High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
China Lake
Page 2
  Main gate in the early 50's
  Dedication of Michelson Lab in 1948
 
Mike Lab seen here in the 70's has  become quite a sprawling Complex.
  It is really big now!!!
  This is the place where employees and military families did their business. Theres a library, personal services area, Navy Exchange, Commissary, theater, Gym, swimming pool and many other services located inthis complex.
  The Main drag by the business center
  Library in the foreground, Navy Exchange, commissary and theatre from a different angle.
  Exchange, Commissary and library
  Commissary
  Swimming Pool
  Exchange
  Original Chapel
  Outdoor swimming pool
  Fire Department
  Golf Course
Newer modern chapel
  First Maturango museum
Housing had lots of different models.  Of course some was designed for Officers and senior civilians and the rest was for  lower ranking military personnel and civilians.
  If your going to build a Naval Base where there isnt much in the way of housing, support, conveniences, and entertainment.  You have to build your own so the folks who work here have the things they need. 
Once in a while the rains came in such torrents that parts of housing became lakes.  Of course the Youngsters found this thrilling.
     Here we see some later views of housing as the trees are now mature.  Some evidence of grass but it is hard to keep growing in our desert habitat.  These houses were laid out like housing projects then common thruout the US  and looked like many neighborhoods in any town or city in the country. 
 
Civilian Cafeteria 1948
I never liked to have to go to the Security Dept.  It was always because I had broken some little known rule that seemed kind of silly to me but they were very serious about it.  In the picture above the security patrolman is issuing a parking ticket to a jackrabbit!!!!?????  Officer Jacob Poelstra doing the honors here..
John Culp was a security officer on the base for several years.  In the picture at the left he is shown with his wife on a realtively new Chevy.  This picture is circa 1948.
photo by John Culp
photo by John Culp
photo by John Culp
  My dad (Buell Beadle) gave NOTS the name 'China Lake'  when he was Chief of Staff, way back when.  Those were really great days for a teenager.  No drugs, no crime, (at least none I was aware of), we could walk home after dark and not think anything about it.  Played ping pong and checkers at the 'Stall' (really sounds exciting, doesn't it?)  There was really very little to Ridgecrest at that time.

   Do you remember the "Blitz' stickers to get on base?  Those were for the 'high ranking' folk and the Marines would just wave the whole car load through the gate without checking indidivual passes.  What a kick as a teenager with friends in daddy's car - one of the Marines even saluted as we came and went.  Lots of fun.

   During the summer we used to go to 'Ship's Service' and get a huge, cold dill pickle for a nickel and just get on the bus and ride around.  Naturally it was free.  After school would stop in for a plate of shoestring fries and a cherry coke - cost us 25 cents -- try that now.

Barbara (Beadle) Bell (1954)

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Courtesy Pat Pierce
Courtesy Pat Pierce
Courtesy Pat Pierce
  My father, mother and two older sisters moved to China Lake in 1946. They first lived in a tent off of China lake Blvd. until they purchased A small trailer and moved into the Navy Boy trailer park. Eventually they moved into Navy housing.

  My brother Doug, myself (Randy) and my sister Marlene came along. We lived on Monterey St, Independence St. Groves St and cellars Circle until moving off the base into our own home in Ridgecrest. We were very fortunate to have made many friends when we were growing up there. I think about them often.

  Hearing sonic booms and jets screaming by overhead were  common occurance and we kids were always amazed when the Marinesa and later Navy gate guards gave a snappy salute when we entered the main gate. We would sometimes salute them back, hoping to get a  response. We never could get those guys to smile back.

   Mr. Jones (Jonsie ) was the truant officer. We thought he was so mean but actually he was a real nice guy. We were safe and protected at China Lake which I can sure appreciate now. I don't recall ever being bored while living on the base. There was the station pool, baseball diamonds and the station theater. We used to pay 10 cents to get in the theater and were appalled when it went to 25 cents. On occasion we went to the Ridgecrest theater which was 35 cents.

  I remember A large man named Mike who also greeted people at the drive-in as well. Glen Fortune and I were caught several times trying to sneek into the drive in by Mike. He sure had our numbers. He was A nice guy though and usually let us off with A few threats.

  We owned BBs' Cycle Center on Randsburg Rd and sold motorcycles to many people in the area including two Nortons to Pancho Barnes who I got to know very well. I'll never forget her. Alot has changed since then. All of the neighborhoods on the base that we lived in are now just desert. I return as often as possible and still have A few friends there. 
  By the way, the guy standing up in the boat during the flood was me. We put A piece of plywood over the drainage pipe under the street and it backed up big time. We just wanted A place to try our boat out.  (see photo above)  My brother Doug and I built it in woodshop at Murray School. Mr O'neal helped us alot.   I'd like to say hi to Bobby and Jimmy Brown, Jim and Gary Jones, Danny Roy, Joann Martinez, Hazel McDuff, Debbie Neal, Janet Wilson, Cathy Hicks, Nick Kleinschmidt, Brent Reese and any others I may have failed to mention. Take care and God bless.

Randy Reid

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     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. 

    What I really remember about growing up on the High Desert was the availability to being able to just roam.  We hiked to "B" mountain, walked all thru Mirror Lake area, hunted lizards, snakes, and rabbits and went up to the mountains to fish and play in the snow.

     I remember one year at Easter time when it rained. and rained and rained.  So much that there were people actually in row boats in the streets!!  While the summers could get to 120 degrees the winters could me pretty cold.  That darn wind blowing off the mountains chilled me many a morning and afternoon while walking to school.

     What really impressed me at the time was the cost of everything on the Base.  Movies, although infrequent, were only a dime!!  Saturday matinees were something all the kids had to attend.  Beer parties, once we were in high school, were conducted out in the desert where no one could get hurt.  Yes growing up on the High Desert was a fun affair.  I can't even imagine how much trouble I would have gotten into doing the same things elsewhere that I was able to do on the desert.  I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Mike Miller
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Some memories from childhood starting in 1950:  The base residents considered as a whole had an excellent collection of war souvenirs.  A large number of dads then were WW II GIs and we kids collected and traded helmets, bayonets, flags, etc. from all theaters of war. I remember playing war with a real Japanese military rifle. And the dry lake beds, Mirror Lake? When it rained we would ride our bikes and would fall and slide, and slide and slide, in what made very good mud. The different housing tracks had names (Hawthorns, Normacks (sp.?), etc.). Those days were before TV but at ten cents per I dont believe I missed many movies during the early and middle 1950s. Nor did I miss much time at the base swimming pool. As kids we were always on the go, and a lot of space for that bike rides to B Mountain and the like. 

  
Daniel Hanne (58)
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The views of the trailer courts in the mid 50's  above will look familiar to some of you.
  In addition to what looks like about a 6 inch snowfall you see the Desert Park School in the background in this photo.  Below are scenes from snow storms in '49 and '52.  This is not the usual winter scene but it is loved by all the children.
Bennington Plaza sported some fine cars in l960. The only 4x4 belongs to "Pop" Lofink, the Range Guard stationed out at Junction Ranch, parked on the left end.  Here you could find the Library, Postoffice, Barbershop, Shoe Repair, Commissary, Navy X, Theater (for 10cents), Troop 41 Christmas Tree lot and Troop 35 Christmas wrapping (seasonal), the Enlisted Mens Club, Gym and Pool. This complex was the first major construction started in l945.  I'll take the Woodie for a quick resale.
Photo and caption by Doug Huse
This is a rare undated photo, probably around l955-56, of the All Faith Chapel being built across the street from the Plaza. Reverend Reed was the Protestant Minister. Catholic services were held at 7AM, Protestant at 9 and 11AM.  Dad was an usher for years and I always remember him trying to recruit ushers early on a Sunday Morning.  As a kid I was always fascinated by the structure and how it all fit together. The beams were cast on the ground, cured and lifted into place. The design holds up after 50 years, no puns intended.
Photo and Caption by Doug Huse
Picture submitted by Doug Huse
 
JFK VISIT - At exactly 12:50 p.m. June 7, 1963, the late John F. Kennedy, then President of the United States, paid a visit to Michelson Laboratory.  The event concluded days of planning that were known as Project 1-63.  Mr. Kennedy was the only Commander-in-Chief ever to inspect the Center's facilities.
President Kennedy meets members of the Boy Scouts of America at China Lake
Jeanne Homley
Jeanne Homley
  As time passes and the construction progresses.  We see more and better housing made to a plan that takes care of all workers that desire housing on base.  Officers and Civilian scientists were housed in the new Officers housing up on the hill.
  Sometimes in the continuing effort to provide more and more history here I find it a pleasure  to have someone find the website and say something like this . . . .  "Thats my Dad in that picture and I have never seen it before!!!"  John Culp had the picture of the rabbit getting the ticket  in his collection and sent it to me a couple of years ago.  Jim Poelstra stopped by the website and noticed it a couple of months ago (Late May 2005) and sent me three more pictures of himself and his father and brother.  They are shown immediately below.  Thanks Jim, It is my privelege to add these to the website.
Jacob  Poelstra and his two sons Jim the older and Dennis the younger.  At this time they apparently lived in temp housing as you can see how small the backyard area is. 
  This is officer Jacob Poelstra who has been promoted apparently due to his actions in controlling the wild life!!!
  I don't remember too much about the area, as I was pretty young. Am not sure how long we lived there. Had to have been at least a couple years though, as both Dennis( 1948) and I (1946) were born at the base hospital.

  I do know that we lived in San Francisco for awhile, and finally moved to Indio in 1955, after my Dad remarried. I lived there until 1979, and then moved to Arkansas.

   My one and only memory of the China Lake area, is that one night while driving with my Dad, I remember thousands of tarantula's crossing the road.  I remember Dad having to drive real slow, and you could hear the sound of the spiders under the tires.


  Dad never did mention the incident with the rabbit, but I bet it would have been a good story.  He did used to say how him and some of the other security officers, would hunt the wild burro's on the base, and sell them to the local towns folks. He said that there was a high demand for the burro meat, and since the local civilians could not hunt on the base, they would supplement there pay a little.

  Sadly though, both Dennis and Dad have both passed. Dennis was killed in Vietnam Dec. 14 1969, and Dad passed on Thanksgiving Day three years ago.

  Jim Poelstra
   Fouke, Arkansas
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Courtesy Pat Pierce
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. 1 & 2  -  In the beginning
   3        -  Naval Air Facility
   4        -  The Ranges
   5   -        Doc the B-29
   6   -        NAWC Museum
. 1 & 2  -  In the beginning
   3        -  Naval Air Facility
   4        -  The Ranges
   5   -        Doc the B-29
   6   -       NAWC Museum
|_1_|_2_|_3_|_4_|_5_|_6_|_7_|_8_|_9_|_10_|
    7   -        The Sidewinder
    8    -      
Weather
  
9    -      60 Year FED service
   10  -      
China Lake named
                  National Historic site
|_1_|_2_|_3_|_4_|_5_|_6_|_7_|_8_|_9_|_10_|
    7   -        The Sidewinder
    8    -      
Weather
  
9    -      60 Year FED service
   10  -      
China Lake named
                  National Historic site
   My Father  (Jess Gerard)  was working at the Long Beach Ship Yard, when he heard about the new Navy Base (N.O.T.S.) to be constructed at Inyokern. He was able to get a transfer in 1943; to begin work at NOTS. He and other new civilian employees would sleep in 1/2 of a quanset hut. He helped to build a 12' square Machine Shop. It had a center pipe support and all four walls folded out for added work (floor) space. There was a bench grinder, a sander, and other small machines; as well as benches, all around the center support. Dad said their first job was to repair a washing machine and a swamp cooler. When the W.A.V.E.'s first arrived, "the washing machine repair work" increased. He would enter their barracks and holler "Man Aboard". Most of the girls would run to get out of sight, except for a few "Salty Dogs".

   The sailors were using a small portable trailer for their machine shop. They did some aircraft parts repair there. As the new Hangar was modified, the sailors moved their repair inside the hangar. Their trailer sat outside, against a wall.

    Later, when the operation moved to China Lake, Dad worked for Public Works. He retired from the P/W machine shop, as Quarterman, in 1962. My mother (Jewel) was working for the Supply Dep't.  She managed Warehouse #3 for many years.

  I went to the Inyokern grade school in the fall of 1942. The family (my mom, my sister, my brother, and myself) had been camping out at Hobo Hot Springs, on the Kern River, through the summer. Dad was only able to be with us on the weekends. My sister (Marjorie) and my brother (Erle) went to stay with my grandparents, in southern CA. They were already enrolled in schools there. Mom and I spent the winter of 42-43 in a tent-house just outside of Inyokern. Dad was there, with us, a few nights during the week and on weekends. It was not the best of experiences.

   As soon as a house on the base, at China Lake, was ready for us, we moved there. We lived in a great duplex at 513-B Nimitz. After the tent-house, it was like a palace.  My brother came there to live with us, until he went in the Army. My sister visited, but was engaged to be married. She and her husband, Vic Wydra, eventually moved to Ridgecrest and went to work at China Lake. She went to work at the main gate, for the Security Dep't. He went to work for A.E.C. (the Atomic Energy Commission), as an electrician. When my brother came back from the Army, he married Louise Koontz.  Louise was the sister of Mary Cornelius (her husband "Corny" ran the shoe store; he was a good friend to all). Louise and Mary's younger brother is Jim Koontz.  He also graduated from BHS in the 50's. I graduated from BHS in 1951; went to work for Mich. Lab.; married my BHS Sweetheart, Roxie Gump; and we moved to Ridgecrest.  I retired from the base in 1972. My parents kept the home on Nimitz until they retired.

   I entered school at China Lake, in the Quanset Huts. Then, to the Burroughs  Grade School. It would eventually become Murray School. Earl Murray, the Superintendant of schools, also became the Principal of the original "Burroughs High School". At first, the grammar school didn't carry his name. Mr Murray was well liked by most of the students and faculty members; of both schools in the complex. Ken Westcott became the Vice Principal of Burroughs High School. As soon as the concrete work was completed on the schools, the work on the play grounds started. Heavy duty equipment was brought in to build the track and football field. Navy watering trucks
kept the ground damp, during the week; however, they weren't used there on the weekends. Principal Murray, Fire Chief Bill Wright, and Ass't. Fire Chief Jim Davis, met and agreed to keep things wet on the weekends. They used the fire trucks for practice training (on the track) at BHS; on weekends. Everything went well until the contractor complaints got to USN Command. Bill Wright and Jim Davis were very nice people, well respected throughout the community. They donated their time, as did many others, for the kids in the community (including me). So many employees and service personnel attached to NOTS, gave of themselves, for the benefit of all.  "They were like one big loving family". Many family names come to mind; most had children in the schools; some became our local "sports stars". Here are some of those I recall from the 1940's. Adams, Ayers, Beach, Bell, Bowles, Bryant, Butler, Brightenstein, Carlson, Cox, Cooper, Craddock, Craig, Crumb, Douglas, Draper, Drummond, Dungan, Fox, Goddett, Grimm, Harris, Heston, Kelly, Kirby, Lane, Lilly, McNally, Miller, Owens, Parker, Partridge, Pieper, Pierson, Radcliff, Richardson, Shacklett, Shaw, Shoaf, Short, Shepherd, Simpson, Stanton, Stersic, St.George, Thompson, Watts, Weightman, Whitfield, etc.

One thing that Dr. Lauritsen, Cmdr.Renard, and many others, had in common in  1943; was love of family. The men who were involved in the massive building project always carried pictures in their wallets of their loved ones. The first private snapshots came from "Kodak Brownie Box Cameras" and b&w film. Then came 16mm Cameras, because the navy used 16mm projectors. The first off duty films shown at NOTS were not commercial films; they were more like Home Movies; showing co-workers, local fishing trips, etc. Then, a daily gov't. Transport Flight brought in sets of two 16mm x 1200' Hollywood type commercial films. We sat on wood benches (no backs); set up between Quanset Huts for wind protection. Later, our movie house was inside a quanset hut. Still later, two quansets were bolted together, end to end. The center double wall was partially cut out. The movie goers grew from a handful to maximum capacity. Everything was free and you brought your own snacks. The permanent theatre was built and a sailor sold tickets for ten cents. A two cent State Tax was levied, but didn't last long. Life was good for kids.

We had great neighbors while we lived in our "old duplex". The Hough family to the north. Mr. Ralph Hough became one of my supervisors in Mich. Lab. in the 1950's.  His son (Jerry) was a schoolmate at BHS. He was the manager of the Basketball team. I understand he graduated from Harvard and became a career army officer.  Mrs. Hough (Mary Sue) opened the first dress shop on the base, operating out of her home.  She moved it later, just outside the main gate; on miracle mile. Through the 40's, 50's, 60's, etc. the navy had a chain link fense on the east side of China
Lake Blv'd. There was no private business on that side of the highway. The west side of China Lake Blv'd. ( from the main gate at Gordon Chandler's Triangle Sport Shop ; to Bob Kessler's K&R Market;) a distance of one mile; was where the new businesses were beginning to be built. Thus the name "Miracle Mile". The hospital, first built by the navy, to bring Dr. Drummond from Red Mountain; was a godsend.
  Dr. Drummond was known by many as the "phantom doctor". That was because he flew around the country when he was needed by other community doctors. He did special surgery's these other doctors could not perform. Sometimes the patients didn't even know that he had performed surgery on them. The other doctors did the paperwork; took care of the billings, patient recovery, etc. Dr. Drummond always said he needed someone else to do the paperwork. He hired his mother to run the office paperwork at his own hospital because he hated it so much. She was one hell of a bill collector. I remember her well.  The Indian Wells Valley, a great  place.

Good Memories,  Roy Gerard
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  The following is a story of a family who came to the desert in the early 40's.  It will remind many of us who came in that time frame of the conditions and some of the progress that was made in those early years.