Jan and Dean and The Little Old Lady from Pasadena

On this Day:

On June 8, 1964 “The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)”, recorded by 1960s American pop singers, Jan and Dean, was released. The song was about the original Little Old Lady from Pasadena, Kathryn Elizabeth Minner.

Kathryn Elizabeth Minner (January 3, 1892 – May 26, 1969), sometimes credited as Katherine Minner, was an American character actress who specialized in playing “little old ladies” in movies, on various television shows, and in a series of television commercials for Southern California Dodge dealers.


Wife and mother

Born Kathryn Elizabeth White in New York City to William H. White and his wife Mary, she married Samuel Stephen Minner on June 17, 1914, in Newark, New Jersey. They initially settled in Kearny, New Jersey, where their first son, Samuel Raymond (known as “Raymond”), was born on June 15, 1915. The Minners soon moved to Flemington, New Jersey, where they had two more children, a daughter, Rita Virginia, born on March 14, 1918, and a son, William James born on April 25, 1919. They remained in Flemington until they moved to California in the mid-1950s to be closer to their son Raymond, who had taken a job with Prudential Insurance Company and was transferred to Los Angeles.

Acting career

Making her first acting appearance at the age of 65 in a 1957 episode of Dragnet, Minner was best known for her appearances in a series of ten television commercials for Chrysler Corporation’s Dodge Division which aired in Southern California from 1964 to 1969, and as the red shawl wearing little old lady on the cover of the 1964 Jan and Dean album The Little Old Lady from Pasadena.

In the spring of 1964, Minner came to the attention of the Kohner Agency in Hollywood after she answered a casting call wearing a red shawl, black gloves, and a pair of Keds sneakers. She was perfect for the part of the “little old lady”, which would be featured in a series of upcoming television commercials for Southern California Dodge dealers, and was hired on the spot. The television commercials became one of the most memorable advertising campaigns of the 1960s. Her famous tag line in that Clio Award winning advertising campaign was “Put a Dodge in your garage, honey!” Minner became a Southern California celebrity for teens, parents, and even bikers. She even made an appearance on The Dating Game, which became their highest rated show.


Kathryn’s husband of almost 53 years, Sam Minner, died in January 1967 at the age of 80, and a little more than two years later, on May 26, 1969, Kathryn died of a heart attack in Van Nuys, California at the age of 77. Kathryn was buried next to her husband at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in the Mission Hills community of Los Angeles, California (per Wikipedia).

First, a Joke:

Tom finally decided to tie the knot with his longtime girlfriend.

One evening, after the honeymoon, he was in the garage, cleaning one of his hot rods for an upcoming show.

His wife was standing there at the bench watching him.

After a long period of silence she finally speaks. ‟Honey, I’ve just been thinking, now that we’re married maybe it is time you quit spending all your time out here in the garage, and you probably should just consider selling all your cars.

Tom gets this horrified look on his face. She says, ”Darling, what’s wrong?‟

”There for a minute you were starting to sound like my ex-wife.‟

”Ex-wife!‟, she screams, ”YOU NEVER TOLD ME YOU WERE MARRIED BEFORE!!!!!!!‟

Tom’s reply: ”I wasn’t‟.

Second, a Song:

Jan and Dean was an American rock duo consisting of William Jan Berry (April 3, 1941 – March 26, 2004) and Dean Ormsby Torrence (born March 10, 1940). In the early 1960s, they were pioneers of the California Sound and vocal surf music styles popularized by the Beach Boys.

Among their most successful songs was 1963’s “Surf City”, the first surf song ever to reach the #1 spot. Their other charting top 10 singles were “Drag City” (1963), “Dead Man’s Curve” (1964; inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008[1]), and “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” (1964).

In 1972, Torrence won the Grammy Award for Best Album Cover for the psychedelic rock band Pollution’s first eponymous 1971 album, and was nominated three other times in the same category for albums of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. In 2013, Torrence’s design contribution of the Surf City Allstars’ In Concert CD was named a Silver Award of Distinction at the Communicator Awards competition.

“The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)” is a song written by Don Altfeld, Jan Berry and Roger Christian, and recorded by 1960s American pop singers, Jan and Dean. Singer/songwriter P.F. Sloan sings the falsetto part usually sung by Dean Torrence, while Dean sings one of the backup parts. This was the first time P.F. sang the falsetto on a single, although P.F. had already sung some falsetto on the last album Dead Man’s Curve/The New Girl In School.

Jan & Dean reworked the lyrics from “The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)” in 1967, renaming the track “Tijuana” and releasing it as a single that same year. The lyrics now contained thinly-veiled references to marijuana use. “Tijuana” was to be included on the act’s final album Carnival of Sound, completed in 1969, but the LP went unreleased for several decades. The record was circulated as a bootleg until it garnered official release in 2010.

The song was performed live by The Beach Boys at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium on August 1, 1964 for inclusion on their No.1 album Beach Boys Concert. The Beach Boys, and particularly Brian Wilson, who co-wrote several of Jan & Dean’s biggest surf hits, had supported Jan & Dean in the recording studio to initiate them in the surf music genre.


The origins of “The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)” stem from a very popular Dodge ad campaign in southern California that launched in early 1964. Starring actress Kathryn Minner, the commercials showed the white-haired elderly lady speeding down the street (and sometimes a drag strip) driving a modified Dodge. She would stop, look out the window and say “Put a Dodge in your garage, Hon-ey!”. The song soon followed and Minner enjoyed great popularity until she died in 1969.

“The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)” was a folk archetype in Southern California in the mid-20th century. Part of this lore was that many an elderly man who died in Pasadena would leave his widow with a powerful car that she rarely, if ever, drove, such as an old Buick Roadmaster, or a vintage 1950s Cadillac, Ford, Packard, Studebaker, DeSoto, or La Salle. According to the story, used car salesmen would tell prospective buyers that the previous owner of a vehicle was “a little old lady from Pasadena who only drove it to church on Sundays,” thus suggesting the car had little wear.

Chart performance

In 1964, the song reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and number one on Canada’s RPM chart.

Courtesy of RETV62, here is a video set to Jan and Dean’s “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena”. We hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“When the darkness comes, keep an eye on the light – whatever that is for you – no matter how far away it seems.” – Jan Berry.

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Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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