The Hubcap Queen
(Pearsonville, California) The high California desert is not a place a lot of people come to on purpose. Its beauty is an acquired taste; its inhospitable climate, legendary. But there's a sort of town here called Pearsonville and no, it's not a mirage.
There's really not much reason to stop in Pearsonville unless you're looking for a bite to eat or some gas or maybe a hubcap for your '55 Nash. Pearsonville is the hubcap capital of the world.
And Lucy Pearson of Pearsonville is the undisputed hubcap queen.p>
Ms. Lucy Pearson: Some of them are probably 50 years old.
Smith: Lucy's yard is covered with thousands of them Â— yes, from a Nash and an Edsel, even a Willys. It's a long time since she and her husband left their old Kentucky home to make a life out here.
Ms. Pearson: We've been here 36 years now.
Smith: And every time he hauled in a junk car for their new business, Lucy would pop the hubcaps off and shine them up.
Ms. Pearson: Well, he told the kids, 'I think the old lady's lost her marbles,' you know, because every hubcap I could find or get hold of would go in my stack.
Smith: That stack has grown a bit in 36 years. It's been shuffled through and dealt into a warehouse of wheel covers, catalogued and computerized.
Ms. Pearson: Last time I counted them, I had 140,000.
Smith: She has a few of some and plenty of others, and people who want them know just who to call.
Ms. Pearson: I got stacks and stacks of them.
Smith: Boy, you sure do.
Ms. Pearson: Comes a big earthquake Â— boy, oh, boy. It's...
Smith: It's a memory lane of motoring history whose perspective comes from about six inches off the road. Plastic hubcaps, peculiar hubcaps; some less than perfect, all for sale if the price is right. Once in a while, Lucy's too busy to deal with your average walk-in customer, so that falls to her son Don and his partner.
There's 140,000 hubcaps here. Can this dog get me a hubcap?
Don: What, for your Honda?
Don: All right. Go get me a '82 Honda hubcap, please, 13-inch. Go get me the hubcap, Buddy. Get that hubcap.
I hope you got your money ready.
Smith: I do. I do, I do. Listen to that. Oh, look at this.
Don: A Honda hubcap. There, that was a Honda hubcap, right there.
Ms. Pearson: Good boy, Buddy.
Smith: Yeah, there you go.
Don: Buddy, get the money for me, would you please? All right.
Ms. Pearson: These are Oldsmobiles...
Ms. Pearson: ...and my Buicks are over there.
Smith: At age 70, or a bit more, it's clear Lucy is not losing her edge.
That's, like, off an old Bug or something, huh?
Ms. Pearson: Bus. I think that's off a bus.
Smith: Oh, this is a bus.
Ms. Pearson: Yeah.
Smith: Oh, I bet you're right.
Ms. Pearson: Yeah.
Smith: You are right.
The desert is a good place for hubcaps: no rain, no rust. And the hubcap queen says there's room for more, though she swears she will never part with some of the family jewels.
Ms. Pearson: That's a Rolls Royce and this is my DeSoto. I think that's my favorite one, yeah.
Smith: They say not much grows in the desert, except for maybe one little hubcap collection. Harry Smith, CBS News, Pearsonville, California.
First aired on the CBS Evening News
July 11, 1997