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A visit to 1959 Palm Springs

The year was a seminal one for the desert resort town; 50 years on, it's still a swingin' time.

December 06, 2009|By Christopher Reynolds reporting from palm springs >>>

To close out this tour, I was tempted to linger in one of them with a highball or some sauce-drenched midcentury dessert. But instead, I did what a retro traveler in 1959 would have done.

I hopped in the car, headed south and 20 miles later pulled over in Indio, at the feet of the armored knight who stands at the roadside (with his shield) to announce the Shields Date Garden.

By 1959, Floyd and Bess Shields had been running the Shields Date Garden for more than 35 years. Visitors were no longer startled by the idea of a date crystal shake, and those in the know were unfazed by the Shields' semi-continuously running promotional slide show, "The Romance and Sex Life of the Date." It was quaint.

Now, I'm sorry to say, the founders have passed on and the free slide show is a 15-minute video. But the feel is still Old School -- the blenders, stools at the counter -- and they still sell about 300 date shakes on a typical day.

Arriving, you take a gander at the rows of date palms, with their pickers' ladders attached like fire escapes. Then you head inside to order your $3.75 shake.

And if yours comes out the way mine did, so creamy, cold and smooth and sweet, you may just close your eyes and forget what decade it is altogether. That's not nostalgia, just good taste. /palmsprings

Extend the visit

Go online for a video and more photos of Palm Springs.

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