If you're a Californian, you know who Huell Howser is...or was. Sadly he passed away of prostate cancer in 2013.
If you're not from this state, Huell...although not a native to California...could be called 'Mr. California. A reporter originally hailing from Tennessee, the very friendly and folksy Mr. Howser took his camera to every nook and cranny in this state and celebrated every inch and person in his various shows on PBS, such as California's Gold, Visiting, California's Golden Parks and more (see bottom for how you can stream all these shows on your PC, you won't regret it, perfect for binging).
It may be harder to find someone who didn't meet him here than someone whose path he never crossed. We met him twice while dining at one of his (and our) favorite restaurants, Philippe's in Downtown Los Angeles.
Someone at Chapman University had the bright idea of inviting Huell to speak at their commencement, an act that impressed him so much that he willed his entire estate to the school. This included not only all of his shows, money, and personal belongings but also two houses in the desert that the university eventually sold to endow scholarships in his name.
Today, we're trekking down to the City of Orange (in the heart of Orange County, natch) to see what they've got. Although 'museum' might be a stretch, there is a big museum quality to the Huell Howser California's Gold Exhibit in the campus library's basement.
Mr. Howser was quite a collector of found art (a more charitable term for 'junk') and as you exit the elevator on the basement level, you'll see much of it hanging on the wall. Right as you walk out, you'll see a right-angled piece of rusted metal with light sockets hanging on the wall. This is part of the letter 'L' from the original Hollywood sign that Huell found lying on the ground when he did a show on it. He took it with him since no one else seemed to want it.
There is an old radiator, some corrugated metal, interestingly shaped pipe, and more from his kitschy collection mounted on the walls.
In the door, the docent...Tommy...comes rushing over to welcome you. He's a font of Huell knowledge although he is the rare Californian that never got to meet the man.
We see a wall highlighting his three cameramen...never seen but very familiar to viewers ("get a shot of this, Louie!")...Luis Fuerte, Troye Jenkins, and Cameron Tucker. There are knick knacks scattered around, gifts from those he visited and highlighted on the show such as a wall clock from the Carmelita Chorizo factory, a die cast wagon from See's Candy, a figurine from Phillipe's and much more.
A Simpson's script, autographed by creator Matt Groening and the cast sit in a case. The Simpson's used to roast him mercilessly but the good-natured Howser gladly took it in stride and even provided his voice to the show when they satirized him again. This script is from that episode.
His office furniture and editing dock have been arranged in a recreation of his office and the over 1,800 books he collected are available for browsing. Two computers are set up to watch episodes of his shows.
It's only two-rooms and a hallway but very worth visiting.
Afterward, we had planned to have an early dinner at Cafe Felix in downtown Orange but we're not too hungry yet so we head north on the 57 freeway to Pomona.
Old Stump Brewery sits in a former factory on Bonita, just west of Garey. There is somewhat of a beer garden set up in the back parking lot.
They seem to specialize in blonde ales here so we try a few. They're very good and refreshing but we're still not hungry enough to partake in the tri tip being barbecued outside.
The Huell Howser California's Gold Exhibit and Archives are located in the basement of the Leatherby Library Building, very close to the Lastinger Parking structure on Walnut Street in the City of Orange, California. It's on the campus of Chapman University. There is no admission fee but there is a small parking fee on campus. Find out more at this link: California's Gold Exhibit and Huell Hoswer Archives
There is very handy handicapped parking in the bottom level of the structure which is right across a sidewalk from the library. An elevator across from the circulation desk at the entrance will take you down to the exhibit. Accessible restrooms are available as well.
You can stream almost every show he did from the comfort of your own computer at this link: Huell Howser Video Archives
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