Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

It’s time for our by-now-traditional “Looking Back, Looking Forward” issue of the Old Curiosity Shop.  As we move even further into the 21st Century, noting that we are well past the one-sixth mark, and the days when a sci-fi radio drama series was titled “2000 Plus” are in the far-distant past.

2017 saw the closing of two businesses that were part of my life-- one from my teenage days, one during the last 30+ years.

Back in 1957-58, I was a teenage part-time sales clerk at Johnson Music Co. in Monrovia.  The Johnson family sold the business to another Monrovia, Don Collins, who kept the store going as Family Affair Music until this year.  He wasn’t getting any younger, and I think the lease on the store was due for a rent increase.  He still had a good stock of LPs and even some 45s.  He had a good variety of musical instruments and supplies for those who wanted to “Make Their Own Kind of Music” (paraphrasing Mama Cass).

Solid sounds at Family Affair Music in Monrovia. 


The other store that shut down in 2017 was Alhambra Camera Shop, which I had started patronizing sometime after I went to work at the Southern California Edison Alhambra facility.  If there was digital photography back in the 1980s, it was still in the laboratory experiment stage, Kodak, along with Fuji and Ilford were cranking out film by the mile.  Photomat kiosks and Fromex rapid development shops were the big thing for the casual snap-shooters.  Kodachrome was the gold standard for the color slide format used by railfans and other serious amateur photographers.  Now we can get hundreds of photos onto an SD card that plugs into a computer, and have several slide shows on a flash drive that can be connected to a computer or video projector.

Not much film left at Alhambra Camera.


We look forward to another season of Second Sunday shows at the Adams Pack Station in the hills above Arcadia at Chantry Flats.  The mules and burros are probably wondering, “Where’s that guy with the carrots?”  If all goes well, I should be back with treats for the critters on May 13.

After their set, two of the performers visited with the pack animals, who were probably looking for more carrots.


No railway line openings are scheduled for 2018, but we just had the groundbreaking for the Glendora to Claremont Phase 2B of the Foothill Gold Line extension, and there should be a lot of behind-the-scenes work to “ramp up” for construction to start in 2019.  Meanwhile, in downtown L.A. the Connector tunnel to provide a route between the Gold Line and the rest of the L.A. Metro light rail system is moving right along, while the Crenshaw Line to the Los Angeles International Airport has some of the rails in place, and the Purple Line subway extension is burrowing below Wilshire Boulevard.

Following the advice of Bob and Doug MacKenzie, in September, we decided to “Take Off to the Great White North,” arriving in time for the dedication of an historic electric railway car in Cloverdale, British Columbia.  Last year, the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway group had the car that came from Orange Empire restored and running, this year another classic interurban car, BC Electric 1304 was dedicated after restoration.  The ceremony was also part of the 150th Anniversary of the formation of Canada, so it was a big deal. 


After a couple of days in the Vancouver area, Pat and I finally made it to Alaska, and I got to ride the White Pass & Yukon RR out of Skagway, with some rare Alco diesels on the point.  The train goes up the river valley, and even crosses a few hundred feet into Canada.  Our home for much of this excursion was the MS Noordam, of the Holland America Line.  The seagoing part of the cruise ended at Seward, named after the US Secretary of State who arranged the purchase of Alaska from the Russian government in 1867.

The White Pass and Yukon narrow gauge train is about to leave, and our floating resort is in the background.


We didn’t see as much wildlife as we had hoped—this was the only bull moose that we could get a photo of.


What will we see in 2018?  I’m waiting for word on whether Art Fein has found a new home for the Elvis Birthday Bash, which (we hope) will happen on January 8 plus or minus a day or two.  Later that month, Pat and I have tickets for a screening of that silent film classic, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, with music provided by an organist playing the Mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ.  Travel plans are rather nebulous-- we have considered a cruise that will visit the Panama Canal, but haven’t booked anything yet.  It’s been a long time since I’ve visited San Francisco-- we have enough electric railway action in Southern California to keep me (and my camera) busy.  I’m going to try to make it to the SF Muni Heritage Weekend in September, but there are several other events then.  Like we used to say back in the days of chemically based photography, we’ll just have to “see what develops.”

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