We don’t know how many of you remember the original Mooneyes Christmas party back in 2001 hosted at the Elks Lodge in Whittier or not, but it was the epitome of Southern California car culture. The idea of the Christmas party was originally a customer appreciation party that Dean Moon and family gave to the many loyal customers, and it grew year after year, into what it is today.
Today, the Mooneyes Christmas party is huge, and is far from the small parking lot party it once was. Fourteen years later, the show is now held at the iconic Irwindale Raceway, renamed Toyota Speedway, with an estimated 400 custom cars and trucks, and an attendance count of around 4,000 hardcore car culture fans.
The minute we arrived at the show, we spotted customs that were magazine quality, and immediately started shooting photos. Row after row of rat rod-style cars and trucks lined the grounds. It felt like home. In addition, a sea of black t-shirts, cuffed jeans and hairstyles of the 1950s were dominant, as it should be, and girls wearing pinup-style clothing and makeup completed the atmosphere at the show.
Have you seen the music video by grunge band, Blind Melon with their song, “No Rain?” Where the little bee girl feels like an outcast until she opens the gate to find a whole herd of bee people who are dressed just like her? Well, that’s how we felt walking through vendor row; it was a cornucopia of retro attire. One can find anything and everything there — plenty of car-oriented clothing and products — and “Day of the Dead” shirts, skulls, key chains, and purses for the glamourous women at Mooneyes.
Another great part of this show is the display of hairstyles depicting the era. To help keep that aspect alive were two prominent names in the world of pomades and custom haircuts, Suavecito Pomades and Hawleywood’s Barbershop, who happen to also own Layette pomade. These two heavy hitters not only displayed their products but both set up mobile barbershops and were doing custom cuts on the spot.
Hawleywood’s had a two-chair booth and was busy all day. Sauvecito came with a vintage Airstream trailer that was customized to open an entire side to reveal a mobile barbershop. It was awesome! Not only could you get a cut, you could also buy any one of numerous pomades and t-shirts. I’ve noticed a trend in custom barbershops taking their trade on the road at various car shows, and I believe this new marketing strategy is working to educate people on what a nice, tight haircut can look and feel like.
While the haircuts are happening you can’t miss the sounds of heavy rockabilly music by one of the original bands that has played the Mooneyes Christmas party since its inception, the DynaTones! These guys rock, and for 14 years of entertaining the throngs of fans each year, they still rock as hard as they ever did. Granted we are all 14 years older, but it seems like yesterday, and that’s the whole purpose of this lifestyle. It was an era when World War II was over, soldiers returned home to start new lives, and custom cars were a part of that life. Army, Navy, Army, and Air Corps mechanics were used to making engines run with little or no parts, and rigging parts to get the job done in the field. At the time there, was no Summit Racing or Jegs to order racing or high-performance parts. Instead, these shade tree mechanics worked miracles creating hot rods of the day, by making their own parts and fabricating them into what today is known as “rat rods.”
Times were simpler back then, and cars and trucks were easy to work, on and fun at the same time. Traffic was minimal and street racing was dangerous and against the law, as it is today. But, the thrill of building a hot rod and beating the competition from another town was a thrill and for the most part didn’t hurt anyone. Sadly, those days are gone and now our streets are filled with minivans, sport compact cars and obnoxious drivers who believe public roads belong to them alone.
The World War II dudes brought with them more than just the ability to make hot rods out of nothing; they also brought the art of pin striping, pin-up girl nose art on aircraft, and the ancient art of tattooing from the Pacific and around the world. Tight military haircuts and the longer pompadour Elvis-style hair became the norm for the fellas, with cuff jeans and white t-shirts completing the look. Air Corps pilots gave us leather bomber jackets, and outlaw motorcycle gangs that roamed the country are still part of the cultural landscape today.
The Mooneyes Christmas Party is a chance to see and feel a bit of American history and offer a glimpse into a time when things were new and exciting, and a bit slowed down compared to today’s hustle and bustle. It is a chance for all of us, who weren’t even born yet, to experience that wonderful era in American car culture.
And you thought this was just another story about car shows! To fully understand and enjoy the efforts of those soldiers of World War II, and what they gave to us to enjoy and share year after year is priceless. Thank you our Veterans, and the Moon family and their associates, who provide all enthusiasts a chance to be a part of American hot rod history.
Check out the massive photo gallery from the party here: