An entertaining look at our state's rich history, cultural diversity, natural wonders, and amazing people. Hosted by Huell Howser.
California's Gold Previous Broadcasts
Lompoc Mural (Episode #1010)
KQED Life: Wed, Oct 31, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Imagine driving through Lompoc in the early 1940's and coming across a huge 12 acre American flag made up of red, white and blue flowers. That's just what people saw every spring for several years and it was a remarkable sight. In 1942, the good folks at Bodger Seeds in Lompoc decided they could do something spectacular to support the war effort. A 12-acre flower flag was their way of saying thanks to all the Americans who were fighting the good fight. The company planted "flags" in 1942, '43, '45 and 1952. In a fitting tribute to an obscure piece of California history, the town of Lompoc decided the flower flag was a wonderful image for their annual Mural-in-a-Day event as part of the Old Town Faire. The mural was painted by 15 talented artist and is truly beautiful. Huell met some folks from Bodger Seed and even someone who helped plant the "flag" in 1952.
Flying Fish (Episode #1009)
KQED Life: Tue, Oct 30, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Catalina has been famous for many things over the years, Glass BottomBoats, Buffalo and the Casino to name a few. But one of the strangest and most popular attractions has been the Flying Fish Boat Trip which has been transporting visitors on nighttime journeys to watch Catalina's flying fish since the turn of the century. In 1924 William Wrigley decided to build a boat just for Flying Fish Tours. The Blanche W. is a 64-foot long open-deck wooden boat named after Wrigley's granddaughter Blanche. The boat is still outfitted with its original pew-style mahogany benches, which seats 98 passengers. The boat cruises the islands coastline at night, attracting flying fish with two 40-million candle-power W.W.I spotlights. The spectacle of the fish leaping out of the water has been compared to giant silver dragonflies soaring over the ocean. Huell travels back to Catalina for a very special 75th anniversary cruise. William Wrigleys granddaughter Blanche (for whom the boat was named) comes back to the island and shares some wonderful stories with Huell. We'll even take a close up look at a flying fish and enjoy a wonderful night on the sea.
Wine (Episode #1008)
KQED Life: Mon, Oct 29, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Napa Valley has become one of California's main tourist attractions. Thousands of people flock to the area for wine tasting and vineyard tour every year. What most people don't realize is that California's rich wine history got its start in southern California. In this grape-filled adventure, Huell travels to one of the oldest wineries in California. The Guasti family established their winery in 1904 and at one time had 4000 acres of grapes in the Rancho Cucamonga area. A virtual town was built to house the employees and their families. It had its own school, firehouse, inn, church and post office. In 1917, Guasti was the largest winery in the world. As a special treat, Huell attends a "Guasti" reunion filled with ex-employees and their families that had lived and worked at the winery throughout its history. We'll look at old photos and listen to some wonderful stories. We'll also visit Joseph Filippi Winery, which has been family-run since 1922. Huell goes to the vineyards to take a close look at what makes southern California wine so special.
Muscle Beach (Episode #1007)
KQED Life: Fri, Oct 26, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
It was one of the most famous addresses in the US from 1934 to 1959. It's not a house, but a small plot of land in Santa Monica. Muscle Beach started as a WPA project in 1934 and helped spawn the modern fitness movement that lives on today. The original Muscle Beach was a plot of sand just south of Santa Monica Pier. In the beginning it wasn't about muscles, it was about fitness and fun. Men and women did somersaults and handstands, built human towers and threw each other around. Huell and Luis go back to the original plot of sand to visit with some of the men and women who made Muscle Beach their playground during its heyday, and talk with the group of people who are bringing back the original Muscle Beach in it's original spot today. The new Muscle Beach will have the old emphasis of fitness and fun.
Trestle (Episode #1006)
KQED Life: Thu, Oct 25, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
The San Diego & Arizona Railway has been called "the impossible railroad." They broke ground in 1907 and completed the line in 1919. Between San Diego and Arizona is some of the most treacherous countryside in the US. With a bevy of workmen and a lot of dynamite they managed to snake their way to Arizona. The railroad had many tunnels collapse over the years, especially in the Carrizo Gorge. The railroad decided to build the Goat Canyon Trestle in 1932 after a series of tunnel closures. The Goat Canyon Trestle is one of the most impressive feats of engineering in the world. Huell, Luis and a handful of ex-railroad employees hop on a 1932 Model A railbus and work their way to the now unused trestle. It is the highest existing curved wooden trestle in the US. Men who worked on the line reminisce about the trestle and the wonder of its size and beauty. This tour is not for those with a fear of heights!
Things That Came Back (Episode #1005)
KQED Life: Wed, Oct 24, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
At one time Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes. In the 1930s, farmers choked off the four major rivers that fed the lake and it quickly dried up. Once the home to millions of birds and herds of tule elk and antelope, the lakebed is now covered in agriculture. But like all things great in California, the lake refuses to disappear completely. During very heavy winters, the lake partially re-fills with water and stops motorists in their tracks as the come across a huge lake amongst the vineyards and orchards that fill the valley. Huell and Luis take a very special canoe ride on this magical lake.
Anyone who has studied California history knows the name James Marshall and his discovery of gold which sparked the beginning of the gold rush. Does the name Jenny Wimmer ring a bell? Probably not, but she played a major role in Marshall's discovery. When Marshall reached down into the tailrace of the mill and picked up a small shiny nugget, it was Jenny Wimmer he went to for confirmation. Jenny had done quite a bit of mining and knew how to test for gold in a lye bucket she used for making soap.
San Onofre Beach (Episode #1004)
KQED Life: Tue, Oct 23, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Surfing has played a major role in the "California" lifestyle, and has a rich and colorful history up and down our coast. One of the most famous and historic beaches is San Onofre Beach in San Diego County. Surfing got its start in Polynesia over 3000 years ago; Hawaiians have been riding waver for over 1000 years. Surfing arrived in California in 1907 and has been passion of Californians ever since. Many of our state's early surfing pioneers cut their chops on the famous waves at San Onofre. Huell and Luis meet and reminisce with several members of the San Onofre Surfing Club and get an inside look at California surfing history and culture. You'll meet the old timers and the new breed, so grab your ukulele and your board, and hop in your Woody for a trip to the beach!
Kaiser Shipyard day care and 24 hour meals, it was the model of efficiency a (Episode #1003)
KQED Life: Mon, Oct 22, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond built 747 ships for the war effort during WWII. With full medical care, housing, day care and 24 hour meals, it was the model of efficiency and the forerunner of Kaiser Permanente. Huell and Luis visit the site of the shipyard and talk with people who worked there throughout the war, including some "Rosie the Riveters" who took the place of the many men who were overseas. As a special treat, we follow one of the original Victory ships that was built at the shipyard as it returns home. The SS Red Oak Victory was saved by the city of Richmond and towed out of the Naval Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay down to its new home, where it will be restored and used as a museum.
Whistling Champ (Episode #14007)
KQED Plus: Sat, Oct 20, 2012 -- 5:30 PM
Huell visits Carole Anne Kaufman, the two-time Women's International Musical Whistling Champion.
Hidden Alcatraz (Episode #1002)
KQED Life: Fri, Oct 19, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Most of us have seen one of the countless films based on Alcatraz, from the Birdman to Clint Eastwood and his "Escape from Alcatraz." Over a million people every year take the ferry through the thick San Francisco fog to walk the cellblocks that housed the likes of Machine Gun Kelley and Al Capone. Huell went in search of the "Hidden Alcatraz," off the beaten path of the regular tour. He discovered the island got it's name from the Spanish word "alcatraces," or "bird island," and didn't see human inhabitants until the US military took it over in the mid-1800s. During the Civil War, it was used as a prison for Southern privateers. After the more modern prison was built in the 1930s, the old Civil War prison was covered over and virtually forgotten. Huell goes under Alcatraz and discovers the labyrinth of tunnels and caves that honeycomb "The Rock." The remnants of our state's rich history are uncovered in this special tour.
Salt (Episode #1001)
KQED Life: Thu, Oct 18, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Many of us who have flown into San Francisco have noticed huge ponds with water that ranges in color from deep red to light pink. Huell decided to resolve this California mystery. When he finally arrived at the "ponds," he found one of California's unique agricultures. Salt and brine shrimp are what is responsible for the crimson ponds. 300, 000 tons of salt a year, to be exact. Salt has been harvested from these ponds since the Gold Rush and has been a very important part of our state's history. A few facts discovered at Cargill Salt: salt stacks 90 feet high and 880 feet long, hundreds of salt ponds called crystallizers that average 20 to 40 acres in size and one of the few private railroads in the US. With over 14,000 different uses for salt, it is a treat to see where it all comes from. This is a tour you won't want to miss.
See's Candy (Episode #908)
KQED Life: Wed, Oct 17, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
It started back in 1921 and quickly became one of California's biggest and "sweetest" success stories. The little shop on Western Avenue featured the favorite candy recipes of Mary See and focused on farm-fresh ingredients and homemade goodness. Before long this little shop had grown into a chain of stores serving loyal customers and became famous around the world. Huell first visits one of the earliest shops to open in San Francisco and meets with current and past employees, along with regular customers. Then he travels to Los Angeles for a tour of the inner sanctum of the See's Candy factory where the historic candies are actually made, and discovers that even though See's is now a huge company, it still operates with old-fashioned values and sense of pride.
Delta Queen (Episode #905)
KQED Life: Tue, Oct 16, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
For 50 years one of the most popular ways to travel up and down the Mighty Mississippi River has been aboard the authentic paddlewheel steamboat Delta Queen. But true riverboat buffs will tell you that the Delta Queen was not originally built to travel on the Mississippi. It's a California boat, built in Stockton in the late 1920s for service on the Sacramento River, taking passengers back and forth from Sacramento to San Francisco and becoming a familiar and much-loved part of the California landscape until 1947, when the proud paddlewheeler left California, was towed through the Panama Canal, and began her service on the Mighty Mississippi.
Guadalupe (Episode #904)
KQED Life: Mon, Oct 15, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
At first, you can't believe it's real. It must be a movie set of a small, picturesque, agricultural town at the turn of the century. Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles just a few miles off the 101 freeway, the little (and real) town of Guadalupe sits right in the middle of one of the richest agricultural areas of our state. Huell gets up early and visits the fields, talks with the workers and watches as the harvest celery and lettuce. He also discusses the rich cultural heritage of the area as he talks with descendants of Filipino families who have been living and working in the Santa Maria Valley for generations. Also included: a tour of the authentic and colorful town itself, and a visit to the nearby spectacular Guadalupe Dunes.
Coloma (Episode #902)
KQED Life: Fri, Oct 12, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Coloma was a somewhat sleepy little town in the Sierra foothills during the 1840's, but on the morning of January 24, 1848, all that was to change as James Marshall leaned over and picked up a piece of gold. His discovery started the California Gold Rush, which would bring hundreds of thousands of people to the state overnight, lead to statehood within two years, and change the face of California and the nation forever. Huell visits Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and meets up with members of its living history association.
Mule Days (Episode #808)
KQED Life: Thu, Oct 11, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
They've been a part of the California landscape for hundreds of years, helping to build our canals and highways and railroads, hauling our freight, our silver bullion and, of course, playing a major role during the gold rush era. However, many people are under the false impression that they're stubborn, while others tend to overlook them in favor of the more glamorous horse. But, once a year the good citizens of Bishop, California, in the Sierra Nevada, set aside an entire week to pay tribute to... the mule. Often regarded as one of nature's oddities, a mule is a hybrid animal that results from crossing a mare (female horse) with a jack (male donkey). They come in literally all shapes and sizes, and during Bishop's Mule Days Celebration there's a mule parade, mule races and all sorts of mule competitions. Thousands of people come from all over California to have a good time and to pay tribute to this animal. Huell Howser and cameraman Luis Fuerte join in the celebration of this rather remarkable animal which, over the years, has very much proven itself to be a fine example of California's Gold.
Paradise (Episode #807)
KQED Life: Wed, Oct 10, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Huell travels to the town of Paradise, just down the road from Dogtown in Butte County, for the annual Gold Nugget Days Celebration, complete with a parade and all sorts of community festivities. The local citizens also take him to the actual area where a 54-pound gold nugget was found by Chauncy Wright on the morning of April 12th, 1859, and where modern-day miners are still searching for gold. There's also an E Clampus Vitus Donkey Derby and a visit to the Gold Nugget Museum included in this trip.
Swallows (Episode #2003)
KQED Life: Tue, Oct 9, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
The miracle of the "Swallows" of Capistrano takes place each year at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, on March 19th, St. Joseph's Day. Legend says the swallows, seeking sanctuary from an innkeeper who destroyed their nests, took up residence at the old Mission. They return to the site each year to nest, knowing their young can be safe within the Mission walls. As the little birds wing their way back to the Mission, the village of San Juan Capistrano takes on a fiesta air and visitors from all parts of the world, and all walks of life, gather in great numbers to witness the "miracle" of the return of the swallows. In this episode, Huell travels to the old Mission to visit this truly Californian phenomenon. There will be all sorts of surprises including a special version of the song, "When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano". It's a celebration you don't want to miss.
Firefall (Episode #706)
KQED Life: Mon, Oct 8, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Yosemite's "Firefall" was one of California's most spectacular summer's night traditions from 1872 until 1969. The firefall consisted of men pushing a pile of burning embers off the top of Glacier Point creating an incredible "waterfall" effect with red hot coals. Huell climbs to the Point, where he meets Nic Fiore, who had the job of pushing the embers off the mountain each night. Next, he visits Camp Curry, which was a favorite spot to view the firefall and meets Bill Lane, whose nightly duty it was to yell at the top of his lungs, "Let the fire fall!"
Ablitt House (Episode #14011)
KQED Plus: Sat, Oct 6, 2012 -- 5:30 PM
Huell visits this unique house which was built on a 20 by 20 square foot lot in the heart of Old Town Santa Barbara.
Mare Island (Episode #704)
KQED Life: Fri, Oct 5, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Mare Island Naval Shipyard was the first US naval establishment on the West Coast. Huell visits the 142-year-old shipyard before its closure due to military downsizing. Former shipyard workers give him a tour through the huge "building ways," where both battleships and nuclear submarines were constructed and launched. He also visits the first naval chapel on the West Coast, walks through the historic cemetery and finally strolls down the tree-lined streets of "Officer's Row."
Lighthouses (Episode #701)
KQED Life: Thu, Oct 4, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
St. George Reef Lighthouse has been a part of the Northern California coast landscape since 1892 - a huge, lonely sentinel perched on a rock eight miles out in the ocean. A marvel of 19th century engineering and skill, it has served mariners for over a century. Huell and his guides spend a day at this historic lighthouse, courtesy of the US Coast Guard, who airlift them to the rock and literally lower them from a helicopter in metal baskets. Once aboard, they explore this grand structure, built of huge granite blocks and standing 142 feet tall.
Important Places (Episode #604)
KQED Life: Wed, Oct 3, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
Huell travels to two significant but little-known places. First, he gets a tour of the fields of Camp Pendelton near San Diego, where for a period of time in the mid-1970s thousands of Vietnamese refugees lived in a large tent city - their first stop after fleeing their war-torn homeland. Next, Huell visits the Sherman Institute High School, an off-reservation boarding house for Native Americans that has educated students for almost a century.
Weedpatch (Episode #601)
KQED Life: Tue, Oct 2, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
During the dust bowl era of the 1930's, "Okies" headed west in search of a new life, and many of these migrants ended up in federal work camps. John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath, was based on these camps. One of the original, the Arvin Federal Work Camp or "Weedpatch," is still being used today and is situated off Highway 99 in Kern County. Huell visits with past and present residents of Weedpatch and looks at some very rare archive film and photographs dating from the 1930s.
Japanese Tea Garden (Episode #712)
KQED Life: Mon, Oct 1, 2012 -- 10:00 AM
San Francisco's Japanese Tea Garden was built as part of the Japanese Village from the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, which was held in Golden Gate Park. Makoto Hagiwara, a local Japanese landscape designer not only laid out this exquisite garden, but lived there with his family for 30 years. Two more generations of Hagiwaras looked after the garden until their eviction in 1942 during WWII. Huell meets the remaining members of the Hagiwaras and gets a very special and moving tour of this authentic garden which is part of our state's cultural landscape.