I remember the very first time my dad and I drove in from Southern California. He pointed to a shiney spot and said, "that's Ridgecrest." And I thought... 'oh God, we're moving to nowhere." I was 12 yrs old. We came in from Newbury Park CA. Dad was transferred with his aerospace job, and brought his family to live in Ridgecrest. I went to James Monroe Jr High, my little sister went to Las Flores Elementary. We lived on Drummond Drive. I used to get spanked by Mr. Dixon at least twice a month. They used to use this paddle with holes drilled out of it.. It was awful, because they would spank us in the hallways, and the acoustics... I took advantage of the acoustics and used to yell and scream with terror.. I do believe they stopped the spanking that year.. 1969.
I learned to drive in the desert. Dad had gotten a VW Bug, and there was a landing strip behind our house on Drummond Circle, and Dad used to let me take the VW out on the landing strip and practice driving.
Mom didn't last very long in the Desert and she left. Dad dated Marty Badalich, who owned the Cut and Curl Salon, and eventually married in 1970.
I remember hanging out with my step brothers and going to places like Robber's Roost, where the guys would wire their 8 track stereo's to their guitar speakers and blast the animals out of the mountains.. Led Zepplin was the big thing then.
I remember going to Foster's Ice Cream, where Tony worked in 1969. We used to hang out at the Circle Drive-in for cherry cokes, and La Fiesta for our mexican fast food.
There were no traffic lights when I lived in Ridgecrest. But we had the base pool, the base theatre, concerts at the Officer's Club.
Riding dirt bikes was a way of life. I remember hanging out with Jerry Eyre, and Greg Turnbow, Ed Sigler, riding motorcycles. In fact, it was a blast to go watch the Barstow to Vegas Desert Bike run.. I discovered moto-cross racing from living in the desert.
Dad took us on field trips every weekend. We discovered Kennedy Meadows, Kernville, Walker Pass, Bishop, Red Rock Canyon, picnics at Mt Whitney portals.
Y'know... when you think back like this, there was a ton of stuff to do in the desert. And the air was clear, no smog, or pollutants. Windstorms used to sand blast the finishes off the cars,we didn't have bus service from school to my neighborhood, and therefore, had to walk in windstorms home from school. Mountains of sand would be inside our windows every morning.. but where else could you be raised in purity? I remember laying in the back of Ed's 56 Chevy truck and counting shooting stars. I still try to watch for shooting stars (30+ yrs later).
I used to drive to Mojave to redeem my S&H green stamps. And one day I was gassing up at a gas station in Mojave, in 1971 and who should be standing at the next pump? Walter Brennan and Elisha Cook. They were out "exploring" they told me, so I got their autographs. And then there was the time I was in some all night restaurant in Palmdale and John Wayne had walked in. I was in total disbelief. Got his autograph too!
If it wasn't for Ridgecrest, I might never have learned to snow ski at Mammoth, drive thru Death Valley, water ski at Lake Isabella, or motorcycle ride all over the mountains, see the Sierra Nevada's, see old mines and towns like Randsburg.. or have met some of the neatest people that I grew up with.
Living in the Desert has hellacious as a kid, but as I look back, I realize it was a wonderful experience, and most of us came from somewhere else because of the Base.
I have really fond memories of Ridgecrest. I think I need to drag the girlfriend back with me to see the beauty, and take millions of pictures. Thanks for the memories!!!
Lynne Nicolaides McBride
I happened across this site when looking for something totally unrelated. What a blast! While I live in the South Pacific and love the tradewinds, oceans and islands, looking at this site made me nostalgic - not necessarily for Ridgecrest the way it is now, but for the Ridgecrest of my youth - the fond memories spent at BHS until I graduated in 1971.
In answer to Stan Caine's question about the BHS "shakes" - are you referring to those glorious orange frozen concoctions? Nobody else remembers those!
I remember it all - sultry nights at the drive in, being interviewed on the radio with my best friend Maggie when Taco Bell came into town, the Desert Empire fair where I got my first kiss from my first boyfriend, Gary, riding in the Desert Empire parade, cheering at football games (wow - I actually saw old pictures of myself on this site- scary!), and generally a great high school experience in a small town.
I loved it all. I visit the old "homestead" (about twice a year now). It's just not the same, but, oh, those summer nights!
Susan Rungo-de Geus, BHS class of '71
* The icy coolness of the NWC Library on a summer day, the smell of old books (Nancy Drew!), and
the water fountain with the coldest water in town...
* The heady scents of chlorine, suntan lotion and barbecue at the NAF Pool... and burning our bare
feet on the WWII instant runway (long planks of hinged steel with circles cut into them) that served
as the NAF Pool parking lot!
* "Washington Squares" at the Ridgecrest Bakery (they were basically an iced bread pudding but I
have never found them anywhere else!)
* Making daisy chains from desert daisies in the Spring.
* Lake Isabella and Kern River Park
* "The Blocks" and "The Rocks" ...nuff said!
* Peanuts at Trader May's? Maze? Maize? (The bar on South China Lake Blvd. My dad would stop
there on the way back from the dump on Saturdays... He'd have a beer and we would eat
peanuts and drink cola... and they let our dog come in!)
* Shimmering images and mirage "puddles" in the roads
* Whoop-de-doos and a VW Bug
* Shopping at the Commissary
* Sand + Wind = SANDSTORM!
* Summer School at Murray (Ceramics and Sculpture, Swimming, and Cooking were the
favorites... heaven forbid you get stuck in Square Dancing!)
* Walking the pipe by the indoor pool on base - better not fall or you'd get burned!
* Chimney Peak and Kennedy Meadows - Pinon nuts, cold streams and water skating bugs
* Running up and sliding down the concrete buttresses of the All Faith Chapel
* Raw, wild, windy days when you felt every gust cut right through you...
* The smell of creosote and sagebrush on a rainy day (rain never smells as good anywhere else!)
* Jack's Ranch Road... at 100 miles an hour...
* The Sierra Nevadas painted against the sky
* "Navy" landscaping - missile noses and ship's chains and the only green for miles...
* McGee Creek Lodge and the St. Ann's class of 76 (Remember almost freezing to death?
* Big glass jugs of A&W Root Beer
* Robber's Roost on a dusty day (they were ALL dusty there!)
* Standing for the National Anthem before the movie started.
* Stained glass windows at St. Ann's church - works of art I never appreciated until years later!
* Mt. Whitney - the waterfall and the rock with the steps carved in it.
* Shopping for clothes at "Mode O'Day" (was Anita's the same store?) on Ridgecrest Blvd.
* The night the cat got in and the lights went out...
* The scary quonset hut house across from the Baptist church on Graaf -(brave be the one who
* Wildflowers in the hills above where Cerro Coso is now
* Fishing in the Owens river
* Rustling breezes through the cottonwood trees
* Chunks of chocolate and crisp green apples from K&R Market (Yes, together! Try it sometime!)
* The Ridegecrest Drive-In - Everything from childhood movies watched in 'footie' pajamas with
homemade popcorn to less innocent times and other contraband in later years!
* Hot summer days and the alkaline smell of swamp coolers
* The Pinnacles and Red Rock Canyon
* Flyovers and explosions that rattled the windows
* Lying on the roof watching shooting stars on late summer nights
* The arched arbor of Blandy Ave - sunlight filtering through the leaves...
* Midnight walks in the cool desert darkness
* And the sunsets, oh the sunsets....
High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
60's & 70's
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In 1960 Ridgecrest was mostly barren desert and the windstorms were horrific. I remember driving on China Lake Blvd once and couldn't see five feet ahead of me. Fortunately I stopped. When the sand cleared, there were many cars ahead of me that were stopped.
Ridgecrest had just become a "city" when we moved there. Immediately there were political problems with the first city council. The Water District was independent and had always operated well, but it became obvious the new city council wanted to annex all of the property that encompassed the areas that the Water District served, which would enable the city to "take over" the water district. A very bitter fight ensued. As you can see, the water district remains independent even today, and that was 42 years ago.
My husband, Leonard, continued with Genge even after it became Comarco, and then went to work on the Base where he provided some of the most professional technical illustrations the Base had ever seen.
When we moved there in 1960, there was very little housing. Shortly a builder from Los Angeles came in, offering VA and FHA loans, and he built the houses on Peg and Sierra Vista. We were fortunate enough to buy one. The ice was broken and a great deal of construction followed.
I owned the Fabritique on Balsam Street for fourteen years and sold real estate for sixteen. Our six children were raised there, all graduating from Burroughs.
Even though I didn't want to go to Ridgecrest in 1960, we lived there long enough to still consider it home. When I drive from Carson City down there to visit, I can see it in the distance and my heart begins to pound - that's home!
After losing Leonard in 1997, I moved to Carson City, Nevada, but I left my heart in Ridgecrest.
This is Walt Koerschner (wife Suzanne) who began life in R/c in July "64 (termination weather not-with-standing) as an Ilustrator for Gordon Genge, a contractor. At that time Genge's offices were in a trailer across the street from Corny's shoe store and the grocery which eventually burned down. About a month later we all moved into a new building on
This went on until '70 when Genge lost the contract and I wondered what would happen next. What happened was an elderly gentleman on Base retired and I was lucky enough to fill his position, despite the fact that no hiring in effect at the time. I worked in TID for the next 21 years until my retirement in 1991.
Suzanne, having been born in Seattle and having spent even more time on the desert than I, said she had to see something "green" when we decided to re-locate. A chance conversation with our son-in-law, a MT native, led us to take a vacation in Kalispell. We loved it from the very first moment, and after 11 years here have never ceased our enchantment with this wonderful country.
During her time in R/c, Suzanne managed to establish a credible work record by being employed as a teachers' aid at Murray Jr. High, a teller in the B of A, a traveler's agent for Husack's, and a clerk at Drummond Clinic, where she eventually became the legal representative.
Living on the desert allowed us many opportunties for exploring the country, riding our BMW from Seattle to Ensenada, skindiving in the shallow "lake" north of town, and acting in shows at Burroughs HS, having a gold claim on the Kern River. There is no other place I can think of that could have afforded all the activities that we enjoyed living in R/c.
We are looking forward to additional "chapters" in what we hope will be a continuing saga of life in R/C.
Walt and Suzanne Koerschner
When the Suzie Q was the place to hang out....
Ridgcrest didn't even have a traffic light in town, just a 4 way stop at the intersection
of Ridgecrest and China lake Blvd.
The La Fiesta was on Cl Blvd owned by the Castaneda's.
Ruby Prescot worked at Foster's and cokes and cones were 10 cents.
Dorothy Griffin was the librian and the library on Ridgecrest Blvd and was new.
Well Baby clinics at the County Courthouse and getting vaccinated there.
Nonie Rizzardini, The Variety Store, the Victory market, the Maple Shop and I think the
Rizzardini's owned both sides of the block.
When JD's was Pat and Charlie's and before that was a grocery store, where my 1 year
old (at the time) nephew tried to steal bubble gum.
Beau Brummel's was first the Playhouse.
Mode O Day, Buttons and Bows, and Herb's for Men and Women. Beane's Jewelry, The
book Store, the office supply stores.
When the post office was on the corner of Balsam and Bank of America was in the same
Bill at the Barber shop who recently cut the 3rd generation of Jester hair.
When Tommy Thompson was Judge and Chief Whaley.
the Paraphenalia Shoppe.
Tiny's Burgers, best by test! Frozen candy bars, and Regis' suicides.
Mrs Keihl breaking the paddle on two boys, cousins ... since they are still alive and living
in Ridgecrest, and have probably have grandkids of their own in the school system now,
I'll leave it at that.
Tommy and Al Senn's Beauty shop on Ridgecrest Blvd.
When KRCK was on Ridgecrest Blvd in town, and you could see the DJ's thru the big
picture window. Later it moved out to the west end of town, and the Nungester's, Johnny
Howard, Scott Browne were the DJ's.
The big hill in front of the Douglas station, and the Sellars kids totaling out their Daddy's
brand new 60 Caddy on my Daddy's 57 Chevy.
And Johnnie at the Villiage Liquors, with her whiskey voice.
Being such a rowdy 5th grade class that Mrs Lineback had to take nitro, she retired after
Brewer's pool, the best place to see and be seen...
Dances at the Elks and Eagles, and VFW.
Daddy and Mr Scroggins coaching the Senators little league and going for ice cream at
Fosters after the game, the loser's treating the winners.
When Ridgecrest had 5 digit phone numbers, beginning with 8. All you had to dial was
the last 4 digits, before they changed to 7 digits, FR5- was FRontier, And you had to dial 5
digits. And the phone were rotary. Then 7 digits became mandatory.
When the cabboose was still recognised as a cabboose. And the only thing you could see
When the Bucky Geodesic domes were built outside city limits, because the city wouldn't
allow them to be built inside.
The Love In at Ballarat.
The Ridgecrest branch of the American Peace and Freedom party.
When the hwy to Bakersfield had so many curves in it you met yourself going around
When Buck Owens and Merle Haggard had a music show on Bakersfield local cable TV. It
wasn't televised in Ridgecrest.
The Little Store or Neighborhood Market owned by Lois Campbell, her husband rode
around town in a little electric scooter.
When cigarettes were 28 cents a pack and Daddy or Jerri would send me to the
Neighborhood with 30 cents. The other 2 cents were mine for candy. Daddy smoked
Dominoes and Jerri smoked Pall Mall non filters.
Walking from my house on Robertson thru the alley thru Anne's yard to school. I was the
only kid she allowed to cut thru her yard. She yelled at my brother's for doing it. but I got
to! And she lived to be at least 102.
When the funeral home was on the corner of Church and CL. And the Volkswagen
dealership was across the street from it.
When the fair was held at Kirshmeyers' field. And A&W had the baby mugs for the kids.
Karls Shoes, Blounts Shoes. and Corny's. And Corny's shetland pony ride in front of his
store, and the Lot a Dot horse ranch.
By Lynette Jester (1972)
What a memory to be able to live in a town like the Dukes of Hazard, keep in contact with several friends from high school, and had the chance to 'have the simple life' in R/C. Gratuated 1981 (last of the mid-term grads-13 of us).
Remembered square dancing on the blacktop at school, on the base. In kindergarden class chasing boys, playing in the cement tube, and learning sign language.
Falling in love with Donald Mc-something-my first kiss!
Buried a bottle with trinkets at Los Flores School, was in charge of wildlife rescue at James Monroe (My hawk was Edgar)!
Helped Eddie Theo drive his motorcycle through "C" hall by holding open the door.
Jumped out of the window during Shimpski's (never spelled right) class due to the frequent smoke bombs at Burroughs high school!
Was in the back seat of the 'ole cop car' that took lovers lane plunge-wheels were off the dirt road and we flew!
Wore flip flops all the time with cut off shorts and halter tops...those were the days!
Remember McDonalds being built, buying shoes at Cornelious's(sp), going to the drive in theater, walking to the the base pool and swimming all day during the summer.
Lost my closest friend Nosie (the rat) after our house went up in flames. Was very thankful I awoke my mother to watch cartoons that morning. (Maybe that was the reason I became the first female firefighter in the state of California to set the requirements for all females on the fireline-in 1983).
I guess that we all make our way through life from what we have learned, but its nice to know some of those times were in R/C-during simplier times. Is the Caboose still there? Is Mrs. Rolfs still teaching Physical Ed? Are the parades still fantastic and magical? Do you still have the speed bumps on the access road to Burroughs? Can you swim at Penneys pool for .75 cents? Is the A&W Rootbeer stand still there? Can you still get a good milkshake at the snackbar, during lunch at Burroughs?
Thanks for the memories!
Joyce L. Welsh (81)
I grew up in 29 Palms (1956-1961) and China Lake (1963-1967). I was 12 when we left China Lake to move to Colorado. Since then I've also lived in the Great Basin Desert (Ely and Winnemucca, Nevada) and the Sonoran Desert (Tucson, Arizona). China Lake was a great place to grow up. I remember going to Bauer's Burgers (great milkshakes, as well as burgers), camping out at the Pinnacles with Scout Troop #35, and attending Richmond Elementary School. Was there the day we tested the first Harrier type vertical-take-off-and-land jet. I think they let us out of the classrooms to witness this event, which was visible from the school grounds. My mom remembers going to a place called "Trader May's Jungle Hut" for pizza and beer, but I don't see any reference to it on this site. While on base (my dad was a radar technichian out at Michaelson Labs), we lived at 310B Lauritsen Road, which was on the edge of the desert. I went back about 10 years ago to interview for a job with Glamis Gold!
in Randsburg (I'm a mining engineer), and spent some time driving around. While Ridgecrest has grown to about three times the size it was when I lived there, the base was very much like it was in the mid-sixties. I also drove over to Trona, and that place was drastically changed from before. In the mid-sixties, it was a prosperous and populated little community. Now it's virtually gone. I guess most of the people who work at solution mining there live in Ridgecrest or elsewhere.
I The scans at the left are of the front and back of a card my dad gave me circa 1965. He got his commercial flying license while we lived at China Lake, and occasionally he would rent a plane from the Inyokern airport for a hour of flying time. He took me up a few times, and did some aerobatic flying. Anyway, this card was presented to me after one trip from whence I emerged from the plane white-faced and more than a little queasy.
After I made my entry in your guestbook, I remembered some other things I did while living at China Lake, like hiking up Mt. Whitney with my scout troop, and exploring around the Old Yellow Aster Mine dumps with my dad. I think when we lived there someone also found a cache of coins and an old pistol at Robber's Roost. My dad bought a dry-washer from this old guy over in Randsburg named Harold Beck. I subsequently bought it from him, and have it at my home in Tucson. I remember going out to a couple of old placer s! ites, and helping my dad shovel sand into it, but don't recall us ever finding anything. He used it later on trap-shooting ranges to recover lead shot for his reloading of shotgun shells.
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