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Keith Burns at Cholame, California reading the dedication of the James Dean Memorial Junction.

California State Senator Jack O'Connell, longtime advocate of highway safety introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 52--declaring, henceforth and forever, the intersection of Highways 41 & 46 the James Dean Memorial Junction in honor of James Dean-and marking it as the location of his tragic death. 

Keith with a letter to Keith Burns, and all friends of  James Dean in front of the James Dean Memorial Monument at Cholame, California. 

The time was about 3:30 in the afternoon on September 30, 2002. 

Click on the letter in the photograph above  to see the actual document from the office of Senator Jack O' Connell.

by Keith Burns


Cholame, California will never be mistaken for a major metropolitan area. Set down among rolling brown hills and valleys amid one of the most active seismic zones in the world, most of the area is owned by the Hearst Corporation and a smattering of independent ranchers and farmers. Cholame is cut in two by a slim ribbon of highway--California 46 which runs westward from just above Bakersfield to Paso Robles where it joins Highway 101 and farther west to the sea.

The only real landmark in Cholame is a restaurant called The Jack Ranch Cafe, located about a mile south of the intersection of Highways 46 and 41, the road to Fresno and Yosemite. The intersection is not much to look at; flashing yellow warning lights, direction arrows, a wrong way sign or two and...the site of the automobile accident--September 30, 1955--which took the life of movie and cultural icon James Dean.

For nearly fifty years, fans, tourists, the curious and the lost have come to this desolate spot on the map to spend a few minutes under the broiling sun and think about the loss of a man who has influenced generations of young people all over the world. Twenty-five years ago a Japanese businessman and fan of Jimmy had erected a polished steel and brushed aluminum memorial to his idol on a spot just below the old Cholame Post Office and adjacent to the Jack Ranch Cafe. It is to this Memorial that the fans of James Dean gather every September 30th to mark the tragic passing of an enduring legend.

The memorial observance to James Dean took on a special tone in 2002 with the dedication of the James Dean Memorial Junction. California State Senator Jack O'Connell, longtime advocate of highway safety, introduced and has seen passed, a formal resolution--SCR 52--declaring, henceforth and forever, the intersection of Highways 41 & 46 the James Dean Memorial Junction in honor of James Dean and marking it as the location of his tragic death. The State of California will erect the official highway markers designating this site

The annual gathering of Dean fans at Cholame was very special this year. People from as far away as Japan, Germany, England, Canada mingled with folks from nearly all the fifty states to listen to rock music and tribute songs about Jimmy, place flowers on his Memorial, read poems, share scrapbooks and photos, share memories and drive the road that means so much to the legend that is James Dean. A few James Dean look-a-likes were present in brilliant white tee-shirts, bright blue jeans and dark sunglasses.

A horde of shiny and fully restored vintage hot rods, sports cars and custom cars arrived from the East and west to share the day with folks who came in camper vans, SUVs, sedans and motorcycles. The thundering and dust spraying arrival of a ghost car from legend was the highlight of Monday, the 30th. Coming out of the sun and screeching to a stop right in front of the Dean Memorial, a sleek silver dart of a Porsche 550 Spyder, complete with 130 body decals and "Little Bastard" on its rump silenced the crowd and drew them into its mythic aura. The eerie moment became more so as a bright pyramid of sun's rays bracketed the Spyder in a glorious triangle of light.

The entire weekend was spent talking and sharing the memories of James Dean together as a family of fans and friends. Stories were told by people who have lived in or near Cholame for decades and who are now telling their tales for the first time. More information about the accident was discussed and discovered during these fleeting few hours than in the forty-seven years since the accident. Arrangements were made to record these events and stories, to interview men and women who have never been interviewed before and set them down on paper and on video.

The forty-seventh Anniversary tribute and memorial saw California join with the legions of fans who gather in Fairmount, Indiana in a nationwide celebration of James Dean. Plans are underway for next year's event in Cholame with more guests, more music, more cars and more discoveries. The idea of a worldwide James Dean Memorial Celebration for 2005 and the Fiftieth Anniversary is also being planned. James Dean Around the World--is our goal. Please visit this website often with your ideas and encouragement. James Dean may have died in a lonely spot in the rumbling hills of central California, but he still lives in uncounted millions of hearts and minds around the world. Unlike one of his movie titles...the fans of James Dean are rebels with a very good cause.