High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
40's and 50's
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Bob Kessler Sr. had a great idea when he built the market along the middle of the road from Ridgecrest to the base. It was ideally situated and as the years went by it became a shopping center in its own right. Even when the bigger stores came in and started building larger malls this center with older beginnings still survived. The K&R burnt down in 1978 and has since been replaced with other businesses. Corny's is still there, the Midway Cafe and Motel were still there when I visited Ridgecrest in 1987.
The Miracle Mile!!
The K&R Market was run by Grey R. and Bob K. Like the other grocery stores, it played an important part in the youth of Ridgecrest. Grey and Bob were sports fans and usually gave jobs to Burroughs athletes first. I worked there in 1955 through 1958. During this period of time, Doc ran the produce department with the help of Johnny Orozco and Harry Martin ran the meat department. Billy Raglanšs mom occasionally worked the weekend handing out free samples. Some of the boxboys at this time, besides myself, were: Don Sprouse, Nate Spooner, Alan Craig, Joel Adams. When I started the pay was $1.19 1/2 per hour and you had to pay monthly union dues the the retail clerks union. The work hours were from 4pm to 7pm on weekdays and 10am to 7pm on weekends. We had a lot of fun and we usually schemed between each other when it came to carrying out the groceries of the mom that had a cute daughter in tow.
Ron Smith '58
I worked the K&R from late 1952 until the middle of 1956. When I started the crew was Doc Baker produce manager, Jack Wilson was grocery manager, Bob Kessler Jr. and Grey Rager were the owning partners and Harry Martin ran the Meat counter. Robert Walker another student of the class of 56 worked in the meat department, Mitchell Miller and I were boxboys and combo do alls, John Orozco came in about 53 or 54 to work produce with Doc Baker. There were also a couple of ex-servicemen who worked there too. After a couple of years I was making $1.25 an hour and felt really lucky to have a job that paid that much. I quit around July of 1956.
Grey was a hard charging man and he ran his business in that way. One summer Mitch and I helped build some flower beds and other such stuff around his house. We must have poured twenty yards of concrete around the foundation and as a perimeter for those flower beds. We mixed it in a 1/3 yard mixer so we spent a lot of days shoveling and mixing and pouring. Still in all it was enjoyable and Grey made us feel a sense of accomplishment after doing that job. He also told us when we'd get back to the market that he knew we were hustlers and wanted us to work that much harder at our market jobs. He was like that you know!!!.
Bob Kessler was a lot of fun. He was a jokester and knew more good jokes then any man I have ever known then or since. He had a little yellow Porsche which he loved dearly and would tell us about going up into the mountains and having a ball making corners at ridiculous speeds and just cutting up in general. I remember for sure that Bob used to get up on the store intercom and say Joooooonnnneeessss Box Out!!!! And I would just hate that. Sometimes I wouldn't respond and he would come looking for me. I didn't mind bagging groceries so much as I minded the rasping sound of his voice on the intercom. I am sure that my attitude is what caused his actions so I have no reason to complain. As a matter of fact I liked boxing groceries and seeing all the good looking gals. Oh well thats all over now. Not watching the girls but I sure couldn't bag and carry out groceries anymore.
Pat Jones (56)
The picture on the left is of the shopping center as it was in 1956. I include the picture of the Midway Cafe taken in July of 2002 because it looks exactly the same as I remember seeing it last. The Motel can just be seen on the right and it looks essentially the same to me too. Maybe some things don't change all that much.
When I was a junior, I worked at the Midway Cafe on Saturdays. I got paid $1.00 per hour for washing dishes. And, I got paid in cash at the end of an 8 hour shift. I would take that 8.00 and fill my car with gas, take Margaret to the drive-in for a movie, then to the Yucca Inn for cherry cokes. Amazingly, I always had a couple of bucks left over. If you remember, a tank of gas would last a week; if you didn't go out to rocket town and drag race.
Jim Lloyd (1956)
Here's that "Corny" smile in action.
This picture of Corny and Mary sure brought back a flood of memories. Here they are shown while in a Desert Empire Fair Parade and judging from the cars it must have been in the early 50's.
Do you remember Corny the owner of Cornelius shoes just a couple of storefronts west of the K&R Market??
He used to bring those shetland ponies of his on many weekends and set them up in front of his store and let the kids ride them for free!!! In the end I'm sure he had as much fun as those kids did!!! He always had a smile.
Corny put a good many pairs of shoes on our family's feet. And in 1979 when my daughter died and we were in RC for the funeral, my husband bought a pair of shoes there too. (He is from Florida) How can we ever forget those ponies!!
I also lived in China Lake from the mid 40's when I was 4 years old until the early 1960's when I attended college. Yes it was a real great place to grow up. "Corny" was indeed a special person who sold my family my shoes and was a super person and friend to all.
A Corny ride
It is 1973 "there abouts", My Dad (Ralph) and I load up our motorcycles on the old bike trailer and head for Corny's ranch. After meeting up with the likes of Tony Martin, John Rich and Cliff Erseth we head out to Wagon Wheel. Wagon Wheel was and still is one of the premier riding areas in the desert. In those days there was a small restaurant that anybody who rode dirt bikes stopped in for a cold one, (whatever that might be) and maybe a burger. On this particular ride, the gang had grown to about 10 to 15 from Wagon Wheel and with Corny in the lead we all headed toward the train tunnel. After a short time Corny and I noticed nobody was behind us, hmmm. We did a turnabout and found the rest of the group picking my dad up and installing him back on his motorcycle. Apparently he thought he could ride through a Creosol bush. He was a little dingy but ok. The ride of course ended back at Corny's ranch with a few new tales to tell. This was one of many fond memories of corny, Bob Wolf tennis shoes, his wagons in the DEF parades and of course pony rides. He will be missed
I'm sure most of you remember Corny. He fit most of us with our first pairs of shoes. He passed away on Monday, 76 years old. February 6, there will be a memorial service for him at Holland and Lyons mortuary.
Laura (Thompson) Pappas Wednesday February 5th, 2003
I'm so sorry to hear that Lolly. How can one have lived in RC China Lake and not know Corny.
I know, huh!?! Even after I got married he still called me "Thompson", not my first name, just Thompson. He was so funny. I always looked forward to going there on Saturdays and riding those horses. That was always the highlight and I knew that it was my reward also. He was just a very special person.
Laura (Thompson) Pappas
Remember how good your feet felt, after "Corny" fit your shoes? I still miss that in a new pair of shoes. And when you ran into him riding his Hodaka out in the desert he always had a big grin going...................
Walter (Ben) Yeakey
Corney was the first man to really figure out my shoe size (only 7.5) and put me in the first shoes that did not hurt my feet. Other shoe salesmen put me in 8.5 shoes for years to get them large enough to accept my high arch. I learned more about shoes from Corny than I knew that there was to learn. Very nice, kind man. He'll be missed.
I remember my mom wore a AAA width shoe and Corny would order them special for her. I remember riding the ponies out in front of his store when I was little. And I bought every pair of shoes I wore in jr. high and high school from him. His daughter Marilyn and I were friends in Jr. High. Since Marilyn and I wore the same size shoe I knew I could find shoes at Corny's. No other store carried our size. I remember him chaperoning our dances too. He was fun. I know he surely will be missed by alot of folks.
I am sad that Corny has passed away and I am sure I share those sentiments with many others. I remember riding the ponies in front of his shoe store when I was a child. And I remember his laugh and how much fun he was. He was a great dance chaperone! He was just alot of fun to be around and a really fine person who obviously loved children. I know he will be sorely missed.
Pam Parsons 1967
I remember him when I was five years old pinching the toes of my shoes to make sure they fit right. He was very jovial and his wife was very friendly also. I remember also when I was 21 and getting a pair of dress shoes, here he was again helping me make sure they fit right in the same way. Nice people. The parades won't be the same without him and that carraige pulled by those ponies
Daniel Weston 1985
I was sad to hear about Corny. When you needed shoes there was never any doubt where to go. Just like the other replies - I remember the ponies, parades, the smell and getting your toes pinched for that perfect fit. I have always been difficult to fit (narrow feet) but Corny would have something or he would get it for me if he didn't. Buying shoes at his store was always enjoyable not something you dreaded. He will be missed.
Donna Skinner 1973
Howdy All, I remember the bins of small toys he had as you walked in the store. They were usually small plastic things that always caught my eye. I couldn't wait for the beginning of school so I could find just the "right" pair of shoes-I liked the blue suede Brooks with yellow stripes and a triangle tread pattern, (great for holding mud and annoying mom). I too remember him pinching my toes, and giving us a reassuring comment that they were the proper size. "Would you like to wear them out?, I'll put the old ones in the box, if you'd like", he'd say. (My thought,"Does Howdy Doody have wooden balls?"), (My words, "Can I mom?") I really miss the small town, innocent America days, and good people like Corny. God Bless Corny.
Mike Lyons 1986
I remember my folks talking about Corny and his background. It seems that they first met Corny when he was still a cobblersmate on the station (NOTS). He loved the desert so much that he retired there and opened his store on China Lake Blvd. I remember that when the hordes of people would come to the Valley for the annual air show, they would stand on the hot tarmac for hours and their feet would swell. They would stop at Cornys for a new pair of shoes but he would ask them if they had been at the air show and then sell them inexpensive sandels or thongs to wear home to LA, Riverside or SB.
Because of his honesty and business ethics (something very rare in business today) these customers
would commute to Ridgecrest for their regular footwear needs. What a businessman and great human being. I last saw Corny in mid 1980 while I was on a job hunting trip from the Bay Area to Southern California and points East. I found him in the K & R Market sitting on a counter-top BS-ing with the clerks at the market. I felt honored to be included in the Bull session for a few minutes.
Bob Rumpp (60)
Blaine Davies Dad, Dick Davies, sent this to Blaine in response to a question I had about who owned the meat market portion of the K&R
"I Bought the Meat Market in 1949. It was known as the Associated Meat Jobbers and I sold and delivered to all the markets and restaurants from Mojave to Owens Valley in those days including Trona. Also had some accounts in the San Joaquin valley. Bob Kessler and his dad and Gray Rager owned the grocery side. Senior Kessler later passed on in the early 50's. I sold half interest in the market to Harry Martin around 1951 who was one of my dad's market managers. I sold out to Gray Rager and Bob in about 1958. Gray later sold his interest to Bob".
The picture above is the only one I have of Corny's Shoes. The facade has changed and the attendants but it is in the same place.
The ULTIMATE Salesman at work making his customers happy!!
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While he was in the Navy he worked as Cobbler. He also developed a love for motorcycles which carried forward to the time he spent on the desert.