Cholame, California: James Dean Memorial

The actor met his untimely end by auto accident here.

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James Dean Memorial

The restaurant at the memorial is still there and is in active service. It's called the Jack Ranch Cafe, and is a classic diner with a friendly staff and a classic menu. The Jack Ranch has just a few souvenir items, as they've minimized the gift shop to just a shelf or two. Lots of classic photos of James Dean adorn the walls however.

This is still the same restaurant that used to have the attached garage where the ambulance was kept that took James Dean to the hospital in Paso Robles and where both cars were initially stored after the accident. It seems the memorial has fewer visitors these days and the numbers "55" from "1955" have either fallen off or been taken away from the memorial lettering. The intersection down the hill where the accident occurred ("The James Dean Memorial Intersection") can be quite busy at times since the highway is the only major route from the Western San Joaquin Valley to the Central Coast. Be careful and alert with the traffic if you stop there. The original layout of the highway to the East of the intersection (What Dean actually drove on as he descended his last hill) is easily visible just alongside and to the South of the intersection as you look East up the grade (The intersection is in the original location but set up a little different to make if safer then it was in '55).

[Matt, 07/17/2009]
James Dean Memorial

The restaurant isn't a restaurant anymore, it is a little convenience store. They mostly sell nuts -- the whole left side of the store is nothing but bags full of nuts that you can purchase and sample. There is still a bit of James Dean memorabilia like pictures and some cardboard cutouts you can purchase.

[Tanya, 02/16/2008]

James Dean Memorial.

James Dean Memorial

The James Dean Memorial is made of stainless steel, and aluminum alloy, and is wrapped around an Oleantheum tree. It is surrounded by a rock garden, and all the rocks therein come from Japan, handwashed and handpolished. The rock garden is surrounded by plaques bearing quotes from Elia Kazan- Director of East of Eden, Antoine De Saint-Exupery's Little Prince, the poet Lord Byron,Dean's former drama teacher Adeline Nall, Dean's favorite authors and Dean Himself. The monument is in the parking lot of the Jack Ranch Cafe. The actual crash site is a half mile east on highway 46, and 200 yards to the west, in the middle of a farm field. The intersection was realigned when the highway was repaved and renumbered back in 1973. The old intersection and the last 8 miles of the highway that Dean traveled are on land belonging to the State Water Department, and The Jack Ranch, and permission must be obtained to walk or drive the short stretch of old highway. The Jack Ranch Cafe offers James Dean memorabilia.

[Mathew Grant, 09/16/2002]

James Dean tribute sign.

James Dean Memorial

There's a monument on the side of the road and a restaurant adjacent to it, a memorial to James Dean. Apparently this is located in the spot where he was killed in a car accident...the monument (for whatever reason) was given by the Japanese Government. Basically the only building in this tiny town (Cholame) is the monument/restaurant/gift shop

[John English, 08/29/2001]

The site of the actual crash is supposedly about a mile away from the location of the monument. On Sept. 30, 1955, Dean died of broken neck when his Porsche Spyder rammed into the side of Donald Turnupseed's 1950 Ford Custom Deluxe Coupe, which had pulled out onto Hwy 466. In 1987, a small metal marker was erected on the site by Japanese businessman and fan Seita Onishi. He later replaced the marker with a big shiny "infinity sign" -- a 30-square foot reflecting sculpture under an oleander tree. The post office had some Dean memorabilia in scrapbooks, and the local diner's Dean exhibit includes the speeding ticket he received a few hours before the fatal crash.

James Dean Death Site Memorial

Where the mortal James Dean became immortal. The memorial includes a large, shiny piece of aluminum wrapped around a tree. It is in the parking lot of the Jack Ranch Cafe, which is apparently the sum total of Cholame. Inside, the cafe has memorabilia and souvenirs.

[Ralph Ankuda, 11/13/2000]

James Dean Memorial

CA Hwy 41, Cholame, CA
CA Highway 41, between Fresno and Paso Robles, east of Shandon. Opposite the post office on the north side of the highway, east of Maggie's Cafe.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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Nearby Offbeat Places

James Dean Car Crash SiteJames Dean Car Crash Site, Shandon, CA - < 1 mi.
Shandon ChapelShandon Chapel, Shandon, CA - 7 mi.
Wine FountainWine Fountain, Shandon, CA - 8 mi.
In the region:
Iron Zoo - Oil Pump Art, Coalinga, CA - 36 mi.

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