Looking Back at Christmas

The Grier Musser Museum in Los Angeles

The Pico-Union District of Los Angeles is a tough neighborhood with heavy concentrations of Central American immigrants. Yet there on Bonnie Brae Street lies the Grier Musser Museum with its huge collection of antiques and seasonally related memorabilia. During the key holidays of Halloween and Christmas, there are fascinating exhibits of decorations, music boxes, pop-up books, greeting cards, postcards, and other popular culture highlighting the present and past.

Although Martine and I have visited only during those periods, there are also special exhibits for Valentines Day, Chinese New Years, and Independence Day.

Susan Tejada with Christmas Elf

On Saturday, we spent several hours viewing the Christmas exhibits and chatting with Susan and Rey Tejada, the owners (and inhabitants) of the museum. Christmas is now safely in the past, but it was nice to see the constantly growing exhibits that Susan has collected. They represent what we all want the holidays to be like, far from the mayhem in the parking lots and department stores in mega-malls which it has become. Visiting the Grier Musser Museum gives you a picture of what we all want Christmas to be like. It’s actually a nice feeling.


You Gotta Have Sole!

The Grier Musser Museum Near Downtown LA

The Grier Musser Museum Near Downtown LA

Today, Martine and I visited the Grier Musser Museum on South Bonnie Brae, about a mile west of downtown L.A. Even before we pulled into the museum’s parking lot, however, disaster struck. The right sole of my New Balance shoes came unglued and flapped like a tongue as I walked.

Fortunately, Ray and Susan Tejada, curators of the museum, allowed me to do the tour in my stocking feet. Else, I would have pitched down the stairs and landed on my head. When we left, Ray and Susan gave me some masking tape to wind around the shoe. The fix held until I walked into my apartment, whereupon the sole flapped—but I immediately tossed the shoes into the nearest trash bin.

This time of year, the Grier Musser Museum is chock full of Halloween displays ranging from antiques to recent Hallmark creations. The net result is to give us a sweeping view of what is fast becoming one of our major holidays. (I wonder how long it will be before it becomes a national holiday.)

Feeling the Onset of Christmas

Angel at the Grier Musser Museum

Elf at the Grier Musser Museum

On Sunday, Martine and I went to view the extensive Christmas collections at the Grier Musser Museum near downtown Los Angeles. Ray and Susan Tejada have displays dating back to the 19th Century—and as recent as this year, including hundreds of fascinating Victorian and turn of the century Christmas cards.

There aren’t too many things that we do that are Christmassy. For one thing, we never have a Christmas tree. (You can blame me for having somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 books.)  When we visit my brother next week, we may view a holiday light display at the Living Desert Museum in Palm Desert.

We always used to visit the Department of Water and Power’s Holiday Light Festival, but budgetary constraints closed that down in 2009. We also regularly attended the Christmas Concert put on by the Torrance Civil Chorale, but Concert Master David Burks retired after the Spring concert; and we incorrectly assumed that the organization would undergo extensive rebuilding.



Halloween Is Icumen In

Lhude Sing Eek!

Lhude Sing Eek!

We may not go to Halloween parties (I’ve always thought dressing up was for … well … you know), but I find myself celebrating the day in my own way. It has been over fifteen years since we’ve seen any Trick-or-Treaters here (they stick to suburban neighborhoods without stairs to climb), but both of us like horror films—especially the classics—and I am growing increasingly fond of Victorian and Edwardian horror literature.

One of the ways we celebrate is visiting the Grier Musser Museum near downtown L.A., where Susan and Ray Tejada have assembled an outstanding collection of Halloween-related memorabilia, including cards, animatronic gizmos, figurines, and paintings. There are half a dozen rooms full of displays.

This is a museum for which one has to make an appointment, and Susan gives each group a thorough tour during which she turns on all the battery and other electrical figures and answers questions about how she and Ray assembled the collection. On Sunday afternoon, October 26, there will be a special tour with refreshments included.

Other holidays that receive the full treatment are Valentine’s Day, the Fourth of July, and Christmas.



I Only Have Eyes for You

A Nice Plate of Eyeballs Pour Vous

A Nice Plate of Eyeballs Pour Vous

Yesterday’s visit to the Grier Musser Museum near downtown L.A. put Martine and me into the holiday spirit. We discovered the museum and its fabulous collection of holiday-related antiques and displays as a result of watching Huell Howser’s shows on KCET. In all, he did two shows on the museum, so we decided it was a place we should get to know better. Although the museum has displays all year round, curator Susan Tejada puts together a special show around Halloween, Christmas, and Valentines Day—with the best show being around Halloween.

Martine particularly enjoys talking with Ray and Susan Tejada over a snack of punch and cookies afterwards, one of the advantages of attending the museum’s holiday Sunday exhibits.

Heads Up!

Heads Up!

If you want to visit the Grier Musser Museum, you have to make an appointment by calling (213) 413-1814. It is located at 403 South Bonnie Brae Street in the Pico-Union Area, which is near some excellent dining such as Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant with its great hand-cut pastrami, Papa Christo’s Greek Restaurant and Market, and a host of world class Korean restaurants.

Somehow, the Grier Musser always puts Martine and me in a holiday mood.


Some Kewpie Dolls for You

Kewpie Dolls at Grier Musser Museum

Kewpie Dolls at Grier Musser Museum

I had always heard of kewpie dolls before, but today was the first time I saw some of them. Apparently, they were originally a comic strip character invented by Rose O’Neill back in 1909. Their popularity took a number of forms, and they were popular and well-known through the 1940s. I always associated them with game prizes given at carnivals.

If you look closely, you will see my hands wrapped around my Canon PowerShot A1400 reflected in a mirror behind the dolls. Martine and I had paid another visit to the Grier Musser Museum, where there was an exhibit of antiques relating to Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, and Black History Month.

Afterwards, we had a nice conversation with Ray and Susan Tejada, who own the museum and live on the premises. Visitors to their special Sunday tours are treated to cookies and punch, which Martine loves.


A Merry Christmas to All

Wreath at Grier Musser Museum

Wreath at Grier Musser Museum

A Merry Christmas to all who happen on this website today! Although Southern California is bright and sunny today, with the temperature expected to reach record highs, I know that much of the country is mired in stormy weather. Regardless of the weather, may today be an oasis of peace and happiness for you and everyone you know.


An Angelic Christmas

Angels at L.A.’s Grier Musser Museum

Angels at L.A.’s Grier Musser Museum

There are actually three angels in this picture: Reflected in the mirror between the two angel statuettes is Martine. This afternoon, we visited the Grier Musser Museum near downtown L.A. to see their annual display of Christmas-related decorations and figures. We enjoy seeing what Rey and Susan Tejada have collected and arranged for display at their antiquarian Queen Anne style house and museum on Bonnie Brae Street.

But first, we ate at Langer’s Deli which is nearby at the corner of 7th and Alvarado, just cater-corner from MacArthur Park. It is incongruous to find a classic Jewish deli in the middle of the Pico-Union Central American neighborhood. Just when it seemed that it might be fading away like so many Los Angeles landmarks, the opening of the MTA Red Line brought customers from other parts of town, though they are no longer open in the evenings. Martine has not been feeling good all week due to a flare-up of her irritable bowel syndrome; and this was the first day she could eat anything other than bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast. (She calls it the B.R.A.T. diet.)

After we toured the museum along with six other guests, we sat down to punch and cookies in the kitchen and chatted for a couple of hours. Over the years, Rey and Susan have become good friends of ours. We enjoy the museum, which always holds surprises for us, and we enjoy their company.

Afterwards, we drove back the slow way, right down Wilshire Boulevard so that Martine could see the holiday decorations in Beverly Hills before we did the turn-off toward West Los Angeles via Santa Monica Boulevard.

It was a good day and made me think that this would be a good Christmas for us. As I hope it will likewise be for all my readers.


Halloween at the Grier Musser Museum

We Are Welcomed at the Door

We Are Welcomed at the Door

Today, Martine and I visited the Grier Musser Museum near downtown Los Angeles for their annual Halloween display. Susan Tejada, the museum’s curator, has gathered together an incredible collection of memorabilia relating to All Hallows Eve, from paper to dolls to battery-powered moving skeletons. (The most frightening is one in a cage above a toilet in the bathroom screaming that he wanted out.) Almost every inch of the rooms open to view is crammed with Victorian memorabilia (the house on Bonnie Brae Street goes back to the 19th century) and exhibits relating to Halloweens past and present.

In addition, there is a room with television and film exhibits relating to The Wizard of Oz (about to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its release), The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Monster High. If it weren’t for the fact that the tour is guided by Ms. Tejada, one could spend hours among the thousands of items on display.

The late Huell Howser, whose PBS television show visited the Grier Musser Museum twice over the years, had a sure knack for highlighting the very best of California, especially the Los Angeles area. Two visits was a singular mark of recognition.

A Rare Victorian Beauty: The Curator’s Grandmother

A Rare Victorian Beauty: The Curator’s Grandmother

In a room on the second floor, we saw the above photograph of Susan Tejada’s grandmother. I am always stunned when I see a photograph from over a century ago of a young woman who, even today, would be accounted a great beauty.

For some reason, this year we are spending more time getting into the Halloween spirit. In my case, it involves reading several books of spooky stories and visiting the Grier Musser Museum. Unfortunately, children have not come here to trick-or-treat for almost twenty years now. The schools have attempted to replace door-to-door trick-or-treating with school parties—especially in neighborhoods such as mine consisting mostly of multistory apartment buildings. Neighborhoods of posh single family homes still are inundated with lisping ghosts and monsters of short stature.