Pacific Electric Railway car circa 1943. Orange County Archives

Even though L.A. is known as the mecca of car culture, it hasn’t always been so. In the 1920s, the city was the undisputed leader in public transportation, boasting the largest streetcar system in the world, known affectionately to Angelenos as the Red Car.

Metro reintroduced Southern California to rail transit in 1990, but the current system isn’t nearly as expansive as Pacific Electric was back in the day.

The Red Car system was built by Henry Huntington the nephew of railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington, one of the builders of the transcontinental railroad in the mid-1800s. …


Because of consumer demand — primarily in California, where plug-in electric vehicle sales recently passed the half million mark — major automakers have embraced the electric car, and are introducing new models every year.

But in 1976, electric vehicles were only the stuff of hobbyists.

Take for example the small group of EV enthusiasts that met on the first Monday of each month in Hal’s Electric Shop in Bakersfield.

March 1, 1976 Bakersfield Californian article about Electric Auto Association meetings.

According to the Bakersfield Californian (“Electric car club has 4, members build more,” March 1, 1976), members of the local electric car group, including its president Bill Barber, shop owner Hal…


While in Europe and feeling homesick, Joni Mitchell composed the song, California, in which she pines for her adopted home, determined to return soon.

To express how much she misses the Golden State, she writes:

Oh but California
California I'm coming home
I'm going to see the folks I dig
I'll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I'm coming home

The “kiss a sunset pig” line may be cryptic to some folks who are unfamiliar with the time and the culture of Hollywood in the late 1960s and early ’70s, but it’s crystal clear to anyone who lived in the…


When concert-goers gather under the stars at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach outdoor amphitheater this summer, as they do every year to watch retro performers like Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, most of them will have no idea that they are steps away from where one of the weirdest episodes of the entire Watergate scandal took place.

The drama started 3,000 miles away at another famous hotel, the Watergate in Washington, DC. …


“The High Art of Riding Low” was an exhibit of lowrider cars and art at L.A.’s Petersen Automotive Museum.

Even though the surfer has long been considered the quintessential Californian, neither surfing nor surf culture originated in the Golden State.

The lowrider, however, is a true California original. As the surfer is to Hawaii, so is the lowrider to Southern California.

A common misconception is that “lowrider” refers to a type of car. It doesn’t. A lowrider is the person who not only cruises the boulevards, but whose roots are in the distinctively Chicano car cruising culture of Los Angeles.

Lowriders were the laidback yang to the yin of the manic all-white surf-and-hotrod youth culture that was so successfully…


First Vans store located at 704 E. Broadway in Anaheim.

In the mid ’60s, there was a little store in Anaheim that made canvas deck shoes.

Vans, as the shoes were called, were popular among local high school kids in Southern California. The owners would even make custom shoes out of fabric the kids brought into the store, which was named, oddly enough, the Van Doren Rubber Company.

Paul and James Van Doren and their partners opened their quirky shoe store in the spring of 1966, the year of the one-hit-wonder garage band.

The store started off with zero inventory — just a few prototypes for customers to pick from…


Plaque commemorating world’s first broadcasting station at 50 Fairmont Plaza, San Jose.

While the world may know San Jose as the capital of Silicon Valley, it is also home of the world’s first broadcasting station.

“And now back to our regularly scheduled programming,” was an announcement often heard in the 1960s and ’70s after a TV show was interrupted by an important newsflash.

Regularly scheduled programming had started more than fifty years earlier with the advent of radio — and the man who started it was Charles Herrold of San Jose.

Although the first U.S. radio station to officially get its broadcasting license in 1920 was KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Herrold, an…

Paul Griffo

This is where I write to amuse myself.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store