High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
Trona's Valley Wells
Valley Wells was a storage tank used by the American Chemical Corporation and other companies as a place to obtain water for their potash and other mineral extraction plants. They found it a great place to let people cool off, swim and cavort without affecting their operations. They installed toilets, a park like area and a snack bar that served some of the best burgers this writer had ever experienced.
Kids from all over the Indian Wells Valley used to go over by the carload to spend the day there having fun and being kids without fear of reprisal. Racing thru the canyon to get to Trona and the pools was the order of the day.
There follows comments from many of those same people describing their love/hate relationship with Valley Wells.
Some Personal Experiences written by folks who were there and used the pools.
Who remembers going to Trona to swim in that giant pool? Those things were great and the picnic area was good. I know everyone had to know someone with a car to get there or you could hitch over. Thats when it was safe to do such things as hitchhike. I remember those big Athol trees or Salt Cedar trees some people called them. Talk about in the middle of nowhere. We had some pretty good times there and some out of this world parties. Of course Buroughs was always at war with Trona HS. The drive over was pretty awesome through the canyon and everyone would race through it. How crazy were we? The next stop from the pools was on to Nevada. Why don't we have those things anymore??
JERRY BEACH 1966
Trona pool was the best! I can't believe they closed it. Everyone would pile in a van and head over to Trona pool. It looks like a ghost town now. But I won't forget the fun times.
COLLEEN MAHONEY 1973
I remember when I was about 5 years old and we went to the pool I thought it was the biggest pool in the world. One time there was a snake in the water and my mom who is very scared of snakes almost had a heartattack.
LISA LEONARD 1990
I just remember the scorpions, you had to get out of the pool and run to your towel and hope there wasn't one waiting for you. It was still the best and biggest pool.
COLLEEN MAHONEY 1973
I remember the Trona Pools. As a child it used to scare me because I couldn't see the bottom of the water. Those were the days when it was a treat to drive to Trona and swim in a green smelly pool. I wonder if its still up and running.
I remember in my teen years several of us got together in two or three cars and would race over to Valley Wells Running helter skelter past Poison Canyon and thru the couple of little settlements before Trona. Once we arrived at Valley Wells it was a constant game of tag or dunk your buddy until he almost drowns. One of the things I remember most about the poolthat was that the sides were tapered and slick. On more then one occasion I had to fight my way to to the vertical side of the tank and crawl over one of the big pipes just to get where I could breathe again. There was a snack bar that served up a pretty good burger and there was a volleyball court where we spent more then a couple of hours slapping a ball around. They also had a horseshoe court and I managed to fling a few horseshoes over a year or two. It was a very entertaining and fun place to be. All of us seemed to like it a lot as we went many many times.
Pat Jones (1956)
It seems unbelievable to me now, but during the late 1950s I remember times that a girl friend and I would go to Valley Wells in the evening and there would be no one else there! On a warm summer nights.
I was born in 1951 in Ridgecrest as was my older brother in 1948, but my family actually lived in Trona (my younger sister was born in Trona in 1953) and I lived in Trona until I graduated from THS in 1969. All four of my grandparents, both parents, an aunt and a cousin are all buried in the Trona cemetery and I have an Uncle still residing in Ridgecrest so I still occasionally make it back to the area. (I was just there in July as my Aunt passed away.)
But some of my fondest memories are of the Valley Wells swimming pool. We used to go there nearly every day in the summer. Our family and relatives had many many picnics there, celebrating various birthdays or holidays like Easter. I believe my 6th grade graduation was held at the pool out on the concrete slab next to the snack bar also.
Mom would not let us go swimming for an hour after eating, always warning us we could get stomach cramps and drown??? But she always gave us a nickel to buy an ice cream after we got out of the water. We loved going into the building that housed the snack bar and playing ping pong and listening to music on the juke box and dancing.
As a child, I loved playing on the swings, teeter/totters and in the sand box. We played with our hula hoops out there, or pitched horseshoes.
I haven't heard anyone mention that one day a year, the pool would be closed to the general public and only open to family members of the Trona plant. They would supply all the food and activities. We had free hamburgers and hotdogs and all the free pop (I remember orange and strawberry in glass bottles) and ice cream bars we could eat. They would have a carnival come in and we got to ride all the rides for free. They would bury change in the sand box and each child got to make one scoop with a little bucket and run the sand through a screen and keep the money. They would put coins in balloons and blow them up and toss the balloons into the pool and we would get to jump in and try to get a few balloons. Or they would simply throw money into the water and we would dive after it. It was like being at Disneyland for the day.
Also, the water was not fresh water, but salt water and the sides would often get slick and slippery. We would get out of the water and go rinse off in an outdoor shower to get the salt off your skin and suit. They also had the coldest drinking fountain I have ever tasted and in that hot hot desert, nothing tasted better. I took swimming lessons out there each summer and still have some of my swimming cards showing completion of different levels of proficiency . I can't imagine any Trona kid not knowing how to swim. It was such a carefree fun time of my life. It was just the best place to be no matter your age. My dad would sit out there by the hour, talking with his buddies and we would swim until our skin was all wrinkly.
It is an ironic thing that most of us couldn't wait to grow up and leave Trona, but I also think that most of us look back on our years in Trona as a fantastic time that we wouldn't trade for anything and we will always call Trona "home" no matter where we live.
Thanks, Glenna (Powers) Slenning
Photo by John Culp
Photo courtesy of Trona On Line
Here's a group of boys out for a swim at the Trona Pool circa 1940. L to R Griffen boys John, Les, (with tongue) Ralph, Leland Golden (with cap) Jack Collins and Wayne Golden
Submitted by Jack Collins
Photo by Ila Powers at the valley wells swimming pool from the top of a ferris wheel May 23, 1954 during family day.