What Shakes in Bakes


One of my favorites from my visit to the Bakersfield Museum of Art yesterday. This is an untitled piece by Samuel Hyde Harris. He came from England and painted in California quite a bit.

The Bakersfield Art Museum has such interestingly curated exhibits. Sometimes you learn about the community as much as anything else. This was part of an exhibit of works collected by locals, Local Visions,  which included stories of how the owners found the art. One painting (not this one) was bought just across the Texas/Mexico border in 1957. The couple had crossed to buy $35 worth of booze, but came back with art work instead.

One of the most interesting exhibits was of art collected by East Bakersfield High School. Decades ago, a principal at the high school began a tradition that the senior class would donate 1-3 works of art to the high school as a parting gift. How amazing is that?!  They don’t say that the tradition continues today, unfortunately, but the school collected some wonderful work for a while.


Sweet display of vintage kids’ clothing in the window at the old Woolworth’s building which is now an antiques mall.


The shop across the street from the Woolworths featured some fun murals on the walls, including this one in the basement. There was also a mock theater display in one hall, with a set of silk curtains that led only to a wall inscribed with, “What made you look?”


Hydra indulging in 100 year old ice cream at Dewar’s. One of the places we found years ago thanks to Huell Howser.


The drive there and back was breathtakingly gorgeous!  Green hills, blue sky, even some rain. It was all good.


Sunset Salute to Huell Howser


Arriving at Griffith Park Observatory for the sunset salute to Huell Howser.  I had a hard time getting here, having locked my keys in the trunk of my car for the first time ever, which set me back an hour. I couldn’t build up any great angst about the delay, since I was going to go be around a bunch of people who share my admiration for the sometimes goofily enthusiastic California historian, booster and TV host. The program was underway when I and a busload of friendly folks from near and far joined the crowd.

On the way up the hill in the shuttle, I talked with my seat mate and others nearby about Howser, why we were there, favorite shows, etc. As we crested the hill, the Pacific Ocean came into view.

“You mean to tell me that’s the Pacific Ocean?” I called out in Huell’s trademark Tennessee drawl.  A chorus of “That’s amayzing!” and “Let’s have a closer look!” filled the bus.  And lots of laughter.


Huell apparently sent a certified letter to somebody official saying that he didn’t want a memorial service.  So we had a sunset salute instead.  The speeches were just as upbeat as they would have been if he were there, maybe because we know we can tune in and see him again.

City Councilman Tom LaBonge encouraged us to get up on the steps when the speaking stopped, and you know I didn’t hesitate. Howser was all about inclusiveness.

He showed us people and places around California that would have never been featured by anyone else.  Hydra and I have had several adventures thanks to his tips. I would even say that his curiosity and adventuresome attitude influenced me to continue to seek out interesting places in and around my adopted state, and to share them here.


Boy, would I love Huell Howser’s job.  But the obvious successor is probably Charles Phoenix, who celebrates the kitchy and commonplace starting from his massive collection of slides.


All the local news stations were on hand.  Even NPR’s Morning Edition did a story on him.


It was a very cold afternoon, but it couldn’t have been any more beautiful.  Downtown Los Angeles in the distance. Love this era in public architecture.


As I walked the entire perimeter of the building, I became fascinated with the sharp shadows on the walls.


The Hollywood sign is visible off to the left.


I didn’t enhance the colors in these shots at all.  It was magical.


This character with lights on his bike and helmet wheeled around the park while we waited for the shuttles to take us back to the Greek Theater parking lot.  Huell would have gotten his story.  I saw several people talking to him.  Probably something they wouldn’t have done if they hadn’t seen Huell do it on his shows.

Talked to a lot of people about their favorite shows.  Many of them worked for businesses he visited. One had suggested a subject that Huell covered.  I heard from several people that when they called him, he answered his own telephone and was just as friendly in person as he was on film.  The closest I ever came to him was when he did a story on the passages beneath UCLA.  I hadn’t been in California long, but I’d seen his show.  I was working at the Oral History Program in the oh so quiet Powell Library when we heard his full strength voice echoing in the halls.  Peeked out and had a look.

Huell was a grass roots historian, and he leaves a wonderful legacy behind.  I wish every place had a person who loved and documented its people and special places with such love and dedication.

Can’t think of a better way to spend a chilly January afternoon.  Thanks for bringing us together, Huell.