January 31, 2022

Photo Essay: The Happy Trails Highway Hideaway Where Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Retired From Hollywood

Roy Rogers was such a big deal in the High Desert communities of California that there used to be a museum devoted to him there—first in Apple Valley (opened 1967), then in Victorville from 1976 to 2003, when it moved to Branson, Missouri. 

It closed for good in 2009 and its items were either sold at auction or donated (like to the Autry Museum in LA).

A statue of his golden palomino stallion Trigger once stood outside of the California version of the museum—now relocated to the entrance of the Spirit River Center in Apple Valley. 
Nowadays, the only place open to the public where you can really dive into the history of Roy Rogers and his partner (in work and life) Dale Evans is the Apple Valley Inn, the hotel they leased after moving to Apple Valley in 1965. 

January 29, 2022

Photo Essay: The 91-Year-Old Bakersfield Fox Theatre Glitters Just As Brightly As In 1953

It really says something about the city of Bakersfield, California that it was, at one time, on the radar enough to receive one of the Fox theatre chain's movie palaces...
 ...and also that it fell off the radar enough for that palace to be left alone for over 90 years and be spared from the wrecking ball and development.

January 27, 2022

Photo Essay: America's Last Woolworth's Luncheonette Has Closed (But It's Supposed to Reopen Sometime Later) (Updated)

[Last updated 1/31/22 9:33 AM PT—The Woolworth Diner's last operating day was Sunday, January 30, 2022.]

I have some vague memory of going to a Woolworth's as a child—though perhaps only for shopping, and not for lunching. 

Indeed, there was a Woolworth's store and lunch counter on Salina Street in Downtown Syracuse that closed in 1979 (when I was 4 years old)—and the building still stands, having housed a Rite Aid pharmacy on its street level until 2018. 

But I feel a certain nostalgia for it regardless. I often feel the loss of things I don't really remember experiencing myself. 

circa 2022

So, after having visited the former Woolworth's building and restaurant in Oxnard in 2015, I didn't even think about grabbing lunch anywhere but the extant Woolworth's lunch counter when I was in Bakersfield for just a few hours in 2019. 

January 25, 2022

Photo Essay: Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, Home of the Bakersfield Sound

I explored Bakersfield twice in 2012—and then not again for nearly another 10 years. (I figure the tiki bus trip with Tonga Hut to Tiki Ko in October 2019 doesn't exactly count.)

The biggest draw for my return was Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, located right next to the historic Bakersfield sign.  

January 21, 2022

Photo Essay: Discovering 50 Years of Magic Mountain History in 9 Months' Worth of Visits

Six Flags Magic Mountain in the Santa Clarita Valley community of Valencia turned 50 years old in May 2021. 

It opened as just "Magic Mountain" on Memorial Day weekend 1971 as a joint project of Sea World, Inc. and The Newhall Land and Farming Company

Building the $20 million amusement park on the 44,000-acre Rancho San Francisco—renamed Newhall Ranch after its purchase by Henry Mayo Newhall in 1875—was a feat that the original director of engineering likened to "building an entire city" in just 70 acres.

Newhall Land and Farming company sold the park in 1979 to a company that actually knew how to operate amusement parks—Six Flags, then a Pennsylvania Railroad subsidiary. And in the decades that followed, Six Flags changed hands multiple times and even declared bankruptcy. 

But through it all, Magic Mountain has survived—and grown to 260 acres.

Today, it's known as the "Thrill Capital of the World." But I'd suspected that there might be some earlier remnants from its 50-year history—some that might be considered less thrilling by today's standards, but that would be of real historical interest to me. 

January 19, 2022

Photo Essay: Magic Mountain's Jet Stream Flume Ride, 50 Years Old in 2022

After several visits thanks to a season pass in 2021, I discovered that I wouldn't have to invert myself—or brave a free fall or a staggeringly speedy loop-de-loop—in order to enjoy the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park in Valencia, California today. 

Because believe it or not, there are still original and very old rides from Magic Mountain's early days.


January 11, 2022

I Had So Much Potential

Sometimes I wonder how far I could've gone, had my parents just supported me a bit more.

Photo Essay: Climbing Magic Mountain to the Sky Tower (But Not Getting to the Top)

My one biggest regret from my one visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California in 2011 isn't that I didn't take any photos (besides a selfie with a friend). It's that I didn't visit the Sky Tower while it was still open and while the elevator was still taking park visitors to the top observation deck. 

January 09, 2022

Photo Essay: Six Flags Magic Mountain's Movie Star Rollercoaster, The Revolution (Since 1976)

It's funny that the first indication I had that there were vintage areas of Six Flags Magic Mountain to explore ended up being part of the last historic ride I discovered  at the park in Valenica, California after a year of investigating. 


January 05, 2022

Photo Essay: Flying Through the Jet Age-Era TWA Terminal, On the Cusp of the Space Age

I've been long fascinated with the old TWA terminal at JFK Airport, out of commission since 2001 after decades of being too small to serve incoming or outgoing flights on jumbo jets. 

Designed by architect and industrial Eero Saarinen—as well-known for the "tulip chair" as for the St. Louis Gateway Arch—the 1962 Trans World Flight Center had fallen into disrepair by the time I got to visit it up close (and inside) in 2011, although it had been partially restored.

circa 2011

Over the last decade or so, I've watched how the defunct terminal of the defunct airline has been restored and even reincarnated as the TWA Hotel, connected to JetBlue Airways' Terminal 5. 

January 04, 2022

Photo Essay: The Triumphant Return of the Rose Parade and Its Flower-Festooned Floats

New Year's 2021 was the first time since December 2013 that I haven't experienced the Rose Parade in Pasadena in one way or another. It was one of many casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic


Fortunately, the Tournament of Roses managed to get the parade and all its affiliated events back on track for December 2021/January 2022—and on January 1, I found myself back in Pasadena, ready for an up-close view of the parade floats at the post-parade Floatfest.