Orange Empire Railway Museum

Recently Patrick and I went to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris (about an hour and a half east of Los Angeles) with a couple of friends for a day filled with not just train history, but a glimpse into the history of Los Angeles transit, as well as added bits of Disney history!

Now before I show all of the interesting things the Orange Empire Railway Museum had to offer, I’ll share with you what I wore.

At first glance, it may appear that I am just wearing another western inspired outfit with turquoise jewelry, but I specifically chose to wear turquoise to pay homage to Fred Harvey, a man closely tied with the restaurant industry, railways, and turquoise jewelry.

Fred Harvey was a restaurateur who transitioned into the railroad business. He became fascinated with the southwest and built trading posts at rail stops, filling them with Native American goods, such as blankets, baskets, and jewelry. Harvey went so far as a to make pre-cut (and hallmarked) pieces of jewelry, to then be embellished (traditionally by stamping, like my bracelet) by Native Americans and then sold at his trading posts. The Orange Empire Railway Museum even has a building dedicated to Harvey and his influence on train travel.

Now keep reading to find out all the neat stuff the museum had to offer!

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The International Printing Museum

Over the weekend Patrick and I went to what became his new favorite museum, The International Printing Museum. Patrick has always been entranced letterpress and print making, and the interest turned passion after taking a letterpress course in college, so when he found out about the International Printing Museum we knew a pilgrimage had to be made.

Before we peek into the museum, I’ll show of what a wore, as well as this gorgeous hand painted sign in their parking lot…

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Museum of Neon Art

Over the weekend Patrick and I spent a day shopping in Burbank (I came home with quite a few goodies which will show up sooner or later on the blog, I’m sure) followed by a visit to the Museum of Neon Art. I would likely say that signage from the mid-20th century is my favorite art. Neon is simply spellbinding to me.

Interested in seeing what the museum has to offer? Keep reading!

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A Return to the Autry

A few years ago during a visit to California we took time to visit the Autry Museum of the American West. I was slightly crushed over the fact I didn’t blog about it, which was for a combination of reasons. First, it was very overwhelming! There is so much stuff at the Autry, and my eyes couldn’t stop darting around at all of the wonderful stuff there was to see! Additionally, museums are notoriously difficult to photograph. And the few photos I did take in the first room turned out so horrible I didn’t bother to continue. But we returned recently and I took loads of photos! Some are still not as great as I would like them to be, but I still want to share some of the Autry’s treasures with you! But before we get to that, let’s take a peek at what I wore, because it was pretty darn awesome.

This suit is one of the most prized pieces in my western wear collection, and one I didn’t even find. In fact my dad found it at the Portland Antique Expo, and sent an image of it to me and only eyeballed the measurements, and when it arrived I was overjoyed that it fit perfectly! It’s by Rodeo Ben, who is one of the pioneers in western wear in the 20th century, along side Nathan Turk and Nudie Cohn. Many credit Rodeo Ben with developing the snap closures, and photographs show his work using snaps as early as 1933. It should be noted however that Rockmount was the first manufacturer to use snaps, beginning 1946. Like Turk and Nudie, Rodeo Ben did work for the likes of such western legends as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. And the Autry even has pieces by Rodeo Ben in its collection.

I paired my suit with another prized piece, a vintage sterling silver and 14 karat gold ranger belt made by Edward Bohlin. Bohlin is hailed as a true artist with it comes to cowboy belt buckles and saddles. His gorgeous “Big Saddle” (there is an image of it after the cut) is on display at the Autry, with a plaque reading it “reportedly took fourteen years to complete and weighs approximately seventy pounds.” The belt is not just an amazing artifact by a well-known maker, but it means a lot personally. It originally belonged to my grandfather, my dad’s dad, who was a bit of a cowboy himself. While born in Oklahoma, he grew up on a ranch in Texas. And in the photos I’ve found while working on our family’s genealogy I’ve uncovered more than one image of the man riding, along with images of my grandmother and dad riding as well. I even found some of him with a lariat.

For those interested in what The Autry has to offer, keep reading!

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“You built a time machine out of a DeLorean?”

I’m all about preservation. Especially when it comes to preserving movie history, which is often more fragile than one would think. When people make movies, the props, sets, and even costumes are not made to last, or made well really at all. They are made well enough to be shot and, often just tossed. Some items are beloved enough to be saved, even if it isn’t very well. This is what happened with the “A car” or the “Hero car” of Doc Brown’s infamous DeLorean time machine from the Back to the Future films.

First off, what was “A” or “Hero” mean with regards to movie props? Often there are more than one of prop pieces, and they are often of varying quality. “A” means best, with lower qualities following the grading scale schools have, with “B” and “C” props being not as well done. “Hero” is another term used and means the same as “A”. These primo props are the ones used for close-ups and have the most detail. The Back to the Future time machine sat on viewing at Universal Studios Hollywood for years. John Murdy, the Creative Director at Universal felt like it was worth saving, and handed the task of restoring it to the beloved fans of Back to the Future, more specifically a team that had faithfully recreated Doc’s time machine with their own DeLoreans. Joe Walser was the head of the restoration, and his friend Steve Concotelli wanted in, and even though he had no technical skills to help in the actual restoration, he decided he would film it, and documented the process with his film, Outatime: Saving the DeLorean Time Machine, due out later this year.

But with a fully restored car, where should it go? Well earlier this week it found its forever home. No, not back on Universal’s backlot, but in a museum, the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, and Patrick and I were there for its unveiling!

Murdy, Walser, and Concotelli, along with Back to the Future writer Bob Gale, were there to unveil the car, as well as offer their insight on the film and the car in a panel (which you can view here).

After the panel guests could view the car up close. It was seriously difficult to shoot this thing, mainly due to the crowd, so I look forward to returning to the Peterson to take more photos of it, along with the rest of their astonishing collection.

It is always nice to be reminded that there are people out there who care so much about film and film history to go through such efforts. The restoration lasted over a year, and it was worth every second, the care is phenomenal, and I can’t wait until the film is released to watch how it happen!

The La Brea Tar Pits

Over the weekend Patrick and I went to the La Brea Tar Pits. Finally! We had been wanting to go since we moved, but I wanted to wait until I found myself a piece of jewelry featuring my favorite prehistoric creature, the saber-toothed cat (formally known as the Smilodon), which I happily found on Etsy from Hungry Designs. I was beyond excited to finally see the loads of fossils that have been discovered right in the heart of Los Angeles since 1913, and are still being found to this day.

The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits offers a lot of insight into the area we now know as Los Angeles during the prehistoric time period, with thousands of fossils on display, active dig sites and labs. When peeking through the window into a lab we observed paleontologists working on finding micro-fossils using microscopes. One used her phone to take a picture through her microscope to show what she had found, which I thought was a really nifty way of showing what she was seeing. Another unique offering at the Page Museum is the Encounter Theatre where guests learn more about Rancho La Brea, the current digs going on, and even encounter a real life saber-toothed cat! Or, at least a very incredible, life sized puppet of one.

I’ve loved saber-toothed cats since I can remember. I recall once at day care (like pre-kindergarten) we used stencils to decorate necklaces we were making, and after using a cat stencil I added the large teeth to make a saber-toothed cat. And as a full grown adult I made a saber tooth cat at Build-a-Bear when it was offered a little ways back. Also, fun fact the saber-toothed cat is the official state fossil of California!

Outfit
Sweater: I honestly don’t remember…
Skirt & Penny Loafers: Buffalo Exchange
Purse: Present from my sister
Sabor Tooth Cat Brooch: Hungry Designs
Scarf: Thrifted…probably…

Atomic Testing Museum

When I heard that Las Vegas was home to the National Atomic Testing Museum, I was quite giddy with excitement and it went to the top of my list of things to do during our short stay.

The image of the atom or of a mushroom cloud may bring out different feelings in different people. For some, it is a horrific icon, of a time when the United States used the ultimate in destructive power to completely level two whole cities. While others see it as a savor, something that brought an end to the bloodshed of the Second World War. For others it is an icon of nostalgia, believing that while the Cold War raged, it was a safer time period. For me, the word “atomic” has many meanings, mostly as part of the optimistic look we had toward the stars, and how atomic power and the space race then influenced design. But, as a history major, I am not unaware of the cost of such beautiful design. Little Boy and Fat Man killed thousands. But also brought an end to a very horrific war, and, some historians estimate, saved millions, as Japan seemed unrelenting. I see both sides of the coin of the terror of the atomic bomb, nuclear power (for example the Chernobyl disaster), but I also see the problems it has solved, and while the National Atomic Testing Museum highlights the pluses of the atomic bomb, and the sciences that followed, it is not without the other side represented as well.

The museum begins with World War II, the Manhattan Project, and the end of the war with the dropping of the bombs, and the decision to choose the land outside of Las Vegas as a testing ground in the 1950s. It follows the aftermath of WWII, the 50s period of “Duck and Cover”, Civil Defense, and the influence on popular culture. I especially liked the fallout shelter display, which also had a catalog of the mannequins used, offering both before and after pictures, some whose after picture was just a black rectangle with the word “missing” below. J.C. Penny produced the images, as they provided the clothing for the mannequins set to be bombed. A clever marketing scheme if there ever was one! By 1963 nuclear testing moved underground, due to fallout, and the museum showcases the transition, and technology developed for the move to underground testing.

I was so very pleased I was able to visit this extremely unique museum as it was also very educational, and is worth a visit if you find yourself in Vegas. Admission costs $22, though discounts are offered to a wide variety of groups, so check their website to see if a discount is available for you!