Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983
STMcC in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Friday, August 23, 2019


by Charles Phoenix
[*Lyric from the song, 'HOTEL CALIFORNIA' by The Eagles.]
I acquired SOUTHERN CALIFORNIALAND by Charles Phoenix just over a week ago in a Christmas gift exchange game. The book is a true celebration of Southern California in its glorious, paradisiacal decades of 1940 through the 1970s. Charles Phoenix who oddly became obsessed with the old 35 mm Kodachrome slides taken by strangers in memorializing their family trips, gatherings, and everyday lives, shares about 150 of his favorites with us in this absolutely charming book. His love and enthusiasm for his subject (SoCal in its glory days) just oozes from every page. Like the author, I grew up in SoCalLand in the '60s & 70s, and so I share his fascination for the magic that it once held.
Enchanting, dreamy, nostalgic, and a tad melancholic (because the enchantment and the dream has been reduced to nostalgia) are words that best describe this picture book. But "surprising" is another word that fits, because I was surprised by the wealth of information to be found in the brief text that accompanies each photograph. Even I - who has traversed so many of these locations - learned some interesting bits of trivia.
For example: Did you know that when Vice President Richard Nixon cut the ribbon and became the Disneyland Monorail's first official passenger, unbeknownst to that famous rider, it was the first time the unique transportation train completed a trip without catching fire? Phoenix describes Walt Disney as being very nervous. Yeah, I suppose he was! Did you know that the Luer "Quality Meat" Rocket (a forerunner to the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile) was discovered in a Prescott, Arizona junkyard in 1997, "weathered, but restorable"? (And here I always thought that I was the only good thing to wrench free from the evil clutches of Prescott! I made good my escape in early '94, also "weathered, but restorable".)
I loved perusing the lost details of places where I have traipsed: the famous Brown Derby restaurant and the Pan-Pacific Auditorium; White Front of Anaheim, one of the discount chain of stores fo' po' folks. (My Ma used to drag us to one as children in Orange County. I don't know how many the O.C. boasted of, but this might well be the same White Front.); the Pacific Ocean Park amusement park, which I guarded as a young Police Explorer during its demolition in the Winter of 1973-74; the L.A. International Airport Theme Building where I experienced my first Red Dog beer. The beer wasn't memorable, but the location was.
Phoenix includes insightful and sometimes funny commentary. When he describes the cover photo (a white, 1955 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible parked near the corner of Walnut & Allen in Pasadena, with palm trees, an orange grove, and snow-capped Mt. Baldy in the background) as "a perfect Southern California shot", he's right on the money! When he writes of the 1954 Mineral Baths photo in Desert Hot Springs, "Hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful undisturbed desert scenery and someone had to build a wall around this place and paint in [desert] scenery," it's genuinely funny.
This book is a treasure trove for any pre-Hotel California SoCalLand lover. Where else are you going to find a photograph of a 1956 teenager with the perfect ducktail waiting to test Disneyland's Autopia track? Or a photo of President Eisenhower blowing his nose in Palm Springs? Or a photo of Lee and Katie Kellogg eating meatloaf sandwiches in 1955 Alhambra? This book is a vibrant, eye-popping gem of pop culture which I urge you not to buy.
I'd rather you didn't purchase this fun Charles Phoenix book. Why? Because on page 144 we learn that SOUTHERN CALIFORNILAND was "Printed in China". Yes, this is the same China that embraces Communism, a failed economic/social system responsible for murdering approximately 100 million human beings worldwide, and torturing and starving many millions more. The same China that enforces its one-child family policy with forced abortions. The same China that got caught smuggling AK-47s into the U.S. to be sold to Los Angeles street gangs; threatened to nuke L.A. if the U.S. militarily defends Taiwan; kills its citizens who have the audacity to publicly request freedom; sells body parts of executed prisoners to medical facilities; enslaves political opponents and Christians for their faith, and puts them to work in forced labor camps, producing all imaginable types of goods, and printing books, all to be sold to Americans.
Every time we purchase a Chinese-made product, we are feeding the human rights-abusing monster that has made no secret of its hatred for us - a monster that is increasing its military might at an astonishing rate and will someday overrun its neighbor, Taiwan, and declare war on the United States. Let's have a little foresight for once. Let's stop building our enemies. Let's boycott ALL Chinese products and sleep better at night. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIALAND is a nice book, but until it is being produced in a country that values human life, it's a book that we can LIVE WITHOUT! (Of course, if you're buying a used copy, this is not an issue.)
~ Stephen T. McCarthy


  1. That’s a mighty meaty bone you threw out there! If I did that, we wouldn’t see the girls (dogs) for a week!

    Having had a young, open mind, and a front-row seat during the years we now look fondly back on, it often seems like one of those shows you’re not supposed to adjust your set for; as if it was merely a product of Hollywood before they took themselves too seriously and somebody just said “See you later”. On reflection, it is just this sort of nostalgia, or at least the essence thereof, that is the only thing about CA that I don’t fervently wish would take its long-awaited leave by sinking into the putrefied abyss of the ocean they so arrogantly deemed as their own to destroy. A fitting end to an ill-fated saga, I’d say. And who knows? A few of the hardier might even make it to faraway places such as China, but they’d have to pay to get in – ha!

    Anyway, who doesn’t love the “Good old days”? I have a couple of treasurable books depicting my town through the years. But every day there’s a new thing comin’, and It’s increasingly difficult to find a soul I know around to reminisce with as so many have or are leaving town via the celestial stairway or the I10 fast lane to anywhere east of here. Oh, that’s not to say we’re becoming a ghost town (though I’d find that quite acceptable), we have newcomers pouring in from the south and west in astonishing numbers.

    But, tell me, since the “King of Retro’s” coffee table books were published by Angel City Press, how in the world did you come across one printed in China? Isn’t it ironic for a communist nation to be called “The People’s Republic”? Did you know the Great Wall was made out of sticky rice? You probably don’t want to know this but, the Chinese invented printing, as well as paper – and gunpowder! That being said, I agree they are not fair business partners and am glad we can all see clearly now.

    Now then, how many songs did I allude to in this rambling missive?

    Happy times ;-)

    1. Ha! Thanks for the A-List & E-Ticket comment, dIEDRE!

      I'm sure I didn't catch anywhere near all of the songs referenced above, but I definitely caught some of 'em (examples: 'Stairway To Heaven' and I "can see clearly now", the rain is gone.)

      Yes, I noticed that, too, when I got deep into studying Communism, how many times they liked to stick that word "Republic" into the name to fool the fools.

      I had to chuckle about your remarks on California and the ocean. I know it's not nice, and I probably don't really mean it (entirely, anyway) but I've often said that "When it comes to San Francisco, I'm rooting for The Earthquake." :^D

      Do you read manuscripts for children's books and give free feedback? (Or at least feedback that doesn't exceed my current pay rate?) ...Asking for a friend.

      Yes, I knew about China having invented gunpowder. That's why the Native American Indian tragedy in the U.S. is ultimately really China's fault. :-O (I jus' jest.)

      “See you later”,... Alligator.

      ~ D-FensDogG

    2. See what happens when it takes 3 days (for me) to complete a reply? Tangents, that's what. Nah, I wish no one harm. But some things just aren't right.

      I'd be happy to give free feedback to any friend of yours ;-)

      Actually, I did NOT know the origins of gunpowder until curiosity led to research. I also didn't think you could visit a communist country and return safely, as a friend of mine did last summer. Now I am awed by her bravery.

      Happy Autumn!

    3. dIEDRE ~

      Autumn? Is it Autumn already? But apparently I'm still able to get heatstroke.

      Actually, I didn't think about this before, but... my "friend" doesn't have the manuscript in a computer file. It's hard copy only, which means U.S.P.S. And you might not be comfortable with that (a physical address needed), so feel free to disregard and with no hard feelings.

      But let me share something with you that you might find interesting, as I know you're into mysterious things...

      On August 26th, I went on a 3-hour hike into some hills known as Prison Hill Recreation Area. While I was walking around at the top, I came across a strange footprint in a sandy trail. It was so obvious that it jumped right out at me, despite the fact I was tired and overheated (it was about 93-degrees out there).

      Prison Hill Recreation Area photographs:

      Carson City below...

      There was only one print that I noticed, and it had four toes, with a very wide heel. I have no idea what this could have been. But whatever it was, it had a "Big Foot"! ;-D

      Footprint 8-26-2019
      (I used 2 twigs to mark the top and bottom of the print.)

      My size 9 boot for comparison

      On August 29, I went back up there to see if I could find more prints near where I'd found that earlier one. By then, some vehicle had already driven over the 8/26 print in the sandy trail. (I found the two sticks I had used to mark the print underneath a tire track).

      Not far away, I found what looked to be a somewhat similar print that was actually made OVER a tire track. This print wasn't quite as well defined as the 8/26 print but, again, this seemed to have four toes. However, the foot seemed longer and much more narrow around the heel:

      Footprint? 8-29-2019

      What say you? Ever see anything like this out Arizona way?

      ~ D-FensDogG


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