Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nice of You to Drive-In!

What is the mystique of a drive-in movie theater?  Is it the old-timey novelty?  Is it the comfort and convenience?  Is it the snack bar?  Or is it just the romance?  I didn't grow up around drive-in theaters so my formative years did not include late night, drive-in shenanigans.  To be fair, even if I did grow up around drive-in theaters, the activities of my formative years provide no indication that such shenanigans would have occured.  Maybe one day I will get to make out with someone at the drive-in.  Until then, I will just have to accept the fact that watching Cars 2 and Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides is about as wild as I'm going to get.  Whatever the appeal, Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre does the drive-in experience right!  From the tiki-hut, ticket booths to the Moai Garden to the carved totems, the Mission Tiki is an oasis of wacky tacky in Montclair, CA.

Moai Stone Garden

I was first introduced to the Mission Tiki Drive-In Theater through my favorite (now defunct) summer event, Tiki Invasion.  Tiki Invasion was a car show, music festival, vintage drive-in, tiki culture extravaganza that sadly fizzled after only two events.  Spending a hot day vending our merchandise, terrorizing people on a mini-bike, getting sunburned, eating concession-stand grub, listening to great music and watching drive-in movie classics was my idea of summertime perfection.  I really hope the tiki gods, in their infinite wisom, smile on us and bring it back!

The Mission Tiki opened in 1956 and has operated continuously for over 50 years.  In my estimation, that is a tribute to the owner's courage in the face of changing attitudes, culture and economy.  I also applaud the people of Montclair for embracing the theater as part of their community and advocating for the drive-in with their attendance.   Needless to say, the theater has endured  many ups and downs over the years but when, in 1996, it received a tiki transformation, it sealed its place in the annals of wacky tacky landmarks.

The concession stand/projection room

Tiki totem
(photo by Bea White)

One of these things is not like the others.
Hint: it's the one on the left.  That one is a lady.
(photo by Bea White)

Going to the drive-in was actually not on our to-do list - just a happy accident.  We arrived a little late for the first feature, Cars 2, so we carefully maneuvered the car over the drive-in's asphalt ridges, stealthily weaving our way between vehicles so as not bother the other patrons of the wacky tacky arts.  Because we missed the beginning, we didn't feel too committed to the film and decided that it was a good time to explore and take photos.  We were making full use of the facilities when Mary, that dainty little flower, decided she was too cold.  She gingerly tip-toed back to the car and with the delicacy of an angel managed to set off every flashing light, horn and siren that the car had to offer.  The best part was that the person with the keys was, shall we say, indisposed, so the laser-light spectacular continued for about five, glorious, retina-burning minutes.  Surprisingly, our apologies did not fall on deaf ears; we explained that it was actually an interactive, 3-D experience and our car was just part of the movie.

Amazing signs point the way to refreshments that are really
quite tasty for movie theater fare.
(photo by Bea White)

Inside the tiki-fied concession stand
(photo by Bea White)

 Imagine capturing the difference between men & women so precisely yet so succinctly.
(photos by Bea White)

The Mission Tiki also hosts a swap meet to which we have gone but cannot endorse with the wacky tacky seal - unless, of course, you are in the market for a public massage, drinking out of a coconut (it only sounds like a good idea - a childhood, cartoon dream destroyed, yech!), or various and sundry tools and/or international sweets.

One of my two favorite drive-in-movie-within-a-movie sequences is from Walt Disney's That Darn Cat (1965) starring my personal favorite, Hayley Mills and Dean Jones.  The other is from Pee Wee's Big Adventure; sadly, that clip however is nowhere to be found.  So, pretend you're in your car and enjoy the film!

That Darn Cat (1965)

Mission Tiki Drive-In Theater
10798 Ramona Ave.
Montclair, CA

BONUS: Cool sign of the day!

The Sire - Riverside, CA
(photo by Bea White)


Mr. Tiny

Friday, June 24, 2011

MONSTER PARK III: The Battle for Atlantis - This Time it's Personal

It seems that my initial declaration that surviving, innovative, mid-century parks were few and far between was perhaps a tad premature.  More ubiquitous than I had imagined, parks of a wacky tacky nature are just waiting to be sought out.  Nestled behind an unassuming, public park and high school in Garden Grove, CA stands yet another monument to the genius of the apparently-prolific artist Benjamin Dominguez.  In many ways, Atlantis Play Center might be the best of Dominguez' offerings to Southern California's cultural heritage.  First, the park is well-maintained.  Second, the park includes a literal ocean theme that is carried over hill and dale throughout the entire grounds.  Third, there is a water feature!  Nothing screams wacky tacky like 60's water features!

Unky and Baby wishing they could get in and splash!
(photo by Bea White)

Everywhere you look there are amazing playgrounds
the likes of which they just don't make anymore.

It's not what it looks like
(photo by Bea White)

Mary, Queen of the Starfish
(photo by Bea White)

Not quite as brave as Mary
(photo by Bea White)

Sea Serpent

Taming the Sea Serpent
(photo by Bea White)

Viking Ship

Bea tries out the dragon slide
(photo by Bea White)

Inside the jaws of a killer

Shark Rider
(photo by Bea White)

All of the water fountains in the park are giant clam shells.
(photo by Bea White)

(photo by Bea White)

Tilly Twin Heads
(photo by Bea White)
(photo by Bea White)

(photo by Bea White)

The dismount: 6.3 - she didn't quite stick the landing
(photo by Bea White)

Whale Slide
(photo by Bea White)

 Do I spy Jonah?

Neptune's Kingdom


There are areas for picnics and parties

The sweetest words I've ever read

Atlantis Play Center
13630 Atlantis Way
Garden Grove, CA

Hours of Operation:
Tuesday-Friday  10am - 2pm
Saturday  10am - 4pm
Sunday  12pm - 4pm

Admission: $1.00

*Keep in mind that adults are not admitted to the park unaccompanied by a child.  It is a good policy to protect kids from creeps!  They couldn't keep our motley crew out!

Our ticket in

All of the good photos in this post are courtesy of Bea White at In My Parent's Car; check out her blog for an interesting perspective and skillful photography.


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Collecting: June Weddings & Rape Whistles

A few weeks ago we had the good fortune to go hang out with our friends Lauren (Wearing History blog/Wearing History Patterns) and her husband.  She took us to some of the "secret spot" thrift stores in her neck of the woods and, while digging through the potential loot, I found an album chock full of wedding photos dating from the late 1910's through the 1950's - a serious score at only $5!  I love old photographs.  I always wonder what combination of tragedy and/or oversight leads to entire family albums being discarded and sold at tag sales, flea markets and thrift stores.  It is a boon for me because I love finding old photos - especially the kind that feature great clothes, funny faces, poignant events and ANYTHING western!  I actually came by this personal peculiarity honestly as, one day when I was very young, my mom (an inveterate trash digger) found and subsequently hung above the piano an oval frame of gleaming tiger maple and convex glass from behind which an 1890's era photograph of the creepiest-looking, twin girls stared - and continue to stare - at me no matter where I was in the room.  I am such a fan of buying up the unknown, pictorial history of other people's families that at some point I think I will forget which black and white faces hanging on the walls are actual relatives and which faces are strangers.  Here are some of the best wedding photos from my latest album.

Clearly the happiest day of their lives.

I LOVE this photo.  He looks so happy to have won her.

One with the boys...

...and one with the girls



I am a fan of a simple wedding and an extravagant marriage.  I think a huge wedding can be great but I am much more drawn to intimate nuptials and the photos of sweethearts who got married in spite of the odds.  I'll take a courthouse wedding over an extravaganza any day.


To me, this is probably the most romantic photo in the bunch.

My love for old photos isn't exclusive to photos of strangers; our family home has always been filled with photo documentation of our own family history.  Every chance I get, I convince my mom to give me the photos of my ancestors that I find particularly charming and meaningful.  Since the theme of the photos is "weddings," I decided to share the wedding photo of my paternal grandparents.  They were sweethearts from a very early age and despite having personalities, theories and behaviors of the most polar-opposite variety, they were married for over 45 years.  This is a photo for which one day I know I will have to fight my brothers and sisters.

Bob & Leona
Wedding Day 1949

I give my grandpa a lot of credit for inspiring my love of swap meets and hamburgers and everything old-timey.  He loved to collect.  He loved to read.  He loved to tinker.  He loved growing tomatoes.  He was tireless in his affection for my brothers, sisters, cousins and myself.  He is the kindest person I have ever met and he continues to inspire me more than 15 years after his passing.  Yes, my grandpa was amazing.

My grandma?  Well, my grandma was crazy.  Her name was Leona.  Tell me, have you ever met anyone named Leona that wasn't crazy?  My grandma was so deliciously a product of her generation that I miss her every day.  I think she was, quite unwittingly, the queen of wacky tacky.  Her house was always immaculate; it was truly a "place for everything and everything in its place," type of home - including every rubber band and every glass jar that she had ever gotten her hands on.  A great many years had passed, but to Leona, the Great Depression was still in full swing.  I don't think she threw out a morsel of food in her entire existence.  Every leftover made its way into a soup, a meatloaf or one of her famous jell-os.  Her dinner table groaned under the bounty of food that was just enough to feed my family - who on any given day could eat any army under the table.  My favorite stories to share about "Mima Lee" (the affectionate moniker we bestowed upon her only after she died) include pot holders, vacuum cleaner bags, answering machines and rape whistles.

My grandma lived in the desert and living in the desert is hot.  She complained to my uncle enough times about the blistering temperature of the steering wheel in her Buick that he finally bought her a steering wheel cover.  Apparently that gesture was far too little and far too late.  My grandmother, mistress of innovation, had already solved her problem and decided that pot mitts, being sufficient to protect her hands from the scalding heat of roasting pans, were the perfect solution.  She could be found driving around Sun City, CA wearing seasonally-appropriate pot mitts.  Yep, they changed with the seasons.

My grandma, in an effort to outsmart the 99cents Store and their outrageous mark-ups, only shopped at her local 98cent + Store.  Feeling that the check she gave each of us for Christmas was too impersonal, she always loaded up gift bags with the very best trinkets and treasures to be had for 98cents +.  One year she showed up at our house and put all of our presents under the tree.  However, something was decidedly different that year; the gift bags had a dull-grey finish, a cardboard adapter and printed instructions.  Did you know that at the 98cent + Store holiday-themed gift bags are $0.98 each but vacuum cleaner bags are 3 for $0.98.  You do the math.

My grandma could not figure out her answering machine.  She hounded us for months to come out to her house so we could record the outgoing message.  During a visit to her house, we sat down and finally recorded her outgoing message and she was grateful.  She was grateful until her sister, a real downer, called her and, unable to reach my grandma, heard the following,  "Hello, you have reached Leona's House of Ecstasy.  If you are a gentleman caller, please leave your vital statistics and she will gladly return your call."  After that, we started receiving threatening messages on our answering machine.  Where was her sense of humor?

My grandma had extra toothbrushes in almost every drawer in her house.  She decorated her Christmas Tree with porcelain dolls.  She employed the blender in almost every meal that she prepared.  She hid her coin collection in the air ducts.  Oh yeah, she loved us.  I know because she gave each of us a new rape whistle every year.


Mr. Tiny