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Pete Hampton


Pete Hampton was a wildly eccentric, some would say 'mad' genius. He was a painter, naturalist,  and showman. His paintings and stories told of his adventures in the Puente Hills in Whittier, and La Habra Heights, California.

As a child, Pete displayed a passionate love of nature, and a tremendous talent for depicting the world around him. In his youth he saw this pastoral corner of Southern California give way to the post WWII housing boom. Miles of grove land, and the beautiful hillsides fell to housing tracts, and shopping malls. Pete’s life became a mission. He was determined to save the remaining hills from development.

To accomplish this mission he painted thousands of pictures of the life and countryside he grew up in. He created slide shows of his paintings in the hope that people would see his shows, and be inspired to join him in his crusade.

 The Lost Era slide show was begun in 1961, but never completed. In the archives of Pete's work I discovered the hand written note books and fragments of the narration for the show, along with hundreds of paintings that accompanied the narrative. I have re-created the slide show here in book form in The Lost Era Transcripts.

Through Pete Hampton’s art you will view one of the untouched pastoral corners still remaining in mid-century Southern California.

You’ll get an intimate look into the strange world of this most eccentric genius, a world of transcendent beauty, and breath taking terror.

JW MacLean

(photo: Pete Hampton (back in the 70’s)

More on Pete Hampton, and the very strange story of how this project came to be at

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From the Artist

in Pete's own words

This is the first time I believe anything has been done like this to save wilderness areas. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that up behind the city there lie small, wild, undeveloped mountains.

Many of you, especially Boy Scouts, and their parents thrill to wake up in the wilds alone in the early morning, breathe the fresh, crisp air and watch the sun light up the sky with gold.The blue smogless sky is above you. The warm rays of sun give the canyon a touch of magic, and make you feel not dead, tired and depressed, but alive with sparkling brilliance. How wonderful it is to be alive! This is really what reality is. All around you there is a cool dampness, and dew drops sparkle brilliantly like jewels. You hear the humming of bees, and the bubbling songs of birds are almost dream like. Still, you know that it’s reality. You’re not escaping reality, but entering into it.

This is what life is meant for.

Very few people get a chance to see what I’ve seen and it is a privilege for you to enjoy this rarity. Unlike many slide shows and talks I’ve been to, where making a fast buck is their only goal, this is for an almost entirely different purpose.

I love to thrill my audience and put zest for life into their hearts. Like a dream, the sometimes unpleasantness of everyday life in the city far below is temporarily shut out of your mind as you have a day to explore the wilderness, the same as our true American pioneers and settlers did. When we deface and destroy our remaining wilderness it is no longer progress, but foolish and thoughtless destruction. Why not save the little that is left?

Pete Hampton, 1961

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The Lost Era Transcripts series cover
Introduction episode cover
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The Lost Era Transcripts

Created by
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JW MacLean
Artist Pete Hampton, (1940-2018) was a wildly eccentric genius. He created slide shows of his paintings to tell the beautiful, and terrifying stories of his early childhood in the remote hills of Southern California. This work was re created from Pete's journals and the original paintings from 1961 through the early 1970's.
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