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The Stuff of Memories--Souvenirs : A Vacation Tan May Fade, but a T-Shirt Can Last Forever

July 11, 1985|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

Standing amid shelves full of Movieland Wax Museum mugs, pennants and tin trays; surrounded on all sides by California salt and pepper shakers, key rings and ceramic ashtrays, Karin Edwards laughed.

"It looks like my son wants another snake," said the Palmdale mother of six, watching her son pick up a rubber reptile in the busy souvenir shop outside the museum in Buena Park.

"We were just in San Diego Monday, and we spent a good amount on souvenirs," said Edwards, noting that one of her daughters collects souvenir charms for a bracelet and another daughter has started a souvenir spoon collection.

When it comes to souvenirs, spoons are Edwards' own particular passion. She has close to 70 spoons in her collection.

"They're from states, cities, amusement parks," she said. "I've found when I look at the spoons, we sit down and talk about what we did. Being that the family's so big, we don't often get to go to these places."

Edwards was interrupted by her son, Travis, 15.

"What's the price range?" he asked.

"Reasonable," she said.

"I want a Marilyn Monroe picture," said the boy.

"Go ahead," Edwards said as her son went off to find the photograph.

Summertime Tradition

"We haven't even gone in yet; that's why I'm saying 'reasonable,' " Edwards explained with a laugh as two of her young daughters approached carrying a plastic drinking cup with a built-in curlicue straw.

"Can she get that?" asked the older girl, waving the cup in front of her mother's face.

"Look around some more, it looks a little flimsy," said Edwards, picking up where she had left off: "People are fascinated by my spoon collection. . . ."

Souvenirs: They're as much a part of the American summertime tradition of piling the kids into the family car and taking off for distant destinations as unfoldable road maps and unscheduled rest stops.

For visitors to Orange County, souvenirs are a relatively inexpensive way to keep alive those vacation memories of visiting Camp Snoopy, riding Space Mountain or dipping their toes into the Pacific Ocean. A summer tan may fade come September, but a souvenir is forever.

Of course, not everyone has such a romantic view of souvenirs.

"It would be nice to say a souvenir is something to remember a place by, but I think it's to show somebody you've been someplace," said Pam Kreinbring of Vancouver, Wash., who was among the tourists visiting the wax museum on a recent afternoon.

Shuns Typical Souvenir

Kreinbring shuns the typical objets de souvenir: "I don't want to dust them when I get home. I usually buy T-shirts that say where we've been."

Addy Hanselmann, a truck driver from Sydney, Australia, likes all kinds of souvenirs.

"I went to Disneyland yesterday and bought heaps of souvenirs--coasters, stickers, patches, spoons, a map of Disneyland," said Hanselmann while examining an "LA's the Place" baseball cap at Movieland.

"I buy them as a memento of being at a particular place. You get a lot of guys in Australia who say, 'You haven't been there. ' You can say, 'Here, take a look at this!' "

And just what sort of souvenirs are tourists buying in Orange County in the summer of 1985?

T-shirts appear to be the hottest item, according to a random survey of souvenir shops. But, for the most part, it's the same old schlock tourists have been buying for decades: drinking cups, beer mugs, salt and pepper shakers, place mats, serving trays, ashtrays, plastic wallets and purses, playing cards, pennants and bumper stickers.

Only Place-Name Changes

And whether they buy them at a souvenir shops in Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach or Laguna Beach, they'll find, by and large, the same items. Only the place-name changes.

One longtime souvenir staple, however, appears to have gone the way of nickel post cards and 35-cent-a-gallon gasoline: It's that classic of kitsch, the black velvet souvenir pillow with the shiny flock surface and the fringe on the side.

"I think that may get the tacky award," laughed Sue DiMaio, owner of the Capistrano Trading Post, a souvenir shop in San Juan Capistrano. She hasn't sold a black velvet souvenir pillow in 20 years.

"It was a really Coney Island look that is completely out," she said. "I don't think we could give them away today.

"It used to be," DiMaio added, "that we sold lots of auto decals for windows, and now we sell almost none. But kids still collect pennants for their rooms, beaded (Indian) belts remain unchanged in 40 years and the spoons with the shield on the top--they have to be totally timeless."

43 Years in Business

DiMaio speaks from the vantage point of 43 years in the souvenir business. She opened her 3,000-square-foot souvenir emporium across the street from the Mission in 1942, a time when Highway 101 ran directly in front of the store.

"I think the economy has changed people's attitude about what they're willing to buy," said DiMaio. "People are looking for something utilitarian. They're not looking for something that's just a throwaway when they get home."

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