Thursday, November 29, 2012

Orange Empire Railway Museum: The Little Museum That Could

With every passing year, I less and less subconsciously make my birthday "no big deal."  In the end, it works out far better for me; instead of one celebration, my birthday is spread out into a whole bunch of mini parties, getaways, dinners, and adventures.  The most recent birthday celebration came last weekend in the form of a trip to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA as the guest of my sister, brother-in-law, and cutest nephew in the world!  ALL ABOARD!

Orange Empire Railway Museum (and boys' reformatory from the looks of the fencing)
I think I have gotten this kid two engineer caps but both were lost
 by the time he actually made it out to see the trains. 

Founded in 1956 by a group of ambitious, rail-loving high school students that were upset by the demise of rail transit (trains and streetcars) in Southern California, the Orange Empire Railway Museum has survived nearly 60 years and has grown to 100 acres!

The music may be a little lackluster, but this video 
has neat old footage of the streetcars' retirement.

Recognize the headlight?

The OERM features everything from giant, 1880's steam engines, to streetcars from the the 1920's, to modern diesel locomotives from the 1950's.  We rode on a 1921 green car, a 1930's yellow line car (originally used for inner city travel) and a red car (used for interurban travel) from 1913 called "Blimpie."  This particular red car was brought down from San Francisco to Los Angeles and carried steel workers from downtown Los Angeles to San Pedro during WWII.  During the war years there were so many dock workers, ship builders, etc. that several streetcars were connected to form light rail transport trains.  An interesting note is that San Pedro has revived a small portion of the red car line which we were able to ride that last year.

The museum acquires  pieces through auction, personal sales, and donations.
They have so many pieces in the collection that some are still waiting in
line for restoration.

The yellow car ready for duty at the Pinacate Station

The fare meter on the streetcar
Depending on the time of day an the distance the passenger rode, the
conductor (from any point in the cabin could turn the dial to indicate the
appropriate fare.

In direct disobedience to Ordinance No. 71, 031, we got chatty with our motorman and he explained that the museum's current focus is actually the acquisition of Pacific Electric cars but, truthfully, we were there for more than just streetcars.  Trains are in our blood; our great-grandfather was an engineer on the Santa Fe for his entire career and our great-aunt worked for the company as well.  Not only that, but we had an unyielding "Thomas the Tank Engine" fan in our midst.

In honor of our family history, we did our best
engineer impersonations.

I guess options are pretty limited when you're trying to rhyme with "Pacific."

Even the stretchiest of imaginations couldn't possibly allow for me to be classified as a train buff or even a train enthusiast, but the fact is that I do like trains.  I can't leave Disneyland without riding the train around the park at least once and I usually try and sneak  ride in on Casey, Jr. too.  The great part about OERM is that it is run by volunteers and there excitement for the trains is palpable.  It turns what is actually kind of a ho-hum experience into something that sparks a desire to be more creative, to be more mechanical, and to be more involved.  A person who was very involved in the museum was one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men," Ward Kimball.

Major pieces from Kimball's collection are some of the mueum's finest examples of early railroad history.  Grizzly Flats Railroad was Ward Kimball's backyard railroad and our tour guide said that Kimball was the real influence behind Walt Disney's own railroad mania.

Ward Kimball -a train buff through and through he had full scale,
 miniature, scale model and electric trains

Chloe, a narrow-gauge steam locomotive

The Emma Nevada
The OERM volunteer explained that Ward Kimball did not just donate the trains, he also volunteered his time.  Until the time of his death in 2002, Kimball visited the trains and worked on their maintenance.  It is said that he painted the female figures on the Emma Nevada and even applied more modest apparel for them once they became part of the museum.

We tried to get more information but this guy
couldn't help us; he had a splitting headache.

No matter what, it all comes back to Disney, doesn't it?  As always, there is ever an appropriate Disney cartoon to suit the occasion.

"The Brave Engineer" (1950)

It was my grandparents who brought me to the Orange Empire Railway Museum more than twenty years ago.  Revisiting was a cool opportunity to not only relive some of those memories but also to create new ones with my favorite person on the planet.  Since my grandparents are interred very close by, it was nice to ride the emotional train full circle and visit them on our way out.  They, for me, were the originators and the arbiters of wacky tacky, and to them I will ever be indebted.

You've reached the end of the line! 

Orange Empire Railway Museum
2201 South A St
Perris, CA


Mr. Tiny

p.s.  One last reminder to enter our GIVEAWAY; it ends tomorrow, November 30, 2012 at 12am PST.  GOOD LUCK!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Waking the Dead: Hollywood is Forever

I must admit that I am a sucker for a good celebrity sighting.  The older I get, the less I am struck by the stardom and the more I am struck by the value that our society (myself included) places on celebrity.  As much as certain magazines want to make us believe that they are "just like us," the truth is that celebrities are so very different.  Ask yourself, "When was the last time I worked for a couple months and got paid more money than most people will see over the course of their entire life?"  Ask yourself, "If I got busted for drugs, multiple hit-and-run accidents, and theft, would I still be free to drive my new Porsche?"  Ask yourself, "Will Promises have my regular room available?"  Then ask yourself, "Why do I still love celebrities so much?"  It is a cultural phenomenon which I refuse to battle.

Yes, celebrities are very different from the average Joe in most ways but one; eventually we ALL kick the proverbial bucket.  On one of our patented, absolutely directionless adventure days we headed to Los Angeles and encountered both celebrity and death! 

Do you recognize this house?

Sometimes it seems that the well of excitement around town has run dry; it is at that moment that I break out my trusty list of things that I still haven't seen (or covered here on wacky tacky) and we begin the hunt.  This time we tracked down one of the most infamous addresses in LA - The Los Feliz Murder House.  One Christmas Eve more than 50 years ago, a wealthy doctor, seemingly unprovoked, violently bludgeoned his wife to death before attacking one of his children and eventually killing himself.  As the story goes, the house has remained untouched for lo these many years and the creepy crime scene is still decorated for Christmas!  Every online reference to this property tells a version of the same story, but nobody backs it up with pictorial proof.  Sadly, we will be no exception to the rule; as soon as we got out of the car, a neighbor came out of her house and threatened to call the cops if we trespassed.  Given the house's history, it seems like there are far worse outcomes to exploring its grounds than getting into a hassle with Edison Security guards or the LAPD, but I was really not interested in pushing the limits of the wacky wagon as a getaway car, so we snapped a few photos of the house and hit the road.

With mortality on our mind, we made a short jaunt over to one of Hollywood's most famous resting places, Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

A Rolls Hearse - CLAAAAASSY!!!

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is tucked away off of Santa Monica Blvd. - a quiet respite from the city noise in the shadow of Paramount Studios.  There are many celebrities there, but we ran out of time and steam to track down every last one of them; here are just a few of our favorites.

A modest marker for King Kong's muse.

Fay Wray

Finally sedated

Johnny Ramone

A really lovely monument, surrounded by roses

Hattie McDaniel

Security made it clear that Tyrone Power's tomb is not a park bench.

Tyrone Power

Jayne's is just a cenotaph; her remains are elsewhere but a true Hollywood
legend needs a Hollywood address.

Jayne Mansfield

C.B. was finally ready for his close up.

Cecil B. DeMille

A flock of peacocks roams the grounds

Believe it or not, Vampira's grave wasn't on the map!
Fortunately, Mary found it as she wandered.

Maila "Vampira" Nurmi

The most ostentatious temple to to man's ego is found at the grave of Douglas Fairbanks and his son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

A classical-style temple complete with bronze relief and reflecting pool

Dougy, is that you?

I guess if I had the funds, I would do the same thing.


Movie stars of every kind are buried here, even non-human celebs like Toto!

Toto gets a snuggle

Some of the the most celebrated stars are resting inside the Cathedral Mausoleum.

Behind a pane of glass sits a bronze library with a volume dedicated to
tap legend, Eleanor Powell.  If you put your ear up to the glass, you can still
hear some fancy tapping.

Eleanor Powell

"I Dood It" - Eleanor Powell
This is one of the finest feats of terpsichore that I have ever seen!!! 

I think this one was my favorite.  Peter Lorre is awesome!

Peter Lorre

Hollywood Forever's most famous resident is perhaps the original "Latin Lover," Rudolph Valentino.

There are fresh kisses on the marble!

Rudolph Valentino

Other notables include: Clifton Webb, Janet Gaynor, Nelson Eddy, Charlie Chaplin, Jr., Darla and Alfalfa (of Little Rascals fame), Mel Blanc, Norma Talmadge, and even though he doesn't appear on the star maps, David White (Darren's boss, Larry Tate, on Bewitched), is there too!

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is sort of a "must see" for lovers of Hollywood and "Hollyweird."  As morbid as it sounds, this is really my kind of celebrity sighting - no awkward silence (plenty of silence, none of it awkward).  As neat as Hollywood Forever is, I must say that I almost prefer the cemeteries of "regular" people; there I can invent my own backstory about their lives, loves, and losses.  Although they have long since passed on to their great reward, I can't help but get a bit of a thrill seeing the final resting places of so much Hollywood royalty.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Blvd
Hollywood, CA


Mr. Tiny

p.s. Don't forget, there is still plenty of time to enter our big giveaway.  Go!  Enter!! WIN!!!