Respects to James Dean

James Dean Memorial, Cholame, California

On September 30th, 1955 James Dean was driving his Porche 550 Spyder west on state road 46, en route to a car race in Salinas, California. Approaching the intersection of 46 and 41, near the town of Cholame, a Ford coupe traveling east on 46 veered left across the oncoming lane and crashed head on into Dean’s silver Spyder, killing the young actor. He was only 24.

James Dean is buried in Fairmount, Indiana, not far from where he grew up on his aunt and uncle’s farm. In 2005, on the 50th anniversary of Dean’s death, the state of California renamed the fatal intersection of 46 and 41 the James Dean Memorial Junction, though the two roads have long since been realigned to make the intersection safer.

James Dean Memorial Junction, looking west along 46

In 1977, a silver stainless steel memorial was erected in Cholame, less than a mile west of the intersection by Japanese businessman Seita Ohnishi, a devoted James Dean fan. The steel sculpture is wrapped around a tree of heaven and features one of Dean’s favorite quotes from  Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince: “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

James Dean: 1931 Feb 8 – 1955 Sep 30 5:59 pm. Infinity…

The memorial sits right outside of the Jack Ranch Cafe, a small restaurant with great milkshakes and greasy food that capitalizes on its Dean-adjacent location by selling lots of random James Dean paraphernalia.

Stuff For Sale Here!

Sitting in a booth under a James Dean poster, enjoying a mint milkshake, thinking about that arresting jailhouse scene in Rebel when I realized Dean was a force, not just a pretty face, I overheard the parents at the next table tell their young son, his arm wrapped in gauze, that he could have anything on the menu. He had been bitten by a rattlesnake the day before and this was his victory meal. That kid got himself two milkshakes. Long live the young tough rebels in this world.

Sunset on California Oak Savannah

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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6 Responses to Respects to James Dean

  1. Barneysday says:

    Just passed the James Dean memorial a few weeks ago on the way to Cambria. Thanks for the history update.

  2. Always loved James Dean. Used to watch him when I was just a lil kid. That last photo is just stunning.


  3. Every time I think of James Dean, I always think of all the times when my parents would take me and my sister to the “local” retro diner. By “local” I mean the closest one that’s 30-45 minutes away from the town I grew up in. Thanks for bringing back the fond memories! 🙂

  4. Pingback: Taking the Long Way Home: Pinal Pioneer Parkway « AZ SOAP

  5. azsoap says:

    Your post reminds me of my trip down the Pinal Pioneer Parkway in Arizona. A lonely fast moving road that connects Tucson with Phoenix. Legendary cowboy film star Tom Mix died on this road, and their is a monument to him near the site of his accident. You can read about it here.

    • Wow, very cool. Amazing how places like these are immortalized. I’ll mark that spot on my atlas for the next time I swing through AZ. Thanks for sharing! M

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