High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
60's & 70's
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These businesses were quite popular and thriving thru the 60's and 70's. Many of you have related to me that John's Pizza was a favored hangout and eating place. Hobo Joe's, Fosters Freeze and the drive through Dairy were popular too.
Opening Day is a success!
Orchid Ice Cream Parlor on Ridgecrest Blvd. was opened in 1970 by Don & Phyllis Bunker. It was closed approximately 2 years later .
Don & Phyllis Bunker with Linda Long and Linda ????
James M. Monroe School. This is where I attended the final 2 years of my grammar school education. My Mother was the secretary to the Superintendant of schools and that was not a good thing. I see that those little stick trees grew up a bit and the chain link fence is new to me at least.
My family moved to China Lake in 1964 or 1965, when I was a bit over a year old. All three of us kids went to Burroughs, and then left town. My folks stayed for several more years.
Anyway, one of the things I remember most vividly was the grand opening of the new McDonalds, the first fast food chain place in town. It seemed like the whole town was there, and I think the burgers were only 25 cents or something that day. I have no idea what year that was, but I'm sure that you do!
What a great small town atmosphere. Plus learning how to drive on dirt roads where you only had to avoid jack rabbits was easier than trying to negotiate the freeways so many kids have to deal with these days.
I also remember the Desert Empire Fair when I was young- we had so much fun eating at all of the booths (I think the Mooselodge made burritos?) and riding the rides. As an adult, it didn't seem quite as big of a deal.
Cathy Connolly, Burroughs 1981
When I was a toddler we lived in the trailer park just inside the main gate at China Lake. My dad was a rocket propulsion mechanic. One day on the way back from the "wash house" where we had just done the laundry, there was an earth quake. The black top just rolled and rolled. All the trailers, which were'nt much bigger than camping trailers were rocking back and forth and you could hear dishes breaking and all the doors flew open. I laughed and laughed. I was hanging onto my mother's shirt tail as she was holding onto the stroller that my little sister Billie was in. My feet came right up off the ground and I swung back and forth. I don't know how my mother stayed on her feet or conscious for that matter, I nearly choked her to death! When we got to our trailer and the quaking had stopped, water was shooting out of all the plumbing from the trailers all around us. All of our dishes were thrown out of the cupboards and food was everywhere. It is still one of my favorite memories.
Bauer's Burgers-"Tiny's" to alot of us, was the best hamburger place in town when we were in Jr. Hi. SO many kids had accounts there I don't know how Tiny and Regis made a living, I do know that they cared about us kids.
Mrs. Kahrt was a good music teacher, I made California Honor Choir even though I could not read a note of music. Unfortunately some boys made up a nasty little poem about her that many of us, myself included, used to chant from time to time. It went like this: Mrs. Kahrt let a fart, blew the building all apart. Having taught school for nine years myself, I'm ashamed I was a part of that and equally sure that many entertaining poems have probably been written about me!hahahaha (paybacks, you know)
Now about Mr. Brewer. Once he subbed in Mrs. Larson's science class and gave the whole class an F for the day because we could not pass the test he gave us.(no one knew what kind of science HE was teaching!) Then if you gave him any trouble he would threaten not to let you into the pool in the summer! Once he kept me from getting on Mr.Griffin's bus and it was pouring down rain. We lived out in the boonies then, about ten miles from school. I had to walk home as we had no phone so I could not call anyone. My dad told me to tell Mr. Brewer that if that ever happened again Mr. Brewer would either pay for a cab to bring me home or bring me home himself. I was scared to death to tell him. But I did. I thought he would have a stroke! He threatened to give me detention, but when I asked him how I would be getting home, by cab or his car, he turned nearly purple and told me to get to class.
When I was five we moved into a house at 333 Church Street down from Monroe, behind the Hopps Sheet Metal Shop. The Hoppses were our landlords. Mrs. Hopps was my Kindergarten teacher. She said I had a beautiful voice and let me "play" the piano so I loved her to death. She had long dark hair that she braided and wrapped around her head. Once she took those braids down,at the class's request so we could see how long her hair was. We were in awe of her...
When I was a freshman in high school I walked to the bus stop at the Ford lot with Colleen O'brien, Mike Knowles and Jim Sumrall. I remember when the first Mustang came in, we steamed up the show room window every morning gawking at it. It was awesome!
From 64-67 I lived on Weiman Street. There was only one other house on the block besides ours. You could see the Crest Drive Inn from our back yard. My dad gave me ten minutes to be home once the projection light went out!! We dug a pit in our back yard and had bonfire cook outs with our friends. And since we lived in the boonies we played with Scott Knigge's dune buggy right in our own back yard!
My mom sang country western music and played guitar at the coffee cup before moving up to the bigger clubs. She used to open at the Porthole and all those bars for the likes of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Willie Nelson et al. Sometimes Buddy Owens would come and stay overnight at our house while our folks were at the bars.
I was a civil service kid so never had a base pass. Yet in high school I got on base and used all the facilities.......When I was a junior I lost the top to my bikini when I went off the high dive at the base pool and the guy behind me held onto the straps. I recovered the top but not before a few sailors became "Pop-eye-d". In 1967 my best friend Vickie Adams and I went to see "Hells Angels on Wheels" at the base theater. I met a cute guy there and married him three weeks later. We are still together! Our first home was on Princeton Street on base. We were the second duplex on the block and I could see the high school from the corner of the street. At the opposite end of the block was the dry lake where friends and I would go wind surfing long before it became a popular sport. We used our old home made go carts and base parachutes. Sometimes the brakes didn't work too good....ouch!
We used to camp at Nine Mile Canyon. During the day you got a sunburn. At night you slept under frost covered sleeping bags. Jamie Hyams' parents ran a lodge up there and we loved to go horse back riding and sleep in the truck trailer that the hay was stored in. Those were fun times.
My dad used to say that I could probably walk on razor blades and not get a scratch. He grew up without shoes, so when he became an adult he never was without them or slippers. The soles of his feet were as soft as a baby's butt. He wouldn't take two steps without something on his feet. I, on the other hand, never kept shoes on. And you know how that desert sand is in the summer...hot, hot, hot!
When we were kids you didn't hang in the house watching t.v. and there were no computers or electronic games. We were outdoors all the time, from sun up til sun down when we weren't in school. Even when I was in high school, I didn't hang in my room like a lot of kids did. I was outside most of the time. We lived out on Weiman, which at the time was desert, only one other house on our road. And my girl friend Christy and I would sometimes walk all the way to Inyokern to a guy named Pappy's place so we could ride his horses. And then walk home again. Kids now days would not do that. Someone would have to drive them.
Sometimes I would just take long walks in the desert. Or me and my friends would go out in the desert and goof off at the water tanks. Do they still have those old rock water tanks and windmills out in the sticks around there? Geez, I have some great and funny memories of those places.
Pam Noyes (72)
Let me share something good that Mr Brewer did. My brother Ben had him for PE, so must have been 7th or 8th grade, for him and he was 9 years ahead of me, so early 60s. Mom begged Ben not to go to school that day. But he went anyway. Well, a little while later, Mr Brewer drives up to the house with Ben in the car, we didn't have a phone and Daddy had our car at work. And Mom didn't drive anyway. Well, the class had to do broadjumps and Ben fell, and broke his arm! Mr Brewer took Mom and Ben to the hospital and stayed to take them home.
Remember when we had those PE tests? We had to be physically fit! HA! Right along with those acheivement tests! Those really got me, because after the tests they would send Mom a letter saying that I was capable of doing work several grades higher, and Mom would write back and tell them to advance me to those higher grades. They would send back that they couldn't because taking me out of my peer group would be psycologically damaging, and I would be put in situations that I couldn't handle. And they couldn't challange me, because they had to keep the other kids at the same level. At least now they have special classes for kids who are above the curve. What happened to those brain cells?
Lynette Jester (72)
My folks still live in RC and I was there for a visit in October. I live in Portland, Oregon now. I moved to RC with my folks in 1969. We moved into a brand new house on East Wilson Rd. It was a whole new housing tract at that time. There was one neighbor and the street ended. There was nothing but desert for our backyard and the Cerro Coso Colege wasn't even built yet. We could see for miles and miles. The mill was still at the end of the street (it burned to the ground a few years later, which was really scary). The Fair and the parade was something that was a high point every year. My dad was in the Lions Club and they had a big pancake breakfast every year at Fair time in front of Corny's Shoe store. We would eat until we were stuffed to the gills and then watch the parade. later that afternoon we would go to the fair and eat corn on the cob at the Lions Club booth and ride the rides.
When I was a 6th grader at James Monroe, I went on a field trip to the Petroglyfs ( I am sure I have spelled this incorrectly!). I still have the pictures I took from my little black box camera!
Many memories! I graduated from Burroughs High School in 1977. I lived in Ridgecrest from 1969 - 1978 and I have not returned to live there, but my parents still live in that same house on East Wilson Rd and I visit whenever I can.
Deborah Moorehead (married name: Anderson)
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Thanks for the great memories. My name is Richard Davis. My family and I moved to Ridgecrest in the summer of 1951. I graduated from Burroughs in 1962. I worked at the K&R Market from '61 until early '64. Bob Kessler and Gray Reiger were both great bosses. Kenny Hire, Roger Dorman, Gary Young, Don Sprouse and myself were all classmates and worked there at the same time.
I read the comments about Bauers Burgers with fond memories. Those hurried lunch hours to get back to Burroughs on time.
Ridgecrest was a great place to grow up. I remember during dove and quail seasons several of us would load up our shot guns and either head for the the alfalfa fields or further out of town. The neighbors didn't get scared when they saw us putting guns in a car. They knew it wasn't for a "drive by", but just some kids, that had been properly trained to use firearms, going hunting. It's too bad that time has gone away.
I went back to Ridgecrest last year for our 40 year reunion. I spent a lot of time driving around remembering the little places that meant so much to me. Thanks for bringing back such great memories.
Richard N. Davis
I've been tooling around the site this morning, and had another couple of
memories specific to growing up in China Lake.
"Comshaw." A word I've only ever heard used on base--maybe it's a
military-wide word, but you don't hear it in civilian life. It means to acquire by less
than legal means, specifically one "comshawed" something from the base. And
man, did they HATE that. I remember one time getting stopped randomly coming off
station, and they re-comshawed a government issue pen I had in my car.
Remember those cheap black pens and pencils that had "U.S. Goverment" stamped on
them? I'll bet every kid who's dad worked on base had a house full of those.
"Berdoo." Down here, I don't hear people referring to San Bernadino, where I
guess a lot of base folks went for business, as "Berdoo." Only in R/c did I
hear this. Likewise, the term "down below," which specifially referred to coming
to the L. A. area. Or, of course, "Berdoo."
"What our dads did." No kid whose father worked on base ever knew PRECISELY
what his dad did. Oh, we had a general idea--my buddy Dave's dad worked "out at
SNORT," and my dad worked "at the lab." But because of the secrecy involved,
most of the time we could never really answer the question of what our dads
DID for a living. If anyone asked them, they'd just say "Oh, I'm working on
station at the lab," and that was pretty much it!
Places I remember:
The torture chairs of Dr. Washburn, who used to be a dentist on the street
just behind JD's. You'd go right from the dentist's office to the ice cream
store on Ridgecrest Blvd.
Buying Blueberry Leaf tea Lee's Mountaineering store. The stuff was great,
but I could NEVER find it anywhere else. I even have had people tell me I'm
crazy, that such a tea never existed. Finally found it on the internet a while
Working at the Neighborhood Market for a while out in town, on Wilson Street.
A crabby old lady named Lois Wilson owned the place--man, she was nasty and
hard to work for. Cheap, too. But the job was fun, very low-stress when Lois
was over at the house, which was most of the time. I remember working with a guy
named Jerry Lewis for a while, and a great lady named Elaine. Lois has this
tin add-on room in back where she stored her old sodas, and the kids from
Monroe would come by after school, peel back the tin siding, and reach in to grab
what they could. Lois had me hide back there a few times, and whenever a hand
would come in, I'd grab it, scream really loud, and kick the door open. Poor
kids nearly had heart attacks. Only had to do that a few times to get them to
A&W, where you could get mini-burgers for thirty-three cents. Just a straight
shot over the fence at Burroughs, and right down the dividing fence between
China Lake and R/c. We kinda set the desert on fire one time along that fence,
accidentally. Wind blew it out of control and we had to run like hell.
Fortunately, it blew itself pretty quickly. Never played with matches in the desert
again after that.
Lastly, I remember Dave Craddock and I motorcycle "streaking" through the
Drummond track one fine, warm summer morning. I do not recommend naked biking as
a rule, but at the time it seemed like a good idea. Fortunately, law
enforcement saw us, but I'm pretty sure we woke a few people pretty good.
I moved to Ridgecrest in the summer of 1976. I lived in the Ridgecrest Heights area on Sims street. I was the first Kindergarten class at the new elementry school "Ridgecrest Heights" with Mrs.McCammon in 1977. Then the name of the school changed when our hero Mr. Theodore H. Faller steered his crashing jet away from the school to save it but lost his life. I remember that day just as clear as if it was yesterday. I watched the smoke in the sky rise up from the horrible crash. Our school had a tribute to Mr. Faller's family and I remember singing songs at the memorial we had for him. I remember his picture hanging on the wall in the main office. I loved that school.
I remember the great Thrifty's square icecream scoops we use to get for a quarter. I've always missed the great breadsticks at John's Pizza. We always bought our shoes from Corney's. I graduated from Murray Junior High School then graduated from Burroughs High School in 1990.
In April 1991 I joined the Navy and moved away. It's been 13 years since I've lived in Ridgecrest, but I'll always think of it as my home town. I miss the beauty and the smells of the desert. I also miss the Sierra Nevada's. You always knew when it was going to be a windy day when clouds hovered over the mountains. There's nothing like it.
I grew up as a "Sizemore" and pround of it. I'll always remember what my grandpa (Robert Russell Sizemore) use to say, "No matter where you go and end up in life, never forget your roots".
Regina L. Litten (Sizemore)
I will never forget my first view of the Indian Wells Valley. I had spent the previous 3 years in Honolulu, Hawaii, had bitterly fought to stay there when my Dad was stationed at what was then China Lake N.O.T.S., and felt I had been transported from Paradise to Hell. 8,000 abandoned souls--that was the population then, and I was a big-city kid, lost in the ever-present desert sand. I was horrified, mortified, depressed.
I proceeded to enjoy three of the greatest years of my life. I formed all of my most enduring friendships in those years--with one of the greatest human beings ever, a teacher at Burroughs High School, and with several other fellow students from my class year--1966--and earlier class years. The desert gave me focus; I learned the importance of friends and mentors, competing, doing your best, surviving the impossible. Surmounting the odds against you. What I am, Burroughs high school made. I will love Ridgecrest, China Lake and Burroughs, and all the people I knew there, until my dying day. I had the immense good fortune to experience what was the Norman Rockwell American experience, a magical thing too few among us ever have the chance to enjoy. I owe a debt of gratitude for that I can never repay.
So many stories. I hung with the honors kids and the total thugs. I did Work-study on the base in physics and held a minimum wage job at a local gas station on the base. I had the athletic skills of Fat Albert but the speaking skills of Demostenes.
And I had a counselor who steered me towards what became my incredibly successful future.
I was there at China Lake for the visit of President Kennedy, just a scant few weeks before he was assassinated. I have the commemorative medal still.
My sister, her husband and their two kids still live in Ridgecrest, and she still works on the base. My mother and father are buried in Ridgecrest Memorial Park. Though I spent so small a part of my life there, Ridgecrest, China Lake, Inyokern and Burroughs were THE defining places in my life. A confluence of place and times.
Thanks for this site. It has been a privilege to enjoy it and to contribute to it in a small way. As I grow older and more infirm, my years in the desert glow brighter and brighter. It was and remains a special place. And always will be, I think.
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. He chewed cloves to cover his hangover scent, but couldn't often cover his grouchiness from it. 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 67)
I never lived on the desert but I did stay with my Grandparents every summer from 1958 thru 1968.
My grandparents, George and Sarah Collins, lived on the Base. He was a civilian employee of the Navy, and retired to a home he built in Inyokern in around '63 or so. I remember they had neighbors on either side of their place on Nimitz (528-H Nimitz, I believe) whose last names were Wolf and Fox. No, there wasn't much to do on the Base besides go to the theater and swim in the pool, but I do recall playing in the sprinklers in the large grassy area in front of their home.
Grandpa climbed B Mountain every morning, and took me along a couple of times. The sun would be rising just as he reached the top, and he would drop a pebble in a big can along the way as a "counter" for each trip. I remember watching the 4th of July fireworks from their back yard. Every day, while Grandpa was at work, Grandma would prepare a glass of ice water or lemonade for the postman, who was most appreciative since he was doing his work in the Mojave heat.
Inyokern was something else---it made life at the Base seem absolutely vibrant by comparison. After the Two Sisters and Flossie's Variety Store, you were pretty much done with Inyokern. They lived at 210 Ash, and I remember the neighbors as a bunch of hooligans who would frighten Grandma and anger Grandpa.
Grandpa continued his hikes up past the aquaduct where he established the "Blackjack River." Where he'd used a pebble to mark his climbs up B Mountain, he now stuck a chewed piece of Blackjack Gum on a rock, creating a cascade of black gum down the side of the boulder. Hard to imagine that it might still be there, 40 years later, but I'm tempted to go in search of the Blackjack River. At this crest of his hike, he would bring some table scraps for the rabbits, birds and a kangaroo rat--they'd hop onto his lap and await their morning treat.
Both Grandma and Grandpa died in Inyokern, and are buried in the cemetery at Joburg.
By the 1960s, the pioneering era in the Indian Wells Valley was basically a matter of history and life there was settling in to a more routine pattern. The listing of clubs, associations and interest groups was long and surprisingly diverse, especially for a relatively small and remote community. On base, the China Lake Ballet Society offered dance instruction to children and a handful of adults in one of the now-abandoned quonset huts on Rowe Street. This practice continued through the 1970s, until the Society basically disbanded and instruction was picked up by the Ridgecrest Recreation Department.
One of the former teachers for the China Lake Ballet Society, Georgia Knutsen, decided that the time was right to begin a private venture in dance instruction. In the autumn of 1980, she founded SIERRA ACADEMY OF DANCE and began teaching classes in rented space at the White Star Mine, which was then a health club. As with any new business enterprise, there was a certain degree of intrepidation when things began, but within a few months the response from the community had erased any initial fears. In fact, the biggest emerging problem was lack of space and available time for instruction.
And so it was that just a year later, the Knutsens took a leap of faith and (literally) mortgaged their future. They took out a second mortgage on their Ridgecrest home to raise the funds needed to buy a piece of commercial property and build a for-real dance studio in the Indian Wells Valley. The location was at the end of Kyle Court, a short cul-de-sac that extends westward from South Richmond Road, just a bit south of the Desert Empire Fairgrounds.
THE DANCE STUDIO IN THE DESERT
The studio building, seen above shortly after completion, was painfully unadorned from the exterior -- just a simple rectangle with a few high-set windows on the north side. But inside it was clearly constructed and furnished with a singular purpose: to facilitate and enhance dance instruction.
The largest and most important feature of the studio was its 2000 square feet of unobstructed, resilient wood dance floor. The ceiling was set ten feet above the floor level to allow for leaps and lifts. There was a full wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors, plus two walls of double dance barres, along with restrooms, a tiny office and an entry / waiting area. The sound system was suspended from the ceiling to ensure that no speakers or wires would get in dancers' way.
Over the subsequent years, a great many IWV youngsters (and a surprising number of adults) attended class at Sierra Academy of Dance. Core class offerings were ballet, tap and jazz, interspersed at times with other dance forms such as modern, Polynesian, ballroom, etc. The studio was also the site of occasional guest workshops, including one in 1984 that was led by the world famous Marta Beckett of the Amargosa Opera House at Death Valley Junction.
Annual dance productions were standard fare for Sierra Academy of Dance. These were held not only to allow students to display their skills, but also as fund-raisers for community causes. During the first decade or so of these performances, something in excess of $20,000 was raised to help support scholarships for the Licensed Vocational Nursing program at Cerro Coso College. Later performances were in support of material improvements to the Burroughs High School Lecture Center, where the performances were traditionally held.
Georgia Knutsen retired from the dance instruction field and departed Ridgecrest in 1996, but subsequent owners of Sierra Academy of Dance have continued the tradition of providing quality dance instruction in a purpose-built dance studio .... in the middle of the desert.
- Dale Knutsen