small logo      Updated January 19, 2008     URL is http://our.tentativetimes.net/cholame/index.html

The James Dean Monument at Cholame, California

This is probably one of the best pages on www.deaners.net  but you need to scroll down and down....

On this page: news about the highway changes with time,
and news about the basic facts of the accident
fans' pictures and letters about Cholame
news about the Spyder (some new, now)
news about The Junk Man, an old movie;
news about a movie, James Dean: Race With Destiny

February 2008:  On a new page, Visit Cholame with Maurice Rubio, 2/2008 with this link to a faster loading page if you prefer one.

In Fairmount, Indiana, we have a memorial service every September 30th for James Dean.  We have added an evening candlelight ceremony at the cemetery too. All the details are available on the James Dean FAQ page and on the past years' pages for the memorials.

from R. Brown: Every September 30th, at just before 6:00 pm, I go outside, look to the West and imagine what it would be like having Donald Turnupseed unexpectedly turn into my lane. Looking to the West with the sun that low on the horizon is almost blinding at this time of year. It would have been hard for Dean to tell that Turnupseed's car was gradually starting to cross in front of him, but Dean's car surely must have been lit up like a diamond. I imagine Turnupseed drove through that intersection dozens of times without any thought as to who should have the right of way. Anyway, on that fateful day in 1955, his mind must have been on the game he was on his way to. It certainly wasn't on his driving.

monument

Photo credit: Butch Daly, formerly of Reno, Nevada and Skyliner Kustoms.

Michael Crain writes "I was in Cholame this afternoon. A waitress in the cafe and an old rancher type who was eating there told me Cholame is pronounced as if to rhyme with "bam" or "shazam," and not with "frame" or "game." I always wondered."  And Michael, other people give me holey heck for any pronunciation I give!!  I will refer them to you!

The former Postmistress (ok, Postmaster is the pc-required term now,) from Cholame has made many albums that she shares with the Dean fans. People have sent her mementoes from all over the world. She is a friendly woman, happy to share what she knows.


On this page: news about the highway changes with time,
and news about the basic facts of the accident.
fans' pictures and letters about Cholame;
news about the Spyder;
news about The Junk Man, an old movie;
news about a movie, James Dean: Race With Destiny

The Monument Itself

First Butch Daly sent us pictures of the monument in Cholame California, near the intersection where James Dean had his fatal accident. Then Merc Mike (Nelson) sent pictures. It's time to make this page to share. I haven't seen this monument, so this is all reader-written.

Without trying to glamorize this tragic death, I include a few facts for those who are writing school papers, 'cause you have been writing to ask me. Feel free to email me, Sandra Weinhardt, at secop@parlorcity.com for more details or to send corrections, please.


Butch Daly used to live near Cholame. He reports that it is a restaurant and some outlying ranches. There was a post office, but it has been moved to Shandon. That's it, but Rich Pichette writes in Cruisin' that the James Dean Run stays in Paso Robles, inland, when they go to Cholame. I just can't find any facts about the James Dean Run to Cholame (with the overnight in Paso Robles, with car show and music, etc.) I even phoned around in the Cholame area code area but no one knew anything.

Meanwhile, Penny Pichette informs us that this monument is being vandalized terribly. It is a disgrace that anyone would do this. (James Dean's headstone in Fairmount, Indiana, has been replaced twice. Some "fans" aren't really fans.)

1980 photo Here's an older pic of the monument, sent to us by Mike Nelson, a generous James Dean fan and Mercury owner. You can see that it was in better shape back in 1980.

Monument in '93

Photo taken at Cholame in 1993 by Butch Daly of Reno, Nevada.

This photo shows the deterioration of the monument by 1993. I don't know how much of this is environmental and how much is due to vandalism. From the email I receive, and letters and phone calls, it appears that it is all caused by vandalism. I have not seen this memorial myself.
Tony Farnetti    
Fan Tony Farnetti sent us this welcome view of the monument.

news about the highway changes with time,
and news about the basic facts of the accident
fans' pictures and letters about Cholame;
news about the Spyder
news about The Junk Man, an old movie;
news about a movie, James Dean: Race With Destiny

The basic facts of the accident

James Dean was driving his Porsche Spyder to a race in Salinas, California. It was September 30, 1955. At 3:30 that afternoon, Dean had received a speeding ticket for going 65 in a 45 mile zone. (Whoever wrote me that he has a copy of the ticket, will you please email a picture to me?) A few minutes after dusk,  Dean and Rolf Wutherich, his friend and mechanic, were headed to Paso Robles to spend the night before the race. Donald Turnupseed, driving a Ford, tried to make a left turn off Highway 41, north onto Highway 466.  (Now, in 2008, most reports on Donald say he has passed away.)

Just before the impact, Dean remarked to Wutherich that the other car was bound to see them, that it had to stop. It did not stop. The autopsy said James Dean died of a broken neck and other injuries, either immediately or shortly after being extricated from the Porsche. (This is the latest controversy among fans.) Wutherich was thrown clear but badly injured. Turnupseed had only minor injuries.

A jury later ruled that the accident was Dean's fault because of speed. But recently a highly qualified accident investigation business recreated the accident with computer modeling. My husband saw the show about a year ago on the Discovery Channel. He told me that he remembers that the computer simulation proved absolutely that Dean was traveling at only 57 miles per hour.

NOTICE: In October of 1998, Todd sent us the URL for the page where they prove James Dean was not speeding at the time of the accident. At long last, Todd is the hero who found the site but then the site was moved,   and faithful reader A. Haith sent us another link for the accident investigation,  yet now, in 2008,  it has moved to  http://www.exponent.com/multimedia/cases/dean.html

That address keeps us hopping, doesn't it? Thank you, Scott Nelson of Danville, California for finding the new URL.   Kip Brown must add Scott Nelson to his encyclopedic book James Dean Day by Day

Three thousand people came to the funeral in Fairmount on October 8. The population of Fairmount was only 2,000 at that time. It is most important to remember Dean's life and accomplishments, rather than this one day of the accident.
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news about the highway changes with time,
and news about the basic facts of the accident
fans' pictures and letters about Cholame;
news about the Spyder
news about The Junk Man, an old movie;
news about a movie, James Dean: Race With Destiny

Updates From Todd Dale

My name is Todd Dale, (email fscott@doubled.com). I "was" a big big fan of James Dean in my 20's. A little over the top, that's why I say "was." Now 31, I still find him a great, and gifted actor. One of the best, hands down.

Wanted to to give you some insight on the crash site. I am from LA (now living in Washington D.C.)

Little background on the Hi-way:
The site of the crash is close to a mile away from the monument, where Highway 41 and Highway 466 (now 46) meet. What remains of the site (1955) is all gone. Where the car came to rest is very much the same as in '55 (photos).

The old 466 is still there (thankfully). It runs for miles, east of the site, and 46. The new four lane (1957-58) hi-way runs next to it. If you look east from the crash site you can see it to your right. The old two-lane road was closed a year or two after 9/30/55. Old cans, bottles and other things can still be found on this "place of the past".

If you're luckly, you may find a hi-way marker from that time. You will have to jump over the the fence (step over, if you're tall.) The land is owned by the Randolph Hearst Corp. (Private.) But, if someone is there, rare -it's in the middle of nowhere, they will ask you to leave - this never happened to me.

It is worth it, you will never come this close with the man and his times.

Golly, thanks Todd! I can't encourage anyone to break a trespassing law, but I am sure I would climb the fence myself if I had the chance. It sounds so desolate out there. A sad place to die, but then anyplace would be.

Update: Princess Diana is already being compared to James Dean, as they both died young in car crashes and both were rebels. That's a good comparison. I hope Diana and James are visiting right now.


R. Brown wrote in September of 1997:
Did you know that the intersection at the crash site is not where it was in 1955? They moved it and re-shaped the highways a bit. Are you familiar with the original scene? Somewhere I have an aerial shot taken of the intersection in 1955. From looking at that, it is not too hard to see why Turnupseed might have thought he had the right of way. He was traveling in almost a straight line, and staying on the same highway when he crossed in front of Dean.


news about the highway changes with time,
and news about the basic facts of the accident
fans' pictures and letters about Cholame;
news about the Spyder
news about The Junk Man, an old movie;
news about a movie, James Dean: Race With Destiny

Spyder

Replica of a Porsche Spyder.

Photo taken at Cholame in 1994 by Butch Daly


Technical notes about this photo, received 10-4-97 from another fan in L.A.

I doubt if George Barris had anything to do with that car, so you might want to be sure before saying "Replica of James Dean's Porsche Spyder used in the new movie." (Correction made, but I tend to believe anything and everything I am told, so I don't claim to be an expert!)

The replica in the picture appears to be just one of the standard, relatively common (especially in California) fiberglass 550 Spyder replicas. They are all shortened 2-1/2 inches from the original length (and thus deformed) to fit on a VW chassis.

The car in the picture doesn't have a Spyder windshield. It's from a Speedster. The car doesn't have the standard blue trim extending forward from the tail lights on top of the rear fenders, as was standard on all real Spyders, including Dean's.

And the car doesn't have any of the George Barris detailing - the "130" racing numbers, or the "Little Bastard" on the back. It doesn't have a Spyder steering wheel. It's an American-made wood-rimmed accessory, looking more like something off of a 1960's Ferrari than off a 1950's German car. The rear-view mirrors are not right and (I suspect) neither are the wheels from what I can see of them.

Well, I love all this car lore and I'm sorry I thought it was George Barris's replica and I wasn't there and you may never believe another word I write. And I know it won't be my last factual error. But hey, it's still a cool car in my eyes.  And I do adore fans who know car details like this! 

Newer news about this photo of a Spyder replica

August 30, 1999 ----- a reply from Nick

Sandra -

IMHO, I believe I have more accurate information on the Spyder replica you show on the Cholame page.
You posted the following from a fan:
"I doubt if George Barris had anything to do with that car, so you might want to be sure before saying 'Replica of James Dean's Porsche Spyder used in the new movie.' "

This is right. George actually helped detail a couple of cars almost 10 years ago for a Dean crash picture - I don't know whether that picure turned out to be "Race With Destiny". Whether or not these were the cars used in "Race With Destiny", I can't say.

"The replica in the picture appears to be just one of the standard, relatively common (especially in California) fiberglass 550 Spyder replicas. They are all shortened 2-1/2 inches from the original length (and thus deformed) to fit on a VW chassis."

It is one of the replicas. These are built by Chuck Beck, a former Porsche factory race mechanic (Le Mans, etc.) in the 1960's. At less than 1000 built and sold worldwide in the last 18 years, I wouldn't call them common. The proper name for the car is the Beck Vintage Spyder. They are actually *lengthened* 2" so there is adequate legroom for folks taller than 5'8". They are built on a tube space-frame, like the original Porsche. They do not use a VW chassis.

"The car in the picture doesn't have a spyder windshield. It's from a Speedster."

The windshield bit is right, but...Spyders were custom-built by hand in the Porsche factory to the customer's specs. You would be hard-pressed to find two exactly alike. Only about 90 were ever made (JD's serial # was 550-0055). They came with either no windshield at all, a small, single-person windshield, or a full-width but frameless windshield (as JD's car had). These last two make driving over 40 mph intolerable, as the windshield is only about 9" high, and the short windshield directs all the air and bugs directly in the driver's face. Practical owners install the Speedster windshield.

"The car doesn't have the standard blue trim extending forward from the tail lights on top of the rear fenders, as was standard on all real Spyders, including Dean's."

The trim thing is sort of right. Most customer cars (those not built expressly for a racing team) came with what Porsche called "darts", which were abbreviated paint stripes on top of the rear fenders. These wrapped around the tail lights, and ended in a point right about where the rear hood ends behind the seats. These came in blue, green, yellow, and red (JD's had red darts). Many customer Spyders were painted German racing silver, but the cars also were shipped from the factory painted in a Ferrari-like red, white, and a French racing blue, that I've seen.

"And the car doesn't have any of the George Barris detailing - the "130" racing numbers, or the "Little Bastard" on the back."

This is right. Dean's car also had a metal plaque (green and white enameled steel) on the driver's side, from the racetrack in Germany called the Nurburgring. It was a gift to him from Rolf Wutherich, the mechanic who was in the car during the fatal crash with Donald Turnupseed's 1950 Ford Tudor.

"It doesn't have a Spyder steering wheel. It's an American-made wood-rimmed accessory, looking more like something off of a 1960's Ferrari than off a 1950's German car. The rear-view mirrors are not right and (I suspect) neither are the wheels from what I can see of them."

The steering wheel in the picture is a Nardi, from Italy. Some later Spyders actually did come with them (as I said before, these cars were all one-of-a-kind, built-to-order cars). Early Spyders came with what is called a "banjo" wheel, so called because each spoke of the wheel was actually made up of three small aluminum tubes. Most early Porsches came with a banjo steering wheel, but by late 1955, most were equipped with other styles. And, of course, Spyder customers could specify their own wheel, including a Nardi. The wheel rims are VW 15"x5"; original Spyders came with 16"x3.5" wheels, which are incredibly skinny for modern tires.

The license plate light is from a late 1950's VW.

Thanks for the nice website,
- Nick

Holy cow, can you imagine knowing so much about cars? Nick was most generous to share his lore with us. That is why this site is for the fans, and about the fans, and made to answer fans' questions. Muchas gracias, Nick.

news about the highway changes with time,
and news about the basic facts of the accident
fans' pictures and letters about Cholame;
news about the Spyder
news about The Junk Man, an old movie;
news about a movie, James Dean: Race With Destiny

James Dean: Race With Destiny

James Dean: Race With Destiny, at last. This movie is finally reaching the theatres. The premiere was at the Eagles Theatre in Wabash, Indiana, to coincide with the Fairmount Museum Days 1999. (Any theatres closer to Fairmount were already booked.)

My thanks to Nancy Jacoby and Trula Frank for much relevant information.

Also the same weekend as the Festival in Fairmount, but only every other year, the Rebel Run to Paso Robles, California, sponsored by West Coast Kustoms. For details, call 909-488-0413 or 805-238-0506
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Mike Nelson has sent us more pictures and a story about a Cholame run. I added a tragedy that occurred at Christmas 1999. (This link is repeated at the end of this page.)

Mike also has an interesting side note about a Cholame-linked movie. He said I could add it here:

Just wanted to let you know that I'm gathering up (scanning slides) of a shindig my partner and I went to in Cholame, Ca, 17 years ago... Cholame is near the intersection where James Dean crashed. It's on the road between Kettleman City (on Interstate 5), and Paso Robles. There's a memorial there for him.

We heard there was going to be a movie made by some [people] from L.A. or Hollywood, and they invited hotrodders for a big feed....They paid traveling fees to '49 thru '51 Mercs so there were 25 or so sleds.....many really fine ones......I didn't take my Merc......I also have a '29 roadster pickup with a Chrysler Hemi, etc....and my buddy was in his chopped '34 five window.....I still remember going 100+ passing all these beautiful sleds out on the desert as the sun was coming up............

Anyway..........The movie was called "The Junk Man" .....It was really bad.....but I looked last week in one of those video ref books, and it's still out there somewhere.....

This is the first I've heard of The Junk Man, Mike. Thanks for the tip.

Now you can go visit Mike Nelson's Cholame car pics,
or if you have seen that already, been there, you can go back to my James Dean Page Index.

Here's a link on another site to a story on another site about a trip to Cholame. Uses 4-letter word. Now you're forewarned. Very witty writing.

 

In Farimount, Indiana, we have a memorial service every September 30th for James Dean.  All the details are available on the James Dean FAQ page and on the past years' pages for the memorials.

Correct me, gently with email to secop@parlorcity.com