Charles Phoenix, Ontario-born and raised entertainer, uses his
immense collection of old photo slides to put on live stage picture
shows that offer hilarious and nostalgic trips back in time to the
Southern California of the 1950s and ’60s.

In addition to stage shows, Phoenix also has put his picture
collection to good use to create several books that are just as fun.
Here’s a look, culled from his website, www.charlesphoenix. com. The books are available at many Southland book shops, museum shops and gift shops, as well as from online booksellers.

The Charles Phoenix website, by the way, is a fun place to browse. You’ll find a “Slide of the Day” feature, plus
information on upcoming shows and tours, plus taped snippets of his many
appearances on TV with the likes of Conan O’Brien and Martha Stewart.


Americana the Beautiful:
Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome

(Angel City Press, 2006)

Charles Phoenix writes: While feverishly putting together Americana the Beautiful: Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome,
I was forced to ask myself the question: What is Americana anyway? Yes,
its baseball and apple pie but we all know there’s a lot more to it
than that! So I took a stab at trying to explain it in the book…

doesn’t discriminate between classic and kitsch, high-tech or homespun,
mass produced or one-of-a-kind, the authentic or make-believe. It draws
no borders between town and country. It embraces Mother Nature and
man-made, the future and the past. Americana is the essence of American


Southern Californialand:
Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome

(Angel City Press, 2004)

More than 170 spectacular images in living color. The best of
Phoenix’s collection of other people’s old slides show off “the land of
plenty” as the locals saw it through the lenses of their cameras in the
1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

Enjoy the stories and images of the Luer Quality Meat Rocket, Jalopy
races, monorails, Disneyland’s House of the Future, and the starfish
entrance at Pacific Ocean Park. See the Vista Dunes Trailer Park in
Indio, The Covina Bowl, Compton Drive-in Theater, Shriner’s Arabian
Bazaar, fast food stands, Muscle Beach, Tiki parties, and Mayor Motor
City Used Car Lot. You’ll even go behind the scenes of Cecil B.
DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” and much, much more.


Southern California in the 50s:
Sun, Fun, and Fantasy

(Angel City Press, 2001)

The mood is up, prosperity rules, and the standard of living is
flying high. With spectacular vintage brochures, postcards, graphics and
incredible never before seen color photos, you’ll see and learn about
Southern California’s golden era.

Experience the car-crazy culture, suburbia, shopping centers,
drive-ins, town & country, and space-age style. Tour Hollywood,
exotic places, animal attractions, mountain, desert and seaside resorts,
fairs, festivals, pageants and parades. Visit Knott’s Berry Farm,
Santa’s Village, Marineland, Pacific Ocean Park and Disneyland when they
were brand new.


Fabulous Las Vegas in the 50s:
Glitz, Glamour, and Games

with co-author Fred E. Basten
(Angel City Press, 1999)

Never-seen before vintage color photos, rare memorabilia, the best of
the old postcards and brochures with inspiring graphics take you on an
action packed, fun-filled tour of the glamorous early days of Las Vegas.

Experience the sex appeal, neon lights and hit the jackpot. See the
casinos, swimming pools, chuckwagon buffets, dining rooms, and showrooms
of all the legendary resort-casinos on Fremont Street and Las Vegas
Strip when they were brand new. Catch performances by Judy Garland,
Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Elvis, Liberace, Frank Sinatra and the Rat


Leis, Luaus, and Alohas:
The Lure of Hawaii in the 50s

with co-author Fred E. Basten
(Island Heritage, 1999)

Travel back in time and see all the famous places in pre-jet age Hawaii, from after World War II until statehood in 1959.

With amazing colorful and lush vintage photos and memorabilia, you’ll
relive glamour filled trips to the Islands. Enjoy Hawaiian hospitality,
fun in the sun, shopping, tiki gods, eating places, entertainment and
luaus in the days when tourists arrived in style by steamship or 9 1/2
hour flight from the West Coast. $40.


Cruising the Pomona Valley 1930-1970

(Horn of Plenty Press, 1999)
Now in its third printing!

With over 160 sites and 200 vintage photos, advertisements and
illustrations, Charles Phoenix takes you on a personal tour of his “home

Rediscover classic 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s modern and roadside
architecture, art, and attractions in the Southern California cities of
Pomona, Ontario, Claremont, and Rancho Cucamonga. Complete with maps,
this guide book shows you the way to the best of the Pomona Valley’s
landmarks, leftovers, and places that aren’t here anymore. $24.95


God Bless Americana
A Retro Vacation Slide Show Tour of the USA

(Graphics Arts Center Publishing, 2002)

Inspired by Charles Phoenix’s popular live RETRO VACATION TOUR OF THE
USA slide show, this colorful book was created with Kodachrome slides
taken by tourists on vacations and road trips in the 1940s, 50s, and

Time travel by plane, train, ocean liner and automobile. See the
classic sights, hilarious scenes, and bizarre situations that inspired a
generation of camera totin’ tourists to snap and click their way across
town and country. Visit kitschy tourist attractions, classic roadside
attractions, big cities, America’s heartland, national parks, tropical
shores, and “long lost relatives” along the way.


Clint Eastwood, Mickey Rooney, Michael Landon, Julie London, Eartha Kitt and a very young version of the Osmond Brothers were among the headliners at the 49th annual National Orange Show, held March 12-22, 1964, in San Bernardino.

It was my first Orange Show.

My family had moved West and settled in the Inland Empire the previous summer. I was 14. I started high school that fall. And when winter started giving way to spring, I noticed that everyone started buzzing about the Orange Show. That’s what people did back then. They buzzed about it, then they went to it, usually several times, and then they buzzed about it afterward.

The National Orange Show was a very big deal. It was the major event of the year in San Bernardino, and one of the major events of the year in all of Southern California. Visitors from L.A., Orange and San Diego counties joined visitors from all over the Inland Empire to attend.

I had a blast at my first-ever Orange Show. Browsing some old newspapers of the day helped to refresh my fond memories of those days.

Despite the fact that wind and rain disrupted Opening Day, and a major winter storm hammered the region on Closing Day, with drenching rain in the valley and heavy snow in the mountains, the 11-day festival attracted a record 346,343 visitors. It was the third record-setting year in a row. Proud show officials said that without that punishing storm on the final day, the attendance figure easily would have topped the 400,000 mark.

Probably so.

It was an interesting week in history. Jack Ruby was sentenced to death in the slaying of accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got married in Montreal. The swallows returned to Capistrano. On Sunday, March 15, Inland Empire teenagers crowded into San Bernardino’s California Theatre, as did other teens in other theaters all over the nation, to watch a closed-circuit screening of the Beatles performing their first American concert a month earlier at the old Washington D.C. Coliseum.

People weren’t just crowding into the California Theatre that day. They were crowding into the National Orange Show, as well. More than 66,500 people attended that Sunday. An aerial photo that appeared in the newspaper the next day showed every parking lot filled to overflowing. As it would turn out, almost each day of the festival would set a new single-day attendance record.

There was plenty of A-list entertainment to attract the crowds. Clint Eastwood, then a star of TV’s “Rawhide” series, took the Swing Auditorium stage on March 14 and told stories and performed in Western-themed comedy sketches. He even did a little soft shoe.

The Opening Night star, on March 12, was hometown girl Julie London, who grew up in San Bernardino and became one of the great torch singers of the era. She performed her signature song “Cry Me a River” and other hits during her Swing Auditorium set.

Other headliners during the festival included Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie, co-stars of TV’s “Dick Van Dyke Show,” who appeared on March 18, legendary accordianist Myron Floren and other popular stars of TV’s “The Lawrence Welk Show” on March 19, blues legend Eartha Kitt on March 20, TV’s “Bonanza” stars Michael Landon and Lorne Greene on March 21, and Mickey Rooney, who appeared on both March 21 and on Closing Day, March 22.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the Osmond Brothers, who performed on March 16. This was a very young Osmond Brothers, which included Alan, 13; Wayne, 11; Merrill, 9; Jay, 7; and Donny, 6.

In addition to showcase entertainment, there also was the usual fun fair stuff. There were four grand parades during the festival, and daily ostrich races. Citrus exhibits included elaborate depictions of historical scenes and famous landmarks including Roman chariot races and the canals of Venice, Italy, all formed out of artfully arranged fruits and flowers.

The midway featured a new ride, The Trabant, imported from Germany, which promised to whip, spin, tip and turn in every possible way all those who dared to strap themselves in. “This thing does everything but talk,” said one show promoter.

Reigning over the entire festival was the 1964 California Citrus Queen, Charlene Jacobs, a resident of the city of Orange, appropriately enough. Prior to winning her title in San Bernardino, she also had won the titles of Miss Orange, Miss Orange County and Miss Southern California. But winning the crown at the National Orange Show, she said, was the “biggest compliment of my life.”

Finally, we must not leave out mention of Mrs. Hazelle Sabatella of Calimesa, whose Orange Velvet Cake won top prize in the show’s baking contest sponsored by Sunkist Growers. Here’s her recipe:


6-ounce package chocolate chips
half cup boiling orange juice
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
half teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup orange juice
2 and a half cups sifted flour
2 tablespoons grated orange rind

Pour boiling orange juice over chocolate chips; let cool. Cream sugar, butter, salt and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time and beat until light and lemon colored. Add chocolate mixture and blend well. Dissolve baking soda in orange juice. Alternately add orange juice and flour to cake mixture and blend well. Lastly, fold in beaten egg whites and grated orange rind. Pour into three 9-inch wax paper lined tins. Bake in 350-degree oven for 35 minutes; allow to cool. This will yield three cake layers. Assemble and frost with orange coconut icing.


1 and a half cups sugar
eighth teaspoon cream of tartar
three-quarters cup orange juice
3 egg whites stiffly beaten
Dash salt
1 can Angel Flake coconut
2 tablespoons grated orange rind

Combine sugar, orange juice, cream of tartar and salt. Boil until syrup spins a thread. Pour over beaten eggs whites and beat until it holds a peak and is glassy. Spread between cake layers while assembling cake and then over top of cake. Sprinkle blended coconut and orange rind over top and sides of cake.


This attractive and refreshing salad is inspired by our region’s many wonderful harvest celebrations. It contains oranges, in honor of San Bernardino’s National Orange Show, and lemon, a nod to Upland’s Lemon Festival, and green olives, in tribute to Ontario’s wonderful Graber Olives, and cherries, a salute to Cherry Valley’s annual Cherry Festival, and dates, in recognition of the Indio Date Festival, and almonds, to commemorate the fact that pioneer San Gorgonio Pass almond growers helped form the 1910 cooperative that became Blue Diamond Growers, world’s largest tree-nut processing and marketing company.


2-ounce bag raw sliced almonds
Handful chopped dates
4 ripe, flavorful navel oranges, each one cut in half, then each half cut into three slices, then each slice sectioned into three or four orange pieces free of pulp. Reserve juice.
6-ounce can green olives, pitted, halved or quartered
16 ounces frozen pitted cherries, thawed but still cold
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
12-ounce bag chopped hearts of romaine lettuce
12-ounce bag baby spinach leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salad vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 or 2 tablespoons reserved orange juice
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Empty almonds into a dry frying plan and lightly toast over medium heat,
stirring constantly. When nuts just begin to brown, remove immediately
from heat and continue stirring constantly for 60 seconds. Pour nuts
into a heat-safe bowl or dish and set aside.

Whisk dressing and toss with lettuce, spinach, onion, olives and dates in salad bowl. Add salt and pepper if desired. Drain cherries, if necessary, and scatter on top of greens. Drain orange pieces, if necessary, and scatter on top of cherries. Scatter most or all of the toasted almonds on top of the salad, without overly obscuring the fruit. Serve.


I’m cured!

I faced my fear of mimes and attended one of the weekend’s sold-out performances by the Blue Man Group at San Bernardino’s California Theatre of the Performing Arts.

I liked it!

I’m all better now!

I’m happy to report that the Blue Man Group represents a new kind of mime. These performers are not like the old-fashioned mimes, the scary ones, who always seemed to find themselves stupidly trapped in imaginary boxes.

Frankly, I always was relieved to see them trapped in those boxes. I hoped they wouldn’t get out.

The Blue Man Group, on the other hand, is not trapped in a box. No, these guys definitely think outside the box.

Drumroll, please.

For one thing, these Blue Men make plenty of noise. They aren’t like the creepy mimes of yesteryear who never made a sound, who just stood there rolling their eyes and making hand and arm gestures, trying to communicate in some infernal secret language that only they could understand. I used to want to scream at them, “What? What? I can’t HEAR you!”

Like mimes of old, members of The Blue Man Group don’t talk or sing, but they do raise one heck of a ruckus. They bang on drums, they play on improvised instruments, they pound on things, they stomp up and down, they throw stuff around.

It’s like a rock concert, almost. Only noisier.

I admit, I had some nervous moments. A few times the Blue Man Group came out into the audience, grabbed innocent spectators, and dragged them onstage to participate in various bits, some of them involving copious amounts of paint.

I ducked down in my seat during these dire times, hiding myself, until the crisis had passed.

Honestly, though, the audience was so much into the show, and there was so much laughter and applause, it was impossible to remain apprehensive for long.

The Blue Man Group sold out six shows on three consecutive days at the California Theatre. I can’t think of another act that has done that. Ever.

Above and beyond the obvious popularity of the Blue Man Group, I think what is happening here is that this venue is bringing a lot of fantastic entertainment to San Bernardino and the public is responding. I am all for that.

Upcoming attractions at the California Theatre include such legendary performers as Chuck Berry, Mannheim Steamroller, Amy Grant, Brian Setzer and Michael Bolton, as well as such theatrical blockbusters as “Riverdance,” “My Fair Lady” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Check out the whole schedule at or call 909-885-5152.

You know, I’m looking forward to all the shows. More so than the last. I admit, I was terribly dubious about the Blue Man Group. That’s why it was such a surprise to end up liking it so much. I was just buzzing about the show after it was over. (Of course, beforehand I had steeled myself with a strong drink in the California Theatre’s Will Rogers Room … and it’s possible I still was buzzing from that.)

There was a tense moment at the very end. The Blue Man Group came out into the lobby, after the show, to mingle with patrons and pose for pictures.

It was a little close for me.

I got out of there as fast as I could.

Yes, it’s true, thanks to the Blue Man Group, I have conquered a lifelong phobia.  I’m in recovery now.

But I don’t want to take things too fast.


    Culled from the Internet, here is a treasury of trivia about the Blue Man Group, which is the first act I can recall to sell out six shows on three consecutive days at San Bernardino’s California Theatre.

  •   It takes a Blue Man approximately one hour to get in costume for the show. The Blue Men wear grease paint over latex bald caps on their heads. The paint never dries. This effect allows the Blue Men to maintain that wet gooey look throughout the show.


  •  Concerts can be messy. There’s plenty of paint and other material being thrown around. Spectators are urged to dress casually. Those in the first few rows are given protective ponchos to wear. It’s called the “Poncho Section.”

  • The original three members of Blue Man Group  are Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton. Today there are more than 60 members of the Blue Man Group, who appear in shows around the world.

  • Not all members of the Blue Man Group are men. Some are women.

  • The performers never speak, sing or make any vocal sounds on stage. The shows include backup musicians, and many pop stars have taken a turn, including Tracy Bonham, Dave Matthews and Gavin Rossdale.

  •  The group once appeared in orange paint instead of blue, in a commercial for a soft drink called Mirinda.

  •  The trio achieved widespread visibility when it appeared in an Intel advertising campaign for Pentium III and Pentium 4 CPUs as well as Centrino technology.


  •  The Blue Man Group once appeared in local TV ads for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
  •   In 2003, Blue Man Group played both days of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio. They are still the only act to  play multiple days of the festival in the same year.   
  •  On July 4, 2007, Blue Man Group performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra.


  •  The Blue Man Group organization has licensed two different musical instruments for kids, manufactured by Toy Quest, based on existing Blue Man creations: “Blue Man Group Percussion Tubes” and “Blue Man Group Keyboard Experience.”


  • The Blue Man Group has appeared on TV’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Live with Regis and Kelly,” “Arrested Development” and “The Drew Carey Show.” In 2004 the trio appeared in an episode of the drama “Las Vegas” in the Blue Men trashed a casino hotel, shooting money from PVC pipes in the lobby.

  • The group is a favorite on TV’s animated “Simpsons” series. The trio was parodied on a “Simpsons” episode titled “Jazzy and the Pussycats,” where Bart threw a ball into one member’s mouth in a church. Also, they appear in a couch gag in the episode titled “The Old Man and the Key.” In the 12th season episode titled “Trilogy of Error,” Homer describes the Blue Man Group as “a total ripoff of The Smurfs.” Also, in “The Ziff Who Came to Dinner,” Homer — on the verge of being arrested — desperately pleads, “Don’t tell my kids I’m going to jail. Tell them I joined the Blue Man Group. I’m the fat one!”



In honor of “On Stranger Tides,” the 1987 novel by San Bernardino author Tim Powers upon which the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” novel is based, I have put together a list of my favorite pirate novels. Yes, “On Stranger Tides” is on the list.

Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson. Thrill to the adventures of Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins in the pirate tale by which all others are measured.  

Red Rover (1828) by James Fenimore Cooper. An agent of the Royal Navy gives chase to a feared pirate in this pioneering sea saga.

Cup of Gold (1949) by John Steinbeck. Seventeenth-century pirate Henry Morgan vows to conquer Panama and steal the “cup of gold” from the Spanish in Steinbeck’s only work of historical fiction.

On Stranger Tides (1987) by Tim Powers. John Chandagnac, on a sea mission to Jamaica to recover stolen money, becomes Jack Shandy when he is forced to join a pirate crew in a quest for the Fountain of Youth.

Captain Blood (1922) by Rafael Sabatini. The story of Peter Blood, a gentleman doctor turned pirate captain, inspired the 1935 movie of the same name starring Errol Flynn.

Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem  (1900) by Emilio Salgari. The notorious pirate Sandokan leads his crew in battle against the colonial empires of  the Dutch and British.

Pirate Latitudes (2009) by Michael Crichton.  Set in 1665, Crichton’s last novel tells the story of Captain Charles Hunter, a privateer who is hired to steal a Spanish galleon and its cargo of gold.

Peter Pan (1911) by J. M. Barrie. Neverland seems like an OK place until our heroes encounter Captain Hook and his crew.

Birds of Prey (1997) by Wilbur Smith. Privateers and pirates battle for the interests of the British and Dutch along the coasts of Africa.

The Pyrates (2003) by George MacDonald Fraser. The author of the popular “Flashman” novels pens an entertaining sendup of the pirate genre.


San Bernardino’s Tim Powers is the author of 12 fantasy novels, including “On Stranger Tides” (1987), the inspiration for the new movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. Two other Powers titles, “Last Call” (1992) and “Declare” (2001), were winners of the World Fantasy Award. Here’s a chronological list of his novels:

The Skies Discrowned (1976)
Epitaph in Rust (1976)
The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
The Anubis Gates (1983)
Dinner at Deviant’s Palace (1985)
On Stranger Tides (1987)
The Stress of Her Regard (1989)
Last Call (1992)
Expiration Date (1995)
Earthquake Weather (1997)
Declare (2001)
Three Days to Never (2006)


In honor of this year’s Redlands Shakespeare Festival, themed “Season of Controversy,” now under way at Redlands Bowl (, 909-335-7377), here’s a list of Shakespeare’s Top 10 Pick-Up Lines, culled from the Internet. These are real quotes from Shakespeare’s plays:

The very instant that I saw you did my heart fly to your service.
When you do dance, I wish you were a wave o’ the sea, that you might ever do nothing but that. 

Who ever loved that loved not at first sight? 

If love be rough with you, be rough with love.

Did I ever love til now? I never saw true beauty until this night.
 I would not wish any companion in the world but you.
I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
Your heart’s desires be with you!

Come woo me, woo me, for I am in a holiday humour and like enough to consent

I have not from your eyes that gentleness and show of love as I was wont to have.


Well, I think it’s the worst one, anyway. I know there are many from which to choose.

It’s the one where the guy is sitting in his chair, doing nothing, staring into space. Suddenly he remembers he needs to conduct a banking transaction. He stands up, grabs his jacket, then realizes, hey, he can do his banking business online, using his pocket computer. He presses a button and presto … all done! He didn’t have to go anywhere! He didn’t have to do anything!

He hangs up his jacket and takes his seat in the chair again, with a satisfied expression on his face.

So, this is the ideal now, apparently. Sitting in a chair, doing nothing, staring into space.

Yes, the future looks bright for the human race.


Received many responses to a recent column about the neighborhood blight caused by stolen, abandoned shopping carts. Here are some of the best …

From Steve Portias of San Bernardino:

I’m not sure what grocery carts cost today, but 25 years ago they were about $175, so I’m sure much higher now. If you or I walked into a Stater Brothers and walked out with $175 worth of steaks or food we would be arrested.
Plus, the cost the grocers pay for a cart recovery business to go out and retrieve them all adds up on the bottom line of the cost of the grocer doing business and is reflected in the cost of our grocery bill….we pay for it. The consumer is not responsible for providing a homeless person with a $200-$400 shopping cart.


From Barbara Brazz of Big Bear City:

You will be happy to hear that someone has actually solved this problem.  There is a 99 Cents Only store on E street in San Bernardino, almost directly across from an entrance to Inland Center.

There are yellow dots painted around their parking lot. If you cross over the line, the wheels lock and the cart just goes in circles. It takes a special tool to unlock them.

I was there 2 years ago, so I can’t speak as to whether they still have the system in place. It’s possible they abandoned the idea, due to people like myself, who went over the line just because it was a hoot to see the carts go in a circle.  Perhaps the cost of a cart now and then did not add up to the cost of a full-time person to unlock them.

Anyway, thought you might be interested. I read your column whenever I have time to read the paper. Good job, Mr. Weeks!

From Jerry Hampton:

In reading your article on the weekend about the shopping cart problem, I am prompted to write. 

In many visits to Germany I have noticed that they do not have a problem with their carts at all.  There are no carts being used by the homeless and there are no carts all over the parking lot or around the neighborhoods.

Each of their shopping carts has a coin slot and a chain.  When a customer wants a cart, they go to the cart rack and deposit a coin (in this case it is a Euro) or store token into the handle of the shopping cart.  This pushes the chain out and you can then use the cart.  When you are finished with it, you take the cart back, put the chain back in and it pushes the coin out and you get your coin or token back.  Even if someone didn’t take their cart back, someone else would return it and get the coin or token.  The German people take it for granted that if they want a cart they get it from the proper place and when they are finished with it they take it back and get their coin back.

No one needs to collect carts from all over the lot and the stores don’t have to pay a company to go around the neighborhoods to find them.  No cart wheel locks are needed and no alarms are necessary.

I know that to put this type of plan into effect would require retrofitting many carts, but the stores spend quite a bit of money now on an ongoing basis.  At least with the retrofit, it would have to be done only once. Of course it would also take getting the public to go along with it.  The public should be willing because it doesn’t cost them anything as they use the same coin or token over and over again. 

After all, the proper thing to do is take the cart back. Evidently we just need a reason to do it.
This seems like such a simple solution.
From Ann of San Bernardino:

We remember well being in northern France and grocery shopping with relatives.
Seems that the shopping carts were located in the parking lot adjacent to the store,
and tucked nicely into a rack.  For a few coins, we were able to access a cart and
use it in the store, carry our purchases to the car, return the cart to the rack, and
retrieve those coins; similar to baggage claim areas in airports or train depots.

Seems like some of our reputable grocery owners might give this a try to see if
such a plan would work in CA.  It worked nicely in France.
Thanks for letting me respond.