I first lived with my parents and older brother and grand mother in what is now Red Rock Canyon State Park. The State of California purchased the property through the eminent domain law. They had a gas station, gift shop, restaurant, tavern, and rental cabins on the property. They also mined tungsten, silver, and other metals there. Additionally, many western movies were made there though I was too young to recall the "stars". We moved to Ridgecrest in 1958 where we live in a new housing subdivision on Florence Street. Most of the city was within walking distance from there so as a child I made the rounds from place to place. Funny, even though I know it was as hot as ever then, we still went outside to play except on the hottest days. Those days, not even bugs would go out in the heat. Relief from the heat could always be found at the rather new library on Ridgecrest Blvd. as well as quiet and a book.
I remember my mother giving my brothers and I a quarter each to go to the movies on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. There were two movies and one or two cartoons. If we were lucky, we got the three stooges thrown in. Mike Molner I think owned the indoor and drive-in theaters. Mom sure got her money's worth by sending us off for several hours for only 75 cents!! Oh, and I remember being "searched" for outside candy there more than once. The candy inside the theater was much more expensive.
As I read your responses and comments, it brought back many memories. Many of the people responding I knew while I was there. I rarely go there now, the weather and I don't seem to agree....but I do remember quite a bit about it.
I noticed that some things were missing (I believe) were the following:
1) The ice house owned by Carl & Frank Walker.
2) Brownies welding shop behind the Victory Market (he was a long time resident)
3) Hankhammer's drug store corner of Ridgecrest Blvd & China Lake Blvd.
4) Frenchies liquor store out by the K&R market.
5) Lee's gym across from the Baptist Church. P.s. I lived next door
to the church were the road is now that runs from Ridgecrest Blvd.
to Inyokern road.
6) Mcclatchies (?) laundry on Ridgecrest Blvd.
7) Commerford Refrigeration on Ridgecrest Blvd.
8) Creech's garage out on Inyokern road.
9) Hildreth's motors on Ridgecrest Blvd.
Seeing a picture of Joe Fox reminded me of the time I was out i
n the yard with my dog when Joe shot and killed him. The reason he
said was that my dog was killing his chickens. Funny how things
stay with you thru all the years.
Remember all the alfalfa fields?
After the war, my dad worked at the Navy Pasadena Foothill plant until 1953 when we moved to Wherry Housing. A short time later, we moved to Mitscher Street on the base until my folks retired in the early 70s. I graduated in 1967 from BHS and left in 69, still returning for family visits.
There was no place like the Indian Wells Valley to grow up in the 50s and 60s. Little TV, but all that wide open space to ride bikes, explore and have good clean fun. My folks seldom locked the house or car doors.
I enjoyed the armed forces days on the base, braved the long lines whenever there was a Disney movie at the base theater, rode bikes in the alleys. We explored and played in the old WWII bombers kept out in the desert, swam almost every day during the summer in the base pool and enjoyed the air so clear you could reach out and touch Owens peak through the window at Richmond Elementary school.
We watched President Kennedy ride down the street in a limo, Santa Clause ride in the back of a fire truck, and tasted those delicious doughnuts delivered from those long drawers in the yellow Helms Bakery truck. I can still hear that whistle.
How many times did you lose your base pass and have to get another? Did you like the 6 cent or 12 cent candy at the theater? How far up the V shaped walkway supports at the Commissary could you stand? Do you remember 2 cent/day library fines and 25 cent haircuts that would take about 3 minutes? How many times did the drink machine in the walkway by the library fail on you when the cup didn’t come down and your ice and soda went by in front of your eyes?
Life was different then. It traveled at 20 miles per hour.
Perhaps some of you who resided in the IWV during the 40's and very early 50's will remember that Television was almost impossible to receive. Maybe on a special day with a sunspot accurately aimed and weather conditions at optimum you might get a fuzzy shadowy picture. This was cause to gather around the TV in a hurry because you never knew how long this phenomenon might last. In the early 50's a project was undertaken to build a repeater station on Laurel Mountain. There follows a story and picture of this undertaking provided by Doug Huse.
Early TV In The High Desert
By Doug Huse, Class of ‘59
It’s Howdy Doody Time, well not quite in 1953. Even though Howdy had been on NBC-TV airwaves since l948, the 17,000 residents of Ridgecrest, Inyokern and China Lake were watching snow and dark shadows assuming they even had a TV. I remember my dad Russ Huse with his extension ladder working on our twenty-foot TV antenna on our New Duplex. Then Lowe Smith next door ran his up to 25 feet. Picture didn’t improve. Then I heard someone in Ridgecrest ran his high gain antenna up to 40 feet. No better results. And so higher the antennas went. Imagine the problems at 65 feet. It was sort of a macho thing too...who had the tallest. And everyone would start over again after a windstorm.
The Navy realized they had a recruitment problem without TV as early as l951 when they secured the use of 4500-foot Laurel Mountain to possibly rebroadcast LA’s seven commercial channels. It was called an “Experimental Class 2 TV Repeater Station”, the only kind in the US. George Sutherlen of NOTS Test Department was appointed Roustabout for the project. George was like General Groves of the Manhattan Project. It turned out to about finish his career. It took over a year just to work through protocol with LA stations, Congress and the FCC. In the fall of ’53 the first channels 2 & 4 appeared only briefly for an hour a day, but maybe more hours the following week. No fanfare. George once told me that the original budget for the site using WWII technology was $5000. The rest was volunteer labor and Navy surplus, lots of Navy surplus.
It was in late December ‘53, just prior to the Pasadena Parade and Rose Bowl TV fest, that high winds blew the whole thing down the mountain; buildings, generators, and equipment. George said the winds were 150 mph. The repeater was a total lost but the show had to go on. So on the Monday before New Years, George was in Philadelphia building new equipment while his volunteer crew was on the mountain. I was at home as usual watching TV snow with dad on the roof turning the antenna with a pipe wrench for a better picture when suddenly, at 8:45AM New Years Day 1954, Channel 4 NBC was back on with a beautiful picture. George had the repeater up and running. We all cried as a family. Neighbors shouted from their rooftops and honked their car horns. Usually TV separates families, but not in the early days. It was also a memorable day if you had a color TV. NBC was broadcasting their first coast to coast color broadcast. And George, he spent the day alone on the mountain watching a 12 inch black and white monitor.
I remember problems in 1955 with the FCC as signal strength increased. Trona residents claimed they were getting “ghosts” in their pictures caused by the repeater on channels 2,4 & 5. Turned out to be only twelve TV sets in Trona and not the 65 residents TV’s who signed their names to a letter of complaint sent to the FCC. George was off to Washington again to smooth the ruffled feathers of US Senator Kuchel. George detoured on that trip to Laurel Mt. and turned the gain down thereby eliminating Trona that also by design eliminated Ridgecrest and Inyokern. This caused more problems.
Old Jim Wheeler lost 70 paying tenants who moved their trailers the 8 miles from Inyokern to another court just outside NOTS just to pick up the signal overlap. But weeks before when the signal was strong, Al of Al Adams Oldsmobile of Ridgecrest complained to the Navy that the booster brought L.A. car advertisers to the area and wasn’t competitive to him. And then NOTS personnel who owned private
homes outside the station complained that the original intent of the repeater was to
provide a recreational value to their jobs. And the Trona problem complicated itself when six of the twelve residents decided they wanted the signal to be increased. Seemed like everyone wanted a piece of Howdy.
As we all have experienced, the dust does settle after the storm and George Sutherlen finessed the equipment in 1956 around Trona so all channels were viewed with great clarity. All problems were finally solved when the site was moved to The Lone Butte commonly known as B Mountain in the l960’s at the same time Howdy was pulling the curtain after a 13 year run. Also electronics and coaxial cable had improved and a fixed power line helped the repeater broadcast stable color pictures. George told me in l965 that he figured it cost him $3000 in gasoline to travel the 25,000 miles in 12-mile jaunts to Laurel Mt. And that the best was he finally had time to watch TV in his retirement. All I remember is that I had gotten too old to want to watch Howdy Doody. Then again for anyone who’s TV was out during those early years, try Howdydoodytime.com.
High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
40's and 50's
This view is looking from Ridgecrest Blvd up China Lake Blvd to the north. Theres a liquor store, a flower shop and the Village Inn there. The Village Inn was the original night club in Ridgecrest. If you look to the right of the truck parked on the side of the road, you can just see the Marquise of the Crest Theatre. The matchbook says it all.
From the 40's into the 50's the Ridge Theater was remodeled twice. I remember the last two or three rows were loges that cost extra. They were super padded like easy chairs but I never got a chance to use one. I kept any extra money I had to buy popcorn, cokes and candy. I saw many a Saturday matinee in the theatre in the upper left most picture. After it was remodeled the first time I rarely went. I was gone by the time it made the lower left remodeled appearance. Now there is no theatre here at all its a Burger King.
The new theatre is located just off the "Y" at Inyokern road and China Lake Blvd. It is much more modern and has several screens.
Moving a little further up China Lake Blvd. to the north was an Insurance co., The Hideaway and Bud Eyre Chevrolet. The Hideaway was bar and restaraunt which catered to most of the business mens clubs in town like the lions, the rotary and so forth. I know these businesses were in place in the early 50's and probably even before. The last time I was in Ridgecrest I met up with the former Cheryl Goode (56) and her husband who owned the Hideaway. In that same day I met up with Max Hess who was working as a salesman at Bud Eyre Chevrolet which was managed by Fred Etoch (56) who I also had the privilege of talking to for a while. As I undertand it the Hideaway was removed some time ago and Bud Eyre Chevrolet has expanded into that space.
I have been told that this used to be an A&W but it does look suspiciously like the Old Yucca Inn of the 50's. It was a drive in and they had waitresses who brought out the trays which hung on the side of your car window. It was the place we used to hang out at night and be cool and stuff.
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I've only been able to get little bits and pieces of stories from my folks. There are many people in the area who grew up here in the 20s and 30s. I might mention that Mom is Jane (Eyre) Weidenbenner. My Dad is Frank. Grandpa Eyre was a hardrock miner and then worked for the Trona Railway until he retired in the late 50's. Grandpa Weidenbenner died when my dad was only 7, but he was a mining engineer with Guggenheim, one of the big mining companies in the Rand area in the 20s and 30s. He was a timber specialist. He worked in the Yellow Aster, the Big Four, and a couple of other holes in the area. My great-grandpa, Francis Xavier Weidenbenner, helped survey the current road over Slate Range Crossing. We have a few old family pictures from that time. My folks grew up with the Foxes, Rizzardini's, Napolis', (ok, just drew a blank on other names). They remember Donker's Dairy (the place just down from the 395/Trona Road junction). They talk about folks who lived up Goler Wash and had to travel at least 2 hrs back and forth to school every day. There was an orchard out on Cuddyback Lake, so they tell me. (Wonder where?) And over near the water towers for the old Trona Railway. Of course, many many of these memories are family related, so I don't know how interested other people may be. My uncle, Bud Eyre, started his first car dealership in Joburg (?), then moved to Ridgecrest in the late 40s or 50s. My uncles Jerry and Bob used to race Indian motorcycles around the mushroom hill that you can see from the Trona Road out near where the Ransburg road comes in now.
Local valley resident volunteers in 1953 constructing the first TV repeater station in the US on top of Laurel Mountain.
The antennas shown above were installed at the Laurel Mountain repeater station in November 1953. Soon after all seven LA TV stations could be received in the Indian Wells Valley. A couple of months after this picture was taken the antennas were damaged by winds up to 120 mph. It became clear that maintaining television for the IWV was to become a very expensive proposition.
My family came to the desert in July 1952, one week after the earthquake that evastated Tehachapi. They hadthe road cleared but the brick store fronts were laying out in the street. Coming from Los Banos CA (dairy, canteloupe and sugar-beet country) to the desert was quite a shock. We lived the first month at Wheeler's Trailor Park in Inyokern. Jim Wheeler owned the Western Auto Store in Ridgecrest. Art helen's Cafe was on the corner where the Sierra Club is now. Flossies Variety Store was also on the main street. The telephone company employed switch-board operators and I believe that Mable Forrest (Gerald's mother) was the supervisor. I remember Anderson's Bar, the old race track, Pappalardos, Ewing's, and the El Corral Cafe along Inyokern Road.
We moved to Ridgecrest and lived at 305 Helena Street. My father laughed when I began watering the little green plants that later turned into tumbleweeds. The Dwinell family lived nearby. Jackie Dwinell married Rudy Pappas. Al Adams, the owner of the Olds/Buick dealership, and his family lived us for a short time.
Because we were on the edge of the open desert, we found an array ofcritters including sidewinders, horned toads, desert tortoise, scorpions and lizards in our yard.
We used to swim and have picnics at the old Trona pool. They had a black and white television outside and you could watch wrestling featuring Gorgeous George. Roller Derby was also popular at that time.
My father got us up early one morning to watch the Atom Bomb blast from Nevada Flats.We were told not to look directly atthe flash but I will never forget that muchroom cloud coming up over the horizon to the East.
My seventh and eighth grade teachers were Mr. Doug Brewer and Mrs. Genevieve Wise. Some of my classmates included Clarebelle Golyer, Justine Hallett, Janet Moss, Caroline Kiehl, Joanne McClatchy, Pat Hildreth, Margaret Cotant, Judy Hill, Charlotte Menard, Micky McMillan and Lucy Orozco. The guys were JOhn Oney, Bill O'Day, Grant Wood, Bob Klavetter, Tommy Swope, John Orr, Leonard Hines and George (Tacky) Middleton. Our eighth graduation was held in the shop at Bob Smith Chevrolet which is now Bud Eyre Chevrolet.
More of my early memories in the desert included:
When we first got to the desert, you could still drive through the old towns of Isabella and Kernville.
Bauer's Burgers was a favorite place to visit on the way home from James Monroe. Regis and Tiny Bauer were wonderful people who knew just how to relate to kids. They had great "drip down your arms" hamburgers.
Who could ever forget Corny and his Shoe Store? Corny actually fit the shoes to your feet. He had a tiny repair shop near the front gate when we got here. In later years, Corny would donate shoes for us to take down to our sister city of Tepatitlan, Mexico.
The Castaneda family owned La Fiesta and it was a tiny place with a walk-up window. It was next to the Texaco Service Station on that was on the corner of Ridgecrest China Lake Blvd's. They later built a new La Fiesta with patio seating across and down the boulevard. Weldon Sparrow had an office building next to the old La Fiesta.
I remember the awful sand storms; the sand would beat your legs until they stung. The sand wasn't much fun in your teeth either.
There used to be a cafe and service station in Red Rock Canyon. They filmed part of the movie "The Egyptian" with Edmond Purdom in Red Rock Canyon. There were lions in the movie and a couple of them got loose. It caused quite a stir but they were found in the desert toward Mojave. Part of the movie "Big Country" with Burl Ives was filmed near Jawbone Canyon.
Do you remember when the circus train came to town on the railroad spur from Inyokern? They stopped at that grove of Tamarisk trees where the water tanks are now, unloaded the animals and walked them along the railroad tracks. That was quite a sight.
San Quist Spa was a fun place to party. We also had picnics at the pool that was out past the base airfield.
The old Davis Airfield was on the corner of Upjohn and China Lake Blvd. CLOTA later used the old hanger building for their theater productions.
There used to be a Spring Fiesta held in the Station Theater parking lot on the base. I think those stopped when Ridgecrest started having their fairs. Before the fairgrounds were built, Ridgecrest held an annual Fair on Kirchmeire's property along China Lake Blvd.
Hartley and Lenna VanPelt owned the China Lake Tavern and Cafe. In the early 60's you could get a (lunch special) sandwich and cup of soup for $1.35. What a deal!!
When they were teenagers, both of my brothers worked washing dishes for Sherm at Shoaff's Cafe. I used to love going in there just to watch Rita cook and serve customers. She was poetry in motion and did not waste a move. When an order was ready, you could hear her yell "Sherm, pick it up". He was usually in the other room chatting with customers. Rita and her brother Sherm rank right up there for being some of our towns most beloved people.
During the summer of 1954, we moved to the corner of Florence and Las Flores Streets. Don and Dale Lane live there now. I rode the bus to Burroughs High which was on the base. The bus stopped at the Hospital to pick up Bonnie and Terry Drummond. John Battistone was our bus driver. He was a greatguy who looked out for us.
Of the seven kids in my family, five us of went to Burroughs High School. We were in the following classes: Bonnie - '53; JoAnn - '56; Rita - '58; James - '60; and Ted - '63. The station restaurant was called the Des (for Deserteria?). You could get a hamburger and milkshake for fifty cents; fries were fifteen or twenty cents.
The summer of 1956, we moved to 428 Florence. Classmates, Ray Mann and Larry Ingle lived next to each other across the street from us. I became friends with Carolyn Jones (class of '58) who had just moved to Ridgecrest. Carolyn is married to Dee Davis (class of '57). We have stayed in touch for all of these years. Carolyn is the sister of Lt Ralph Foukes (class of '61) who was killed in Vietnam. The tennis courts near Burroughs High were dedicated in Ralph's name thanks to the efforts of Linda Miller (class of '61) and others from his high school class.
In May 1963, my mother and I were at Armitage Field when President Kennedy's Airforce One landed. We were later along Blandy when his motorcade paraded up to the O'Club for lunch. I am sure that we all remember where we were when he was assassinated the following November. I was working at Seaboard Finance on Balsam Street. I ran down the street to tell my father and the men who were constructing the buildings at the corner of Balsam and French Streets.
I remember Poncho Barnes walking into Seaboard Finance inquiring about a loan. She normally dealt with Tom Reese at Bank of America but I think she had pushed her limit with him. I hear tell she once walked over to Tom Reese at the bank, pulled her shirt open and showed him her mastectomy scar. Bank employees might be able to tell us a little more about that shocker. Poncho wore men's clothing, was very weathered, but she had the most piercing blue eyes I have ever seen. She was quite the character.
My husband Pete and I retired from the base in 1994 and moved to Pine Mountain Lake, Groveland, California. We went full-time Rving in 2001 and now winter in Yuma, AZ where we have built asouthwest "casita". We see Zeke and Doris Boyack often. They live two miles from us. We see lots of Ridgecrest visitors in Yuma including Dick and Ellen Zurn, Dick Donna Tolkmitt, Bill Barbara Underwood, Norm Jerry Nelson, and Larry Jean Joners.
As we came down the Trona Hill, after drag racing, we usually stopped at the drive in restaurant on the S/E corner of China Lake and Ridgecrest Blvd's. It was a good place to get together in review of all the racing that had transpired (and to show off for the girls). This occurred mostly on friday and saturday nights. No roller skates for waitresses; just sand.
The trays used by the car-hops hooked over a window and was braced on an angle down to a door panel. This was typical around the country.Using this design idea, some smart individual invented the "auto air-uconditioner". We, in the Indian Wells Valley, bought all we could get our hands on. It was built to look like a silver rocket, with an air intake duct on the front. It worked like a mini-swamp cooler. Just add water and you could drive off without sweating. Of course, gas was only 17 to 25 cents a gallon. Ah, comfort; cool air entered at the top of a window, on the inside. Mothers, wives, and girlfriends always reminded us to "put water in the auto. air conditioner". Until then, all we had was a canvas water bag, hanging on the front bumper. Many times, IWV residents had more than one of these "silver bullets" on their vehicle. Those were great times
I was very lucky, in the 40's and 50's, because I had the opportunity to hunt and fish the north-eastern Sierras. From the hunting in what is now Red Meadows Condo Village at Mammoth Lakes and later in the old pear orchards of Manzanar; to the fishing of Golden Trout over 60 lake basin, inclusive of all the lakes and streams, south to the bass at Little Lake. Imagine for a minute that there were very few people to be seen; that you had a lake or stream all to yourself; that you could hike all day and hear only the brease and the wildlife. That's the way it was for me. I don't think I really appreciated it at the time; now those days are gone forever. It was a grand time for a boy to grow up at China Lake. I used to park a camp trailer on owens river and later on convict creek all summer long. No one ever bothered it and I only used it on weekends. One year, I even left it parked (for free) through the winter. I'm sure that there are thousands of people that wish they could do that today. You can still take your children out and enjoy nature; hiking and fishing, even hunting; but not like I did. It was the best ever.
I suggest today that you take a camera and your children, whenever you can, to just get away from the everyday hassles of life. June lake, Mammoth Lakes, Bishop Creek, Big Pine Creek, Lone Pine Creek, Alabama Hills, Whitney Portals, Kennedy Meadows, Independence Creek, etc. are still pretty sites. Good luck.
So many wonderful memories coming back now. Ceci Schilberg and Ann Drummond have just contacted me for the 40 yr reunion of Burroughs class of 67, coming up in Nov at Lake Tahoe.
My parents were teachers on base, mom was a PE teacher and dad was an eccentric art teacher with a wonderful open studio classroom. My sisters, Arlie, Laurie and Tammy went to China Lake schools and Ian was born in Drummond. He was autistic and stayed with the Dixons when we lived on Tyler St.
Tammy and I used to take off from there for desert hikes to B Mountain on Saturdays, packing PB&J sandwiches and MILK. Hiking out past the dry lake, catching and releasing scorpions, "horney" toads, tortoises and blue bellies. Hardly waiting to get to the shade of those rocks in B Mtn. Then when it rained in the spring, the dry lake would have a coupla inches of slippery silt we would "ice skate" in. That dry lake was where I later also learned to drive.
I remember the A-bomb scares, hiding under our desks to drill for when the Russians might drop the big one on us. Thank god for those desks, they would have given us great protection, huh?
Then there were the Princetons and Steve Zissos and all his girlfriends and the dances so innocent (for some of us...) and the beginnings of the desert parties, such wide open spaces.
Thanks to Dr. Tiffany I know how to write, thanks to his teaching us to diagram a sentence. And so many other great teachers.
The pool was my lifesaver, getting board-diving instructions that I later continued at the LA athletic club. We used to routinely walk up there from Sellar's Circle, sometimes BAREFOOT, stealing from shade spot to shade spot. I never could beat Anne Auld in swimming, I always got second. And Mrs. Chatterton, our swim coach, what a blessed woman. Anyone know where Jeannie and Terri Chatterton are?
I haven't been back since we moved in late 64, but am planning a trip soon. Would love to be able to get on base to see its changes, but would need to be visiting someone, I understand. Oh well.
See you all at the reunion and beyond, hope to hear from anyone who recognizes the Haig name.
Phyllis Haig (Class of 57)