Huell Howser was the ultimate California tourist. Born and educated in Tennesee, he came to California and for some eighteen years made a television show out of going to all the places in California that most Californians never bother to visit.
Half Mr. Rogers, half Gomer Pyle, he had a corny Tennesee accent and took an apparently ingenuous delight in all things California, recalling the mindset of earlier immigrants to our state, such as an elderly neighbor of mine, who having grown up poor in the bitter winters of Massachusetts, never ceased to delight in our sun filled, mild January weather. For them California was more than simply another place, it was a state of endless possibility--because if you have the right attitude, it is just that. We gardeners have our "plant crushes". Huell's crush was California and all the people who live here--sometimes grumpy, sometimes fiendishly hardworking and ambitious, sometimes quirky, mostly quite ordinary, but kind and dedicated to something.
For quite a few years while I watched his show right after I got home from a horrible, frustrating day at work. His inevitable sunny mood, his eagerness to talk to everyone and anyone, while sometimes beyond belief--is Bakersfield really that wonderful???--was an antidote to my work day, a reminder that while modern life is a struggle even in California, mundane as day-to-day work is, there are friends always to be made, and beauty always to be seen. Here we are; we might as well be happy.
He operated his show on a shoestring--he was the host, soundman, interviewer. He had a cameraman and a van to get around. He raised money to do the show and gave away the show to public television stations. He gave away a house he owned, he gave away the archive of all his shows to a local college. He gave, he gave.
His visit to Wasco, one of the rose growing centers of the United States, here (link).
"Looey! Get a shot of that!"