and entertainment for the whole family, the 1800's Territorial Marshall reenactments, live music and contests and the annual Potato Festival sponsored by the Perris Valley Historical and Museum Association.

So you have old cars, the Pacific Electric and a Potato Festival, too. A POTATO FESTIVAL!

Oh, not only are the red cars there, but the yellow cars are are also at the museum (you do not know what those were, well, go to the museum this weekend and find out). In fact, according to the museum, they have the "West's largest collection of railway locomotives, passenger and freight cars, streetcars, interurban electric cars, buildings and other artifacts dating from the 1870's."

So, go to this, the Pacific Electric Weekend and The Orange Empire Railway Museum.

The museum is located at:

2201 s. "A" Street
Perris, California

Yes, depending where you are at in Southern California, it is bit of drive, but it is totally worth it.

Now, here are some photographs when Pacific Electric ruled Southern California.

 photo PE1.jpg
The Metro Red Line subway now rides underground here now, but here was the day when the big red car rode along Western Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. No copyright infringement intended.

 photo NS-RTM-PE-730-Hill-and-Venice-undated-1024x689.jpg
The red car slinking about in downtown Los Angeles at Hill Street and Venice Blvd. No copyright infringement intended.

 photo NS-RTM-PE-1120-Downtown-undated-1024x687.jpg
Amid the Yellow Cabs and Greyhound buses this red car goes though the intersection of Sixth and L.A. Streets in Downtown L.A. No copyright infringement intended.

 photo NS-RTM-PE-1217-Colton-SP-undated-1024x683.jpg
The Pacific Electric ran well outside L.A. and into Orange County, and out into the Inland Empire as seen in this photograph from Colton. No copyright infringement intended.

 photo PE2.jpg
This photograph almost looks like it is from someplace that is not in L.A., but it is downtown L.A., and this photograph was taken shortly before the red cars would become one of many things that would not be here anymore. No copyright infringement intended.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Colossus at Magic Mountain to be Firewood By The End of Summer

VALENCIA - If you have not heard the news, and the moose out front should have told you, Colossus roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain will be firewood by the end of the summer. 

 photo Cols1MM.jpg
Colossus in younger, happier days.

Okay, Colossus literally becoming firewood still needs to be verified, but what we can confirm is that Colossus, probably the most iconic attraction associated with Magic Mountain, will be closing down August 16.

There has been no reason given as to why the famed wooden roller coaster is closing down, nor what will replace it. 

Colossus under construction in this film footage from Cyclone Productions. 

If the Valencia park's crop of new roller coasters and attractions in the past few years is any indication signs would point to a new "extreme" ride replacing the coaster. 

Now there is some speculation on various amusement park sites that Colossus may not being going away completely and may possibly be "reused" as part of a new ride.

Colossus has been the go-to coaster for many advertisements, television shows and movies.

Probably the most memorable use of Colossus in film was its climatic use in National Lampoon's Vacation where Chevy Chase holds John Candy hostage after finding out, after a grueling cross-country drive across the country with the family, Wally World is closed.     

In an era when roller coasters did not have to be all that "extreme" Colossus was once the tallest wooden roller coaster in the world at 13 stories tall when it opened in 1978.

Things of course could always be worse, back in 2006 there was talk of Magic Mountain closing down in the name of condos being built.

So, you have until August 16 until another piece of your childhood is destroyed.

Before you go watch this: When it was a new thing here is the opening of Colossus as seen through 1978 L.A. broadcast media, featuring a lot of familiar faces from your childhood.

When Colossus was a shiny new thing on television.

Now For Something Different: 1980s T-V-O-D Theme Songs

FROM THE TRANSMITTERS OF MOUNT WILSON -  Growing up in Southern California there is one thing that has seemingly bonded us whether we live in Anaheim, Compton, La Puente, East Los Angeles, Covina or Cudahy, and that is what has been broadcast in the airwaves from the transmitters of Mount Wilson to thousands of homes in Southern California. Local Southern California television is highly unique and very memorable for many of us, but this blurb is not about local television (that will, and MUST, have its own posting soon), but rather national network television of the 1980s.

 photo shutterstock_132384326-390x285.jpg

Like ignoring much of a changing, and sometimes troubling, America in the 1980s network television hardly represented what was happening in diverse places like Southern California.

Television in 1970s America seem to reach a certain level social awareness, most notable with Norman Lear at the helm behind hits like "All in the Family," "Good Times," and "Sanford and Son," among others. The decade had its share of over-the-top, utterly inane programs as television should be an escape from the perhaps nerve-racking way of life, but it seem television in the decade that gave us the resignation of President Richard Nixon and election of Jimmy Carter had something to say. Come the new decade of the 1980s a seemingly cultural shift takes place, Ronald Reagan is elected president ushering in a new era of social conservatism, and this change is strongly reflected on television where programming moves from social awareness and gives way to absurd over-the-top escapism programs like a Texas oilman who is an international spy on the side. Despite their over-the-top appeal more times than not the shows, unlike many of the previous decade, were very decadent and non-offensive. 

All that said, this story is not really meant to be a social-culture study on 1980s television, and, despite that setup above, what follows is really a tongue-and-cheek post about one thing that really mattered in 1980s television, the theme song.

For all their blandness, the 1980s televisions show theme songs left a major impression on American pop culture, and frankly the theme songs were much better than the program itself.

In no particular order here is an assortment are some of the best and worst theme songs from the long gone era known as the 1980s.

Last Season of Happy Days
Okay, we know what you are probably thinking, Happy Days is considered to be more of a 1970s show, despite lasting until the summer of 1984, and surely Happy Days' best days were in the mid-70s, and so it is easy to understand why it is often associated being a "70s show." Come the dawn of the new decade seismic shifts in the Cunningham's world took place when Richie left to join the Army followed by his pal Ralph Mouth. Replacing Richie was some kind of distant family member played unexplainable by a modern 1980s bleached-blond hair Ted McGinley, and the always talked about but never seen Jenny Piccolo finally showed up. From that moment it was tantamount to that moment in your life where something changes and you know things will never be the same again. Indeed things were never the same again, but by their final season when the shark The Fonz jumped over had long died and sank to the bottom of the ocean the show truly reached its nadir by altering its beloved opening theme song.

If there ever was a television show that is the ethos of being a shell of its former self it is Happy Days. Come the final season there was no effort to at least give the show a proper sendoff and maybe try to go back to the program's roots, or at the very least develop a plot explaining why the style and feel of the show changed, and give what few viewers were left some closure.

Diff'rent Strokes
No need to make any improper Gary Coleman jokes, or such jokes concerning to travesties that would befall the cast of Diff'rent Strokes, all there is to say is, how can you not want to sing along with this song.

Like Happy Days the series' last season theme song in 1985-86 changed a bit with added synthesizers along with cast changes, and moved to ABC from NBC, but, unlike Happy Days, the show stayed the course without any major upsets to the series.

Days of our Lives
If you were a kid in this decade of the 1980s home sick, or pretending to be sick, you knew your free rein of watching the morning fare of network game shows and old cartoons on maybe KTLA or KTTV was over when you heard this creepy theme, and suddenly you were not so sick as going outside now seems like a better option. Yes, for you young kids today it is hard to imagine when parents demanded the television your only option until you could get the TV back was playing outside, playing with toys that you have played with several times before, or maybe, listening to records alone in your room.

This opening was used from 1972 until 1993 when McDonald Carey died as Mr. McDonald's family requested the show no longer use his likeness. Did you care to know, the sand falling into the hourglass was just a string.

Hunter and Magnum P.I.
If fast cars, guns drawn, explosions, steamy romances and morally rogue within the law cops sounds like several programs from the 1980s, you would be right. Two of the more successful shows of this genre were Hunter and Magnum P.I., which followed unconventional, but really conventional, cops and their sidekicks around to catch the evil bad guy. (Okay, Magnum P.I. was some kind of private eye and quasi-cop.) Each show followed the trail of the bad guy that always led to explosions, car chases, sometimes preventing a time-bomb from destroying the city, catching "urban" drug dealers, dealing with a steamy romantic interest, who sometimes becomes a hostage, which sometimes caused a dramatic plot twist by revealing she once had a relationship with the bad guy, and all accompanied by humorous jabs towards the partner. Rinse, wash and repeat. The complexity of thwarting some criminal mastermind always took just a hour every week with officers of the law who would never think of colluding with the enemy like Officer Vic Mackey.

The moral goodness of LAPD officer Richard Hunter is a long way from the boys at The Shield.

Oh Tom Selleck, in the 1980s women wanted to be with you and you made men grow mustaches to assert their masculinity.

Silver Spoons
So the premise of Silver Spoons was Ricky Stratton, who's mother threw him into a military boarding school after she remarried thinking her son would interfere with her new life, somehow manages to track down his father he never met, and as luck would have it his dad is not only super wealthy, but basically the CEO of his own toy company. It gets better, the father's home, aside from being an sprawling mansion, is filled with toys. With all that there is one question, or plot hole, many have wondered, where in the hell did that train go to when it left the house?

It could be argued Silver Spoons was a good refection of the Reagan era showing excessive wealth and creating a desire for audiences to dream and just maybe obtain such wealth.

Punky Brewster
In many "remember these theme song" stories Punky Brewster often seems to be left out, much like Punky's mother did to her and her dog Brandon. It is true, in the plot for some reason Punky's mother just utterly abandoned her and Brandon at a supermarket one day and this old unmarried man named Henry who she never met, who also happens to owns a photography shop, picks her up and they live together. Yes, read the plot synopsis again, because it does sound a bit creepy and something that would be in one of those Lifetime channel movie reenactments.

It is a very endearing theme song accompanied by Punky dressed in very bright, totally gnarly clothes. It would seem Henry did not mind so much shopping inside the woman's section at Chess King for his adoptive daughter.

It's Garry Shandling's Show
Finally, there was one show that broke through the absurdity of the era with witty comedy, but more times than not the show itself is often overlooked for the show's very catchy theme song, and it is easy to understand.

Just like the show the theme to It's Garry Shandling's Show was ridiculous, but cleaver. The show truly pointed out the absurdity of television comedies during this era.

While we look back at plenty of television shows from the 1980s with campy eyes one must remember that was pretty much want you had to choose from. Yes, there was bit of a broad brush painted here as there were a handful of interesting shows in this era, and if you were lucky you had HBO or some other cable channel, like the Z Channel, showing unique fare uncommon for its time, but there were a lot of places in Southern California that well into 1990s were still not wired for cable. Whatever thought-provoking, compelling unique television did exist in this time most shows were often, if not quickly, met with a cancellation notice. There were no internet forms or YouTube to find the series and create a new fanbase in hopes of having the show reinstated, or at the very least have a web revival. This was the era of "the big three" and those suits in New York who decided what America was going to watch.

Today, despite the nonstop glut of so-called reality shows there is much better television than in the 1980s. Hard to believe? Well, just compare some of the best scripted shows on television today to that of the 1980s. Of course the trade off is we no longer have many of the catchy themes today as we did back then, and we have to wade through more moronic television to find the good stuff, and that is too bad.

The past is always fun to visit, but trust us when we say you never want to live there.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Go Do This: Get Your Eyes Checked For FREE!

LOS ANGELES - We know for many people times are not all that easy, and if you have been putting off getting you and/or your child's eyes checked out, well, at an upcoming event you can get your eyes checked and (if need be) eye glasses for FREE.

 photo EyeGlasses.jpg

What a more appropriate place to get your eyes checked out than at the Los Angeles Public Library.

More precise, you can get your eyes checked out and eye glasses fitted at the Baldwin Hills Branch Library, because that is where there will be a Pop-Up Clinic on Wednesday, June 11, and Friday, June 13, to get your eyes checked for free.

To make an appointment dial 323-733-1196. 

If you want to go (and really need to go) it is HIGHLY URGED you dial that number and make an appointment. Do know all appointments are in the afternoon. If you do not dial that number and do not make an appointment, and decide to just walk in, be advised that walk-ins are on a first-come, first-serve basis as space permits. 

Once your eyes are taken care of please check out a fantastic book.

The Baldwin Hills Branch Library is located at:
2906 S. La Brea Avenue (Just a bit below Westhaven Street)
Los Angeles, CA 90016 
Phone: (323) 733-1196

Nixon's Election Day Trip Footnote

WHITTIER - Between waking up, voting and hoping to hear the news that would move him to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Orange County's favorite son took an unexpected and unplanned Southern California road-trip that is an interesting footnote in both politics and Southern California history.

It all began on Election Day 1960 after outgoing Vice President and Republican Presidential hopeful Richard M. Nixon cast his vote at a polling place in Whittier shortly after 8 a.m.

 photo NixonWC.jpg
Though it eerily looks a bit like Mitt Romney this is a 1968 cello pin button of Mr. Nixon's being saluted by his alma mater, Whittier College. Artist of this button is unknown.

On the ballot that year as you may know was John F. Kennedy on the Democrat ticket, and Richard M. Nixon on the Republican Ticket.

After voting in Whittier Mr. Nixon and company went over to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles (where years before Richard and Pat Nixon used to go on dates in the hotel's famed Coconut Grove nightclub) to watch the elections results, and where he hoped to give a victory speech, but something funny happened. No, it was not the awkward semi-concession speech Nixon would give that night confusing many reporters and some of the public, because what happened that Election Day 1960 happened before any of the polls closed. Between voting in Whittier and going to the Ambassador Hotel Mr. Nixon decided almost on a whim to ditch the press following him and go on a little quiet road-trip.

Even then, much like today, the press was on every breath and step of the top presidential candidates and if the Republican candidate wanted a random quiet road-trip without the World knowing the first thing Mr. Nixon had to do was lose the press. 

So this journey began many blocks from the Whittier polling place when Mr. Nixon and his entourage, which was a military aide and a Secret Service agent, covertly and ever oh-so discreetly away from the press jumped out of the Vice Presidential limo and into a white convertible follow-up car driven by an officer from the Los Angeles Police Department, and off they went, and most importantly, they managed to successfully ditch the press. By the way, Nixon did not just jump into the backseat and say, "let's go," but rather the presidential hopeful told the LAPD officer to scoot over and he, Nixon, drove the car himself.

 photo NixonAna.jpg
Then President Nixon standing at a podium at the Anaheim Convention Center in 1970. Photograph courtesy of the Anaheim Public Library archives.

After leaving Whittier and the hounding press behind Mr. Nixon made a visit to his mother in La Habra, and then got on old U.S. 101 and headed south passing Disneyland, Santa Ana, San Clemente (which would later be home to The Western White House) and before long he was soon out of Orange County. In fact, the truth was, Nixon and company had no real idea where they wanted to go.

As the fuel gauge was low Nixon stopped for gas in Oceanside, which, according to Nixon aides, was the only source of relaxation that stressful Tuesday in November. The story goes that Nixon told a gas station attendant, who was, to say the least, a bit surprised to see the Vice President of the United States (and possible new President) out and about on a very important day. Reportedly Nixon told the gas station attendant that, “I’m just out for a little ride.” It was that small exchange at an Oceanside gas station that brought Nixon the only joy that nerve-racking day, according to former Nixon aides.

After leaving Oceanside Mr. Nixon and company continued south on the 101 into San Diego. Well, now in San Diego and not too sure what to do or where to go Nixon mentioned he had not been to Tijuana in over 20 years. Shortly there after the man who might be elected President of the United States by the end of that day was now out of the country and in Tijuana.   

Mr. Nixon and company, on advice from a Border Patrol Agent, went to have something to eat at the Old Heidelberg restaurant, which the border agent claimed was the best Mexican food in Tijuana. 

 photo tijuanagermanrestaurant.jpg
The Old Heidelberg restaurant in Tijuana. Date and author of this photograph unknown.

Word got around Tijuana that a possible future U.S. president was in town and soon joining the presidential candidate was Tijuana Mayor Xicotencati Leyva Aleman. It was later reported that Mr. Nixon and everybody in the group ate enchiladas.

After eating enchiladas Mr. Nixon and company headed back for the states, and at the border crossing checkpoint a border agent was shocked to see who was in the car, but still had to ask, "Are you all residents of the United States?" according to Nixon aides.

 photo tijuana-border-576x367.jpg
Painted postcard of the U.S.-Mexican Border in San Diego. Date and artist unknown.

Headed back to L.A. up north on the 101 Mr. Nixon stopped at Mission San Juan Capistrano, which Nixon called “one of my favorite Catholic places.” Surely it was not lost on the Republican presidential hopeful that his Democratic rival was the first Catholic candidate for the President. Years later Nixon said of this visit to the Mission, “For a few minutes, we sat in the empty pews for an interlude of complete escape.”

After that stop in south Orange County it was finally on to the Ambassador Hotel. 

As the press and other guests went on over to the Ambassador Hotel and settled in many began to wonder just where is Mr. Nixon? Well, Herb Klein, Nixon’s press secretary, was asked more than a few times about the missing Nixon. Doing what press secretaries do best he smiled at the reporters and told them that Nixon is just taking a private moment with his family as he often does on hectic days. Back in reality Klein had no idea where Nixon was nor that he was out of the country on this very important day.

Mr. Nixon soon showed up at the Ambassador Hotel, and at that moment the press and public were none the wiser that the man who may be elected president in a few hours was earlier in the day a couple hours away in another country.

After a day of randomly driving across Southern California and unexpectedly going to Tijuana, time, as the sun was setting and polls across the country were closing, would soon prove everything.

Mr. Nixon's vote in Whittier that morning was one of many that gave the presidential hopeful California's 32 electoral votes, which however was not enough to win the election as the final electoral college vote was Mr. Kennedy, 303, and out going Vice President Nixon, 219.

Unlike the case and fate of many former vice presidents and presidential candidates Mr. Nixon would not go on to be a historical footnote in history. Rather, time would show that it would not be the last time Mr. Nixon would win California's electoral votes, because in 1968 he won The Golden State's 40 electoral votes, which, at the end of that election night in that highly contentious, turbulent year, he would pickup a total 301 electoral votes to be elected President of the United States.

Of course a few years later in 1974 the Nixon Presidency ended up making another kind of history, which Mr. Nixon probably wished was no more than a footnote in history. Nearly 20 years after resigning from office Nixon died in New York City after suffering a serve stroke. Mr. Nixon is buried, along with his wife Pat, at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in his hometown of Yorba Linda.

These days in our modern hyper-media World it would be hard to imagine a presidential candidate quietly escaping anywhere, much less south of the border, or even north of the border to Canada, on Election Day. Should the presidential candidate be caught just outside the country on Election Day it would probably quickly devolve into a "cable news channel scandal," and add in a few members of the U.S. Congress loudly protesting for good measure. 

In the end this little random road-trip Mr. Nixon took on election day 1960 was really less political history and more Southern California history.