Valley Center meet Oscar

And the winner is...Valley Center Museum.
By Robert G. Lerner, Valley Center Historian
The familiar gold statuette handed out at the Academy Awards ceremony is seldom seen on public view, but there will be a rare chance to get up close to Oscar during a one-month exhibition beginning Feb. 2 at the Valley Center History Museum.  The show is called “And the Oscar Goes to…”.
 The Oscar on display was awarded in 1932 to Gordon Wiles, art director at Fox Films, for his work on the film “Transatlantic”  It is on loan from his daughter, a Valley Center resident.  The museum has a copy of the vintage film and will screen the movie continuously during the exhibition.
Valley Center meet Oscar.

Valley Center meet Oscar.

Also on exhibit will  be profiles of eight celebrities who lived in Valley Center or Pauma Valley who where were nominated or won a total of 16 Academy Awards. They include actors Fred Astaire, John Wayne and Gary Cooper, and producer Sam Zimbalist.

The statuette weighs 8.5 pounds, stands 13.5 inches tall, and is made of Britannia metal covered with 24-karat gold plating.  Oscar will remain on exhibit through Feb. 27, one day before the awards ceremony in Hollywood.
The museum is located at 29200 Cole Grade Road in Valley Center.  Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.  Admission is free.  For more information, visit or call (760) 749-2993.
More on Valley Center’s connection to Oscar

By — Dan Weisman, The Graepevine

While nobody has been able to pinpoint the attraction of Palomar Country to some of Hollywood’s best and brightest, it appears several factors have been at play over the years.

The area is close enough to Tinseltown to be convenient, while offering quiet, rustic charm and western amenities. Couple that with the early pioneering efforts of stars and celebrities attracting friends to the area and voila: the perfect celebrity storm.

The names are legendary: Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Randolph Scott, Steve Reeves, Dick Powell, Merle Oberon, June Allyson and Jack Haley.

And the “Duke” — John Wayne. He was a longtime Pauma Valley resident who called an old stagecoach route between Cole Grade and Lilac Roads his favorite riding trail in the world, which is saying something.

The list doesn’t stop there, although it could and nobody would mind. Benji, the shaggy haired canine hero of the film of the same name, lived at Valley Center with his family, including Joe Camp who wrote and produced the “Benji” films. So did silent film legend Ramon Navarro, one of the original Latin lovers of “Ben-Hur” fame.

Guinn T. “Big Boy” Williams, a famed Hollywood stuntman lived in Valley Center. Sky King of 1950s and 1960s TV fame (real name Kirby Grant) flew out of his Valley Center ranch until his death in 1985.

Wandering a bit off-script, so, too, did the legendary real-life folk hero Wyatt Earp. Betty Crocker (given name Agnes White) lived for 40 years in Valley Center.

For those more politically inclined, Eleanor Roosevelt spent considerable time visiting the area, staying at the residence of former United Nations delegate Col. Irving Salomon. President Dwight Eisenhower also visited the colonel on occasion. Celebrity attorney Martin Gang lived locally, too.

Movie madness

Valley Center also has been the scene of some very memorable award-winning movie productions.

“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was filmed locally in 1963. It won an Academy Award for best sound editing and was nominated for Oscars in color cinematography, film editing, sound recording, music score and original song for the title song.

The 1933 “Invisible Man” was filmed at Lake Wohlford Road on a 300-acre site. The campy sci-fi flick “Invaders from Mars” was filmed at various sites around the community.

“Uncertain Glory” directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Errol Flynn and Paul Lukas, was filmed at Melrose Ranch on Guejito Road. Sam Zimbalist produced “Quo Vadis” in 1951, while he lived at Valley Center.

Valley Center historian Robert Lerner has considered the famous names to be dropped around Palomar Country. Astaire “frequently visited and hunted with a family friend whose adobe spread he later purchased,” Lerner said in a historical column.

“The hacienda designed by noted architect Clifford May for June Allyson and Dick Powell in 1945 remains a splendid spread in my neighborhood,” Lerner said.”

Safely stored at the Valley Center History Museum under Lerner’s direction is a 2004 manuscript by Helene Davidson. The Tanners, her family, owned a store and restaurant for years along Valley Center Road. Davidson lent some personal insight to Palomar Country’s Hollywood story.

Working at the family restaurant, she saw John Wayne and his entourage ride in to town. “You knew immediately it was John Wayne crossing the street,” Davidson said. Wayne, and party, ordered milkshakes.

“No profit was made on his milkshake because I loaded it to the hilt with ice cream,” Davidson said, adding that Wayne was cordial and very talkative. He asked if Randy, known to the rest of us as Randolph Scott, was at home that weekend, Davidson said.

Scott was the most locally connected of all the stars on Valley Center’s horizon, according to Lerner.

Davidson said Scott attended Farm Bureau meetings “and just rubbed shoulders more with the natives. He also worked shoulder-to-shoulder with his hired hands when he was on the ranch. He raised pork and beef and grew hay or wheat.”

In other Valley Center News
 By Gary Burrie, FOVC publicity chairman
Friends of the Valley Center Library (FOVC) will be holding their monthly Buck a Bag of Books Sale from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29 — or until the books are gone — at Valley Center Library.
If you would like to start the New Year with lots of new, to you, books to read, bring a dollar and fill a bag full of books from the special sale table. Also, on that Friday the Friends will have a special half-price sale on most books inside the bookstore – hardbacks for $1, paperbacks like the rap star, for 50 cents.  The library is at 29200 Cole Grade Road in Valley Center.

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