Warning: This post is lengthy and contains a lot of pictures and videos. It is best viewed directly from the site at http://www.johnpedroza.com/blog1/?p=3790
“Now we are in for a treat!” is what Mr. Howser used to say in his television show. If you are from outside of California you probably have never heard of Huell Howser. No problem, he wasn’t from California either. A Tennessee native, Huell Howser made his way to California with bright hopes documenting what he called “California’s Gold”. Most known for his show named California Gold, Huell Howser actually had a long list of television shows. Most of them were on public access channels, but he did a lot of network news stories as well.
I first learned about Huell Howser from a series he did called California Missions. At first glance his down to earth nature first struck me as kind of hokey, but there was something in his excitement of things we often take for granted somehow struck a chord in me. No matter where he was or what he did, he always go the story. Not only did he get his story, he was always enthusiastic in what he did. I knew that was definitely a quality I wanted to emulate in my life.
I never met Huell Howser and alas, I never will. Huell Howser recently passed away, but his legacy still continues on. California’s Gold lasted for 18 seasons and had 443 episodes. The list of places he saw and the people he spoke to is staggering. It left me wondering. If Huell Howser could come back for just one day what would he do? I know he would come back to California, but I am not exactly sure where he would go first.
Pink’s Hot Dogs
Thinking on this issue I knew the first thing he would probably do is plan. He was television man and television types usually work in Melrose, home to the television networks. Taking the I-10 out to Los Angeles we turned up the 101 and promptly road down Melrose Avenue. Driving in Melrose we passed ABC studios, Paramount Studios, and countless independent sound stages. A perfect place for a television man to plan.
All that work however must of left Huell Howser hungry. Where does a down to earth historical man such as Mr. Howser go to eat? The answer is Pink’s Hot Dogs on La Brea. Pink’s Hot Dogs started in 1939 as nothing more than a push cart on the corner. Almost 75 years later it really hasn’t changed much. There are a few more locations, but the original location still retains it’s charm.
After waiting in a long, but fast paced line I glanced at the many celebrity inspired hot dogs, but I knew there was only one dog for me. The “Huell Dog”. One of the biggest orders on the menu, the Huell inspired dog consists of one bun with two dogs, chili, cheese, onions, and mustard. My mom got a classic chili dog, AJ got a plain hot dog, and Denise got a veggie dog.
I tried a bit of the veggie dog and I (John) did not like it too much. It wasn’t bad bad but I feel I have already written too much about it. The regular hot dogs however were great. Hoffy makes them exclusively for pinks. Looking at them they are really long and you can tell they are not ordinary because they have real casings on them. Which is great because when you bite into them they are plump and have a great snap. The “Huell Dog” was a very hearty meal, but at $26.00 for all for us, not too expensive (and that included valet parking). Warning, if you are going to go, they only accept cash.
Filled with a hearty lunch I am sure Mr. Howser would want to go somewhere that had lots of historical value, but might not be so well known (little known places were kind of his speciality). Trying to think of such a place my mind wandered to this little place I had seen one time off the 110 freeway. Nestled in a very unassuming place Heritage Square has not one, but 8 historical buildings you can tour. At first I thought we were going off the Howser trail, but while waiting in the lobby for our tour to begin I did some research on my phone and found out that Huell Howser had indeed been to Heritage Square. In episode 16 of a series called Our Neighborhoods: Heritage Square, Huell Howser talks about the efforts of some local businessmen to preserve some of LA’s historical architecture.
That was a very old episode, the results of those efforts can be seen in the beautiful museum that is Heritage park. As mentioned there are several buildings that incorporate the museum. You enter through a restored train depot that was once used for the filming of Laurell and Hardy movies. Your docent will walk though the 19th century houses one by one and in the end you will end up in a restored version of the Colonial Pharmacy. Admission was $10 per person and AJ who is under 6 was free. It was a pleasant way to spend some hours and we all enjoyed the old fashioned candies at the end of the tour.
Fosselman’s Ice Cream Company
After walking though Heritage Square we decided that we needed a bit of a break and AJ promptly declared that he wanted ice cream. Again the question was asked. What would Huell Howser do in this situation? A quick search on Google with the phone and the answer was clear: Fosselman’s Ice Cream Company.
Established in 1919, the decor for Fosselman’s definitely fit the decor of the buildings we had visited in Heritage Square. With a scoop of ice cream starting at $4.00, the price was bit high (again cash only), but considering the ice cream is made on site you would be remiss if you didn’t try a scoop. Thanks to my faithful Howser viewership I knew out of the over 50 flavor choices I need to try the salted caramel (that plus there is a big sign saying try the salted caramel). It is a strange taste, but the salty/sweet/creamy thing is surprisingly good, not to mention the mounts of whip cream placed on top of the sundae is just good. Oh yeah, that no sugar thing for month I was doing, totally ruined, but in my defense I was resisting 94 years of time honored ice cream perfection.
Traveling slowly you definitely find a greater appreciation for the things around you. For me that appreciation was found in an old jacket that I found in the back of my mom’s car that I promptly used as a pillow. Traffic back to Rialto was very slow or at least that is what I was told because when I woke up I found we were in Baldwin Park, not Rialto. I asked Denise why we were in Baldwin Park and she told me that in typical California fashion it had taken us over and hour to go just a few miles.
The first plan was to find a Chinese restaurant, but let’s face it, when is the last time you associated Baldwin Park with Chinese food? Baldwin Park is for the most part just another city that blends into that which is known as Southern California, but it does have a claim to fame. That is In-N-Out.
For those not cultured in California cuisine, the ultimate in California food is fast food and no one does it better than In-N-Out. The first In-N-Out is not much to look at, but then In-N-Out is known for being simple. A simple menu, but being the California insiders we are we promptly ordered our double-doubles with animal style fries. To quote the late Mr. Howser “it was amazing”, as it always should be.
Overall it was a great day. A bit of history, a bit of good food, good company, and plenty of things to talk about. In mind that is exactly how Huell Howser would have done it. Unfortunately, there will be no more new Huell Howser episodes, but I can take solace in the fact that he opened my eyes to the many great things California has to offer. On that note, I still have 5 more California missions to visit, so please look for me on that open highway.