We didn't go for a ride every Sunday but we looked forward to going when we could.
There were still many odd and interesting things to see along the roads in Southern California and the local news made tourist attractions of natural and man made disasters.
One year the waves were huge and were tearing away at the beaches and beach shacks around Redondo and Manhatten Beach-of course we went there as soon as possible.
We were in time to see a huge wave snatch a house and drag it out to sea.
At a young age you have trouble knowing the difference between real and make-believe, scary and just plain dangerous.
The lure of waves and destruction last just so long and luckily the heavy seas didn't close down the other tourist sites like te Ocean Aquarium and the side show-WILLY THE WHALE WITH THE DETACHABLE TAIL.
A poor sea mammal had been the victim of a run in with a boat propeller and died when its tail was neatly severed-a clever showman had the carcass taxidermied into a 25 cent tent show with the whale-obviously a juvenile and its tail on display seperated by a young lady in a bathing suit who was happy to smile and pose with you in a photo (for a small additional fee).
That "show" lasted for a few seasons before it disappeared-I found it as part of a road side attraction on the East Coast in the 1990's-same ole Willy and his Tail without the bathing beauty for added punch.
Auction City was somewhere over by Maywood/Bell-from the front it looked like a carnival and inside it was tents full of merchandise and men who were willing and able to reach right into your pocket and take your money....in between were pony rides and high diver acts and occasional ferris wheel or merry go round and food trucks.
We didn't go there often-it was a sort of rest stop on a circuit route of free stuff.
In 1959 the WATTS TOWERS built and designed by an Italian immigrant name Simon Rodia became big news and a hot flash point in Los Angeles.
The site had been quit claimed to a neighbor by the artist in 1955 when he moved away to take care of his sister.
His little shack on the property where he slept burned in 1956 and the county or city condemned the structures and threatened to tear them down.
It all came to a head in 1959 when the city broke a couple of pieces of heavy machinery trying to pull the towers over and they became a historical landmark and an art center in this area.
In the 60's Watt's would explode in race riots and local citizens protected the towers from vandals.
The Watt's Towers like The Underground Gardens in Fresno were the work of a solitary man with a vision and both became lasting monuments to the immigrant spirit and vision.
The towers were constructed of rebar, cement and bits of broken pottery, glass, tile, shells and anything else he could use to encrust them.
When we went there on a Sunday drive you still couldn't get inside the fences to walk among the towers.
The had once been a Buffalo Farm in Orange County and in the mid-50s an alligator farm opened near Knott's Berry Farm.
We never went to the Alligator Farm because there was an admission fee-my Mother had lived in Florida-she had seen all the alligators she wanted to so it was not on the Sunday Drive list however in the old Days much of Knotts was open and free to wander around-the ghost town Walter Knott had built to attract people to his berry farm and Chicken Dinner Restaurant was one of the original themed parks in Southern California and drew large crowds of tourists and locals.
It is now owned by Cedar Point-the amusement Park Corporation-there is a Ripley's Oddatorium down the boulevard from it, there used to be a large Hollywood Wax museum which has faded into history and other various tourist stops come and go.
My Mother had found this book of places that were inexpensive or free in Southern California and we visited many of those spots.
One of her favorites was the Wayfarers Chapel at Portuguese Bend- a glass church covered in climbing vines that has long been a favorite spot for weddings-the scenery in the area is some of the most beautiful in Southern California but sadly the terrain is highly unstable and is slowly slipping into the ocean.
Near that chapel was a business center with some shops and galleries that featured a fountain with a stature of Neptune-it is still there and one of my favorite places to visit.
We seemed to stay within an area that was not more than maybe 45 minutes from home and we usually went towards the sea rather than inland.
Many of my friends would talk about going to Coragan Ville-a movie ranch owned by "Crash" Corrigan that would later become infamous during the Manson Trials-further our was Jungle Land where many movie animals including Cheetah Tarzan;s Chimpanzee were warehoused.
When we would go to visit Fran and Elmer in the days before freeways took over L A I would beg to go home via Riverside Drive a road along the Los Angeles River that passed through many tunnels.
Like caves I have always loved a good tunnel...
In later years, when my Mother live next to me in Burbank I would sometimes take her for a ride-I would drive by our old houses in Lynwood and Pico Rivera...familar sights from the old days.
The Whittier Downs Mall where she had taken us to see personal appearances by Sherrif John, Skipper Frank and engineer Bill Stella (local kid's TV personalities)....
In the "old days" when gas was 23 cents a gallon and a McDonald's Burger was 15 cents hitting the road on a Sunday was a great way to have family time in a family where the father was only available on Sundays.
It's odd that I don't have lots of fond memories of these Sunday outings-more of a melencholy nostalgia.
I'm always happy to see my old friend Neptune but not because of happy memories-mostly because I really like that statue...
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