James Dean Monument

James Dean Monument


The silver rectangular monument south of the junction of Highway 46 and Highway 41 is dedicated to James Dean, the young charismatic actor who was killed in a head-on car crash here on September 30, 1955. Twenty-five miles from Paso Robles and less than a mile east of Cholame, the movie star was behind the wheel of the “Little Bastard,” his silver Porsche 550 “Spyder with his mechanic Rolf Wutherich traveling to a car race at the Salinas, California airport. The Porsche was supposed to be towed to the race but Dean decided that he wanted to drive it himself. A Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student, Donald Turnupseed, driving a 1950 black and white Ford Tudor coupe was heading home to Tulare to see his parents for the weekend. They collided at twilight when Turnupseed turned in front of Dean’s car. James Dean’s last words before the impact were, “That guy’s gotta stop…He’ll see us.“ He didn’t. Wutherich was thrown from the car as it was propelled into a ditch and ultimately survived, ironically until another car accident years later claimed his life. Dean, who was actually going 55mph and not speeding, was transported to the old county hospital, Paso Robles War Memorial, where he was pronounced dead. Turnupseed was injured but survived and was not charged in the accident.

The original intersection is now part of a pasture and no longer visible. The new one is part of a realignment to make the notoriously dangerous Highway 46 safer. Former State Senator Jack O’Connell proclaimed the area, “James Dean Memorial Junction.”

James Dean’s crash site memorial was provided by Seito Ohnishi, who had the steel and concrete sculpture made in Japan and placed around a tree of heaven which is growing in front of the Cholame post office. The inscription, in Dean’s closest friend’s (William Bast) handwriting, is a favorite quote of Dean’s from Antoine de Saint Exupery’s, “The Little Prince,” reads: “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Invisible also was the silver Spyder at twilight on that last day of September 1955, in the final moments of James Dean’s life.




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