Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Sky is Falling!: The Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942

I am not a recreationist.  Of course, one could make the argument that by wearing old clothes and attending vintage-themed events that I am attempting to recreate the past.  I would argue, however, that my life, dismal as it is, is fully entrenched in the buzz and bustle of modern society.  Recently I reviewed the number of passwords, PIN numbers and codes that I must keep at the forefront of my brain just to function on a daily basis.  For work alone, I use seven combinations of username/password.  Are you a CIA operative, you ask?  Hardly.  Do you protect the mysteries of old in a great vault somewhere that requires a multitude and complex series of letters and numbers meant to confound even the most brilliant code breaker/treasure hunter from reaching the Ark of the Covenant?  Nay.  I work in an office.  In said office, I am checking e-mails, entering data, and working with various software programs.  All told, I am the bearer of no less the 20 secret names & numbers!  I digress from the real point of this entry not simply to belabor my super-human ability to recall these codes at a moments notice, but to prove that as much as I would like to toy with the time-space continuum, I accept my place in today's world.  I know recreationists, several of whom are living seemingly normal - ahem - lives.  I think my problem is that I am inherently lazy and lack the passion and attention to detail that is so paramount in maintaining a recreationist's strict code of conduct.  That being said, I love old stuff and the event about which I am going to tell you is truly old news!

Begging your pardon for my preamble, this blog post is meant to talk about The Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942.  We attend this event and others like it as enthusiasts - to have fun, dance, create new looks, catch up with old friends and hopefully make a few new acquaintances. 

The Great Los Angeles Air Raid is the recreation of a controversial moment of wartime history in Southern California.  Held yearly at the Fort MacArthur Museum in San Pedro, CA, the Air Raid relives the events of February 25, 1942, when it was believed that Southern California was under attack by enemy aircraft.  The event is a fundraiser for the museum and is a really great night.  Dean Mora provides the music and there is plenty of dancing and exhibits of both civilian and military vehicles.  At the appointed hour, the lights go down, the air raid sirens go up and the Air Raid begins with military recreationists unloading their entire arsenal at the "enemy."  The rain didn't wash the festivities out this year but the dance was moved inside the bunker!

 A couple of photos from past Air Raid events

Because I am woefully lacking in my ability to take quality photos and my ability to even remember to use the camera at all, I thought I would share the looks that Mary wore at the last few Air Raid events.

Air Raid 2009
Mary wears vintage skirt, blouse
 and Pendleton Jacket (all thrifted)
Saddle shoes (repro)

Air Raid 2010
Mary wears her ex-boyfriend on her arm (don't worry, they're still really good friends).
Vintage 1940's Suit (thrifted)
Vintage enamel brooch (from Grandma)
Matching marabou hat and muff (handmade by Mr. Tiny)

Air Raid 2011
Mary wears dress, hat and corsage (handmade by Mr. Tiny)
Gloves, shoes & stockings (repro)

The Actual Air Raid of 1942 was sort of a "the sky is falling" moment for our military.  Therefore, we present the 1943 Walt Disney classic, Chicken Little.

Fort MacArthur Museum
3601 South Gaffey St
San Pedro, CA


Learn more about the event and the history at:


Mr. Tiny

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chow Time: The La Palma Chicken Pie Shop

The La Palma Chicken Pie Shop

Have you ever wondered what meatloaf tasted like in 1957?  While thumbing through old issues of Colliers have you seen the technicolor images of dinner time favorites and thought to yourself, "Where do I get food like that?"  Do you ever get a hankering for a four-course meal for under $7.00?  Well the answer to all these questions can be found on the corner of Euclid and La Palma in Anaheim, CA.

Set in a thrillingly, mid-century shopping center, only slightly obscured by time and wear, The La Palma Chicken Pie Shop is the antithesis of gourmet food trucks.  It isn't clever by virtue of its name, method of delivery or its "fusion" cuisine.  It is one step above cafeteria food, prepared and served in the same way for over 50 years.  It is not a throw-back restaurant in the vein of Ruby's or Ed Debevic's; it is the genuine article.  In fact, it speaks much more to "grandma" than to "retro" - thank goodness!

A view of the shopping center from inside the restaurant

Signs from the neighboring businesses

When you walk in you are greeted by a fully-stocked bakery - almond bear claws, cream puffs, sugar cookies, rum balls, chocolate chip "dog bones" - and nothing is over $1.00!

The Bakery Counter

Not only do the menu offerings/prices give you the feeling of entering a time warp,  the dining room, the seating and the staff perpetuate the illusion.  The waitresses, having honed their skills in the art of gracious food service, have made a career out of serving piping hot food in generous portions.  The Chicken Pie Shop is like one of the less-ironic episodes of The Twilight Zone where death doesn't take the form of Robert Redford and where "To Serve Man" really is a cookbook for delicious food that does not require human flesh as an ingredient.

Almost everything in the joint is original - 
right down to the death trap highchairs.

It is easy to look past the rough edges when one has 
the cutest and most charming dining companion.

One of the original, bent-wood dining chairs
Why am I always tempted to steal something wherever we go???

A typical booth with but a few of the chicken figurines

The obsession with interesting light fixtures never wanes

Obviously, this restaurant is most famous for its eponymous food stuffs; the chicken pot pies are the most popular item on the menu but we encourage you to keep your mind open when ordering.  Their hamburgers are delicious and are served on soft, yet sturdy, homemade buns.  The dinners are served with soup, salad, choice of potato, vegetables, a soft roll and a piece of pie for dessert.  If we sound like crazed seniors who flock to the nearest early bird special that includes soup and salad and dessert, then we are effectively communicating our position.  The Chicken Pie Shop is wacky tacky in its finest form.  Best of all, there is a bucket of Andes mints at the cash register that are to be had at 10 for $1.00.  That is our idea of living, it truly is!

The Menu

A typical Chicken Pie Dinner with gravy

Our meals included:

Chicken Pie Dinner with french fries

Cheeseburger & Fries

The Lo-Cal Lunch

There were four people in our party and the bill was less than $20.  Granted, one of our group was a 9 1/2-month-old baby, but he did his fair share of sampling.  With the change we splurged and got a handful of Andes!!!

 The proof!

La Palma Chicken Pie Shop
928 N Euclid St
Anaheim, CA

Dine-In & Take-Out

The one thing that detracts, only slightly, from the beauty and interest of the original restaurant is the collection of chicken figurines scotch taped - literally - to every flat surface.  By the same token, this lent additional "grandma's house" ambience.

Who you callin' a chicken, turkey!!!


Mr. Tiny

Thursday, February 17, 2011

wacky tacky icons: Betty Hutton

Inspired by a recent posting on my friend's blog - - I realized that we needed to highlight some icons of wacky tacky.  Who was at once both silly and sultry?  Who combined cornball with commitment? Who turned goofiness into girlish charm?  Who was the one female star who was not only unafraid of looking totally silly, but actually perpetuated a persona that was truly bonkers? Who else but Betty Hutton?

Born in 1921, Hutton was destined for stardom.  But as with almost all the stars of the 1940's and 50's, her career faded and she ended up on the Las Vegas circuit and in touring companies of Broadway shows.  She began her career as a band singer and was eventually signed to Paramount Pictures.  Probably most well known for her star turn in Annie Get Your Gun, our favorite Hutton performances are the B films, like The Stork Club where she gets to let loose and feel her roots as a band singer with numbers like "Doctor, Lawyer and Indian Chief."  Betty Hutton is a supreme example of wacky tacky in her ability to put over a great song without taking herself too seriously.  She really is one of those female performers who make you forget how beautiful she is because she was so commited to being nutty.

She was truly the queen of novelty tunes

She also sang with a beguiling tenderness 

"What's My Line?" is one of our favorite programs -
especially the celebrity guest segment.

Betty Hutton is a wacky tacky icon.  She is an archetypal, female screwball with substance.  She forged her own path in musical comedy and used her celebrity platform to aid many charities.  As Bob Hope said, she was "a vitamin pill with legs."  Hutton died in 2007, leaving a legacy of brilliant zaniness.

We would be remiss in failing to mention Betty's sister, Marion Hutton, seen here singing with The Glenn Miller Orchestra in the 1942 film Orchestra Wives

She never reached the heights of her younger sister but she was a dynamo too!
You can definitely see some of the signature Hutton Family touches in her performance!


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Don't be a NITT WITT! Or in this case, do!

High atop a hill on California's central coast stands a monument to man's ingenuity and his appreciation of beauty.  Years of design, desire and dedication went into the creation of this historic and oft-visited structure.  Made without the employ of a professional architect or legitimate construction equipment, Nitt Witt Ridge is known as "the poor man's Hearst Castle."  Constructed mostly of rebar, cement, Pismo clam shells and other salvaged materials, Nitt Witt Ridge was the home and artistic expression of Art "Der Tinkerpaw" Beal - Cambria's first and most forward-thinking trash collector and arbiter of wacky tacky. Nitt Witt Ridge is not only the best thing about Cambria, it is really the only reason to stop!  It may sound hackneyed, but for Der Tinkerpaw, one man's trash was truly another man's treasure.

Nitt Witt Ridge

Nitt Witt Ridge is a California State Historic Landmark.  As such, one might think that funding is available for maintenance and preservation.  Unfortunately, this is not the case and the current owners rely on the $10 tour donation for the upkeep of NWR. 

Views of Der Tinkerpaw's creation from the road

The abundance of toilets almost hides the outdoor cooking station

Mike, the owner of NWR, lifts the lid for Will Rogers

 A few examples of the things we wanted to steal from Nitt Witt Ridge
(we didn't)

The structure is left almost entirely as Mr. Beal left it.
Food still occupies the cupboards and wine still finds 
its home on the sideboard.

A view from the Living Room

 The decoupage, wallpapering technique found in the kitchen

The hillside is terraced with extensive gardens and walkways

And the winner for best use of Pismo Clam Shells goes to...

Mike points out a cast-off that was salvaged 
from the construction of Hearst Castle

Nitt Witt Ridge
881 Hillcrest Dr.
Cambria, CA

Call for tour reservations - (805)927-8800

If you've the inclination, you can also drive 15 minutes up the road and visit Hearst Castle (also worth the drive).


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This Ain't No Bull!

When surveying the wacky tacky landscape it is nearly impossible to miss the blood on the sand.  No, it's not from all those crazy gladiator movies; it's from the bullfighting.  Call them toreros, matadors, bullfighters or toreadors (if there are technical differences we aren't too concerned), these icons of machismo, in all their velvet, satin and spangled glory, wove their way into the cultural tapestry thereby enriching the wacky tacky lobe of our collective consciousness*.  In fact, bullfighting was one of the most prevalent and enduring themes throughout the formative years of wacky tacky.  Was this phenomenon the fortuitous result of The Good Neighbor Policy?  Was it because we as a society were vicariously purging our hostilities through the matadors themselves?  Was it because we found it so hard to differentiate between the customs of Latin cultures that we balled them all into one so we could exploit that now homogenized mixture for our own entertainment?  Is "all of the above" an acceptable answer?  Whatever the question, the answer makes for some swell wacky tacky - Ole!

Martha Raye as a toreador in the 1938 film Tropic Holiday

Disney's Ferdinand the Bull (1938) - one of our faves!

The arts, both fine and decorative, were a natural fit for capturing the essence (and sometimes anatomical correctness) of the bullfight.

The penultimate example of toreador-tinged wacky tacky is of course the infamous, black velvet painting.

Rather easy to come by and usually surrounded by a rough-hewn, wooden frame, these 
gems are not always executed at the same level of artistry as is clearly illustrated above.

Hollywood was not immune to the Latin craze either.  Really?...Esther Williams?...A Mexican Bullfighter?...Esther Williams...Really???

Fiesta trailer starring Esther Williams (1947)

"Lucy Goes to Mexico" from The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1958)

Don't forget the tunes...

And the toons - even Goofy gets in on the action!

Bolero jackets, toreador pants, satin sashes - a few of a matadors favorite things?  Definitely, but more so the staples of a well-appointed, wacky tacky wardrobe.

A 1950's men's shirt with a matador motif

A 1950's, hand-painted, circle skirt depicting the day of the fight

And last but not least, a few examples of matador mania from the wacky tacky archives:

Embossed tin & airbrushing create this masterwork

A matador statuary

Ironically, at 3x4', this is the biggest piece in the archives.
Maybe one day we'll figure out how to use a camera!!

 Another velvet painting, this one enhanced with glitter. 
Do you see what we mean about attention to anatomy??!!

*Please don't get all PETA on us and view this as the waving of a red cape.  This posting is neither an endorsement nor examination of the cultural significance of the act of bullfighting.


Mr. Tiny