I forgot to mention Means Nursery across the street from Tiny's. After I got my candy, I continued on my way to the park by crossing Ridgecrest Blvd. near the nursery via a crosswalk. There was a narrow pathway running north/south through to the entrance of the park. On the west side of the pathway was Means Nursery. My family had a very long relationship with the Means family members. Both Mrs. and Mr. Means were very kind individuals taking the time with children like me, answering questions and just letting me hang around the store. There were lots of things to see there besides plants; ducks, geese, monkeys, fish, etc.. I don't recall the parrot's name but he would speak more when Mrs. Means was in the store than at any other time.
My family's relationship with the Means family began sometime around 1946 when my grandparents purchased what is now redrock canyon state park. They didn't own the entire boundary of what is now the park, but all you can see from the highway. A row of tamarack trees with a driveway is at the southern end where they had a restaurant, tavern, gift shop, gas station, and cabins.
When the Means would make a trip to Bakersfield for nursery supplies, they would stop there for refreshments. Mr. Means had two or three brothers that just the same size and lived in Porterville I believe. Anyway, no remembrance of Ridgecrest would be complete without a tip of the hat to Means Nursery. I bet most of the gardens in 1960's Ridgecrest were supplied by them. I have fond memories of that place as well.
That's right. They lived directly across the street from the nursery. Mrs. Means never wore shoes that I can recall. Both she and Mr. Means were quiet people except that Mrs. Means would call for Mr. Means to come to lunch. He would then lock the gate and walk home. Truly they were great people. Unfortunately, they could not have children but did adopt one child, a girl. As I recollect, she was, well...mean. I seem to recall that she was addressed for abuse on more than one occasion. Too bad more of Mrs. and Mr. Means didn't wear off on her. Never heard what happened to her.
High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
40's and 50's
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from our newly republished 7th Ed. Indian Wells Valley and Northern Mojave Desert Handbook, AAUW:
"In 1941, Bentham decided to open the community's first post office in his store. Local citizens wanted to call the town Sierra View, but the Post Office Department notified them that California already had many "Sierras." Bentham held an election in his store to determine the official name. After the voters rejected such descriptive possibilities as Rattlesnake Gulch and Gilmore (for the brand of gas sold at Bentham's station), the name of Ridgecrest won by one vote. Bentham then became Ridgecrest's first postmaster. By 1943, Ridgecrest had grown to 15 homes and 96 residents...... then the Navy arrived.."
I've also heard that the name Ridgecrest was nominated by a lady who had lived in Ridgecrest Missouri - or somewhere back there... Janet Westbrook
Ridgecrest in the late 30's/early 40's
NOTS (Naval Ordnance Test Station) was established in November 1943 at its first headquarters at Inyokern Airport which was called Harvey Field by the Navy until deactivation in 1946-47.
The station consisted of eight quonset huts and test ranges. The airport was returned to the county in 1947 after construction of facilities at China Lake. One of the most significant construction projects was Michelson Laboratory (named for the first American Physics Nobel Laureate).
After the Navy came, Ridgecrest was a boomtown. Many lived in make-shift housing in Ridgecrest and Inyokern. Tents and small house trailers provided the housing for construction people, Navy personnel, and Department of Defense employees.
Looking east on Ridgecrest Blvd from a bit west of Joe Fox's house. You can see the water tower on the left.
Hand drawn map by one of the Fox sons ca 1934
Original water tower
Victory Market in the early 50's
In 1943 Ridgecrest was a mere splinter of what it is now and even what it was in the 50's. The Victory Market was in place by then and I remember it was more a general store then a grocery store. It had a lot of slot machines in it at that time and I was just enthralled with them. I couldn't play them but I just watched all the folks drop their spare change in them as they left the checkstands. In those days there wasn't a lot of spare change so the slots were all nickel and dime and quarter machines. Even so there was a lot of traffic on them.
Ridgecrest Blvd. ca 1949 These businesses were developed thru the 40's. You can see the Victory Market in the background. Masten's Variety Store, A hardware store and Rizzardini's and the Band Box and a shoe store. There were others along Ridgecrest Blvd which will be shown in subsequent pictures..
Sherm and Sadie Shoaf opened Shoafs Cafe on Ridgecrest Blvd across from the Victory Market. Rita, his sister, joined up later when she came out from Ohio. It was one of the original cafes opened in the town. In the view above you will see The Chips cafe in the foreground followed by the old Health Food Specialties store and then Shoaffs cafe with the peaked roof. I have had many a home cooked meal in their cafe and enjoyed them all. It may still be in business for all I know.
There were a few other stores but I am darned if I can remember what the names of them were. There was a little hamburger joint up the street from the Victory Market and they served some of the best burgers I ever had the privilege to eat. It was just a little ol house with a room or two turned into a little bar with stools and just enough room for a grill and a refrigerator. That place was still there when I graduated from 8th grade at James M. Monroe School. That was in 1952.
I wonder if that little hamburger stand about a block further west from the Victory was called "Uncle Tom's Cabin"?? That was the name of the place that my parents bought and became "Bauer's Burgers", usually called Tiny and Regis's -- it was pretty run down when mum and dad bought it but I wonder if that was the name you were trying to remember--they sure would have been there in 1952.
Now, I always wanted to know--is it true R/C was almost called Crumbville after someone named Crumb that had owned alot of land? And that Inyokern was originally where the base was to be placed but they put their prices up so the base moved? (or are these just "non" urban myths!!) Maybe you could put me straight. I also remember the Fox's alfalpha fields.
My most vivid memory was one year we got a whole ten inches of rain and it looked like god had painted the sierras purple and bright orange-visible all the way to Ridgecrest--billions of lupines and poppies.
In answer to Linda's question: I believe that I remember that little burger place to be immediately to the left of the point that this picture was taken. To the right would have been a dirt road that skirted the elementary school grounds.
I have no other information or pictures to confirm or deny this. If anyone can help it would be appreciated . . . .
In the view at left is the Ridgecrest Pharmacy and at the left most part of Hazelton's department store. It was a clothing store of some note.
As shopping centers and major outlets moved in Hazeltons went out of business as did the RC pharmacy.
In the view above is Hazeltons store now deserted and boarded up. The facade has changed over the years and in this view it is unused.
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The jail was the little tiny bldg. next to the court house. It was like in the parking lot between Victory Mkt and the court house. I think they had two cells in it. I guess the PD was in the court house at that time. I really don't remember either. But I can't think of where else it would have been. The jail was too tiny for anything other than a cpl of cells. But of course we only had a cpl of officers then.
Do you remember when they gave polio shots at the court house? The kids were lined up half way down RC Blvd. I was scared to death of needles then and when I was about 5 I started screaming. It was like dominoes. When I started they ALL started..LOL.. They asked my parents not to bring me back. The next time I got a polio shot my dad took me to Drummond and Dr. Drummond had to put me on the operating table and give me my shot. LOL..
Saundra (Martin) Koenig
Another thing about this area was that we had a police department and a jail but I never knew where it was. Now that has been revealed to me by the following:
Hi, my name is Theresa Hess and I was born and raised in Ridgecrest. I graduated from BHS in 1979.
I remember Tiny's burgers (I remember as a little kid going in there to get candy and wishing I could get a hamburger, 'cause they looked and smelled so good, but I never had enough money), Brewer's pool (I took swimming lessons here when I was 5 years old, and I remember the snack
shack next to it and listening to the juke box with the group called Chicago playing), the A & W drive-thru (it used to be called the Yucca. my mom was a car-hop at the Yucca), the Ridge theater (I remember only paying 25 cents for the matinee on Saturdays and I remember big MIke who used to run it and I remember always getting caught for putting my feet up on the chairs in front of me), the Crest Drive-In and Trona pool (my dad used to have his company picnics there). I remember all of these places when I was growing up. Looking at this web site, truly brings back a lot of memories.
Remember when Red Mountain used to have a hospital there and the doctor's
named was Dr. Drummond? My dad was born there.
I remember taking picnics up around Johannesburg with my grandma Hess and
family. We used to go to a place called turtle rock. And what about Schmidt's tunnel?
Do you remember a place called San Quist Spa? When I was a girl scout, we used to have day camps here.
Theresa Hess (1979)
Part of the history of any town or major city is the growth of religion as a key part of its maturing. The following is an excerpt from "The Parish of Randsburg and St. Ann Ridgecrest" as written by John De Pol. Pictures presented here are from that same source. You may read the entire text Here
A brief history of the growth of St Ann's Parish of Ridgecrest
He traveled far and wide to the outlying regions where individual parishioners might be found. Concurrently, he began to search for and purchase property in Ridgecrest to be the site of the permanent parish facilities. In this he was greatly assisted by Mr. Joe Fox, a longtime resident of Ridgecrest and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Mr. Fox had acquired considerable property in Ridgecrest which he was generously making available for churches of all denominations at prices which Fr. Pointek characterized as ".......practically giving it away." Thus, with Mr. Fox's help, together with help from parishioners such as the Rizzardini family and others, Fr. Pointek was able to assemble several parcels into a multi-acre site on West Church Avenue. An additional parcel, 10 acres in size, of raw desert land located three miles south of Inyokern was donated by Mr. Fox as a site for a future cemetery.
The first Mass in Ridgecrest had been celebrated by the Navy Chaplain Rev. Gerald Clark on Feb. 18, 1946 in the old Kern County Building, known then as the "USO Building", on West Ridgecrest Blvd. Sunday Masses continued there by Fr. Pointek until the USO operation closed down. Sunday Masses were then celebrated at the Ridgecrest Theater pending completion of the church building on parish property on West Church Avenue. The construction of St. Jerome Catholic Church, Ridgecrest's first Catholic church, had commenced with volunteer labor on January, 1947.
A total of $1,200 was raised by donations from parishioners and by a grant from the Catholic Extension Society of Chicago. Mr. Phil Lilly was in charge of construction, assisted by Messrs. Menzhuber, Meagher, West, Moroso, Pocta, Ridel, Mussler, Shoaff, Goulet and Sellers. Mac Rizzardini was able to obtain the hard-to-get lumber material and Joe Fox provided roof rafters from a stock of surplus material. The 20 x 40 foot redwood frame structure was completed and dedicated in April, 1947.
Prior to the construction of the St. Jerome Church, however, the first Catholic church in the Indian Wells Valley was established in Inyokern. The old Biggs Grocery store, a 20 x 60 foot galvanized metal building was purchased in July, 1946 and remodeled to become the Santa Inez Chapel. Assisting in the reconversion of the building were James Greenfield, Willibrod Bergeron, Gordon Zurn and Mrs. Jack Warner. This chapel served the Catholics in the communities of Inyokern, Leliter, Brown and at the Los Angeles Aqueduct stations. Meanwhile, the parish had received a two-room house, the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Seberger of Ridgecrest. Moved to the Church Ave. site, the house served as a catechetical center.
Santa Inez Chapel, Inyokern - 1946.
Thus by April, 1947, the end of the first year, the parish facilities consisted of the Church of Santa Barbara in Randsburg (the seat of the parish) and the missions of St. Jerome, Ridgecrest and Santa Inez Chapel in Inyokern.
Santa Barbara Church Randsburg built 1904
St. Jerome's Church in Ridgecrest as built in 1947
Santa Inez Chapel Inyokern 1946
Interior Santa Barbara Church Randsburg
Bentham's Corner the first structures that were bult on the corner of Ridgecrest Blvd. and China Lake Blvd. Mr. Bentham was the first postmaster of Ridgecrest. This picture circa 1936.
Picture submitted by Doug Huse
In the 30's and before this little town was called "Crumville" and it was a farming community. There was a dairy here owned by Joe Fox and the water wells were operated by his family. It wasn't until the 40's that things changed.
Here is a view of Hazelton's after a face lift around 1952. As I recall they had increased their stock and were doing a booming business.
To bring some closure in the same place history is recorded seems proper here. In the interests of that effort the following ode to the Shoaff's legacy as pioneers in Ridgecrest is entered. Submitted by Alan Garrett source unknown
A little bit more of the history of Ridgecrest. Joel & I spent a few days and nights of poker at the Drawing Room, during our misspent youth.
A piece of Ridgecrest history passed away with Rita Gatchell, longtime co-owner and operator of the Drawing Room café on Ridgecrest Boulevard, who succumbed to natural causes on Aug. 15.
Rita joined her brother John “Sherm” Shoaff in his restaurant business, Shoaff’s Café, when she came here in 1946. The café was the first restaurant in town, and it catered to the swelling population that came in response to the founding of the Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake.
Renamed the Drawing Room in 1960 when it briefly added draw poker to its business, the little restaurant was the love of Rita’s working life. She worked as the cook for almost 52 years.
“This is not Burger King. You don't get it your way. You get it my way or you don’t get the ... at all,” proclaimed a carved wooden sign in the restaurant. The message on the sign was widely regarded as Rita’s unofficial motto.
“She proudly served five generations ‘her way’ and is now serving the angels,” her family wrote in her obituary.
“People would come in and want to do work for food,” said Rosemary Galvin, her daughter, who worked with her mother in the restaurant for more than 30 years. “They’d ask if they could wash windows. She would say no, but she would always feed them, make them sit down and eat a full meal. She always made sure everyone had enough.”
Later the restaurant offered the first pizza available in Ridgecrest — a homemade treat with sauce simmered from scratch. Rita would work a split shift to cover the morning prep cooking and breakfast starting at 5 a.m. and then finish the day with the last dinner customer at 9 p.m.
Customers remember her yelling for their orders over her shoulder while she cooked. She never forgot an order — and customers learned in short order that they’d better have their order ready when she asked for it.
People flocked to the Drawing Room for Rita’s specialties — potato salad, pastrami sandwiches and fresh strawberry shortcake.
Although the restaurant consumed most of Rita’s time, it was not her most important pursuit. That honor was left to her family.
“I worked with her every day and talked to her at least four times a day on the telephone,” Rosemary said. “We lived on the same street. We’re a very close family.”
Rita also liked doing things her way, pointed out Rosemary. “Everybody used to always tell me, ‘You must be a good cook like your mother.’ She didn’t let us cook!”
All that came to a sudden halt in July 1997. Rita received word at the Drawing Room one afternoon that she had terminal cancer. The restaurant never reopened.
Seven hundred people turned out later that year for a farewell salute to Rita. The city of Ridgecrest gave her the key to the city, and Kern County 1st District Supervisor Jon McQuiston came out to support her, Rosemary recalled.
True to her fighting spirit, Rita outlived the doctors’ three-month prognosis by almost eight years. During her many years of battling illness, Rita usually lived with her daughter, Janet Sheppard, of La Habra.
“For the last eight years, if not for my sister and all of her medical knowledge and care, I don’t think we would have had my mom,” Rosemary said.
Ridgecrest Blvd from the west end looking east toward what would become China Lake Blvd. This is dated in the late 30's or early 40;s,