Mr. Bertalotti moved to Apple Valley, California, in the late 1940s, where he lived until his death in 2002. He became a building contractor, and he served 15 years with the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), serving two terms as president. He was an acquiantance of Newton T. Bass and Bernard (Bud) Westlund.
Interviewed by Fran Elgin and Richard D. Thompson
September 7, 2001. Transcribed by Richard D. Thompson.
RDT: You have an unusual spelling of your first name, is that right?
HB: I'll explain. I'm Herald Bertalotti, of course my first name is spelled H-E-R-A-L-D because it is a translation of the Italian name of Heraldo. In the dictionary, you look up Heraldo and it is a Herald. Well, I wanted Herald. So I put down Herald because the other, H-A-R-O-L-D is English.
I was born and raised in Cle Elum, Washington, the state of Washington. In fact, I went for a class reunion in the middle of August for the class of 1931. I graduated from the Cle Elum high school. There were six of the class there, eight they were able to contact, they knew they were alive, and six showed up. I was born on the ranch. We had a dairy. We milked cows.
I was the only son. I was a farmer, I didn't like it. Life was pretty hard up in that area because we had an awful lot of snow. It would snow about the first of November where we would have to fight to get the roads to haul the cream to Cle Elum. And, I ran away from home in 1932.
I ran away, came to Los Angeles. Didn't know where I was going. The only reason I came to Los Angeles is because I went into the Greyhound Bus Depot in Cle Elum and one of my classmates had the night shift there and she said, "Where are you going?" I had no idea.
I looked up there and Los Angeles had put a banner up -- Los Angeles, and on the end was the sunshine, a round ball. We hadn't seen the sun for 30 days, it was foggy. That's how I got down here.
I went to work in the motion picture industry, worked there until Pearl Harbor. Then Pearl Harbor, if you look on the other side of the wall there, you will see the little episode -- the trip that we took with the little tug boat all the way from Port Arthur, Texas, to the Red Sea. Spent nearly two years between Masala and the Red Sea, and Moran, in North Africa, and then ended up here.
I heard about Apple Valley. I had a friend who was an investor, invested money, a fellow by the name of Hoffman in Long Beach. I had a manufacturing business in Long Beach when I left the ship yard. He had some people that had some money and wanted to invest and he'd also heard about it because Long Beach was the origination of Apple Valley Ranchos. That's where Newt was from, Signal Hill and so forth. So he said, "Why don't you take a day off. You come up, I want to go up and take a look at that area, see about investing some money for these people of mine."
We came up here, that would be in 1946 we came here. And, of course, he being a wise gentleman, he didn't talk to the salesmen, he didn't even go see them. He wanted to see it himself what was there because what the salesman would give him because there was nothing.
Now when I say nothing, I mean nothing, one building, the Hitchcock Ranch winter headquarters on the property there across from the Arco Station, that whole complex there. There was the barns and stuff because they'd bring their cattle down from the mountains and that to feed them. Highway 18 and Navajo, where the Rite Aid used to be, those buildings in there. That was the only building that was here and Red Bass, Newt's brother lived there. The office, a house, people came down off the hills. He told me, he says, "This is very good, but not for my people because they want a quick turnover, they want the money to go to work right now. Here you've got to wait for it, but it's good, it's good."
So I went back, forgot all about it, you know, then my dad sold his ranch up in Cle Elum, and although I really ran away from home, I was close to my parents all the time. I just didn't want the farm. He said, "Why don't you get a liquor store so I could work," because he had a bunch of friends down in this area because in Gilroy and those places, all of the Italians moved in there centuries ago.
So I thought about it and I had a salesman for the merchandise that I was manufacturing, and he'd work up here on weekends. He was related to somebody up here, some salesman. So he was able to only do weekend work. Newt wanted his salesmen to work 24 hours a day 7 days a week. But there was a few that had these privileges so he said, "I'll check on it." He told me that there's a lot up there designated for a liquor store.
RDT: Is this still Hoffman you're talking about?
HB: No, no, this is the salesman that I had. This is the real estate salesman. He was also my salesman for my merchandise. He went on the road with it. I said, "All right, that's a good idea." Then I remembered what Hoffman told me. He said, "It's good, it's going to take time." So I knew it was a subdivision, a promotion thing, I knew all that from the stuff in the papers and so forth, which you take with a grain of salt, if you're a businessman, you understand. I said fine. I went to their office in Long Beach and I bought the lot for $2,000. That lot down there, 100 foot lot, and, gonna put a liquor store in there.RDT: Where were your customers going to come from? As you said, there wasn't anything here.
HB: Well I wasn't expecting the liquor store to make me a living because I was a carpenter. I was a good carpenter besides this business. I had a business down there that was making me money. I knew the liquor store wasn't going to make me money.
RDT: Was this the first l iquor store in Apple Valley?
HB: It was the only -- it was the second building in Apple Valley. Second building ; Zeke Cornia, the Black Horse Motel was the first one.
RDT: What about Paul Johnson?
HB: Paul Johnson was right in following behind us, and next door to Paul Johnson's on this side of Paul Johnson was -- there was an article in the paper about Jenny Hightower. Did you read it? Bud Hightower was the first secretary of the Lions Club, Charter member of the Lions Club. That was before he knew Jenny, before Jenny. His mother had a little grocery store, they talked about going down to Smart and Final to the wholesalers to buy groceries.
RDT: Fay Raye?
HB: Yeah, and Paul Johnson also, of course, came in, they all kind of came together. We all started because I built my building physically myself.
RDT: Oh, yeah, you're a carpenter.
HB: I laid brick, I wasn't a mason but I laid every cotton-picking brick in that building, and my wife and I come up here on Thursday, Friday, Saturday. We worked part-day Sunday and headed back to Long Beach so I could open the business up on Monday morning and do what I had to do down there.
So it took me quite a while to build this building; it took me probably a year to build it. And I opened the liquor store in February of 1949 -- that's why I called it "The 49er." My first sale of liquor was to George Boyer. He was a salesman here; he was one of the good salesmen. He got on the truck -- he drank Old Fitzgerald scotch -- and he asked me, "You got any Old Fitzgerald in that truck?" And I looked at my list and I said, "Yeah, there's three bottles up there." He gets up on the top of that truck and started digging and he found it and he says, "First sale!" So from then on, we took off. That's about it -- I don't know what else to tell you.
FE: How many years did you have the 49er Liquor Store?
HB: 1960 -- my wife and I separated in 1960 and I gave her the store, but I kept the building. I gave her the business -- the license. She had it then and she was there for another three years and then she sold it. Then, eventually, the fellow that bought if from her, he moved the license. These licenses, you have to buy them; they weren't issued anymore. That was before they created....you don't need to know this, this is business.
RDT: Could you tell us a little about getting the community started?
HB: Well all right, of course we knew, all of us that came up here in the beginning were all connected with the building industry. All of us were building because that's all that was going on here; nothing else was going on. No cattle, no nothing, so we were building buildings for what few people were moving in and building.Of course Mr. Bass was basically selling lots -- period! -- and he didn't build buildings, except for his own employees. He forced them to build buildings. So we knew we had to do something. Well, we had to have something for ourselves. Hey, you know, you can't work every day without some recreation, something to do, so we, one of the businesses that came in in the fifties. In the beginning of the fifties businesses began to come in and build buildings. They had to build buildings -- there was no buildings here -- they had to build their own. So they made an investment right off of the bat. So they were conscientious, and interested in creating a town so that some day we could make some money out of it because we're not going to make any money out of our business.
Each of us had another profession. I was a carpenter, a superintendent. I worked at Bennington-Smith. I was the superintendent for years until they split up and then I worked for Hal Smith and then I just finally went to work with my own license at Bertram Construction.
But so we get together and the first thing that came about was the Lions Club because Victorville had one. And Art Schoenfeld from the Victorville club came up, we had a businessmen's association. Ralph Edwards, [pointing to a photograph] the middle guy, the tall guy, he started the businessmen's association so we could watch our p's and q's. Because we were a young community and the guys thought we were all dumb. They come up here, there was nothing but [?], but they ran into a bunch of businessmen. Whenever a bum check was passed here, within an hour everybody, all the businesses in town that so and so had a bum check. Right off the bat, but the bank helped us too, in that way.
So the Lions Club then created a nucleus of putting together a bunch of people to so something. We had to raise money, so we had a Women's Club. Who was in the Women's Club? The wives of the Lions, and they could raise money. You saw pictures of them in that article about that. They're all old Lions, I could name most of them. Anyway so we had to have a building, a community center building. Newt gave the property, or the property was designated in that area where the community center is now for a recreation building. So we gotta build another building.
You've got to have some place to meet. We had a person, she was a school teacher here -- I'll think of her name after a while -- and her husband had a riding stable. Horses and so forth. We used to have our square dances sown there in the middle of the corridor of the stable, he had stalls on two sides and a corridor and we used to dance square dances and we had potluck, and so forth. Down there was the only place we had.
FE: The Branding Iron wasn't there then?
HB: Oh no, no. And then the Branding Iron went broke right away. Because there was a businessman that came in, or not a businessman who was sold a bill of goods by the salesman and believed it. Jenny Hightower tells you exactly what happens. She was going to get rich, coming up here being a cocktail waitress at the Inn. Well, I knew better than that.
Anyway, then we had to raise money to build this building. Where were going to get money? One of our community wise guys come up with an idea: he says, "Why don't we sell the blocks, cement blocks to people that they could put their name on?"
We had two sign painters, one was a Lions Club, another was willing to donate his time on the weekends as all these salesmen would bring in these clients. They'd bring them down there and these people would buy a block, and they'd paint their name on it. Did you see the community center before they plastered the inside? How long have you been here?
RDT: 12 years.
HB: No, you didn't see it.
FE: I've been here since ‘63.
HB: Yeah, well you saw all the names on the walls all over. Well of course the newer people, you know, that wasn't very good looking, and so forth, the main thing that happened was the acoustics. We brought in an acoustic engineer, what can we do? The first thing you've got to soften up that block wall so you've got to plaster it with spongy plaster which they put on. I don't know if you've still got it, that was asbestos in those days. Then, you have to have the sound proofing above so you see that's what we had to do so you see that was the end of the names on the wall. Because we had to really fix it for the acoustics.
Then we had a fire, and the upstairs was just sort of a storage area. We had pretty good insurance and so after the fire, why we turned the upstairs into offices for the community center and fixed up a few things.
RDT: Now I read in the paper where you had a little trouble finishing that off, getting the money for it. I guess you had to borrow the money?
HB: Yeah, we had to borrow money. When we had to go to finish it, you get up and get ready to put the roof up, you ain't got money to buy the shingles, you've got to do something. You've got to....
RDT: You got as far as the walls.
HB: You've got to get the weather off. So we borrowed the money and....
RDT: Had to put a kitchen in?
HB: Well all those came along, the banks went with us on some of this stuff, but most of this stuff was from the lumber company.
RDT: The Torkensons?
HB: Before Tork, before Tork. Hamilton was involved in it and he's the guy, when they were building George Air Force Base, bunch of politics involved in there. They loaned us some money, in other words, they gave us the shingles to put on the roof. We paid them as we could and so forth. Lots of those things had to be done that way.
As we got along in years, and we all began to work, and I began to make money in the liquor store, and Ralph Edwards began to make money in the furniture business, and Zeke Cornia always had guests on the weekends at the Black Horse Motel. Then, when he left that, went into the Buffalo Trading Post, he sold his Indian wares, and so forth. So the Lions Club began to...got a bank account. We had money or we were able to get it quick.
We never kept too much money, except to run our little business of a club. So we were able to buy things. We squeezed Newt to get us some stuff, you know, and we let him know, if it hadn't been for us, old buddy, you wouldn't be selling all this damn land that you're selling now because we put a town in here for you down there. We sweated blood down there and had to tighten up the belt quite a few times.
RDT: Did that approach work?
HB: Damn right. Well, he knew better, especially with me. Newt was a bigot. You know that he wouldn't sell to Jews, Coloreds, Indians, until the government got after him.
FE: Yes, that was in the deed restrictions.
HB: Did you know his wife, Eileen Bass?
FE: No, I met his second wife, Frances.
HB: Fran? Well Fran Bass was Italian. I don't know why you'd want to hear that. Her father would come to visit and he wouldn't allow him in the house.
RDT: He was bigoted against Italians?
HB: He was bigoted against anyone who was a foreigner.
FE: I've heard that.
HB: Yeah, everybody. I'll tell you after we're off of that [recorder]. She would call me and say, "My father's at the hotel over here, would you go down and see him, take him around town, buy him dinner." She says, "I'll pay you for it." I said, "Fran, don't you dare let Newt know that you paid me money to take your Italian father to dinner. He'd raise hell with you for that." I mean, I knew that he was a bigot all along. I'll tell you why later on.
But, so, when we went and talked to him, a few of us old-timers, those three. I mean, Zeke Cornia was a member of the Long Beach Sheriff's posse, that's where he got the Black Horse Motel. He had a beautiful black horse, beautiful. He was one of the Sheriff's posse, and of course, there were a lot of influential people in there, you know, Newt kind of went with it because they're the guys who had the money. So he listened to us because he was not the money behind this thing.
RDT: Oh, he wasn't?
HB: No, he was just an oil man who had some money, but to do all of this work, you really had to have money behind you.
FE: What about St. Mary's Hospital?
HB: Well, he donated the land for that and that was it. Then St. Mary's took care of that themselves, the Catholics took care of building the hospital. I built the dang thing. I know all the crooks and corners about the original. But anyway, we....
RDT: You were telling us about the money behind it.
HB: The money behind, the other partner, Bass and Westlund. Who was Westlund? J. C. Penney.
RDT: Westlund had money and....
HB: That was J. C. Penney, J. C. Penney was behind it to back him up in case something happened, they could reach it....
RDT: Because of family ties? Are you saying Westlund was....
HB: Yes, Westlund WAS J. C. Penney. They owned controlling shares of it. The reason I found that out, we were sitting at the bar at the country club when the country club first opened, it was just a little place. And we were talking about, I told him, I had just been to Cle Elum to see my folks. "Oh, Cle Elum, do you know Agnes Malos up there?" I said, "Sure, I went to school with her." "Well, she's the manager of J. C. Penney and I see her once a month. I go down and check the store. No, I used to. I used to go down and check the store." We got tied together.
When he left, there is a story told that somebody overheard him walk into the office and told New Bass, "I'm finished. I'm leaving. Either I'm going to buy you out, because you sure as hell can't buy me out. So decide what the hell you're going to do," and he walked out. Which is right. Newt didn't have the assets to buy out the Westlunds. He [Westlund] left here and went up to Oregon to Lake Oswego and every time I go north I stop in and see him -- Barney Westlund.
FE: Are they still alive?
HB: He died quite a few years ago. She's still there. She came down once and she called me, talked to me. Because the two kids, I knew the two kids, they were hellions. They turned out to be dang good kids -- at least, she keeps telling me that.
I built that addition to their house they lived in. It was adobe brick to start with and it looks like a barge along side of it. It's on this side of Rancherias, two or three houses up. It's a big place, that's where Barney and Bess lived, when he was here.
RDT: Is that the one that Roy Rogers bought?
RDT: Roy Rogers bought it from him. I believe that was in the paper when they had their little tour of places to go in the city.
HB: Yeah, he bought it from whomever had it.
RDT: And your connection was you built on an addition to that building?
HB: I built on the part east of the building, the bedroom wing. I built another bedroom.
RDT: That was a big house to start with, wasn't it?
HB: It was a big house to start with. Barney made it bigger. Well, he had the two kids. Two crazy kids.
RDT: Before we get away, you were talking about Newt Bass' family a little bit. I hadn't heard that there was a Red Bass.
HB: That's his brother.
RDT: And he was at the Hitchcock Ranch?
HB: Red Bass was in charge of the water company.
RDT: There was a water company?
HB: Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company. The one you've got right now.
RDT: Oh, there wasn't one when Newt first came out here though?
HB: No that's his, he started it, hey, there was no water here, no water at all.
RDT: I know, that's what I mean. Newt came here and there wasn't anything except the Hitchcock Ranch and Red Bass was staying at the Hitchcock ranch so I thought he was here before Newt was here.
HB: No, he came with Newt. You see, Newt Bass didn't have a real estate license, he had no license. He was an oil man from Signal Hill, he didn't have a license. He brought a license with him: Benny Tripp. The name register?
RDT: Yeah, he died pretty early.
HB: Yeah, well he'd retired, so he brought him up here to work. Because he was a subdivider.
RDT: He'd done some work down in L. A.?
HB: Long Beach.
RDT: Yeah, he built a major subdivision....
HB: Oh, he put in big subs. That's why Newt brought him up here, because he needed the license to sell this stuff and he needed the license to subdivide.
RDT: Well, his daughter was the first one born in Apple Valley. Benny and Mary Tripp, I think.
FE: Born at St Mary's hospital?
RDT: No, there was no hospital here.
HB: The children who were born here were at the little, I don't know what you would call it, Onofrees had a place where women went and had their, gave birth. Onofrees, in Victorville.
RDT: Now, there was a brother Red, were there other children?
HB: There was another brother, one of the salesmen inside the office was another brother of his.
RDT: So there were three Bass brothers.
HB: There were three brothers, one was a salesman and Red Bass, he was the gofer, Newt would tell him what to do and he did it. So before they could have a subdivision they had to have water, you can't subdivide unless you have water. So they created Apple Valley Ranchos Water District -- Water, it wasn't a district. Red ran it.
Of course you couldn't buy pipe, there was no pipe available. You heard the story about Ben Phillips over there bringing oil pipe, what the hell do you think we had in the ground here? You want to see the oil pipes, I'll tell you where you can go see then right now. You go down to Gary Grant's yard on Pawnee and Biloxi, no, no, further across. You'll see a stack of old pipe they dug up, instead of letting them throw it away, he dug it up. You'll recognize his house because he has a fence built out of this big pipe, and the posts are pipe on Pawnee.
RDT: Now this is because of shortages of the war?
HB: The war. The factories hadn't started making pipe again after the war was over. So there wasn't any pipe available. They were getting a certain amount of good pipe. The bigger ones were available, but the little ones, the distribution lines, were not.
FE: Where did you get your materials for your building?
HB: Well that stuff was available, wood was always available here, brick was, they built brick right here, brick plant.
RDT: I was going to ask you about that. There's, when they called it Compo Adobe or something like that.
HB: Adobe, that's built out of dirt.
RDT: Well, I mean they actually made the bricks here in Apple Valley. There was a company called Compo Adobe I think.
HB: Yeah, they made those adobe bricks that you have here. That stuff didn't go over very good because there isn't much you could do with them because you couldn't adhere anything to them because they're oil. They're made out of distilled oil. Our roads were built out of that, too, back in those days. It was desert mix, it was oil on the road. It was only good for about eight years and our streets started going to the devil. You've still got them now, now you've better paving, but they still don't last forever, you know.
Getting involved as this thing grew up, get into fire, of course way back in the beginning we talked about fire. Hey you're out here in the desert with all this vegetation that burns to beat the devil, you know. In Victorville, Pete Wiese, Wiese and McBeth. Pete was the fire chief in Victorville back in those days.
The first thing we got was from the oil fields, Newt Bass, we got a pickup with a 500 gallon tank on it and a pump and some hose. And it was down in the Hitchcock Ranch, Red Bass was in charge of that. So we had the crew come in, we had to insulate the place because it had water in it and in the winter time it froze here. Back in those days it used to freeze pretty good. So we had to do that.
So right away, let's create a water company, I mean a fire district. Fortunately we had a retired colonel from the Air Force, Harvey, Colonel Harvey. He was helping us because he had the time. In the evenings when we'd get together, he said, "All right, I'll research this thing. I've got the time to do it during the day. I'll go down below to San Bernardino Courthouse, and so forth. I'll get all the data on this creating a fire company."
So he came up with the recommendations. The recommendation was, he said, "There are two ways to do it. You go under the county. The Board of Supervisors appoint the directors and so forth, but you're really under the county. Go self-governing because then the money that you earn stays here, don't go down below." So he says, "Go self-governing."
So he put together the paper work and everything required for an election of creating the Apple Valley Fire Protection District, that was probably in 1950. It could be ‘49 or ‘50. So we voted it in, I think there were 26 voters. Total amount of voters. I think there was only a few of the old retirees that were against it because you were going to be taxed! They still do it today.
FE: Was it all volunteers for a long time?
HB: It was all volunteers. In fact I have badge No. 9 somewhere in my junk.
RDT: You were a volunteer too? You were on the board.
HB: I wasn't on the board afterwards. First I started out as a volunteer because -- I didn't have -- with all these other activities and trying to make a living, it was difficult. So I couldn't spread too thin, so I didn't want to get on the board.
Harvey agreed to go on the board, one term, until we got things organized. Elton, Jim Gobel, insurance, Jim Gobel lived out here. I don't know whether Red Bass was on it or not, who was on it, anyway, we put in our papers to run for director. Nobody ran against us. Nobody wanted the job because they didn't pay anything. We were elected.
But then Jim Gobel moved back out of here into Victorville because, I think, his dad's health was real bad. So he thought he'd better get into town, and carry on the business. So the board of supervisors, Magda Lawson, and I said all right, I knew all about the thing because I had studied this thing.
Harvey told me where the papers were available and I got them. I went down and I paid to have all this stuff xeroxed at the county to know all the ins and outs about the districts and everything else. And I was interested in the park district because we needed to have money to run the park district. The only way you can get money is through taxes. You can't depend upon donations all the time, people get donated to death. So I knew all about these, the laws and so forth. I went to college down below, I spent evenings in classes, business administration, so forth. I knew what I was talking about.
HB: ...your battles. You have a group that thinks you go this way, and you want to go that way. A few of us old timers were kind of, maybe stubborn. Let me tell you, I'm stubborn. That's probably the reason why I was i nvolved in so darn many things because they knew it was going to get done. I didn't stand still for it. The sewer plant, that was one of the biggest battles we had, because Lahontan came down here and lowered the boom on the whole desert valley.
RDT: They stopped building, didn't they?
HB: They had to because, Bar -- I don't blame Barstow, they were bitching because we were sending sewer into the river and we were sending it down to Barstow. And Barstow really went to town. And I knew a few of the guys up there and I agreed with them. I said, "Yeah." So then anyway, we had to do something. The first battles was on this plant. They owned the Victorville Sewer District Plant -- was on this side, quite a bit from there. So we had this land that was available from the government because it was part of the George Air Force Base.
HB: This is down below the Lower Narrows you're talking about?
HB: Yeah, the big sewer plants, that's where it is over there. So they wanted somebody in from each community, well I got shoved into this darn thing. By that time, you know, the liquor store was doing pretty good and by being Superintendent I didn't have to physically work. I made sure that stuff got done for Bennington and Smith.
So I got involved in that and we had our problems. I mean, you know, I guess maybe I was a dreamer like Newt Bass. This is going to grow. It's going to get big. So they wanted to start with a little plant, I said, "All right, certainly we'll start with a little plant, but let's design it to grow. Not that you have to throw it away and build a new one. Let's design it to grow."
I went to a few classes and went to a few meetings of engineers and learned a little about sewers. If I was going to argue, I was going to be right. Being an Italian, I don't want to be wrong. I want to be right. So we had our big battles about that because the first engineer they had to do the plant didn't know too much about sewer district, sewer plants. Processing of sewers, didn't know too damn much about it. There were facets to do it, he knew how to put that together, but he didn't really know too much, so that was our first big battle.
I said, "I don't want these guys. Let's go find a good engineer that knows what a big plant is going to be like, and that's where we're going to start from. What the plant is going to be like. Not now, we don't need it, yet." So we did. They finally got a new engineer in there.
RDT: Who'd you go to?
HB: Oh, I can't remember. The only ones I remember down there is George Parker and his wife. We hired her down there. He's a highway patrolman.
RDT: Buzz Banks was the only highway patrolman. Was there an Apple Valley Improvement Association? Have you heard of that?
HB: Oh, yeah.
RDT: Who were they, were you a part of that?
HB: No, it was a group of people that, they were the nucleus for God's sakes, where you were you going to have one-acre lots. Everything was going to be working in one-acre lots. They're that clan. The Senior Citizens were really -- I served 15 years on the Local Agency Formation Commission, LAFCO. You know LAFCO?
HB: I served 15 years on it. I served two terms as president. And when the name Apple Valley came before the commission for a request for cityhood, I happened to be the chairman of the thing.
So anyway the paper work got there and it wasn't ready. No way. There wasn't enough people registered here because the first basic income you get, is for a registered voter. The state sends down five dollars and some odd cents, I forget what it is, $5.60 something. It goes into -- well, then it went into the county. Every person registered, you're worth that much. People are worth that much in the community.
Newt Bass knew that. That's why he built those half-acre places for people to come in and put a little house on a piece of land and go out and go to work. Register here, five dollars was coming in because it didn't come here, it went to the coffers of the county until we became a city. Well, when you apply for a city, you first go through the registered voters and this is the first income before you get any taxes. And there just wasn't that many because all the retirees from the Air Force didn't register here.Where did they buy their goods?
Where did they spend their sales tax? Over at the commissary at George. When that was closed down, they went down to FEDX down below. The whole batch of them, and they're the ones that were the biggest bitchers. The streets were lousy. We'd say, "You can't afford it." You don't spend your money here." All the hell that they raised about Wal-Mart cutting into the side of that hill.
RDT: Was that the same group?
HB: Same group, same group.
RDT: Oh, that brings to mind. I wanted to ask you about the location of the Village, the town, why you started there. It seems to me like it was way out on the east end of the Ranchos, and I notice when Bass built his Inn, he built it in the center, and when the Wal-Mart people were talking about where they had to build in order to make it go, they had reviewed everything and they said it had to be more centrally located because people aren't going to drive, well they made a study of it and said, it's got to be here.
So I was wondering about your thinking about where the original town was located. Did you think it should have been so far out to the east or would it have been better built up on that hill?
HB: Let me explain that to you. To build a city takes three things, most important, number one -- water; number two -- power; number three -- people. All right, water, we had plenty of water. Where was it? Down south of Bear Valley Road. All of those areas down there was where farmers, cattle ranchers, brought in their cattle in the summertime. They had wells. You talk to them, beautiful water, good water, plenty of it, not too deep. Some of it was able to be pulled up with windmills, that was where we got the name Apple Valley.
Where Ralph's grocery store is now, that used to be an airport and before it was an airport it was a bunch of old, dead trees, dead apple trees. Well the wind would die, many times you wouldn't get enough wind for a week, enough to run a windmill, so the apple business died out. Anyway we had the water down there, plenty of it, way down there. Power was there because they had to have power to run their pumps, pull their water up.
Newt Bass had to subdivide land. Where's he going to subdivide it? You get up on the hill somewhere the other side of that and you look. That whole area down there is just as flat as a billiard table. Beautiful to subdivide. Roads, you just get a motor grader and you go down, you grade two times and then pile up the dirt and pour some oil on it, make blacktop. No problem at all.
You couldn't get pipe too much so you had to be careful. To do any building up here, they had to bring water up here. I mean, Newt Bass wasn't going to pay to bring all this water up here. Power, there was no power up here, where the Inn was and so forth. There was no power there at all, because the power was all coming from down there, from that substation, so forth, to where the wells had been and so forth.
So naturally he built the town down there, where all of this stuff was available. And he had the land for people to come in that he needed. Because, hey, up here was all this, was big stuff. Acres and land, big parcels of land. That's why you got these buildings, Wal-Mart and those people, because somebody -- that land, you know. They were smart like Mr. Hoffman told me many years before, "It's coming. It's here, but you've got to wait for it." So, it had to be down there, there's no way out. Now I'm not going to argue with you. You want to change it? Where are you going to put the businesses up here? Who can afford to buy 30 acres to put up a little business.
RDT: Wal-Mart, that's a little business! I want to ask you another thing. We talked about the Branding Iron a little bit. There was also a McGinty's and there was a place called Ty's. So you three kind of -- what would you call them? entertainment places -- kind of located all starting from Central and then working east. Ty's today, is that....
HB: It's still out there above the Cove.
FE: Bum Steer?
HB: The Bum Steer was there, it's been there -- Bum Steer, that building's been there....
FE: Since that time?
HB: Since that time, a restaurant.
RDT: But McGinty's, now they're burnt out.
HB: McGinty's Corral, it's gone.
RDT: It advertised, "Warm beer, lousy food."
HB: Yeah, the Branding Iron....
RDT: The Branding Iron, I understood that's where the salesmen brought their guests to entertain until the Inn came along, and then they kind of abandoned the Branding Iron.
HB: Yeah, and the guy that put in the first Branding Iron really wasn't a businessman. He really wasn't an operator of a restaurant, he didn't know anything about restaurants. So he had to hire chefs to do everything, you know and the guy -- the most unreliable person in the world is a chef. So the Branding Iron didn't last too long and Newt Bass gave it to us, that was our first recreation building. We were the ones that put in the wood floor to dance.
RDT: I think the church started there, the Presbyterian Church.
HB: Well, we let people use the building because Newt turned it over to us to run it, you know, and protect it, take care of it. So we had to have our square dancers.
RDT: I don't mean to hop around, but going back to your liquor store business. When did it really start, I mean, I assume you started off with very little or no business, at some point you broke into....
HB: I had a good business.
RDT: Right from the get go, I would think the liquor store business....
HB: Not from here, from Lucerne Valley. Because they had to come into Victorville to do their shopping, and you didn't want to buy beer there because by the time they got home, it was really warm. Half way home, they could buy it there. Hey, in other words, they made the nut, it didn't cost me money to keep the store open. The Lucerne Valley people made the nut. They'd buy their booze and buy everything else. We were all friends together. They had a Lion's Club over there, too. So you're better together, like that.
FE: Did you have groceries too, or just liquor?
HB: Well, back in those days, you had a little bit of snacks, package stuff and so forth. The liquor store didn't carry too much. You go down to the liquor store down here, you'll find Frito Lay, packages of Frito Lay stuff....
FE: When did Hugo's come in? That was after you sold out to your wife?
HB: No, he came in before that. Don Feraresse, he's still here, Don is. He made a trip to Italy. Joan [Dexson?] -- I traveled the world through Joan [?]. I was able to do the fan trips for her because all of these countries during the off season they furnish a familiarizing trip for all the real estate agents.
Send somebody over, we'll take care of them, free of charge. Yugoslavia, Portugal, Spain, wherever else. I went to those places as her rep[resentative], free of charge. I went to Ireland. They flew me to New York, I got on the Irish airline, flew me to Ireland for ten days. Toured the whole island. Treated you like kings. Great!
So, Don, his mother, she was from Lucca and she got Joan to promise her that someday she would get Don into Italy so he could go to Lucca, because the Feraresee family had been there for centuries. You go to the graveyard there and you find the whole area full of Feraresees, and she wanted Don to see it. She got to a point, she had made that promise to her, she said, "Alright, I'll do it." She was going to take Don and Betty, but she says, "On one condition, that Bertalotti goes with us because he's been there."
I went through Italy in 1960. I went to the Lion's convention in Nice, France, in 1960, and that was an incentive for me to go because we had our own ship from New York, the USS Independence, loaded with Lions. We went into Nice. Well I had made arrangements then to visit because I had an aunt and uncle in Turino at that time. So that's why she wanted me to go along because I'd spent three months there. Oh God, I traveled in Italy and wouldn't stop.
RDT: Now we're talking about the guest ranch. The Circle M was located on there.
HB: The Circle M was on there, he's the one that subdivided all that area around there. He owned all that land. Al Mendel. Then there's another ranch, still is a guest ranch, on the way to Lucerne Valley. You get around the hill and there's a big complex up in here, it looks like a junk yard. The guys got a whole bunch of stuff in there. Up on the hillside there is, I can't tell you the name of it.
FE: Where the Sky High Ranch was?
HB: Sky High! Sky High Ranch.
FE: Is that still a guest ranch?
HB: Yeah, I think it is, they don't advertise, I think probably they're not really pushing it or something. I've heard people have gone up there.
FE: Did you know the McCarthys?
HB: Yeah, Irene McCarthy.
RDT: There was a McCarthy, but there was also a Mac's. Is that right, there was also a Mac's over here....
FE: They got a divorce, I think.
HB: Yeah, guest ranches weren't making it even back in those days. There wasn't people who could afford guest ranches. The horse, we didn't have the horse clientele down below, they weren't interested in horses and guest ranches. We had McCarthy, Irene McCarthy, the ranch was in Lucerne Valley.
RDT: She was at the Airport area?
FE: And do you remember the Murray's Guest ranch? The black guest ranch? Do you remember that one? Where Joe Louis spent time.
HB: Bell Mountain. Oh, yeah. I knew Murray, she used to come into the liquor store. She was quite a gal. A real nice person. Yeah, Mary Coster. She had a guest ranch, too. She built a house. I don't want to tell you about that. It's a big house she built out here. About a six-bedroom house.
FE: Oh, on Highway 18. I think Ellsworth Sylvester told us about that. What about the Yucca Loma Ranch? Did you ever spend time there? Did you know anybody?
HB: I didn't have time for guest ranches.
FE: Well, some famous people came and spent time, like movie stars. Did you ever see or meet any of those people?
HB: Oh, we use to have, they'd come up here to make pictures. They used to stop in the liquor store, the crews. I taught my wife, I said, "Those are the most honest people in the world. I'll guarantee you."
They're not supposed to stop the bus, but they always do. I know, I used to do it, and I said what you want to do is take a bunch of change and put it on the counter, spread it on the counter. We had a controlled inventory. There was a little tag that you tore off of the bottom and then each day why you knew how many you sold of it, and how your stock was running. You had control of your inventory. I said, "They'll tear that off, and they'll make their change. Don't worry, just sit there. Don't worry. Show them where the stuff is and that's all. I'll guarantee you that you're going to come out ahead, always." And it did.
She couldn't believe the first day she was seven or eight dollars over from the amount of tickets ripped off. And she looked at the shelves and all the tickets were there and it was really what they had taken. There wasn't enough to write up. Don't worry. So then I'd go to the Inn and chew the fat with them, a lot of them I knew, having worked there.
FE: Any famous people that you know?
HB: Oh, no. When I was in the business, yeah. They're not famous, they're one of the crew. They're one of the crew.
RDT: How about pioneers. Did you have any dealings with the people who had been here? I know there were some of the original settlers kind of around, still living.
HB: Yeah, we used to sit down in front of the liquor store and one of these would come into buy a bottle or something and we'd start talking about days gone by, way back. Yeah, there's quite a few of them.
FE: Do you remember any of their stories?
RDT: Now you said you were in the building business, while you had your liquor store, before you went to Bennington and Smith. These people that were coming out here, what were they doing? I mean, they were building a house, how would they make a living?
HB: Well, to build a house you've got to have, all right, number one, you've got a picture that was taken when we did the McConnell thing? [Brings out photographs] You've got a picture of the Women's Club? There was a big picture of the Women's Club. I'll tell you about that.
Do you see what they were doing? Okay. Ned Flynn, Warden Flynn, put in the cesspool there. We didn't have sewers. Boilo was a bookkeeper at the Inn. That one, I never could figure out who she was, but this is Warden Flynn. We had the masons were here, we had the carpenters were here. The lumber company had to sell the lumber to the guy that was going to build the house. We had the block factory that was making the block.
That's what all of these things were going on. And the money was just rolling in. It never left. It rolled. A little bit got ripped off as a profit. That's what these people were doing. There was nothing else to do here. And then, of course, some of these people even bought land here that lived in Victorville or worked in the cement plant.
Because after the government came down and chopped Newt's neck off about this restriction, the Jews and so forth, why they'd come in and test him. They'd come into the Inn and test you. They didn't want to stay there, but they'd test you out to see if you were really going to leave them come in. The Murrays, you know, they owned the property. There wasn't a damn thing Newt could do about that because they owned the property.
RDT: We were talking about the McConnell house.
HB: Yeah, the McConnell house was another real state gimmick. You had to advertise this place, and that was good advertising. Well, we automatically came into a deal because the Jewett brothers were doing a subdivision down south of Yucca Loma Road, building a bunch of houses down there. Newt had sold the Jewett brothers a bunch of land, and they subdivided it and they were building houses on there. Also from, not Hemet, somewhere down in there. They had done the same thing. They had built a house in so many hours to sell, you know.
So Newt had an idea. He comes to Bennington and Smith. Can you guys do it? Compete with the Jewetts? They did it in so many hours, can you beat them? So we sat down and we figured out how we're going to do it. To beat them.
All right, that's why the outside of that house is not stucco. That takes too long. You've got to wait a week before the second coat goes on. So it was done with plywood, prefinished. The walls inside, drywall takes too long, to put it and tape it and all that stuff, you know, after you put it up you can't paint it, you have to wait for things to dry. So it was celetex, prefinished.
And so we had that all scheduled how to do it. The slab was poured before hand, that was understood, that's part of the gimmick. They did the same thing. The slab was poured. It was all ready. Then, the time started from when you put the lumber on and started putting it up. And so we went to work.
RDT: How long did it take?
HB: Fifty-some hours.
FE: When you first came to Apple Valley, was it just you and your wife or did you have children?
HB: We had no children. We never had any children.
FE: Where did you live, if there were no houses?
HB: Behind the liquor store. When I built the liquor store, I built a living quarters onto it. You see, that's how you had to do it. Ralph Edwards did the same thing in his store. And of course, Zeke Cornia he had the motel, so he lived on it. Oh yes.
FE: The Hollenbecks lived in a trailer park?
HB: The Hollenbecks, and then they built one of these concrete homes above, over there. He's one of the early ones.
FE: What did you do for entertainment? You didn't have time? You were too busy working?
HB: Entertainment! You had square dances. You went down to the stable and had square dances. Then when we got the Branding Iron folded up and Newt, he put us in there to protect the building, for God's sakes we knew what the hell he was doing. He's going to do all of this for us and everything else. He didn't pay for that hardwood floor. We paid for it. We laid it, finished it, the whole thing. The whole building, the whole thing was a dance floor.
So then we had to raise money, so we had bingo. The sheriff, Zeke Eblem was the sheriff at the time. Bingo was not legal, yet, in those days. We gave money out and so forth. So somebody complained about us doing bingo because, hey, we were making money down there. You know, to do all these facilities that we had to do.
Zeke would call me, he'd day, "Bert, I've got a problem out in Lucerne Valley. I'm going to stop by the Branding Iron on the way out there. I'll be there at ten ten or nine ten or something." He gave me a time. "Okay Bert." "Okay Zeke." So just before that everything, the bingo cards and the wheel disappeared, and the dances, and we had our juke. Come in and talk, "Okay, see you later." In a minute he was out the door.
FE: Was there any crime in Apple Valley at that time? You didn't have any problems at the liquor store?
HB: No, we never had any problems at the liquor store. We were never held up.
RDT: Bounced checks were probably the worst?
HB: Checks. We had a guy that came in, he and his wife, and they stayed at one of the dude ranches somewhere, passed a whole bunch of checks. They got into a fight and she went down and froze the checks. And he went down and froze the checks. Boy, this valley was flooded with checks.
And Zeke come by and he told us, he said, "Well, there's a lot of ways to do this." He'd come down to the Business Men's Association. I had a stack of them at the liquor store because they were pretty good boozers. And they had a good record, hey, they had the money, no problem except they got in a fight and closed the money off. He says, "Well, you people leave it alone for a while. Is it hurting you?" Yeah, a couple said, there's quite a bit of money here, and so forth, from different people. Well he says, "I'll check the guys that you owe money to. I'll tell them, it's going to be all right though."
So he went down and began to negotiate with them. He was going to keep them out of jail for these bum checks. They were bum checks. "You go up there and pay off all these checks that's up there." He come up here and he paid us all. Paid everything in cash. You gave him the check you got and he gave us the cash. So that's how we worked together. That was probably the only crimes you had in this country. Speeding tickets and things like that.
FE: Do you have any other interesting stories to tell us?
HB: Well, not too many. The beginning is where all the interesting stories came up because we were all struggling. For instance, the community center we built. We used to have our pow wows. We'd have pow wows every year, we had big pow wows. Stars came. Big picture stars. Every year put on a pow wow and parades.
To start the community center we had this land there so we went to the lumber company and they donated a bunch of old lumber and stuff they had there. We had a wooden floor out there.
In those days, in the summertime, you couldn't drive down Navajo. It was nothing but a sand dune. If you had a four-wheel drive, you could go. Because in the rain storms, the low point of the valley is up here. So all the water was headed over there. And they used Navaho as a river until of course, Newt quickly had to fix Navajo because that's where the subdivisions were for the small parcels of land where you could put on four units.
FE: Did he have to pay that, or did the county?
HB: Oh, no, he had to pay it, he's the subdivider, he paid for it. That's why there was a road mix. In those days, I don't think there was a black top, it all had to be road mix. It wasn't too bad, if you carefully made the road mix, and gave it enough to cure before you spread it. Because they made it in a furrow and then they put the oil in it and come with a machine mixing it.
RDT: I heard that Ross Dana did most of that. I think, Ross Dana's company? And I heard he had a son that cut some corners.
HB: Well yeah, all grading contractors and so forth cut corners. Give them time they'd cut corners. I used to walk along the machine and watch that marker to make sure, if you didn't watch him, he'd squeeze the thing down a little bit, it wouldn't be that thick.
He'd put the marker, you know there was a peg with a flat part on there and you'd put that down, you'd just put it down carefully and hit the dirt and hold it. Well that plate was supposed to touch the black top. Well sometimes there would be that much room between the plate and the black top. Well, he's screw the machine down a little bit so he wouldn't put down that much.
RDT: Well a fellow from M. Penn Phillips was telling me, from Hesperia, he was telling me he was supposed to contract for that. It was pretty cheap, but they would contract for a certain thickness and sometimes they would get maybe half that thickness.
HB: Ross Dana was a supervisor, the old man.
RDT: Right, that was in the fifties.
RDT: Have you got some supervisor stories for us?
HB: Bill Betterley, do you know Bill Betterley? He and I are buddies, we went through a lot of hell together with the county. He was a fighter.
RDT: You know he's a planning commissioner now. He was a supervisor....
HB: I don't know what he is now. He's involved in the Summit ranch out there.
RDT: That's right, but he's a planning commissioner now.
HB: Oh, yes. Still smoke a cigar?
RDT: No, no.
HB: He quit smoking a cigar?
RDT: I haven't seen him smoking a cigar in the last several years.
HB: He used to come to Drapers, up here on the top of the hill, you know, it was open, it was a bar. The bar was on that end of the building and in the evening, those of us in the construction business, we'd stop in for a beer before we went home, you know. And I don't know what time of the year it was because I separated from my wife. We came up together in 1960. I'd been a bachelor most of my life, anyway. And we'd stop in there, we'd BS about the day, and so forth.
Bill Betterley would stop in. And he and I would get in a corner and we'd talk, him and Hollenbeck back and forth about this and that and the other, those damn -- we had our battles. Not so much he and I, we had our battles with somebody else. Back in the beginning the first supervisor that I got to know when I was involved in these things, creating the power district and that, was Magna Lawson, she was our supervisor.
RDT: Heard a lot of good things about her. She was a supervisor when they didn't pay you anything. They'd pay two, three hundred dollars a month.
HB: Yeah, right. She covered the territory. She knew everybody out here. If you had a little problem, she came out to see you. If you had a problem, you bet. Newt Bass couldn't push her around. Not that woman. We had that, of course Ross Dana and I, we didn't get along too well because he was a politician, and I don't like politicians. They were just like salesmen to me.
RDT: Well that's the way Bob Older struck me.
HB: He was. I forgot all about him. He was nothing. He was a supervisor. He was nothing. That's why he only got was one term. Of course, Ross Dana made a fortune. He could have made a heck of a lot more, but I'm sure Newt screwed it down pretty tight. He screwed it down pretty tight, too. He was doing all the grading, all the subdivision, all the work. Everything, nobody came along to....
RDT: Well for Apple Valley, Hesperia, Victorville and Barstow.
HB: Yeah, he was smart enough, big enough he could handle it and keep other people out. He's still pretty big now. The Cooleys, of course, the Cooleys married Dana's daughters. That's how, they're still the Danas.
RDT: I didn't know that. Kind of the patriarch. I guess he died a week or two ago, or a month ago.
HB: Yeah, two Cooleys married two Danas. One of the Dana boys, J. R., the oldest son, God, he died a long time ago, he didn't last very long. I guess he was sickly or something. He took over when his dad got to where he couldn't handle it. The problems you have anywhere in the world, you've got problems. Life isn't a bed or roses all the way, you do have problems and sometimes you've got to get a little tough.
RDT: You know, speaking of being a contractor, I read, I think it was Bennington and Smith, there were some large houses that were built here, early on. I mean like eight- or ten-thousand feet.
HB: Oh yeah. There's a few, not too many. Most of them were not built by Bennington and Smith. Somebody come up from down below and brought their own crews up.
FE: Who built the house up on the hill? Newt Bass's house? You built it?
RDT: The one that's there now?
HB: The one that's there now.
RDT: Oh, you built the one that's there now.
HB: I built it from scratch, before the fire, I built it from the beginning.
RDT: The original house and the rebuilt?
HB: Yeah, yeah, after the fire we went up to put it back together again as facilities for....
RDT: So you were the superintendent on that house?
HB: In fact, I just had a meeting a month ago to find how the water got up there, and so forth. Someone got a hold of me. How did you get the water up there? It's simple. Just look where the power is and you'll find where the water right-of-way is. It's easy.
Yeah, we had a Mexican architect, and of course in Mexico, you pour foundations -- you just put a bunch of concrete down there and that's all you do, you know. That's with the county here, even as liberal as the county was at that time. So I did drafting, I was a draftsman, also, with the contracting business. So I drew the necessary plans for the foundations, so forth, for the building, so that the county would accept it.
I had to fight with the county in the fact the foundations probably only had that much concrete in them. Well it was on solid rock! The best stuff in the world! I built most of these lookout towers for the telephone company you see on top of these hills.
FE: Did you build the Apple valley Inn, too?
HB: Not the original. The contractor came up there. If you go out to the Inn, the block houses, the ones built with block, are the original. The rest of them, yeah, we built them. That redwood unit, the one along [Hwy] 18 there where the barber shop is, that whole stuff. We put that up, yeah.
RDT: I met some fellow who talked about how he worked on the block on that. He was pretty proud of it. That is another story. That is kind of decorative, all that block out there, the rock.
HB: Bill Holland.
RDT: That was the fellow, he put that rock up.
HB: That's what I couldn't understand about Newt Bass. Bill Holland was an Indian. His wife was an Indian.
RDT: Everybody said his language was pretty spicy, apparently. Like you said, he was an oil roustabout.
HB: Oh yeah, he was rough. The liquor store. He'd go out and pick up all these beer bottles. You'd have a deposit on the beer bottles. He'd pick them up all over the desert and bring them down to the liquor store.
RDT: He would?
HB: He'd turn them in for money. He was a good customer. And every time a salesman would come in or a truck driver would come in with beer, "Hey, you got any empty crates?" Oh, yes. Old Bill Holland. He did all of the stone work around the pool and all that stuff, and the retaining wall. He was good at it. He was good at it, no question about it. Well, when we got up there on top of the hill, it was difficult to build that there. I mean, I'll tell you, it was tough.
Of course I had to design the trusses and everything else for it. Newt Bass wasn't going to pay for an engineer to do that, man you do it. Well, you got to put a bug [engineer's stamp] on it and you sign it, from an engineer. So I knew I had a connection. All I had to do is buy steel from Halsey Engineers in Fontana. Halsey and I worked together for years. I designed the building, and in the building I'd put a truss and he'd sign it. Until he got in trouble with the rest of the structural people, fabricators down there. Stop that, quit doing that. Then I'd have to start getting an engineer. By then we had them in town here. Magnuson and those people.
RDT: It just came to me. I was asking about the first house and second one. So I assumed the first house was burnt. That is was razed and you started from scratch, but now I realize, from what you're saying, it was salvaged.
HB: The fire didn't hurt any of the trusses, it was all steel.
RDT: Is that right? I didn't know that. So this is the original house.
HB: Yeah, that's the original. We had columns going up here and then the steel that made the overhang and the roof. Every glass up there inside of that column is a steel column, and that didn't burn.
RDT: So it's now going anywhere?
HB: That didn't burn. And so when we did of course, the guts went inside, that's why he didn't want to spend no money. So we used it for a meeting hall. Of course he never used the darn thing. He never stayed there. He lived on the other side. But those trusses were pre-fab down below, they had to because there was no room to assemble things up here. They didn't give us any room at the Inn, at all. You had that road, that's it.
RDT: Wow, it must have been pretty tough getting those trusses up that road.
HB: I had the most fabulous truck driver you ever want to get in your life. He backed a truck up that road loaded with trusses. First I put a crane up there. I had a crane set up there. We were gonna have, I was going to get another crane down below this truck driver, Harris's truck.
He'd gotten the job from Halsey, because I told him, "Go down and see Halsey about moving the trusses up here. You get the job of bringing them up." Because Halsey didn't have a truck big enough to handle these. So I brought him over and we looked at that road and so forth. I said, "I'll have a crane on top of the hill." And I said, "When you unload your trailer, we'll pick the trailer up, then you turn your truck around, we'll spin the trailer in the air and put it back down. He said, "Okay." I said, "I'll reload you from your big truck. The one you're gonna back up there."
Okay. So that was all scheduled, but then when we got ready to go down and get the trusses, he said, "By the way, forget about that truss down at the bottom. I want to back the truck up the hill." "Okay, it's your business. I'll have the crane up on top. In fact, it's already up there." And he backed that truck up the hill. Put it in there.
RDT: It's pretty narrow isn't it, that road?
HB: The legs of the truss were scraping the side. We'd unload him. I didn't have to pick up his trailer or nothing. He just took off, went down and got another load. I'll tell you he was quite a driver. Quite a driver. A lot of fun.
And then the glass. Those big panes of glass, ten by ten by eight or nine. Thermal glass, had to be. It took ten people to carry a pane of glass. These ten people picking up off the truck, they'd walk up, I'd build a ramp for them to get up on top. We had to build a ramp on the outside because the glass had to go in form the outside.
Couldn't come in from the inside because of the way the design would hold the glass in place. So we had to build this ramp and these people were walking with this stuff that weighed probably a ton. We had some pretty husky guys on this, straps, everything. So they'd walk over and they'd place the glass in there on blocks because we had to get these straps out. Then they had jacks and jacked it back down.
RDT: So, that glass survived the fire?
HB: No, I think quite a bit of it did. But we had to replace some. We had to replace some.
FE: Is that building still used for meetings?
HB: I don't know what they're going to do with it. I tried to find out what's going on, when they wanted to know all this information about the water and this stuff. "What's going on?" Nobody wanted to give me anything. Couldn't give me anything because whatever they're going to do up there, it's impossible. It ain't gonna go.
Number one: no where, they're not going to put a restaurant up there because there's a minimum-sized septic tank and leach lines, no cesspool, couldn't put one in -- leach lines. When we decided where we were going to put the leach lines, I put a fire hose out there and I ran water out there off of a fire hose for a week steady. Not a drop came out the side of the hill. Disappeared, disappeared in the hill.
The county was kind of interested about it, I showed them. I said, "Honestly, this hose has been running for seven days. It started last Monday and here it is Monday. No water beside the hill." They couldn't believe it. I couldn't either. Some was bound to come out, a little bit of it came out at the top, but it disappeared real quick. So it was all right to go ahead and put in a septic tank. No where was that gonna get by to run a restaurant. Grease traps and all that you've got to have today. They wouldn't allow it in the first place, environmentalists wouldn't allow it.
RDT: What are those windows like when it's blowing?
HB: Trouble is it's heavy, tough glass. Because you see, when Victorville Glass got bids from the glass manufacturers, because it had to be manufactured, and so they did study the land, they studied the wind and everything else. Then they come up with what it had to be to stand the wind resistence and so forth, size and glass, how thick, and so forth. It was all tempered glass. Then the fire, course they caught the guy, he was down at the hotel having breakfast, watching it. They caught him. Newt lost some nice guns, he had some nice guns.
RDT: I understand he had some art, he had some Charles Russell, some western saddles.
FE: A bed from....
HB: He lost all the furniture. There was some beautiful stuff for his bedroom and so forth, and that was all lost.
RDT: I know he was insured but when you lose some of that personal stuff....
HB: You can't replace that. Some of those paintings, he had a couple of good guns up there that he lost. Can't replace those. Money won't buy those.
RDT: Well Fran, I can't think of anything else.
FE: Me either, it's been great.
END OF INTERVIEW