Joseph Campbell and Jean De Blasis, owners of the Kemper Campbell (North Verde) Ranch in Victorville, California, are the children of author Mrs. Kemper Campbell (Litta Belle Campbell). Joseph, who passed away in 1990, was a Superior Court judge. Jean served as a councilwoman in Victorville, and is the mother of author Celeste De Blasis.
Interviewed by Leo Lyman, Carolyn Clark,
Haughton, March 23, 1990. Transcribed by Leslie Huiner.
LL: ...and the railroad came through and the railroad people found out the Brown's only had a possessory claim and so the railroad had a good way to make them an offer. They had to come right through their front yard. In fact, probably moved the red house from down closer to the tracks. Do you know where the red house started out to be?
JC: No, no, the red house was in its present location in 1924.
LL: Yes, but you know that it had been moved.
JC: We heard that it was moved, but we don't know that.
JD: Well, Celeste heard that, but we don't know that.
CC: Leonard Henderson was the one that told me that his mother, who used to come here as a girl in 1913 or so to the roundups, was very surprised when she saw the red house up here because she remembered it being down there.
JD: We haven't any pictures, we have pictures prior to the time we bought it but we have no pictures showing the red house anyplace but where it is. I don't know why they would have put it down in the pasture.
LL: No, I don't think it was down that far, it's too wet down there isn't it.
JC: But it was closer in those days.
JD: We did find another septic tank we didn't know was there. It was really pretty funny in a way, it turned out to be pretty funny. We were putting in a new pressure system, water system, and they were flushing out the tank and the water ran down across the road between Mike's house and the store barn, we call it. And the next thing we knew, one of our tenants we knew in the stone house on this side, Austin Stockdale, started screaming because the water went down in this tank and went right into his living room. It's a good thing the water was clean but we didn't even know there was a hole there. Well, the hole was all covered up. Maybe that's where the red house was, I don't know because I don't know what that was connected to.
CC: OK, well, if you could ever come across those papers we would appreciate it.
LL: You've heard about things before the family got here?
JC: Oh, yes, oh sure. We had the Browns, Sterling, Frost and Grier and Campbell.
LL: Frost is mostly a foreman for somebody else, isn't he. Reginald Frost, or does he own it?
JC: I think he was a son-in-law of Sterling, I'm not sure.
JD: I thought he owned it for a while.
LL: Do you think he was really Sir Reginald?
LL: He could have put that on himself.
JC: I think so.
LL: I do too. It's hard to believe somebody who's been knighted is in Victorville.
CC: I wanted to ask you about the house he lived in.
JC: I don't have the foggiest notion which house he lived in.
CC: You don't?
JD: One house burned down. It was right about where the playhouse is right now. I can vaguely remember the house.
JC: Before it burned, after the Campbell's owned it. Another house we moved and is incorporated that part of the -- what is just outside next to the -- is a adobe veneer. All the rest of the house is full-sized adobe brick about eight inches thick. And one story is -- one of the houses was a, I can remember the story and sometimes I think I can even remember the episode. They moved it from where it was here, the horses dragging it, it was on moving wheels, they had several teams of horses, they got it to the road next to the house here and it broke loose and rolled back down the hill and they had to move it back up again.
LL: Pretty durable house, huh?
JC: Yes, but I understand they had to straighten it again but I may or may have not been a witness to that. My imagination is better than my memory.
CH: That was a good story.
CC: One of the things I wanted to ask you about was a development that was planned for this property.
LL: [This following comment is ascribed to "LL" by the transcriber of the tape, but it must have been JD or JC. Since the next line is JD, I assume it was JC. Richard Thompson]
Watervale 1, 2, 3. We have someplace, yes, I do. The pasture, the pasture was planted and quite a few parcels had been sold on contract. But when our father and his partner acquired the Verde Ranch, one of their first items of business was to get title back to those properties. All of then as far as I knew were in default and they did create a problem with the title.
JD: Also, they were selling something they didn't own outright.
JC: Well, they were subject to various significant mortgages, which we inherited. There were two or three little problems they had in the beginning. That was one of them. One of them was they had done some tenant farming and the pasture across the tracks had been in onions...
LL: It was Chinese people.
JC: Chinese, and took forever to get the onions out of the field. On Mother's Day, and I wasn't aware of this, one of the people who was a tenant farmer was a man by the name of Dyer, and was the first Mormon I can remember and was deeply in debt to the family and they forgave the debt and hired him. He worked for us until he committed suicide in 1935, or thereabouts. Maybe a little later. When did she go away?
JD: 1936. I know where his daughter is, I don't know whether she would have any more history or not.
JC: He had quite a temper and my father was not the most gentle of men to work for. He was a very difficult man to work for. Periodically, Mr. Dyer would quit and my father would talk him into not quitting. This time he quit and my father was feeling a little grumpy, I think, and accepted his resignation, and he [Dyer] committed suicide.
LL: Did your father pretty much oversee things up here or was he in Los Angeles about half the time?
JC: He was in Los Angeles most of the time, he was there five days a week.
LL: Did they come up on the train?
JC: No, they drove.
JD: It was a four- or four-and-a-half hour drive.
JC: He was one of the world's worst drivers, too. They drove, and he was very much in charge. Very much in charge.
LL: When he was here he made sure that everything was done...
JD: He made a list of what you would do the following week.
JC: He laid things out for the following week. He was a hands-on farmer.
LL: Did he know farming before he took this over?
JC: Yes. He, I'm sure you're aware they did not acquire the ranch to farm it. They acquired the ranch for investment, to be cleaned up and turn it over. I was too young to have any affect on this. My sister did, Jean, and my brother would come with them. They would leave me in Glendale, Los Angeles, and they would come up on the weekends merely to oversee the clean-up and get things ready to sell. But the family fell in love with it. Ultimately they said either we have to live here or sell it, by this time I was a participant, you either have to live here or we have to sell it. All three of us without any question opted to live here. They continued to practice law.
LL: Your mom was a practicing attorney, too.
JC: You bet. They shared an office. They got along very well as lawyers. They didn't get along very well otherwise, but beautifully as lawyers. They complimented each other. Over the years, we pastured cattle here for others, Mr. Musser comes to mind.
LL: Would that be mostly in the winter?
JC: No, year round. We had feed lots, too, so we kept them year around. Almost exclusively dairy cattle. My father was very skillful and as an obstetrician he could tell which cow or heifer was about to have its calf -- the springers. We would go out then, my brother and myself, and go through the herds and cut out the ones that were going to calf soon and put them in a separate pasture. But we also raised, in those days, some Herefords of our own.
LL: For beef.
JC: Well, to sell, raise them commercially. We had a small dairy.
LL: So your dad operated the dairy, or oversaw it?
JC: When my brother was here, Kemper, he had a dairy job, took the milk and sold it to Lunceford's store, the red and white store which was then on B Street, was one of his customers. We churned butter and sold it.
LL: There is a creamery here, isn't there?
JC: Well, that preceded us, we don't know an awful lot about the creamery. It had, when we got here, it had a lot of equipment, bottling equipment and stuff in it. We now have made that into apartments. It was here and was not new in 1924. We had old glass bottles, bottle caps, and a bobbing machine. None of that was used in my brother's operation. We had four or five stalls, well no...
LL: Milking barn.
JC: No, it was just an equipment barn and we took one end of it and closed it off and made it into a dairy for separating and bottling. We have a large handsome barn, it had about six stalls for cows and they were all hand milked.
LL: You had employees, Kemper didn't have to do that.
JC: No, we always had a hired hand, John Reese, Homer [Urkins ?], both of whom are dead. Homer was an interesting man, he had a paralyzed thumb form a gun fight. He was the only real gunfighter I knew.
LL: Tex Rankin, do you remember him?
JC: Oh sure, very well. He came before we came here as a young boy. He probably, like the rest of the natives, tended to exaggerate.
LL: He was good at it too.
JC: He once told me that when he went on the cattle drives for the Verde Ranch, they started in Palmdale and everything they found belonged to the Verde. It had the most beautiful brand in the world. It was the hash [knife?] brand. My father tended to use his name or his initials on everything that came near and he changed it to the "KC." We don't have that fire speed anymore, but as a youngster we had a mammoth of the fire speed...a big fireplace we had cut out. It was a marvelous brand.
LL: Are any of those branding irons around, do you know?
JC: Just the KC. We had one made into a sign.
JD: I still pay every year to keep it for some strange reason -- the brand, $50 every year to protect the brand.
JC: In addition to the cattle, we raised over time some of the finest field corn. We raised corn...
LL: Is that what the silos were for?
JC: Yes, but we raised corn for seed companies. We also sold corn for grits, hominy, and we had the silos for, the south of us, the other end of the ranch, there were five there. I think they were there at the beginning of the ranch. But our two silos, I can remember them being built, it was very interesting.
JD: I can also remember when you came down the chute and landed in...
JC: Yes, they have on the outside of the silo, I don't know if you've ever seen an old-fashioned silo, but they have windows which are about three by three, and you have wooden doors installed, you mud them in with adobe mud. On the outside they have hand-holds and a chute built on the silo so you can get the silage out. You climb up inside the chute and go to which ever window is open and pitch the silage out. Homer was out herding, he was feeding the cows and apparently it was my turn to pitch.
LL: That's hard work too.
JC: Homer tended to take some advantage of me although I worshiped him. My mother just hated him because he did mean things to me all the time, but I just adored him. But I got almost to the top of the silo and lost my hold and fell all the way from the top of the silo. At the bottom there was a slide and I landed in the wagon. I didn't even bruise myself, much to Homer's amusement, he thought that was hysterical.
JD: Cowboys have a strange sense of humor.
JC: We raised good alfalfa.
LL: About four or five crops a year?
JC: About five, sometimes five and a half.
LL: Most of that was harvested loose and just put in stacks?
JC: No, we baled it. We had an old Commander, was that the kind of baler? Was that the brand of it?
JD: I don't know, but it sure commanded the family.
JC: That one was a pretty steady operation, it was the old-fashioned kind, it had what we called the "Chinaman," which was the plunger, it took a crew of two to pitch the hay in.
LL: It was stationary?
JC: Well, it was mounted on wheels and we had a good team that moved at a steady pace and had two that were poking and tying wires and two that were pitching plus one other, actually it took a crew of five to operate. They were 120-pound Bales, three wire bales. In those days we sold the hay at roadside. They picked it up here.
LL: It didn't go on platforms, the train, it wasn't trucks.
JC: The first price I can remember was about five dollars a ton.
LL: You kept some?
JC: Yes, we kept some, we always had eight or ten teams of horses.
LL: They pulled the mowers.
JC: The mowers, the rakes, we used a sulky rake and a five-foot mower.
LL: We've got pictures of those, but it's before your time. And a lot of hay stacks and a lot of hay wagons.
JC: We went through transitions, as time went on, they developed a dairy here, we got up to [a] 40-cow dairy, that's about as high as it got.
JD: No, it got higher than that...
JC: I mean milking cows, did we ever milk more than forty?
JD: I think so.
JC: We may have.
LL: This was in the 1930s?
JC: The late 30s.
LL: Before the war?
JD: We had a dairy after the war.
JC: It was after Kemper left we hired a diaryman, and kept building the herd. And we sold the milk to Knudsen.
JD: Our milk, of course, was raw milk. And that was when we had the guest ranch going and word went around that you got polio from raw milk. It wasn't polio that you got but they wouldn't touch it, so we had to sell it to Knudsen and buy it back. It was funny, we put it in pitchers, it was probably illegal then, I know it is now, we just put it in pitchers. During the war you couldn't get butter and so we'd get the margarine and mix it all up. I would hear these people say, "oh, isn't it wonderful to have this fresh milk from the dairy," and then, "my husband won't touch margarine, but this butter tastes so good."
We did, we had a herd of registered Guernseys, they were hard to register, it was like getting a birth certificate for a child. My mother and father would come up through Chino and buy these year-old calves.
JC: They were day-old.
JD: Pardon me, day-old calves. Mother used to say she always had the wrong end of the calf.
LL: Oh, they had them in the trunk of the car with them.
JD: Yes, they used to put them in the trunk of the car.
JC: They would put the calf in a gunny sack with the head sticking out. They had a Model A Roadster with a rumble seat and put them in the rumble seat.
JD: They brought them up on a Friday night. They built the herd up that way.
LL: Was there any kind of tourist attraction before your family took over? That was all your family's idea?
JC: That we sort of backed into.
JD: It was really our idea.
JC: No, when we started entertaining, my father was president of the Los Angeles Bar Association, they were politically active. They just started entertaining people up here and it just sort of grew.
LL: It was good hunting up here and a lot of people knew it.
JC: They would bring them up for hunting and riding and other purposes. Some were so fond of it they would say, "could we come if we brought food," and mother would say, "oh, certainly." Then they said, "instead of bringing food why don't we pay you for food," and that was sort of the genesis of how we got into the guest ranch business.
LL: Where did they stay, right in your house at that time, or did you have an extra house?
JC: Well, this house was built in 1929, and we had some extra rooms. The house next to the swimming pool, that was there and moved from someplace else. There were two houses put together, and there were several rooms in this house. There were three other bedrooms in this house.
LL: Well, if you call the long room...
JC: I think the long room was the bird room, we didn't have people staying in there at that time, there's two bedrooms upstairs and three down the hall, and there were three or four, it soon became obvious that we needed more.
LL: That was a bigger house than your family needed when it was built. What were they thinking of?
JC: No, it was just...
JD: Before the crash everybody was well-to-do.
JC: They just built to have the building for entertaining.
JD: The depression sort of got us into it too. A lot of the people that had ben coming as friends said they couldn't afford to go anyplace and could they come up and pay. Mother said, "Well, why not?" and she charged five dollars a day or $25 per week which included everything. Including the fact that we didn't have any heaters or air conditioning either, we had Franklin stoves or fireplaces. It included the girls going out and building fires. If it was cold in the winter, they could have their breakfast in bed if they wanted.
When we closed in 1975, Joe figured out with his computer that the more guests we had at that level the more money we were losing. And we were charging $22 a day and losing. At that point we had a family meeting and there wasn't anyone else to take over the family business in the next generation. We decided that the only way we could stay open was to double the price and we didn't think we were worth it. We wouldn't have paid the price to come here, so we closed.
LL: You probably would have found customers.
JC: During the depression nobody could go very far and this was convenient and we had a riding string of 18 horses and didn't charge for horseback riding. A swimming pool, tennis court. One of the things mother wanted was for us to have all the advantages she thought the society people had so we had a tennis courts, a swimming pool and all those things.
LL: So the tennis court goes clear the way back to the 1930s.
JD: My cousin dug the swimming pool, the sides kept caving in, and that's how it got so big.
JC: My father, I think this is true, the expensive part of poured concrete are the corners. The sides, the walls are not so -- his instructions to my cousin were to dig until the walls wouldn't collapse. We never intended it to be that large, it's an Olympic-sized pool, it's 100 x 40, and we dug it and Louis Weise, Sr., did the cement work. He did all the cement work.
JD: That's Peggy Sartor's father.
JC: This wing here, we soon cut off the top of that and put six rooms there and then added the additions, I think four rooms of additions including a room for my father, who previously had a room down by the swimming pool. I keep avoiding telling you the name of that, it's called the "Cat" house. It's not for the usual reasons.
One of our constant guests in the early days was an actor by the name of Walter Chapman, we were very fond of Walter Chapman. He was a Shakespearian actor in his youth, but when we knew him he was a comic actor. You rarely ever see him on reruns now, but once in a long while. But it was the Catlet house, but that became too cumbersome so we called it the Cat house. After this one we built the Cloisters, all these buildings were built from materials on the ranch. We made our own adobe and laid out the bricks.
LL: Straw was in the mold?
JC: Straw, sand and clay.
LL: Were there sone green fields in here too or did you buy the straw?
JC: We took the straw out of the horse corral.
JC: Scraped it up, it had a little manure in the adobe, too. We didn't waste anything. Then in the 1940s, mother wanted, I left out a whole project, which was in the late 1930s. At this house, we added a very large room for Jean and a large room for mother and a large room for my brother down at this end. Those are now apartments. I had a room and we added, and my grandfather added a balcony. So we all had rooms with balconies, very nice.
LL: Still all fireplaces, no cooling, but it's pretty cool in the summer.
JC: The adobe is as good as you can get without an air conditioner. After 50 years the adobe has gotten worn so we do now have an air conditioner hidden away so that when we get too many people in a room we turn it on. We never had the problem, we just closed the curtains.
JD: We gave everybody instructions to open everything up at night and let the cool air in and, when you leave your room, close it tight, and pull the curtains. Mother would say you had your choice at three p.m., you had your choice of hot inside or hot air outside. But that was in the days when -- no one was used to air conditioning in those days.
LL: Are these hand-hewed?
JC: They're not hand -- they are beams which a draw knife was used to make them appear so. My grandfather was actually the moving force in the construction of this house, including those beams, which were oil derrick beams.
CH: What was his name?
JC: David Hibben. He was the ideal grandfather. The posts which hold the [?] which are the posts for the railing for the balcony, the rubbing posts from out in the pasture.
JD: You asked where we put people. Mother made a deal with all of us that if we would rent our rooms out we would get half of the money. We would find a bed out on the balcony or someplace to sleep. I remember once Joe came over, I heard this voice say, "Momma, where am I supposed to sleep?" [laughter] Somebody was in his room.
LL: These were, a lot of these were repeat people.
JC: Oh, yes. There were as many as three generations.
JD: Oh, yes, they still call. We closed in 1975. Really it was by word of mouth, primarily.
LL: Did you get many of the same people that went to Yucca Loma and the other guest ranches or did you have your own exclusive clientele?
JC: We had our own, each ranch had its own clientele.
JD: Our overflow, we helped to start Sage Hen because they were friends of Mother's, they were widows, and a single lady. There was a ranch for sale that was quite reasonable, and Mother, that was kind of -- I don't know when they went in there but I know it was during the War. Everybody's business was good because nobody could go anywhere. We got them started by sending the overflow down there. But they established their own clientele also, because all of the ranches were quite different.
LL: It seems like they had more movie stars.
JD: Yucca Loma and we did.
JC: We both had. The expansion in this room was stopped at that door. That door led to a patio, we took out this wall, pushed it out and added more space there and enclosed the patio, and made that into a dining room and what we called the bird room. We used to have hundreds of stuffed birds.
JD: It was a terrible shame...
JC: Before that, these walls, those panels actually were tables and benches pulled out.
LL: You had several tables in here.
JC: Yes, this was the original table. The younger people had to sit on those...
JD: Pulled out on and made a bench on both sides, side tables.
JC: We had matching chairs that matched these tables and they're long since gone.
LL: That table is going to last forever.
JD: We still have them, Joe, but because of rubbing on the top, they got lower and lower and lower.
JC: Those seats were the most expensive cushions in the world. One case -- father decided we should raise some sheep, a number of sheep -- some shearing crew came through and you had to get them sheared now or it would be too late and they couldn't come back through. I can vaguely remember them, they sheared the sheep. Of course the weather turned bad and we lost all the sheep. We had their pelts so they had them dyed and made cushions.
JD: No, I don't think so. Mother always contended that the sheep have any teeth anyway.
JC: That's right. She said father bought a flock of [?]
JD: Mother used to tell the story that the house the family owned, this part, only cost $3,000, and the reasoning was that she was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist. The Elders of the church came to her and said, "Litta Belle, tell Kemper to sell the stock, there's going to be a crash." So Mother tried to convince Father to sell his stock and he did sell enough to pay for the house and it was Transamerica stock, and by the time it hit rock bottom the stock they sold would have been worth $3,000. So she said the house only cost them $3,000.
It's quite a famous house in a way, because John Byers designed it and it's so authentic. It was written up in several architect magazines and at the University of California, Santa Barbara, they have the department and asked us for all the blueprints we could find. They sent us copies back in case we had to find a pipe, so we would know where they are.
LL: You never had the privacy most families had.
LL: But still there's so many people who would like to see things like this, that it's almost a shame that once in a while it can't be open.
JD: We've talked about that, we've talked to a lady that I've corresponded with at University of California, Santa Barbara, she would like to have it declared an historical site and building. The whole ranch could be declared historical, as a matter of fact, but we all live here. How to work that out, with privacy too?
LL: Sometime in a future generation. I don't know what Celeste's plans are.
JD: She'd like to stay right where she is. That's the problem, they all want to stay right where they are.
LL: And you can't deny them that, and it needs to be considered, because this is a treasure. This community, as you know, really doesn't have much history left, this is the spot to save.
JD: We've talked about it. We don't know quite how to manage it.
CH: Well, they did preserve the junction that my grandfather did for architectural reasons and it isn't open to the public. My grandfather lived here and he designed the junction of the valley. It's now owned by a corporation. They had managed to declare it a landmark, and they wrote to congress and presented it. But they don't bother them. She runs the opera house and the rest of it is up to her. She does that just to support it. You can still get it, I think, and people don't have to come and look at it.
JC: We can't right off the top of our heads think of any advantage to us.
CH: Well, there may not be. It's for preservation for the future. If somebody wanted to come along and take it.
JD: The lady did tell me that you can say it's private and just preserve it.
CH: She said what that meant to her is that nobody could ever knock it down. That was her concern because they were going to take it down.
LL: I'd be more worried about earthquake. Is it structurally hanging in there?
JC: Well, we are reluctant to take any nails out, for fear that we've got to the key nails. You know, when it was built it was not built anything remotely resembling how it would have to be built now.
JD: It did have three rentals, three apartments in it, and we keep them up as well as we can, obviously.
CC: And you have rentals on the lower side too?
JD: In the stone house.
JC: In the building, the equipment shed -- near the end of the Okie migration, but near the end of that period a family appeared in Victorville and stopped in the Shell station and the patriarch of the family asked the gas station attendant if there was any work to be had. There wasn't, but he said old lady Campbell sometimes takes folks on.
I was here that day they came out of what looked like the Grapes of Wrath. They had all the bedding on the roof and just filled with children. I was in my mother's room when she talked to her, and she wanted a job with us. Well, we needed a laundry lady, but we had no place for them to live. She said, "If we find a place can I have the job?" Mother said, "Yes, but there isn't anyplace."
So they went down and they saw the equipment shed. It had dirt floors and double barn doors on it. She came back and said we found a place and described it and Mother said you cannot live in that place. She said give us a few days and in a few days they had sealed the inside of that house with cardboard boxes and somehow or other acquired some cement. They put cement floors in it and sealed off the old double doors with doors and windows that we had in the store barn. She had older boys with her and in a matter of two weeks they had the place fit for human habitation.
LL: It was all outdoor privies anyway.
JC: Well, they put in the plumbing, we had a septic tank down there that they hooked to. They plumbed it with materials we had laying around. Lo and behold when she finally retired, we did a little work, fixed up the interior a bit. My aunt lived in it until she died and now our handyman lives in it. She's still alive, lives in Mountain View Acres, and still commands the respect to which she has always been a part of. A magnificent...
LL: Was that Roger's grandmother?
JC: Frita? No, Frita and her family, at one time we had three generations of her family, her mother and father were here, Fred and Alma, and Frita and Frita's daughter, Artis.
JD: What a wonderful family that is.
CH: I would agree with that.
JD: We all loved them.
CH: They lived in the red house?
JD: The red house. The mother and father did, Frita never lived on the ranch and Artis never lived on the ranch. He was killed you know, at the railroad track, I'll never forget, she was baking brownies which only Frita could bake the way we liked them, and he -- Alma had died by that time -- and he was taking the trash out to the dump across the railroad track and he cane back. It was a typical kind of an accident where he waits for one train to go by and pulls out in front of the other, and the minute that we heard that something had happened, Frita knew it was her father. Her reaction, you know, he used to run the help back and forth, her reaction was, "Oh, thank goodness none of the girls were with him.
JC: Then she apologized for ruining the brownies.
JD: Yes, and then she took off and then called back and said, "Oh, folks (it was always oh, folks), I forgot the brownies." Then her brother came over and said, "Oh, we're so sorry, what is this going to do to your insurance?" By that time we were just shattered all over again.
JC: Remarkable people.
LL: So it was already double tracks?
JD: Oh, yes, triple. They had a siding out there. We used to load cattle down there.
LL: Where was that?
JC: OK, you know where the Frost crossing is?
JC: It was just barley south of the Frost crossing.
LL: Was there ore loading chutes there too?
JC: No that was over in town. We had good corrals.
LL: Kendall Stone mentions that they brought cattle even from the Big Bear area to load on the train.
JC: Yes, they had scales there.
LL: Was that on the ranch? Or was that a community thing?
JC: No, it originally belonged to the ranch. When we divided the ranch it went with the other side.
LL: Can you talk a little bit about how the subdivision took place?
JC: They came to a parting of the ways. They were partners of the whole thing, they had practiced law together.
JC: Sorenson. The partnership came apart, so Father drew the division line and Andy took his choice.
LL: So all the buildings...
JC: No, they had a lot of buildings up there and the silos and things, and good meadows.
LL: The pond at the college?
JC: No, that was built by Kalin, who was going to build his home up there, and he died and Mrs. Kalin didn't like the place. He made it an unequal division: 2,200 acres at that end and 1,800 acres at this end. Andy selected the larger of the two.
LL: They get better rains [?], but you got most of the farmlands.
JC: It was about equal.
LL: OK, so the golf course area is part of that one?
JC: Yes, everything from the lake, all of that, all of Spring Valley.
LL: What was that like? Was that cottonwood trees?
JC: Well, it had Cottonwood Lane, we had seven artesian wells. It was just gorgeous. We had what was called Cottonwood Lane and there were just huge cottonwoods. Where the lake is, generally, was lower, wet meadow.
JD: That was the best pasture land.
LL: But that's grass. That's not alfalfa hay.
JC: Yes, but the alfalfa hay...
LL: ...on the other side of the river.
JD: They called it Rancho Verde Estates, that's where Rancho Verde school is. It almost touches Apple Valley Road.
LL: Actually, one of the things I'm writing right now is that the Verde Ranch really sort of spawned Apple Valley. Not up on top of the mesa, but many of the people who homesteaded worked here during the hay season and came over here and got their water and got some livestock starts from here. But mainly, when they're proving up their land, they're not making any money, they're working over here. And they'd come over here to the wells to get their water to haul.
JC: Well, that must have been back at the turn of the century, because I wasn't aware of that. Of course, in the early days when we farmed it, in the 20s and 30s, our crews were all hired, the Hartman's had a lot of boys and in-laws and things, we hired a lot of Hartmans. Of course, they farmed their own places, too.
JD: A lot of people, like Carl Van Berger, every once in a while they'll say, "I worked the dairy when I was a kid." Or, "I helped bale hay when I was a kid."
LL: The Homestead Law, or the Desert Land Law, said that they had to work their land, too. But they sure couldn't make a living off of that in those first years. Many of those first trees planted, they hauled the water from the ranch to water the trees.
JD: There was always water here and I understood that they called it originally, way way back, Clearwater Crossing. I don't know whether that's true or not, because they knew there'd be good drinking water in those days.
LL: Well, at one time it was almost made into a reservoir.
JD: Oh, we were here then.
JC: Of course, there was a threat that they would.
LL: Well, even the Browns had sold the ranch if it went through. I'm talking about 1896.
JC: But the rocks would not have held, it's all fractured. Incidentally, did you see that a young man was killed?
LL: Yes, he fell off the rocks yesterday.
JD: I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.
JC: That's only the second one I know of in 60 years.
JD: It is open space, it can't be developed.
JC: Well, it's got some great petroglyphs.
JD: Yes, and they should be saved.
LL: And I know that Goodwill was talking about developing it as a farm, somewhere.
JD: We had a meeting here this week with Fish and Game and the people from the Southwest Portland Cement and City Parks Department. We were talking about trying to preserve the whole river and protect it. That's what we'd really like to do, including the rocks.
LL: The highway going through could really devastate it.
JC: Well, if its done properly it can enhance it. They have to plan carefully.
CC: Now, your boundary on that side went all the way to Hesperia Road?
JC: Well, it touched Hesperia Road at the north end. Hesperia Road does not run due north and south.
JD: It followed the section lines, where electrical wires are.
JC: We had, in addition to the home place, I don't know when these were acquired, but there were water holes all over the desert. We had them out in Fairview Valley and as far as Wrightwood.
LL: There were other cattle mingling with your out on the desert. Hitchcocks and others who you probably had to cooperate with.
JD: According to Leonard, the cowboy that was here before we were, they rounded up all the cattle brought to here because there was water and feed here for them, then they divided them up. Oh, Tex Rankin is one of them, Joe Bessett...
JC: Joe Bessett is the one that was here when we got the place.
JD: He's the one Leonard quotes as saying they used to tie a knot in a rope for every ten head and then he would tell how long the rope was. One of the water holes ended up in Apple Valley, and we had so many developers come to the valley saying they wanted to do great things, but when the developers came we didn't really believe them.
My father came home one weekend and he looked like the cat that had swallowed the canary because he thought that he had really ripped this man off, a man by the name of Lou Bassett [laughter] came to the office to ask for a quit claim deed on the water hole that was out there in Apple Valley someplace. Mu father had almost let it go for taxes. He charged him five dollars an acre and thought he had really done him in! They got to be really good friends after that. We never wanted to know where that water hole was.
LL: You don't really know where it was? There were some water holes out where Alpha Beta is, but I didn't know there were some further up.
JC: I think this one was way up.
LL: I think this one was way out.
JD: Oh, was it? There was one...
LL: You know, he bought all of Fairview Valley at the same time.
JD: There was one, I understood, you know where the Kirkpatricks used to live, up there you can see trees growing and I thought that's where it was, but I never found out.
LL: Can you name some names of some of the guest, movie stars?
JC: Clark Gable stayed at Yucca Loma. John Wayne, what was John Wayne's buddy in all of his pictures with him?
JD: There's a picture of them with Mother. Henry Fonda was here sometime. Greer Garson was here. Mother never went to a movie, so she always introduced her as Garbor.
JC: Myrna Loy was here when she heard her husband was going to divorce her.
JD: Greta Garbo was here.
JC: June Allison was here.
JD: Groucho Marx and Harpo Marx. He left his harp for Mother to send back, but she didn't like that much.
JC: Our favorite, all-time favorite, was a character actor by the name of Eduardo Gianelli. Nobody knows him by name anymore.
JD: Jimmy Allison I remembered just the other day. Kemper was the advisor to "Charlie's Aunt" when they made that movie of her.
LL: Didn't they make that movie here?
JC: Oh, they made a lot of movies here.
LL: This house has been in a movie, hasn't it?
LL: Remember which one that was?
JC: We saw one the other night, must have been six months ago.
JD: "Lightning Strikes Twice." Oh, that was Richard Todd, Mercedes McCambridge.
LL: That was the 1950s.
JD: Years ago in the 1930s, they took a picture called "My American Wife," they used the house, and they used the barns and the corrals and the rest of it. About that time it, was just before I went to Europe, when I went over on the boat in 1936, they showed the movie and I cried and cried. I got to England where my older brother was and we went to London to see it and I cried. Then it came to Paris and I cried. Every time I'd see it, I'd cry.
LL: Were you over there when he was killed?
JD: No, he was killed flying out of Pueblo, Colorado, but I was there. In 1943. He hadn't gone overseas yet. That was his last flight before going overseas. I was there to drive his car home, instead I brought his body home. That was a tragic thing.
LL: What was the ranch called before that?
JC: Verde, North Verde.
JD: It was called the North Verde. It was the Verde at that point, and the North Verde and South Verde and then it was renamed in honor of Kemper.
CC: Your ranch never extended south of Bear Valley did it?
JC: It went to Bear Valley Road.
CC: Bear Valley, but the Brown ranch did.
LL: There's some confusion about that.
JD: I don't know.
LL: We'd seen where people claimed they were on the Brown Ranch and had a house clear on the other end of the Jess Ranch.
CC: Oh, really.
JC: That surprises me, but I have no base history.
LL: In fact, apparently some of the same cattle ran clear to Los Flores.
JD: I think they just ran, they just turned the cattle from Riverside.
JC: They were grazed out in the desert. In fact, when I was a youngster we -- just the early days they just turned them loose. In my time we went out with them and kept them.
JD: I think Papa and Andy Sorenson were the ones that fenced in the valley, didn't they? I don't think it was fenced in before that.
JC: The fence at the edge of the ranch there was here when we got here -- the one on the far side, but the rest of it I'm not sure.
LL: Were there cattle buyers coming here to buy your cattle?
JC: We shipped.
LL: Shipped to Los Angeles.
JC: Well, to the stock yards where all the buyers bid on the cattle.
LL: The silage would have been partly to fatten them and finish them off, probably fed them some grain too?
JC: No, just the silage and alfalfa.
JD: We didn't really finish them off that much.
JC: This isn't really a good place to finish cattle. The seasons are too extreme.
JD: People would buy them, the cattle people would buy them and put them in a feed lot.
JC: Buy them as feeders.
JD: We even tried during the war to butcher out our own cattle and decided to sell them and buy them back. It didn't work too well.
LL: So, you were selling mostly yearlings, feeders?
JC: We tried everything. We tried three-year-old steers and two years. At the end we had a fairly decent calf outfit. We sold as many as 300 yearlings.
LL: But your key thing was the cows with calves closer in to home and sending the dry cows and steers out a ways further.
JD: At the end, we just ran the herds all over the ranch. The dairy which we then leased to other people, kept all their cattle on this side of the track. The other side we just had a series of pastures.
JC: The river pasture. We'd turn them loose in the river pasture.
LL: Did you have trouble with bogs? Did you lose some in the mud?
JD: Very rarely. We lost -- the cattle we didn't worry about, we did lose, we were pasturing polo ponies for people who belonged to the Los Angeles Polo Club and we lost four, I think. They panicked in the bog. They were more apt to get stuck. The cattle just plowed their way through.
JC: The cattle, we didn't worry about them. We did have, my brother broke and rode a miserable albino stallion and the craziest horse.
JD: He was a wonderful colt.
JC: Yeah, but he, himself, was a miserable horse. We were on a roundup one day and he went down in a bog and my brother stepped off of him to get him out of the bog and he didn't see very well and mistook by brother for an island and jumped right on top of him, he would come up out from under the horse and the horse would see him and climb up.
JD: We couldn't get to him. We were just sitting there watching. We used to have -- I don't know if we still do, but we had a lot of quicksand in the river. You'd have to be very careful of that after a flash flood.
We used to pasture polo ponies of Will Rogers. When the ponies were too old and too tired to play polo anymore, he would let us have them. I don't know if we bought them, maybe we did. But they made wonderful riding horses. When they were out here in the pony pasture, we would watch then and they would line up and play polo.
LL: They were well trained.
JD: They were wonderful.
JC: Will Rogers' show pony, who was on stage with him, called Gumbo, died here. An older -- he died of old age.
JD: The story was that he and his wife were here in the living room and they looked at the living room and said why don't we build a living room like this. I've never been to his place down there but I understand that's the balcony, a replica.
LL: You probably lost more cattle on the tracks then.
JC: Oh, we lost a few, not as many as you might think. But I suppose over the years, maybe a dozen.
LL: What about rustlers?
JD: We've had an awful lot of petty theft.
LL: Even now?
JD: Yeah, but I don't recall, we've lost lots of saddles, bridles, and things. Sometimes people related to the sheriff, back when...
CC: I was reading an old newspaper warning people about shooting around the ranch.
LL: Even the Browns would bring people up from San Bernardino for rabbit drives, just hundreds of rabbits killed in a day.
JD: They used to have a rabbit drive out at Gaucho's Ranch, remember?
JC: They had a pickup outfitted so that he could stand with rails, at night.
LL: I used to do that.
JC: We used to -- at night, we had a rabbit problem, one of the saddest things was the night we set -- we had some dead trees and stuff burning.
JD: I'm responsible...
JC: You're responsible?
JD: I wanted to catch a rabbit and scared him back into the fire.
JC: I thought we were burning it for some other purpose.
JD: We were.
JC: Anyway, we set a large fire down there near the rabbits and they would come out and panic and go back into the fire. I didn't know that they would do that.
Speaking of movies, one of the worst movies they ever made as far as I know, they'd built a motel way down by the pasture. I guess it was called "Baby in the Ice Box." This was a picture that had a series of little disasters. Homer [Irwin ?] had a Model A and they rented it from him for the movie. He was very fond of it and they had a dummy gas station and two of the old-fashioned pumps. To stabilize them, they had a wire between the two of them. The climax of the movie was when the motel caught on fire and burned to the ground and the hero and heroine escaped with the baby from the ice box where they let her go, jumping into Homer's car which was conveniently parked at the gas pumps, and went driving off and lived happily ever after.
Well, a lot of things went wrong. They had to get it the first time because it was burning down. They set it on fire. Well, Homer, who was paid in advance for the rental of his car, had drunk up some of the proceeds and he was also one of the extras and he was in his nightgown and the fire started and he panicked. He was afraid his beloved car was going to be destroyed so he ran out to get into his car and ran in between the two pumps and caught the wire and brought the pumps crashing down.
They had a pigeon lot and pigeons did the same thing with the fire. They would come out and would turn around go back.
JD: Horses do the same thing.
JC: My grandfather, who was the kindest, sweetest, gentlest soul I ever knew, and the ones that survived were all singed and burned and he tended them a long time after that.
JD: Some of them stayed here for "Lost Horizon," too.
LL: That's right.
JD: The entire cast stayed here: Ronald Coleman, Edward Everett Horton, what was the female who had father's bed? Remember that? Isabel Jewel stayed here.
JC: Somebody was scared to death of horses, one of them, but I don't remember which one.
JD: Edward Everett Horton came in advance and his contract provided that his room was to be the largest of the cast, and he brought his tape measure and measured the room to make sure. Barbara Stanwick came up but didn't stay. She decided it was too remote and whomever she was getting away from couldn't find her so she turned around and went back. She didn't want to be that far away.
JC: Ray Milland stayed here.
JD: Oh, I went swimming with Ray Milland. I was the only other woman in the swimming pool and I got a big thrill. He was very nice.
JD?: He was a very nice man. One of the funny stories about him was that I came home from school and I had taken a pen and tattooed myself, an anchor or something. My mother was disturbed about that and how terrible tattoos were and went on and on at great length about the evils of tattooing. Ray Milland started to laugh and finally she said "What are you laughing at?", and he rolled up his sleeves and he had a tattoo of a skull and a snake going in and out and so that became the topic of conversation. He was asked of all the tattoos, why did he select that one, and he said he was so drunk he thought he had selected a rose.
We did have a tendency to insult the people who were here, sometimes on purpose but more often inadvertently. Adrian, who was one of the great designers for the studio, was here. My aunt Florence was here and she was talking about a Greta Garbo movie she had just seen and said the movie was wonderful but the costumes were just terrible and of course they were his. Guy Kenny was here, Edward G. Robinson was here, they were here by sheer chance. J. P. Priestly was here. He wasn't in the movies, but he was here.
JC: Speaking of that, the ones who did "Citizen Kane" were here.
JD: They wrote "Citizen Kane." Mankowitz was here. They were trying to keep him sober.
JC: Who was the star?
LL: Did they ever mention the Hearsts?
JC: They never discussed what they were doing.
JD: Orson Welles.
JC: Orson Welles. I don't remember who wrote what...
LL: But he was here.
JD: I guess Mankowitz was quite a boozer and he had a broken leg so they sent him up here, they knew that Mother could keep everybody sober. So they sent him up here to keep him sober. Ray Milland told another funny story on himself -- he rode in the Queen's Guard and of course they aren't supposed to change position, eyes or anything else, and his horse ran away through Hyde Park and there he was -- just jumping all the hedges.
LL: There really weren't many people who got out of hand here?
JD: Oh, no, and if they did, Mother straightened them all out. There were times we learned from her, we were so reasonable that if people really didn't like it, it was better for us to give them their money back and say thank you very much. Because they would make everybody else miserable. What was his name? He was an actor and he used to stay in the Playhouse. Something Rhinehart?
JC: No, that's Calhoun.
JC: Calhearn. He was one of the great actors. He was nominated for an academy award.
JD: He was apt to drink a little bit too much, so one morning after he had done so, he said good morning to Mother and she said, "I guess you had a pretty good time last night, you backed into me and kissed the garage goodnight."
JC: Louis Calhearn.
CC: I had the good fortune of hearing your mother speak.
JC: She was a very entertaining speaker.
JD: She wrote most of the family history in the first book, "Here I Raise Mine Ebenezer." We didn't have any family secrets after that was done.
CC: I read that, I worked in the library at that time.
??: She wrote well.
JD: She tried to write, she wanted to write novels, she kept trying -- she wrote four books. When she wrote, she wrote like she spoke, like she was telling stories and they were just wonderful. But -- and she wrote, her novels were good. The last one she had Celeste and Donna read to find out what it needed -- and she'd lead them right to the bedroom door and forget the whole thing. The sex never happened.
CC: How about some of the old buildings in Victorville?
JD: Victorville stopped at the junior high school, that was the end of Victorville.
JC: There aren't any of the real old ones left anymore.
CC: Did you know where the Talmadge stables were?
JC: They were on the other side of the tracks.
LL: Most things were, weren't they?
JD: That's where things started.
JC: That's where the blacksmith was.
LL: You mentioned the Hartman family worked for you. Was that the same one that had the blacksmith shop?
JC: No, no, they didn't have a blacksmith shop.
LL: That was back in the 1870s.
JD: They weren't here then. That was a different...
LL: He was a German who had been in the service up at Camp Cady.
JD: That would be a different family.
LL: Part of Ax Billy's Market or store was part of the Barrel House still, did you know that?
JD: No, I did not. I don't personally remember Ax Billy' Store, everybody talks about it, but I don't remember it. When we first, the stores I remember were McKinney's Market and the Munster farm. McKinney's Market was between 7th and 6th on B Street. Then we had Snider's, what the guests called Snider's Wilshire, that was later.
JC: What was the name of the dry goods store where Aurora worked? I keep thinking it was Harris and that was on the same block, and the Stewart Hotel was in that block.
JD: Smitty the barber stayed there longer than anyone, around the corner.
JC: Around the corner. Then there was the other barbershop by Doc Bowers' drugstore and Claude Goodrich's Garage.
JD: That was on this side of the ice house.
JC: This is a terrible story I'm going to tell you, but I suppose I could be highly criticized because -- it's part of the community long gone. This was a strictly segregated community and this has to do with the little old -- ice house Chantry. Art had the Crystal Plunge and it was strictly segregated.
LL: The sign was still there quite recently.
JD: This had been going on for many years and Art got a letter from the then Attorney General Stanley Mosk, from his office saying that segregation was illegal and not to discriminate and to make his pool available regardless of race and to which Arthur responded:
Attorney General Mosk: |
How many niggers do you have in your swimming pool?
Yours very truly,
And that's the way it was. There is a story about me and I didn't know I was creating history but I did. I desegregated the schools in Victorville, at least on a very short basis. I was raised with our maid's son who was as black as I was blond. When we moved here and she took us in to register at the elementary school and they said he goes here and he goes to Eva Dell (meaning my friend goes to Eva Dell) and I said let's go to Eva Dell and I said all right then, OK, we won't go to school and we didn't.
When the family came that Friday night, Charlotte, his mother, said I've got a problem with the children because they want Arvin to go this side of the tracks. The next morning my father called me in and in his presence said I hear you have a legal problem and he said you and Robert can't go to the same school. He said do you have any money and I reached in my pocket and said I have five cents and he said, OK, that happens to be my fee and I'll represent you. He went back to the office of the school board and said you can't discriminate on that basis and nobody was going to fight so he was the only black in the school. When he left, there were no blacks for some years.
LL: The Mexican-Americans were at Eva Dell, and somebody was enforcing the rules, saying stay on this side of the tracks.
JD: When I went to elementary school...
JC: From 7th grade on, they only went to 6th grade at Eva Dell and then...
LL: A lot of those guys would drop out of school.
JC: Oh, sure, the drop-out rate, I don't have the percentages, when I went to high school I think there was something like 80 of us in my freshman class in high school, there were only 38 or 40 in the graduating class was only -- three went in the service, it wasn't unusual, a lot of girls got married out of the 8th grade.
LL: There were not many Mexican or blacks that graduated.
JC: No, very few. It was a segregated community, but we were at ease generally [I think?], don't you.
JD: Yes, there wasn't any real...
LL: Were there separate baseball fields?
JC: We didn't have any baseball fields. Just the schools, there weren't any parks to play in. There wasn't any Little League or any of that.
LL: You had some town games though.
JC: But those were for grownups.
LL: Oh, were they?
JC: The Cement Plant Team and the Lime Plant Team.
LL: There were some Mexicans working for the cement plant.
JD: Oh, yes.
JC: Sure, and they played on the teams.
JD: Once we got into 7th and 8th grade and in high school we were integrated.
JC: We were integrated to some extent. There wasn't any dating or any of that.
LL: Well, that would have been pretty...
JC: But on the athletic field and that sort of thing there was no discrimination. But there was a social discrimination that everybody was comfortable with. Until about 1942...
LL: During the war.
JC: There were the Pachucos in Los Angeles and we did have a little bit of disorder then, but very little.
LL: Apparently some of the black people stationed at George or whatever the base was called, protested some against the treatment in Victorville.
JC: Yes, but nobody paid any attention to it.
JC: I don't know that anybody responded to it. In high school, some of us had been going to high school by that time five or six years and we were very close friends and there was a potential riot and I suppose you have a lot of information about Zeke Ebelon, who was a most remarkable man and he was the law. Had more common sense than most folks. And so a gang of whites that started at the high school walked right down the middle of 7th Street bent on beating up the Mexicans.
LL: Which what the Zoot Suit Riots were doing in Los Angeles at the time.
JC: That's right. To this day I have no idea what stimulated that but it did get stimulated. I was kind of a "goody goody" so I wasn't suspect -- but anyway, the Mexicans came up 7th Street and the two gangs met directly in front of the Sheriff's Office, which then was on C Street just...
LL: And Zeke was there.
JC: Zeke stepped out and he said, "Well, what's going on?" And somebody said, "We're gonna have a fight," and he said, "That sounds like a really good idea. So who is going to fight?" "Well, we're all going to fight." "I tell you, I can't let you fight in the middle of 7th Street because you're blocking the traffic, so let's step out behind the Sheriff's Office, there's plenty of space back there to have a good fight -- that's a good idea." So about this time everybody is handing me knives and rolls of pennies.
So he took everybody out in the back of the Sheriff's Office. "Oh," he said, "there's a whole lot more white kids here than Mexicans and I know you don't want to have an unfair fight." "Oh, no, we don't" "I tell you, we'll make this even. Here, you two are about the same size, so let's make a ring and you two get in and fight." They flailed away for awhile without much damage done. They went at it with some will and finally he said, "You guys are tired and you step back." And he picked another two, and they whaled away a while until they got tired and then they selected another two. About that time everybody felt awful and maybe it was time to go back to school.
JD: Tell the story about when somebody stole two saddles and we called Zeke. He didn't even leave the office.
JC: Oh, yes, well, I'd forgotten that. I know that he did leave the office but he knew precisely where the saddles were.
LL:Do you know what he heard?
JD: He knew who it was and he knew that the [culprit] took the train and went north. He picked up the phone and called a friend up north and said a man is going to get off such and such a train -- he's going to have two saddles -- arrest him, they're stolen. And that's what happened.
JC: There was a Standard station at 7th and D. He got a call one night -- this young boy reported a robbery, an armed robbery. He said the robber was 25 years old, 6 feet, one inch, he had blue eyes, brown hair, plaid shirt and levis and tennis shoes. And so Zeke had him down to the office too, so the deputy -- they were all just volunteer deputies, not very good deputies.
Zeke just sat there and he [the deputy] said, "Aren't you going to do something." He [Zeke] said, "I am doing something." Zeke just looked at his watch every now and then. Finally he said, "Let's go arrest him." They went up the alley between, in back of the sheriff's office. There were two kids at the gas station -- the attendant and his confederate were dividing the money. And he arrested them. His deputy said, "How did you know?" He [Zeke] said, "Nobody looking down the barrel of a gun can identify, describe the guy holding the gun, that precisely. He just gave too much information."
JD: He was wonderful. Of course the town was so much smaller but if we had any problem, we would just call him and say, "This is Jean," [and he would say] "What do you need," or "I'll be right over." I never had to spell my name or explain to him how to get here.
LL: Was one of the Dolches the sheriff before then?
JC: No, he was the constable. That was Bob's grandfather.
LL: The minorities always point to him as the one that enforced that segregation law.
JC: He probably did. And he was quite an old man when we got here. But he was still the constable and if you were of a mind to...
LL: That was the original Ed? He had been that in Hesperia in the 1890s.
JC: You could outrun him and his car [laughter], but the sheriff's Office provided a resident deputy, as long as I can remember, until we got Zeke.
LL: One of those was killed in some kind of a shoot out? Wasn't there a law enforcement person up here?
JC: Not that I'm aware of. That might have happened or was something we would have missed. When we got here Stan Steniger was the sheriff. Then there was Art Manning, and he went to Barstow, fell off a horse and got hurt, and became a Justice of the Peace in Barstow.
CH: The Dolch building, I'm looking for the...
JC: They had a building between -- Jean had a dress shop in one of his buildings between C and B on 7th Street. I don't know if that building is incorporated into the rest of those things on the west side.
JD: He just sold that property recently. It was, do you remember where the Happy Booker was? It was right in there, the Dolch building.
CH: That would be the Dolch building. That would be in 1930?
JD: Yes, because I had the dress shop in 1940.
JC: That was a pretty interesting block. They had a drug store on the corner, then the Sheriff's Office, then the bakery, the Dolch building, a small real estate office in front of the lot, the library was about the size of this room. Old Mrs. Ford was the librarian. Behind then was B. M. Bennett's Mortuary and Gift Shop.
JD: A Digger O'Dell if there ever was one [friendly undertaker in 1940s radio show, "Life of Riley"]
CH: What year was that you're talking about right now? So Bennett was the mortician.
JC: It was in the 1930s.
CH: Was Rich a mortician also? He had the furniture store. He's on my grandfather's certificate. He's buried there.
JD: I don't remember. Was there a doctor?
CH: I don't remember a Docridge Furniture.
JC: That might have been before Bennett.
JD: Bob Dolch might remember.
LL: He's got quite a few papers that most people haven't seen, from what I hear.
JD: He's got a whole museum. If he moved it out of his barn when he tore the barn down. He kept things and he really has a lot.
LL: Even in some of his books you can see notations in the margins that his mom put.
JD: Yes, and she was a teacher.
JC: The school was where the Edison Company is now at 6th and C.
LL: A lot of people say that was a great looking building.
LL: Sorry that it was torn down.
JD: Yes, it's a shame we let that go. They sold it, it belonged to Edison, and sold it to the Mexicans and they came up and tore it apart and took the lumber. And there it went. There isn't all that much -- we have this historical advisory committee going around trying to list or at least mark places where things were, even if the buildings aren't there anymore. There aren't that many buildings preserved worth preserving.
LL: Help preserve the [Talmdadge?] building, that committee?
JD: We wanted to buy it, they're making so much money out of that massage parlor, he's getting $1,000 a month, and...
LL: He doesn't want any attention called to it.
JD: We're really sad about that because we'd love to have that building. Some of the buildings then, the original church is on the corner...
JD: If we declare it an historical building then they can't do anything with it, it really takes the value and that's rough on them. So what we'd like to do is just have first crack at it if they sell it. It looks like a Korean church.
LL: I thought the building was torn down, might cooperate with it...
JD: That wasn't worth it.
JC: That was an ugly building.
JC: We're still losing all the buildings. We've lost all the characters in town. When we were a small town there was Shorty the Clown. I don't know where Shorty the Clown ever came from but he had been a professional clown. He was the town window washer. He had a little tiny dog that did tricks and he was never too busy to stop and do tricks. But they don't have that anymore.
We had Bart Goolich who had come from a wealthy family. He was tied to a water pail in a hazing, initiation group at Stanford, and had become disordered ever since. His family sent him here, he worked. They had to pay him every day. He had been a very talented pianist.
??: At Yucca Loma ranch?
JC: No, that was Ted [Teft] Henry.
JD: He always wore a stocking cap.
??: Polka Band?
JC: Yeah, he had the same thing. He's still alive. The family sent him here because he didn't meet their qualifications for...
JD: Ted Henry, I think his family was in the Ford automobile business.
JC: I'd forgotten. But Bart Goolich didn't stay. I don't know where he lived. He worked around. Things that are now so shocking -- we had a Spanish-American War veteran -- he used to pay the little elementary school girls five cents for pulling up their skirts and ten cents if he could touch their bottoms. And they thought that was awfully funny. They thought -- he'd go to prison so fast now, but nobody thought so much of it in those days. The girls thought that was very funny, it was the Depression and they got ten cents.
But if we had the wonderful English brick mason who did the brick work for this house -- who was a recluse. Fearful of anybody. I'm sure you've seen his brick house up at the end of 6th Street.
??: That is [?], and he allowed us to dedicate it.
JD: It had the proverbial brick outhouse. It does actually have the brick outhouse. He was never out after dark.
LL: And then there's the black lady -- Washington.
JD: The watermelon...
JD: The Washington family was wonderful.
JC: Oh, they were great.
JD: Not very long ago there was a special meeting at one of the churches, I think it was Nate Ruffin's, and one of the Washington girls was there -- Dorothy.
JC: People got here here in strange ways. The whole community was owned by Appleton Land, Water and Power Company, and thir resident manager was an Englishman -- Ammoral.
JD: He came to my wedding.
JC: How John Roy came here, he was destitute. I understand he was paid as a dishwasher and by the time he died he was very well-to-do. He owned all the Greenspot enterprises. George Seals broke down and was a tremendous force and created things -- a doer. His wife was quite well educated and he was not. He was a very bright man, and energetic and stubborn, too. He had a lot to do with the cemetery.
LL: Larry's father.
JC: Larry's father.
LL: The hodgepodge come together.
JD: I think the unique part is that people, the majority of people that are here, choose to be here, which I think is quite different from people who have to live in Los Angeles. A lot of people give up more money, they give...
LL: Get out of the smog.
JD: In those days it wasn't to get out of the smog, but it was more of a last-frontier kind of thing.
CC: There were a lot that came over the hill.
JC: Sure. Ray Moore, who was the business manager of the school district for many years, came to Adelanto because he had been gassed in the war.
JD: Doc Moore was another. And Doc Bowers who ran the corner drug store, where all of us gathered and had a soda fountain. A nice safe place for the kids to be.
One of the stories of Greer Garson -- at the time we walked to town, it was during the war, and she was married to Richard Mayo at the time, he was overseas. She found, first of all she found a postcard, one of these fancy postcards with the sparkles and feathers and stuff. "Oh, she said, he'll like that and I'll send it to him," And as she started to pay she saw a picture of herself in a frame, they were selling the frame, and she said, "Oh, that's what they do with my pictures, oh, I think I'll buy that too." She handed it to ol' Doc Bowers and he said, "They're very nice, you take that picture out and put your picture in." [laughter] That was cute.
??: Had the old cemeteries been used when you came up?
JD: Yes. My recollection is that yes, it had been. As a matter of fact, it was pretty bad when we moved up here. Nothing had been done. There were bottle caps on graves and that sort of thing. When my older brother was killed he said if anything happened he wanted to be buried here, and so my parents bought those three tiers that we still have. They didn't put the bricks around it, there was no water in the cemetery at all, then.
My father piped the water in so I could plant a few trees and bushes. I would go out of town, so I thought I'd turn the water on, and then I'd forget to turn it off. And then in the middle of the night I knew it was going to wash somebody down the hill, and I'd have to get up in the middle of the night to that cemetery to turn the water off and I'd just be scared to death. But there really wasn't anything there, it was just a mess. It had some ties, with railroad ties and barbed wire and all falling down.
CC: Do you remember about where it was?
LL: The old one?
JD: I don't know where that one was. I understood it was somewhere over the hill, along Hesperia Road somewhere. I don't know.
LL: I've known people that...
JC: Is that right? I've never known where it was. But it was here.
JD: It was here when we moved up here. My father and I went down to talk Appleton Water Company into letting us buy or have some more of the property because the upper part of the valley was still there, it wasn't the whole valley that we have now. We wanted another ten acres, or whatever it was. Their office was like going into a Dicken's office and I remembered the bookkeeper was trying....We talked him into it.
In those days they didn't want anymore taxes, which as it turns out I think was a mistake, but that's why it's set up as a nonprofit corporation. All of the churches and fraternal organizations are nonprofit organizations, all a part of it supposedly. We don't get much enthusiasm. I've been on the board off and on since the start of it. Somehow or other, cemeteries don't encourage a lot of people. Anyway, it looks so much nicer, we're really proud of it now.
LL: Well, we don't want to wear out our welcome. We sure ran this on a long time, but it's been fascinating. It's going to generate some other questions we're going to need to ask sometime after we do a little more homework.
JC: Let us know.
LL: We're trying to dig through those newspaper, and they're going to lead to some things about the ranch.
JC: You're going to find there are a lot of people still in Victorville or in the area who have better memories than we.
LL: There are some good ones alright.
CH: I think Ethel McBeth is a good one.
LL: She's one of the best.
JC: I was going to suggest that, all of these, they're either sister or sisters-in-law.
JD: One of the Jeffrey girls is still alive, she lives out toward Adelanto.
CC: I think one of those girls does genealogy. She lives near Sacramento -- Alice? Is it Alice?
JD: No, not Alice, she was the mother.
LL: Nate Ruffin would know where that Washington girl is. There is some black history here.
JD: Yes, and that's what this special thing was about, you really should talk to him. They're inviting the black pioneers to come back that particular day.
LL: We've got some good pictures.
JD: There were a lot of people there and a lot of them I remembered and they remembered me.
LL: Pearl Bailey's little ranch was quite an interesting place.
JD: That came along a little bit later.
JC: Yes, Mrs. Murray started the ranch, a little short -- When I was a youngster, very young, we went out, and I've forgotten how we came about, maybe through Charlotte or somebody.
LL: She was the maid.
JC: She was one of the maids, and somehow I went out with someone to Bell Mountain.
LL: Which was the black community.
JC: That was purely a black community and one of the leading people there was -- movers and shakers -- came from Los Angeles, and had built a house there. I was much taken with his very clever house.
LL: As a builder you mean?
JC: As a builder. He'd done it all himself, including, this is the only one I ever saw, a bathtub he made of cement. He was interesting, and I can't remember his name.
JD: [?] Betts was here, that was when she was Miss Chrysler, she taught me in grammar school.
JC: Probably the best source of all of this would be Harvey Irwin. He's got a wonderful memory and he's been here forever. But Bob and [?] McBeth, they all...
LL: Ethel was just great.
JD: Gordon Gossard is still alive and knows a lot.
JC: He does. He knows a lot about things that happened before he got here. He didn't get here until when he was about fifth or sixth grade, although his mother was in the first graduating class. Is George Wanders [?] still living?
JD: Yes, I think he lives in one of the mobile home parks and you might be able to find out where he is through the office of the cemetery because he used to be on our cemetery board. He's quite crippled with arthritis.
JC: Either he or Charlie, his brother, were in the first graduating class. The last I saw him, he hadn't forgotten a thing. I admire people who...
LL: You've done -- your memory is there.
CH: And your stories are good.
LL: Mayor Goodwill collected a lot of photographs, including Edmond Betts, and they were still in his office when he died.
JD: I think Jon Goodwill has all that now. He had a wonderful collection.
LL: Some of those are Ethel's and some private people's. She's very concerned about them.
JD: Well, tell her to call Jon Goodwill because he's concerned about it too, he doesn't really know what to do with it. I'm sure he has them all.
JC: Has anyone ever suggested the Demery family?
JD: She's still alive, Eleanor, one that was married to one of them.
JC: Did he die?
JD: Her husband did.
JC: Is that right? Well, the other one, Cliff, is still alive. I didn't know Eleanor's husband had died. I'm sorry to hear that.
JD: Yes, it was Vernon.
JC: Vernon, yes. Well, he isn't old enough to die. He's only about your age.
JD: Well, that's not old enough to die.
JC: That's what I say, just a youngster. I'm awfully sorry to hear that. [laughter]
JD: He was in my class.
JC: He was two years older. You were way ahead of yourself.
LL: You got a double promotion.
JC: They've been around forever. I don't know where the Webbs are.
JD: Denny Webb teaches at Davis, or did, at the University of California at Davis, and he taught, teaches how to make wine. What do you call...
JC: There's a -- don't ask me.
JD: Whatever the title is. His mother was a Methodist, I think, yes, and she never did want to bring attention to anybody as to what her son was doing and so she always used this word, Dr. of whatever, anonymous. He and I went to school together. He was really a nice young man but he had no sense of humor at all. You don't need to put that in your book.
Anyway, when our son was going to Davis I thought, well, I sent a note up to Denny to tell him that David was going to go up there and I even sent him one of mother's books or something as an introduction. In the letter I said -- I listed all the things that we were going to make a fortune on, gravel pits and Arabian, raise Arabian horses, sugar beet seed. I went through the whole thing and said maybe we should start a vineyard. And I got a five-page letter back telling me that it might not be a bad idea, that it would be a good place for a Madera sherry or something. He took me seriously and I didn't mean it.
LL: You were really serious about sugar beet seed.
JC: Oh, yes, we had two profitable enterprises. We made money rarely, but there were two things which we made money on. Sugar beet seed, and we raised that on contract, and unfortunately they stopped having it raised on contract. They raised their own and that was very lucrative. We did a good job and it was isolated, nobody else was -- no problems, cross pollination or anything like that.
The other thing was our manure operation. We had a marvelous, we couldn't use all the manure, excuse ne, "fertilizer," from the dairy, the dairy got very large (that was another interesting thing, I'll get back to that in a minute), but we couldn't use it all ourselves and it was hard to dispose of and so Jean had an idea to put an ad in the newspaper and said, "Fertilizer $1.00," and we didn't specify how much. You could get a pickup load for $1.00 or a box of it.
CH: We came, yes. We were never cheated.
JC: Fertilizer customers are the most modest people in the world. So then we actually developed it, we had then build a processing plant, processed it and sold it and did very well. But I was reminded of something.
JD: The dairy.
JC: Oh, after we stopped operating it, we leased the dairy and learned something that sociologists ought to study. The first tenant was from the Azores and we learned over time that they have a very strong clan system and one of the clans, they all come from the Chino [area?] or that's where the head of the clans lived -- the Cuellos -- and I can't remember the other name. Fascinating, they would, the clan would -- and they're very propserous -- the hardest working people I've seen.
JC: Dairymen -- particularly the Portuguese, and they would send to the Azores and bring a family over that was related someway to the clan. They would loan them the money, find them a dairy, loan them the money and get them started. These people would live on absolutely nothing, repay the loan, and usually sell that dairy and go into a larger one. Then they would sponsor another set of persons.
So we had a series of Portuguese dairymen here who were the most wonderful people. We did have only one bad episode -- the two clans, Cuellos and somebody else, I can't remember the name, decided they would go. What's the name of the -- Well -- Welches? -- and Las Vedos came here on the sponsorship of the Cuellos and somebody else. I can't remember the name. Anyway, they had never met each other, but they were sponsored by the Cuellos and forced into a partnership and one of them -- one family had two children and the other had none and that created some discord. But an amount of money was taken out of the business. So it got to almost the threat of violence, in fact one of then chased the other with an ax or something.
One day, which was long before I went to law school, I came home and there was a big Cadillac in front of my house and the two heads of the clans were waiting and identified themselves. They said they had a problem and their partners were having a falling out. I said I was sorry to hear that. They said we have a way of solving it -- fine, go ahead. We submit the question to the Padrone, whatever the Padrone says is the way it is resolved. Fine, go ahead, we'll go along with whatever you say. And he said, "You are the Padrone." [laughter] And the first time...
LL: First career as a judge.
JC: The first judicial decision, we went, the time was set, we all met at Jean's house. We talked about the weather, and then the principals were there and never said a word. One of the heads, my man says that his man did something or other and then they would have a drink and talk about the cattle prices. Then the other one would say my man says and then we would discuss hay prices. And very calm and quiet and the principals just sat and listened. Finally after a lot of drinks and a lot of discussion of the weather and one thing and another they said that's what we have to say.
They looked at me and I made a suggestion and that was the end of it. Whether I was right or wrong or close or far away, it never -- but that's the way they determined their disputes.
JD: His success went to his head because now he's famous in California.
JC: It was wonderful having them, we haven't had them for a long time.
JD: Do I dare recite Mother's poem?
JD: When we had the guest ranch, everyday we'd have a program, Mother would always try to give a speech on the state of the ranch and so this particular year, I guess they had just built the newer "sheen," as my nephew called it then. Mother sang it, I won't sing it. If I can remember it:
little skip load has a meaning of its own|
Every little dung heap wears a shining crown
Every skip load of cow manure makes our future even more secure
And the odor we must endure until the manure pays the loan.
LL: How did you come to decide to let some of the ranch go to the state?
JC: The county started to have a -- Smith Walker became the head of the County Parks Department. The county wanted to stay in that part of it and so he did and without our knowledge designed a regional park here which extended beyond the Narrows. We became fearful.
JD: It came out in the paper.
JC: Yes, they had a public meeting and I attended the public meeting and he was showing the community this wonderful plan which would use our property.
LL: Threatening to condemn?
JD: He didn't mention that.
JC: He did -- it frightened us because if they would have condemned the property we would have lost control and they could have done anything they wanted to with it. We talked about it and finally decided that to preserve the natural beauty and its value we would enter negotiations and see if we could sell it to them under threat of condemnation so that we could keep some deed restrictions so they couldn't destroy it. The state bought it under [those?] circumstances and the county operated the park. We subsequently learned that he was just really showing off to the Board of Supervisors and that he had no way of acquiring the property. This was just something...
LL: A bluff!
JC: He's a very nice man but the department heads in the county had to do something to make their reputation and that's just one of things he did -- he came up with this plan.
The truth of the matter is that the county does not operate it very well and yet -- it's a tragic thing to watch. The off-road vehicles in the river bottom are absolutely devastating the river bottom. If you want to preserve the natural habitat, the first thing we have to do and the only thing would be to patrol the river bottom and arrest them and get them out of there.
LL: That's a great natural place, you can't find beavers anymore.
JC: They are not indigenous to the area and the state brought them from up in the mountains and they're terrible. But among other things, the seagulls have invaded, apparently have come to the open dump. I shouldn't say "open," but it's open part of the day, and now we have hundreds of seagulls. They not only like garbage, they like fish. The rate of population has increased and the starlings will never go to...
JD: That's a migrating bird.
LL: But you've always had those, the turkey buzzards and...
JD: Oh, yes, they come through but these things [call birds ?] and they're eating all the fish.
JC: One of our prides is the fact that we have our own private long [?] geese that come to visit every year and stay here for the winter and when the weather turns nice and they somehow got here and liked it so much they don't migrate beyond us. They just stay here.
LL: It's your fault.
JC: They eat in the fields.
JD: And they have three or four snow geese with them.
JC: Originally they had four snow geese, this year there's only three of them. In mating, I suppose one of them was shot.
JD: We don't want anybody shooting them. One of the reasons we were going to negotiate with the state and county -- we were threatened with the cement ditch, remember that? To get water down to Barstow. We were threatened with -- in fact, they were going to take all the trees out, stumps and they may still have to do it some day, I don't know. There were so many government agencies talking about what they were going to do to our property.
LL: Those cottonwoods aren't very good pasture land, cutting some down would hopefully...
JC: They could undoubtedly go into the river bottom and thin some of the trees and still not destroy the ecology. There again you've got three competing interests. You have the interest of the Special Game and Fish man who's a very nice man and he doesn't want anything touched; then you have the flood control people who want to come through there and clear everything out; and then the rest of us, who are much more sensible, who say you can eliminate the [?] and open up the woods and make it more accessible to the birds and the people without devastating the area.
JD: We need a biologist.
JC: For sure.
LL: Did you ever lose any cattle with dead foal or...
LL: Because those cottonwoods have things dropping all the time.
JD: We lost cattle by disease mainly, but we didn't...
LL: This has been way too long, I know.
JC: No, not at all. Let me ask you a question.
JC: No, not you. In what way are you related to Willis Lyman?
LL: Willis is my father's -- Willis J. Lyman, the postman?
JC: No, what?
LL: No, It may be a different one. This one was in Idaho.
JC: No, no, I'm thinking of someone in San Bernardino, he may have died very recently. He was a commissioner, he was a lawyer, he had been a colonel, he had been in the service, anyway he became a lawyer, he was the commissioner of the [?] for many years and then became a justice of the peace, then he resumed practice out in the desert.
LL: Galt or somewhere out in the desert. His obituary was in the paper just about six months ago. It said he was a descendant of Lorenzo Snow Lyman, who was Amasa Lyman's son, one of the first to be born in San Bernardino. That would make him about a third cousin. Amasa is my direct ancestor and that makes him about a third cousin. My dad had an uncle Willis.