Remembering Huell Howser

Huell Howser died on Jan. 6, 2013. He was 67. He started out with a 15-minute program called “Video Log” and then had programs called “California’s Gold,” “Visiting,” “Road Trip” and “California Green.”

Do you remember the woman who crocheted tablecloths from the twine that was tied around her daily L.A. Times newspaper, or the tiny dog who retrieved the paper, or the family who made and sold peach cobbler, or the old man who was reunited with the elephant that he had trained and donated to the San Diego Wild Animal Park?

Huell Howser taught us a lot of local history, and he went to many ethnic food venues and introduced us to areas that we may have thought were unsafe to visit.

His series on the California missions augmented the fourth grade class curriculum and gave us an in-depth look at the Spanish influence on early California.

I have been to Morro Bay many times, but Morro Rock is not open to the public. I got to go up there with Huell and a ranger via his “California Gold” program.

He and a ranger took us up into the back country of Yosemite, and also the grueling climb up Half Dome. He also showed us the history of the famous, now defunct, fire fall from Glacier Point which hasn’t occurred since 1968. The hikes required more endurance and stamina than I had, but I enjoyed his experiencing them and sharing them with me and his viewing audience.

He hiked up to the Bristlecone Pines. This is something that I always wanted to do, never did, and can no longer hike, so I enjoyed his trip up there vicariously.

I’ll never stand on the top of a wind turbine, or the top of the Golden Gate Bride, or up on a scaffold hanging off a high rise in L.A. with a window washer, but I have experienced these things through Huell Howser and his cameraman – either Louie or Cameron.

Huell Howser had a wonderful sense of wonder, and he delighted in new experiences and discoveries. I really liked the younger Huell better than the mature one. He was more excited by new people and situations. As he aged, he got kind of greedy, and asked if he could take something – be it candy from the See’s Candy kitchen, or a bristlecone pinecone. He was allowed the candy, but had to be reminded that you were to take nothing away from a national park or monument.

Huell never pronounced the first “i” in important. It sound like “imporent.” His older persona loved to say, “What’s the deal with?” “Wow!” and, especially, “Spectacular!”

Huell introduced me to new places.

My friend, Julie, and I stopped in and visited the Glass Museum in Redlands.

She and I took an extension class on the history of L.A. and got to explore the tunnels beneath Olvera Street where the Chinese hid out from gangs who came to attack them. The docent did a fine job, but we had learned more about Olvera Street and Union Station from Huell.

I never knew about the Quicksilver Ranch outside of Solvang, and the miniature horses that they raised there until Huell noticed them from the road, stopped, and filmed them. I have been to the ranch three times and have recommended it to others.

I have been to Oak Glen but never knew about the wonderfully delicious cider donuts at the Snowline Orchard until Huell visited there. I sort of wish that I did not know about them!

Friends and I went to “Polka” after Huell dropped in on this little hole in the wall eatery in Eagle Rock. We’ve been back three or four times, and the place has expanded since Huell’s program.

My friends Julie and Jim went to Broguierre’s dairy for the eggnog and chocolate milk. It was like drinking thick, melted ice cream. Their son told me to keep the returnable bottle as it had Huell’s picture on it and would be a collectable. I’m now glad that I have it.

I have gone to Galco’s soda pop store and found Birch Beer and Sioux City Sarsaparilla. I have since taken friends there to revisit memories of their youth.

The best experience that Huell Howser introduced us to was the Sierra Madre Wisteria Festival. Friends and I have attended it many times.

I am so glad that Huell Howser came to California from Tennessee with his twangy accent, was fascinated with California, and presented us with the wonderful stories and experiences that he discovered about the place where we live.

His program was, and is, a real feel good experience for his audience, and I am sorry that he’s gone. I had always planned to write or phone him to tell him about the “California Gold” that we have in our memoir and writing groups and the stories that they tell.

Oh well, that should be a lesson to this procrastinator.

 

**********

Published: Feb. 12, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 44