50th Anniversary of|
James Dean's Death
September 2005 -- Although he met his untimely end 50 years ago as the evening sun began to
meld into the horizon on an isolated stretch of highway near Cholame, California, the road
goes on forever for the spirit of James Dean, who lives on in the love displayed by his
devoted fans who feel a connection to the actor's restless heart.
It is easy to feel a sense of kinship with the cinematic icon upon walking into the James
Dean Gallery, a 7,400-square-foot venue in Gas City, Indiana which houses the largest amassed
collection of Dean memorabilia the world has ever seen. An exhibit of his early days, which
features black and white snapshots of smiling relatives, a high school annual displaying
the beaming faces of youths standing on the brink of adulthood and peering out from
the yellowed pages, a violin borrowed from a family friend, now silently resting in
its case but once painfully squeaking out the ill-formed notes of a tune during young
Jimmy's music lessons -- all are objects which evoke familiar memories in the collective
conscious of all who tour the facility.
Dean's meteoric rise to stardom is captured in three rooms, each dedicated to one of
his cinematic achievements. The "East of Eden" room houses clothes Dean wore to incarnate
the character of Cal Trask, while the actor's own artwork is prominently displayed on the walls.
Original movie posters from around the globe vye for space beside the myriad of Dean
collectibles in the "Rebel Without A Cause" room, while the "Giant" room displays props
from the movie, including a fence from the Marfa set and a pair of faded Lee jeans, propped
up as though waiting for the owner to slip back into the worn demin.
Those who never knew the thrill of seeing their idol on the big screen can watch movie snippets
and rare footage in a 35-seat screening room, and a well stocked gift shop offers a wide array
of Dean items so fans can add to their personal collection.
Fairmount, Gas City's neighbor just a few miles down the road, is a mecca for
Dean afficionados. Seemingly unscathed by the passage of years, the area is a time capsule
filled with small town memories. Although both sites are on private property, fans can
drive past the Winslow farm where Jimmy spent his formative years and the high school
where his love of theater developed before taking a tour of the Fairmount Historical
Museum, which is home to a variety of James Dean memorabilia, all donated by members
of the actor's family.
The memory of Fairmount's favorite son is honored annually in September during Museum Days,
four days of fun in which rockabilly romantics dance to '50s music and fans of all ages watch
free screening of the three movies which cast the actor into legendary status while the
world renowned James Dean Look-Alike contest is underway.
Once the festivities have concluded, a band of die-hard followers convene at The Back Creek
Friends Church, a small house of worship where family and friends had said their last good-byes
to Jimmy one October day five decades before. Each September 30th, the church rings out once
again with the reverential echo of hymns and the voices of those who played a role in the
actor's life, regaling the crowd with tales of happy times with their friend.
As the sun begins its descent in the sky, the congregation of fans begin the short walk to
Park Cemetery, the quiet of the evening broken by the roar of a motorcycle which leads the way.
As the clock strikes 5:45, the people whose lives have been touched by James Dean gather
around his flower-bedecked gravesite, each holding a candle which battles the oncoming
darkness while the thin trails of smoke create a winding road toward heaven.
For more information:
**The James Dean Gallery
6508 East Museum Boulevard
Gas City, IN 46933
Open year round
**Fairmount Historical Museum
203 E. Washington Street
Fairmount, IN 46928
Open from March-November
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