Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Chicken Magnate's Quest to Revive a Desert Ghost Town

Photo from "The Silence and the Sun" by Joe De Kehoe, courtesy of Martha Burnau and Sally Carlos.

by Matt Blitz
Curbed Network

In the middle of October, the Mojave Desert is cool by desert standards. The wind is so strong it's hard to stand up straight. The air is so dry that thirst is a constant. Dust, rock, and sand get into every crevice. Few brave living here.

Eighty years ago, though, this desert was alive with trains, people, stores, cars, gas stations, and cafes. Many of those buildings are still here, but only a few are occupied. By the mid-20th century, there was no longer enough to live here for. Not enough trains or cars passing through. Not enough commerce to sustain a community. Not enough committed citizens to reinvent the towns. The buildings were left as they were, as if the former occupants had every intention of coming back. The mostly-wooden structures still stand, swaying with the wind, baking in the heat, and collecting dust.

The Mojave Desert is filled with these ghost towns, places like Essex, Baghdad, Ludlow, Chubbuck, and Goffs, all teetering on the edge of existence. They inspire questions about our responsibility to abandoned buildings. Do we just let them rot away? Do we continue to hope that people will come back? Is preserving the past a noble cause or a fool's errand?

Amboy, one of the many wind-blown towns of the Mojave left to fade away in the sun, has changed ownership numerous times with no one able or willing to put in the work to revive it. In 2003, Amboy was listed on Ebay for $1.9 million. There were no takers and the property entered foreclosure. In 2005, at a much-discounted price, it finally landed in the hands of a Southern California chicken magnate, Albert Okura, who committed to reviving the town. Nine years have passed and Okura remains steadfast in his commitment. But the future of Amboy is up in the air, swirling around with the dust and sand.

Amboy's official birth year was 1883, but it was actually settled in 1858, when prospectors came to claim the hills' iron ore. According to an 1877 map (right) drawn up by Lieutenant J.C. Mallery of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a road established in these years connected Amboy to the Dale mining district.

It is not exactly clear why the settlement was named "Amboy." As the railroad established water stops in California, the communities were named in alphabetical order from west to east, stopping at the Arizona state line. Amboy was the first.

Seven years later, in 1865, the Southern Pacific Railroad Company was founded with the goal of establishing rail service from San Francisco to San Diego. The company did just that, but its goals were much loftier. Beginning in 1862, the Pacific Railway Acts promoted the construction of a transcontinental railway through land grants and government bonds. The Southern Pacific Railroad Company took full advantage of these government handouts. By 1884, through land grants, bonds, company consolidation, and leasing of other railroads, the "mighty" Southern Pacific reached New Orleans (a route nicknamed "the Sunset Route").

Southern Pacific promised to build at least twenty miles of rail per year beginning in 1870. Construction fell behind, but on June 22nd, 1883, the Southern Pacific Railroad finished its 223 miles of rail connecting the Mojave Desert to Needles, California, allowing the giant steel beasts known as locomotives to pass through the desert.

At first, Amboy was nothing more than a water and repair stop for the trains. Amboy didn't have a bank or a fire department, though a two-room wooden schoolhouse was built in 1903. (Western railroad towns, in general, tended to be unimaginative in design and created for the sole purpose of catering to the railroad worker and self-sufficiency.)

Other communities in the Mojave, like Ludlow or Essex, were different from Amboy. They became 'blow-off' towns for the thirsty, recreation-starved miners who had to deal with alcohol-free mining camps. With their abundance of pool halls, saloons, and brothels, communities like these lived off of workers' vices. Amboy, though, got a boost from the discovery of a natural resource. This resource wasn't found in the mountains, but at the bottom of Bristol Lake.

That resource was salt, or calcium chloride. Drilling a water well in 1910, the railroad company had discovered that the water contained 10 times as much salt as the ocean. The Pacific Cement Plaster Company had already built a mill in Amboy in 1904 to process the gypsum at the bottom of Bristol Lake, and the salt offered another revenue stream. By 1914, mining in Bristol Lake for both salt and gypsum was at its height. Mills, worker residences, and even saloons were hastily built in the nearby town of Amboy. But like all booms, this one was short-lived. Over-mining and discovery of other salt deposits in easier-to-reach places forced all the mills to close by 1924. Amboy began to deteriorate, just like the other towns of the Mojave Desert.

Other problems followed. On October 29th, 1929, "Black Tuesday," the stock market lost nearly thirteen percent of its value. The subsequent Great Depression decimated the railroads. The Tonopah and Tidewater and the Ludlow and Southern line, other famed desert railroads, were ripped up by 1935. The mighty Southern Pacific, bigger and more financially solvent than its competitors, continued to operate and was still turning a profit until the late 1940s, but the end was nearing for even the strongest of the locomotives.

But the invention that came next, the automobile, revolutionized the way Americans traveled and breathed new life into Amboy.

In 1927, Cyrus Avery (right) and the newly formed US Highway 66 Association convinced Congress to establish a well-maintained, easily passable interstate highway from Chicago to Los Angeles. Construction began on US 66 that same year and all 2,448 miles were paved by 1938. Route 66 was built specifically to follow the railroad, which had carved a clear path, both in infrastructure and notoriety, through the southwest. The road was built nearly parallel to both the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads. For this reason, Amboy was included on the route.

During the mid-1930s, with the Depression at its height and the dust storms wrecking havoc across the Midwest, thousands of people traveled the newly-built Route 66 in search of a better life elsewhere. As immortalized by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, Route 66 was "the path for people in flight, refugees from the dust."

Amboy flourished, hitting its peak right when the Depression was at its worst. The permanent population jumped to nearly 200 people. Three gas stations, two cafes, three motor courts, four garages, a post office, a church, and a school were built, all with colorful signs and enticing offers (air conditioning!) to lure in visitors.

If Amboy was an oasis in the middle of the desert, then Roy Crowl was mainly responsible for its reemergence. Working as a railroad line operator a few miles down the road in Saltus, he noticed the rise of car traffic and decided it was time to go where the people were. He moved to Amboy and built Roy's Garage. The desert roads were rough on cars and thus made Roy's the busiest place in town. Soon, Roy realized that waiting customers got hungry, so he built a café. Auto parts weren't always available, so travelers had to wait, sometimes overnight. Luckily, Roy also built a motel.

Roy's Motel & Café has since become a Route 66 legend. Opened in 1938 by Roy and his wife Betty, along with their son-in-law Buster Burris, the motel has five cabins with a café next door. Roy did so well with his properties that he was able to buy Betty, a trained pilot, a runway left over from the 1920s. Propeller planes still land on this runway (in fact, Harrison Ford made an unscheduled stop there in the mid-2000s). Roy and Betty retired in 1959, leaving Roy's in Buster's name. Buster traveled to Los Angeles for design ideas and renovated Roy's in the style he observed there. The Roy's sign still stands over the town of Amboy, its retro-future look harking back to another era.

On June 29th, 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act. He called it "the greatest public works project in the history of the world." It is said that a cross-country trip that would have taken twenty days in 1950 would now only take four.

For Amboy, it was another death sentence. Route 66, with its twisty, turning road and lower speed limits, would become obsolete. And so would the small towns that populated the road. By 1964, the concrete had been poured for the new super highway, Interstate 40, and cars were bypassing Amboy and the other Mojave towns. Life again screeched to a halt in the desert.

Today, Amboy feels more forgotten than dead. The landscape is still dotted with rubble, but there are signs of life. A dog barks in the near distance. Some of the houses are lived in. RVs and trailers along the side of the road provide traveling homes for a few. An estimated 15 to 20 people live here year-round. On nice days, like this one in October, cars pass through, stopping for a picture of the most photographed sign in the world. The trains still huff and puff occasionally on the outskirts of the town.

But Amboy is still very much on the mind of Albert Okura. In 2005, Okura bought the town of Amboy from Buster Burris' ninety-year-old widow for $425,000. She had better offers, but Okura had cash and a promise. Okura explained over the phone, "I told her I am going to keep it pure."

Okura grew up in Wilmington, only a few miles from Long Beach on the coast of southern California. His first job was at a Burger King in 1970. Fourteen years later, Okura opened his own fast-food restaurant with an uncle in San Bernardino County (about 55 miles from Wilmington)—a Mexican rotisserie chicken place called Juan Pollo. Today, there are 27 locations throughout Southern California. Okura purchased the site of the very first McDonald's in San Bernardino County in 1998, which was run by the McDonald brothers in the 1940s before Ray Kroc bought out their company. He turned the site into the corporate offices of Juan Pollo on one side and a McDonald's museum on the other. On the surface, the McDonald's site purchase makes more sense than Okura's decision to buy Amboy, but Taylor Louden, a preservation architect who helped Okura with Amboy, describes Albert as a benevolent collector. "Things just find their way to him. He's sort of a one-man orphanage."

When Amboy appeared on Ebay in 2003, a friend who knew of his tendency toward collecting alerted Okura. The price was too high, but Okura, believing it was "his destiny" to own Amboy, kept checking in until the number came down. Okura immediately went to work cleaning, repainting, and preserving the town. In the nine years he has owned it, he hasn't knocked anything down, and the only thing he's built is a small storage shed. He has simply tried to keep the town afloat. Okura reopened Roy's, not as a motel or café, but as a gift shop with hopes of turning it into "an authentic Route 66 diner" someday. Okura hired a few people living in town to work shifts at Roy's. He was able to bring back gas to two pumps (a third was already functional). Okura and Louden even gave Amboy a clever nickname, "the ghost town that ain't dead yet," in hopes of attracting tourists. Despite all of this hard work, Okura admits the task is tougher than he thought. Okura explains he never had any delusions of making money off of Amboy itself; the value for him was promotional, "if I keep it pure, functional, historically accurate, than me and my company…get recognition."

Still, he tells me that he spends upwards of $5,000 a month on staffing, keeping gas flowing, and general maintenance. It took two years to get electricity because "Buster, the great man that he was, did his own electric work and it wasn't up to county codes." Okura says he loses money on his investment on a yearly basis.

Despite Okura's best intentions, Amboy sits in a state of suspended life. The old cabins that still stand off to the side of the former café have a decently fresh coat of paint but are a mess inside. A "Keep Out" sign blocks off visitors from the rest of the cabins behind Roy's. The giant white church down the road (built about the same time as the new school) is empty inside, save for a single ghostly chair delicately placed at a piano, as if waiting for someone to play it one more time.

Amboy illustrates the difficulty of preserving the past. Towns like Amboy must adapt or die in a kind of Ghost Town Darwinism. Although Okura has no plans to demolish any buildings in Amboy, perhaps that should be an option. If no one wants to live there or turn it into a useful property, why expend energy and resources preserving something that provides very little, if any, value back?

Before I leave Amboy, I wander into Roy's. Thirsty from the Mojave, I pick up a bottle of water and approach the man at the cash register, whose name is Kevin. I ask him how business is today ("Not bad. A guy and his girlfriend on a motorcycle was just here about twenty minutes ago."), tourism in general ("We get a lot more people from Europe and Asia, than Americans"), and if he lives in town (he does, in a room inside of the café). And then I ask Kevin the question: is Amboy a ghost town? His answer: "I live here and I'm alive. So, this town ain't dead yet." But for how long?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Project examining Route 66 effect on Native Americans

A van with a tour group passes through Route 66 in San Bernardino County. (Kurt Miller)

by David Olson
Riverside Press-Enterprise

Route 66 is probably the most iconic road in the nation, but few of the tourists and other travelers who drive it likely know very much about the original residents of the land they’re passing through.

A new initiative from the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association aims to change that with a guidebook that will steer visitors toward Native American cultural sites and educate them about Route 66’s effect on American Indian life.

Route 66 passes through San Bernardino County in its 2,400-mile journey from Chicago to Los Angeles, and a meeting with Southern California tribes on their possible involvement in the project is expected in January 2015, said Rachel Cromer, a spokeswoman for the tourism association.

“This is a part of the Route 66 story that hasn’t been told yet,” Cromer said. “We hope this will draw new visitors and allow people who have traveled Route 66 to experience it in a new way.”

The National Park Service is helping fund the project.

Many Americans and foreign tourists have a Hollywood-movie view of Indians as living in teepees, wearing headdresses and riding horses, said Virginia Salazar-Halfmoon, coordinator of the project.

Here in the Inland area, among the best-known Route 66 attractions is the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, which features teepee-shaped rooms.

Yet Southern California Indians did not live in teepees, which were used by some Plains Indians.

Salazar-Halfmoon said the guidebook will help dispel the teepee myth and other stereotypes and generalizations.

“There are 27-plus tribes that exist along Route 66, and many people don’t realize they have distinct cultural heritages that they hold on to tenaciously,” she said. “If people knew more about the tribes, they would be more aware of the distinct cultural heritages that exist and would probably have a more enriched experience on Route 66.”

Route 66 had a major impact on Native Americans’ lives, Salazar-Halfmoon said. For example, the road was used to transport many Native American kids to Indian boarding schools, she said. The federal government set up the schools, which were aimed not only at teaching educational basics to Indian children but also at eradicating Indian culture.

Route 66 also had positive effects on tribes, Salazar-Halfmoon said. The road created a larger market for Indian arts and crafts and exposed more people to Native American culture, she said. Artisans set up stands and trading posts at the side of Route 66 to sell their goods.

“Because of Route 66, they didn’t have to leave home” to sell their products, she said.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Get on board for Harvey House history

Veterans Day: 'Troops and Trains' event to showcase World War II photos

Lawrence Dale, right, and Carol Randall, the chair for the Barstow Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, check out two of the photos that will be on display at the Harvey House on Tuesday for the Troops and Trains event.

Victorville Daily Press

BARSTOW — Carol Randall remembers sitting down enjoying her morning coffee and watching CNN.

“I noticed this older picture,” she said. “I saw this old photo of troops getting on a train, and I said, holy Mike! So I started some research and found out we had a tremendous amount of troop trains come through here (Harvey House in Barstow) during World War II. And they stopped here for coffee and doughnuts and went on to port to be shipped off to the war theater.”

That was six months ago, according to the chair of Barstow Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee. Randall says she’s a planner. So she began planning for a Harvey House event.

“I thought, my goodness, there’s more history we have failed to get out to the community. One more reason to love this old lady (Harvey House),” she said. “So I called my buddy (Lawrence Dale, former mayor of Barstow and on the committee), and I said, ‘what do you think about this?’ And he said ‘I like it.’ ”

Randall presented an idea to the committee and that is how a new Harvey House event, “Troops and Trains” was born, according to Randall.

The free event is open to the public and will be held at the Harvey House, 681 N. First Ave., from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday to help observe Veterans Day.

“We started very small. Simply coffee and doughnuts, a little music and some pictures,” Randall said. “I said, ‘Lawrence, can you dig up some pictures?’ If you ever need some pictures, send Lawrence.”

Dale took a trip to a rail museum in Topeka, Kansas. The museum donated several pictures to Barstow’s new event. The pictures will be displayed throughout the ballroom at the Harvey House. Also, Randall said all military veterans are invited. She said a couple veterans from World War II have been invited to share their stories too.

Besides other displays, 1950s music will be performed by the Ken Courtney Jazz ensemble. Doughnuts, like the ones that were served to the troops, and sandwiches will be served.

Randall says the display of photos will remain at the Harvey House throughout the week to allow for students from the surrounding schools to visit.

Friday, November 7, 2014

San Bernardino County Museum needs better leadership, says report

A report says that the San Bernardino County Museum must make substantial changes — including to its leadership — in order to sustain itself for the future. (staff file photo)

By Kristina Hernandez
Redlands Daily Facts

REDLANDS >> A report released Friday says the San Bernardino County Museum must make significant changes to be able to sustain itself for the future, starting with its leadership.

The report, which was conducted by San Francisco-based Museum Management Consultants, Inc., lays out a number of recommendations the museum can make to increase revenue, attendance and its overall structure by hiring a director that has a curatorial background and experience capable of looking into the “business side of operations.”

“(The museum’s) next director will lead an organization with significant challenges and tremendous potential for growth. It will be crucial to find the right candidate with the expertise and energy required to take on these challenges and leverage opportunities,” the report reads. “As such, MMC strongly recommends engaging an objective third party with experience in recruiting leaders for cultural organizations to conduct the search.”

Between 1996 and 2001, the museum saw four directors come on board before appointing Robert McKernan to the position in 2002. McKernan, who was a curator before being appointed interim director, left the museum in April and left “many advocates of the museum concerned for SBCM’s future without a director during a time,” the report said.

The museum’s reputation for its “problematic leadership” was first noted in an American Alliance of Museums accreditation visit report conducted in 2002. It said that McKernan’s leadership provided the museum with a stabilizing force after a period of volatility and that he had the trust of the museum’s staff and the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

But the report says that over the years, the museum’s staff reported that McKernan had “lost focus” and described the longtime director as more “curator centric” — not paying much attention to the museum’s public or business sides.

MMC also recommended the museum focus on a strategic plan similar to one developed in the early 2000s and lay out a detailed vision and goals for the museum, along with measurable steps to achieve them.

“The same issues exist today as they did 10 years ago, with the addition of new challenges that have brought the museum to a crisis point,” the report said.

In addition to creating an updated strategic plan and addressing leadership problems, the museum will need to pass an upcoming re-accreditation visit from the American Alliance of Museums that is to be conducted in 2017.

The museum also needs to strengthen its relationship with the board of supervisors, the report recommends. That would mean allowing the museum’s Association to have a bigger voice in maintaining the venue’s operations. Currently, the museum is overseen by the board of supervisors because they “felt reluctant to hand over too much authority to an independent board” which would be the current San Bernardino County Museum Advisory Commission.

The commission, the report said, was established as the liaison between the Board of Supervisors to “provide advice and assistance to the board with regard to museum matters” and would also have a say in what would happen at the museum’s off-sites, including the Victor Valley Museum in the high desert.

MMC recommends disbanding the commission and allowing members to be a part of the association so it can establish itself as an authoritative figure and engage in more fundraising opportunities for the museum.

To do so, the report recommended the association grow to 25 to 30 members based on “specific criteria for selection, including the ability to raise funds.”

The report also laid out recommended structure for the museum’s staffing and asked the education venue to look into its hours of operations to see if it was actually serving all possible demographics, including school tours, and develop programs that actually work and cancel those that don’t.

The report also noted that the museum’s current interim director, Leonard Hernandez, has already made significant changes to the museum’s structure, including the re-organization of staff and the installation of the temporary “Fossils Underfoot” exhibit in the Hall of Geological Wonders.

But for the Hall to contribute to the financial stability of the museum, the Hall must be completed and new interactive exhibits must be installed.

“MMC believes the current approach in phases is a realistic solution in the short-term, but opening the full experience should be a top priority in order to revive the visitor experience, increase attendance and prepare the museum for reaccreditation,” the report said. “MMC believes that monetary support of (a) Hall capital campaign would be a worthy investment for the county to consider, and might instill confidence in other potential donors to help complete the campaign.”

MMC was hired by the county in June to conduct the assessment of the museum’s operations and report its findings to the board of supervisors, who will review the report and discuss its findings in the future.

The report cost the county $75,000 to complete, said Felisa Cardona, a deputy information officer for the county.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Exhibit recalls 50 years at ‘Calico Dig’

By Staff Reports
Victorville Daily Press

The Victor Valley Museum will recognize the 50th anniversary of the Calico Mountains Archaeological Excavation with a special exhibit, “50 Years Ago: The Calico Dig.”

The exhibit will open on Saturday and continue through Nov. 9.

The Calico Mountains Archaeological Site (once called the Calico Early Man Site) is a quarry and tool production site near Yermo. For thousands of years, prehistoric people gathered stones (chalcedony and chert) from which to fashion tools for hunting, preparing food and making other tools.

Dr. Louis Leakey, Ruth DeEtte (Dee) Simpson, and Dr. Gerald A. Smith, then director of the San Bernardino County Museum, established the Calico Mountains Archaeological Site in 1964. The National Geographic Society funded the first four years of excavation. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Continuously excavated for 50 years, the site is still active with the help of trained volunteers, college classes and scout groups.

The Friends of the Calico Early Man Site, incorporated in 1981, cares for this important public resource and provided the funding for this exhibit.

The Victor Valley Museum is at 11873 Apple Valley Road in Apple Valley, just east of the Jess Ranch Marketplace. Contact the museum at 760-240-2111 or visit the San Bernardino County Museum’s website at

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for military/seniors and $2.50 for children ages 5-12.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mohahve Historical Society celebrates 50 years

Victorville Daily Press

The Mohahve Historical Society celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sept. 25, with a barbecue at the Victor Valley Museum hosted by past president Jim Mustra.

After a meal, catered by Cujo’s Big Smoke BBQ, attendees enjoyed a presentation on the historic mining town of Ryan in Death Valley by the live-in caretakers, Mr. Scott and Dr. Jessica Smith. The cutting of the 50th anniversary cake bearing the MHS seal concluded the memorable event. Mohahve Historical Society would like to thank all who attended, and especially appreciated the support of three other historical societies: Searles Valley Historical Society of Trona, Wrightwood Historical Society, and Mojave River Valley Museum of Barstow.

The organization, which started as a class at Victor Valley College in 1964, meets regularly on the fourth Thursday of the month to enjoy a presentation on some facet of High Desert history, followed by refreshments and socializing. There is also the opportunity to purchase books, including the recently published “Rancho Yucca Loma” by local historian Fran Elgin.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stamp mills highlight museum celebration

Hugh Brown, left, current director of the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association, stands with former director Dennis Casebier on the upper level of the association's recently renovated stamp mill. (MARK MUCKENFUSS, STAFF THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE)


Dennis Casebier has learned that you don’t have to build it to get them to come; you just have to have the materials on hand.

Casebier, a desert historian and former head of the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association, found himself standing in a salvage yard in the high desert town of Rosamond in 1996, looking at pieces of a large, ore-crushing machine. He had a vision of reconstructing the monstrous piece of equipment on the grounds of the association’s museum in Goffs, about 30 miles northwest of Needles.

Originally, the material was headed for Disneyland, which had been collecting antique Western props for its parks in the 1980s, Casebier said. The Rosamond dealer “got one 10-stamp mill too many,” he said.
Casebier bought the mill and some other material for $15,000. It took a year to haul everything back to Goffs. And there it sat for 14 years.

This Sunday, visitors to the Goffs museum will not only be able to see the 20-foot-high, 15-foot-wide reconstructed American Boy 10-stamp mill but also will get to watch it run. Casebier said it is the only operational 10-stamp mill in California that he knows of. The nearest is in Arizona.

The same man put both machines together.

Casebier said Charlie Connell came looking for him, which was a good thing. Otherwise, the mill, which weighs more than 30 tons, probably still would be sitting in pieces.

“I had no idea where to start,” said Casebier, a physicist who worked for three decades on weapons systems at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Norco. “We’ve learned patience out here. Sooner or later, somebody will come along who’s interested.”

Connell, of Phoenix, heard through the grapevine that Goffs had a stamp mill.

“He’s a nut about stamp mills,” Casebier said. “He has a little team of guys (including his wife, Kathy) and they just love working on stamp mills. He lets them know he’s coming out and somehow they show up from as far away as Colorado.”

It took Connell and his crew three years of work – an estimated 4,100 man hours – to put the mill back together using original and newly made parts. They turned on the machine for the first time in March, using a diesel motor. Originally, the mill would have been powered by a steam engine.

It is the sixth mill that Connell, a retired nuclear plant worker, has constructed. He also helped get the Goffs museum’s smaller two-stamp mill operating.

An amateur gold prospector, he was volunteering at the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum when he learned about an abandoned stamp mill in the desert. He didn’t know what a stamp mill was at the time, but when he saw the dilapidated remains, it got the better of his tinkering nature – he’d rebuilt a Model A in earlier years – and he decided he had to put the stamp mill back together.

“I like to see things run,” Connell said.

It has become an avocation. Besides the ones he has rebuilt in Arizona and California, Connell said he has consulted on stamp mill reconstructions as far away as Colorado. Last summer, he spent two weeks on a road trip that took him through several Western states looking for stamp mill parts. He even traveled to Australia and New Zealand to look at stamp mills there.

Thanks to Connell and his crew, both stamp mills will be operating Sunday. And although the machines may draw the most attention, Casebier hopes visitors also will check out the rest of the museum he spent more than 20 years putting together.

The project started in 1990, when he and his wife bought the Goffs Schoolhouse and restored it to its original condition. The school is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Sunday’s event is a celebration of the schoolhouse’s 100th anniversary.

The Casebier’s and some museum staff are pretty much Goffs only residents these days. At its peak in the 1920s, 200-300 people lived in the town. Route 66, local mining and the railroad kept it alive for many years.

In addition to the schoolhouse, the museum also has an archival library on historical materials related to the Mojave Desert.

Casebier – a transplanted Kansan, fell in love with the desert during a two-year stint in Twentynine Palms when he was in the Marines. He started exploring and researching the Mojave Desert not long after he started his civilian job with the Navy, then in Corona, in 1960.

His work often took him to Washington, D.C.

“I’d spend my evenings in the National Archives,” he said, delving into desert history. “I did that for 30 years.”

The Goff’s museum has a 10,000-volume library, a collection of more than 100,000 photographs and 6,000 maps. But what Casebier values most is the material from his oral history project. The archive holds recordings from interviews with 1,300 people. Casebier did most of the interviews himself.

“If there was only one thing we could get on the ark, that would be it,” he said. “That is a national treasure.”

Much of the archive is housed in the recently completed Goffs Depot, a reconstruction of the original train station that sat just a short distance away. Tours of the building will be part of Sunday’s activities, along with games for kids, a book sale and lunch for visitors. In addition, there are the museum’s wide array of historical objects and equipment, many related to the local mining industry.

Casebier is hoping a few of those visitors might consider becoming volunteers for the museum site and fall in love with the place the way he did.

“I wanted to go to the desert and I like doing things with things that are neglected,” Casebier said. “This whole place here is a testament to that.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Protect signage in ‘Wild West’

Sharing the story of Arizona Strip history was this sign, now gone. (Hartt Wixom / The Spectrum & Daily News)

Hartt Wixom
The Spectrum

Adventurous travelers love that sign south of St. George near the Arizona border which says, “Where the West Stays Wild.”

At least it used to say that. It’s now gone. Apparently, the work of vandals. But more about that later.

That sign was a most meaningful introduction to the Arizona Strip. Fortunately, the region remains wild. We can applaud the fact it has been left as the Creator made it. True, there are a few roads — some lead to the Grand Canyon — and a great undeclared wilderness which includes the Parashant National Monument. It’s a natural wonderland of canyons and buttes harboring trophy mule deer and antelope — featuring a great deal of intriguing history.

Some of that history includes the three men who departed from Grand Canyon explorer Maj. John Wesley Powell in 1869. Brothers O. J. and Seneca Howland and James Dunn climbed up what is now called Separation Canyon and then disappeared.

A sign providing this historical lore once placed on private land has also disappeared. Maj. Powell later learned these men were killed by Shivwits Indians who mistook them for men who had abused a squaw. (Laid to rest is the old rumor that this trio was killed in Toquerville. Records now prove that the three who died in Toquerville were a man, woman and child attacked by a jealous husband.)

Another important sign gone is the one commemorating the old Spanish Trail which was sited north of Gunlock at bottom of the hill on the hairpin turn leading east to Veyo. It was another apparent victim of vandalism.

I’ve also seen signs in the high mountains deteriorate with time and fall to the ground and not replaced — causing hikers and horsemen to turn the wrong way. That once cost a friend and me a full day’s travel.

The public is missing out on a vast treasure of history because of these careless acts. Those valiant souls placing them sometimes give up, leaving all of us as losers. If a sign simply wears out after a few dozen years, I presume that one might be replaced. But when futility reigns — as it so often does on public land — agencies like the U.S. Bureau of Land Management who place them there give up.

Not only are these signs helpful to learn about our Southwest history but also to mark routes to many valuable places. In addition to the Grand Canyon, we know how to reach Bundyville, Bar Ten Lodge, Mt. Trumbull, Mt. Logan, Dellenbaugh, the Temple Trail, and other (hopeful) destinations. You could easily get lost in such country. Surely, anyone witnessing sign destruction should report it to the proper authorities.

I recall one day trying to find Hack Canyon by matching road numbers to map numbers. The road signs that should have been there were not. We explored in vain for half a day. It happens across the Arizona Strip from the Kaibab Forest to the Nevada border. One frequent visitor I know, Steve Cheuvront from Scottsdale, Ariz., spends every autumn exploring the Strip. But he told me he also relies on road signs which often are not there.

From my experience working as a volunteer for the Arizona Strip Interpretive Association, I saw the hard work the BLM in St. George puts into providing signs to that 10,000 square miles of real estate between the Utah border and the Grand Canyon. Thankfully, they see it as many of us do — nothing man-made more than necessary. (Although I do consider ranching roads for cattle operations as vital; they were there first.)

I was happy the BLM authorized me to place 20 route signs on Buckskin Mountain south of Kanab to note the travels of Jacob Hamblin. After all, he blazed the trails used later by many folks, including the Honeymooners headed for the St. George Temple. (The Honeymoons signs are also there.) Or last time I looked.

Following those signs gave me goose bumps just realizing Jacob Hamblin rode here on his way to the Hopi reservation — and into the hallmarks of history.

As a grade school and high school student, I confess I didn’t have much interest in history. But with age comes the understanding of its value. We can be grateful for those who help us learn more about it. Let’s keep these signs there.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Negro Motorist Green Book" Reveals a Different Route 66 Experience

Negro Motorist Green Book cover, 1949 edition

Arizona Sun Daily

Before the Civil Rights Era, there existed a series of travel books called “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” These travel guides existed specifically to help African American travelers navigate the challenges of finding food and accommodations along the highway that would cater to them.

Publisher Victor Green said the book would “give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” In learning about a Route 66 version of the “Green Book,” historian Sean Evans found that only a small handful of the businesses in Flagstaff were deemed friendly to African Americans in the late 40s.

Among them was The DuBeau on Phoenix Avenue, the Nackard Inn and another hotel called the Vandervere that was located on Santa Fe Avenue. Only one restaurant was listed—a small café at 111 S. San Francisco St. The travel guide did not offer much else in the mountain town that would be a recommended stop.

And, across Arizona, the choices along Route 66 were generally limited. Evans noted that neither Holbrook nor Winslow had listings in the book, making travel through the region challenging for African American travelers.

“I am pretty schooled in Route 66 and up until four or five years ago, I didn’t even know what that was,” said Evans of the “Green Books.” He has been a longtime 66 booster, historian and frequent traveler and learned of the travel guides through Frank Norris, a historian with the National Park Service. “The shocking thing was there were very few places to stop along 66 … Norris is developing a picture of how different of an experience it would have been for these motorists … They had to plan around where to physically stop for the night.”

Although it is a difficult aspect of history to explore, the “Green Books” reveal yet another aspect of traveling Route 66. It shows a different kind of experience would have existed for different travelers. And it is just part of what is the continued evolution and unearthing of how the famed highway known as the Mother Road is understood.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Colorado River Historical Museum to Reopen for Season

Colorado River Historical Society and Museum
Mohave Valley Daily News

BULLHEAD CITY — History is getting a fresh start in September.

“We’re excited to begin a new season at the museum,” said Colorado River Historical Society and Museum President Elsie Needles. “We’ve got a lot going on this year.”

The Colorado River History Museum is a nonprofit operation of the historical society, staffed by volunteers and run on donations. Closed through the summer months, the museum will reopen Tuesday at 10 a.m.

The Colorado River Historical Society formed in 1963 with two primary missions — the preservation of the area’s heritage and to open a history museum.

“Old Bullhead City is disappearing,” said Needles. “Building after building has been torn down. Some of the earliest structures are now falling apart … it is too late to save them and soon those bits of history will be gone.

“This area may not be rich in dollars, but it is very rich in memories. We’re always looking for information, photos and stories about the area from long-term residents and their families.”

“The museum began with nothing,” said Historical Society founding member and long-time volunteer Virginia Sutherland. “We had lots of support in the beginning from local business and were lucky enough to get some really interesting photos and artifacts.”

The Colorado River Museum is housed in a building that once served as a Catholic church for workers who built Davis Dam in the 1940s and is placed in a corner of Davis Camp, just north of the Laughlin Bridge on Highway 68.

“The museum is jam-packed full of good stuff,” said Historical Society Vice President Karole Finkelstein. “Newly arranged displays in the museum tell of the Mohave Indians, the Katherine gold mine, the history of the Mohave Valley and Fort Mohave, memorabilia from Laughlin, NV, the region’s ties to the space program as well as Louis L’amour and so much more.”

In the children’s room are wildlife displays and a historic doll house. Children are given the opportunity to make a corn husk doll.

“A popular program includes a tour of the museum and then a driving tour to about 15 locations in the area,” said Finkelstein. “For more information about the driving tour, people can call me at 928-219-2582.”

Events planned for the season include a Pioneer Picnic, a presentation on the history of the Harvey Girls, at least one scheduled free day, and ongoing fund raising events to move the Little Red Schoolhouse to Community Park.

“We had a meeting about the schoolhouse a few days ago,” said Needles. “Some people don’t think it will happen (moving the building), but I do. We’re at about $17K in the fund to move the schoolhouse and we need $45K. We’ve been selling bricks, selling ice, having fund raisers — we may not get there this year, but we will get there. The cultural center will be important to Bullhead City — preserving this city’s unique history is our goal.”

The Cultural Historical Center in Community Park is a venture supported by Golden Vertex, the mining company that is reactivating the old Moss Mine east of the Bullhead Parkway. Golden Vertex, in partnership with the City of Bullhead City, started the project by donating the cost to relocate the old Moss Mine Head Frame from the mine site to the new location.

The Historical Society meets the second Monday of every month at the Museum.

“We encourage anyone interested in the history of the area to come to a meeting,” said Needles. “We often have an outside speaker at 5:00 on meeting days.”

“It should be a place of interest to anyone who lives in the area,” said Finkelstein. “The real history of Bullhead City is here.”

The Colorado River Historical Museum will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Access on Sunday and Monday is by reservation only. A $2 donation is suggested and children under 12 are free.

For more information about the museum call 928-754-3399.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Indian Wells moving forward on Carl Bray tribute

A sign from the now-demolished Carl Bray gallery and home along Highway 111. (Photo: Xochitl Peña/ The Desert Sun)

Xochitl Peña
The Desert Sun

A huge wooden painter's palette that stood along Highway 111 in Indian Wells and served as a tribute to Carl Bray's artistic contributions will be resurrected.

City officials plan to use either a replica of the memorable landmark or restore the original one that's now in storage to create an historical monument.

"It is an iconic sign," said Jan Holmlund, an adviser to the Indian Wells Preservation Foundation. "It is something that means a lot to a lot of people,"

The famous palette sign, which also let people traveling east on Highway 111 know they are close to the edge of the city limits, came down in 2010 after the city purchased the property and demolished Bray's gallery and home.

Since then, leaders have discussed — but never formalized — ways to honor the desert landscape artist.

The Indian Wells City Council last week finally set that vision in motion by approving a concept for the monument, one of three scenarios that HSA Design Group presented.

City leaders indicated they wanted two curved stone walls with plaques mounted on the walls, showcasing the history of the city and Bray. The wooden palette sign also will be showcased prominently near its original location.

"It is the last remnant of the old village of Indian Wells. This was the historic beginning," said Adele Ruxton, president of the Indian Wells Preservation Foundation.

The plans also includes natural stone benches, green space and the addition of the smoke trees, which Bray favored in his art.

The site is accessible from a public sidewalk. Public parking nearby will not be provided.

Councilwoman Mary Roche said she can envision walking maps with directions to the monument being handed out to guests at the city's local resorts.

"I think this concept would be a wonderful addition to our city," she said.

While Bray is best known for his art, Roche said he also is considered a founder of the city and its commercial area.

According to Ruxton, Bray's neighbors back in the day included "a few cabins, a dance hall, two small grocery stores, two gas stations, a café and … a rattlesnake pen."

Bray bought that property along Highway 111 in the early 1950s for $1,000, which used to be the location of a Cahuilla village and was said to house an Indian well.

Bray sold the land around 2000, and moved to Banning. The 94-year-old died in 2011. The city in 2009 purchased the property in a foreclosure.

The city decided to demolish the buildings on the property because they were run down and deemed a safety hazard.

But because of the land's historical significance and ties to the Cahuilla Indians, an environmental impact report required an "interpretive exhibit" related to Bray as "artist, railroad man, builder and last resident of Old Indian Wells Village."

Development of the monument is expected to cost more than $30,000. The council has asked HSA though to look at revisions that could reduce the cost.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Southern Pacific Railroad made path through the "heart of the desert"

Floodwaters from the Colorado River filled the Salton Sink in 1906 -1907. The Southern Pacific Railroad tracks had to be moved. (Photo courtesy of Salton Sea History Museum)

Denise Goolsby
The Desert Sun

The transcontinental railroad opened the doors to America, especially those lightly traveled areas where Herculean efforts were required to cross hundreds of miles of remote wilderness, steep mountains, and endless desert.

Discovery of gold in 1848 focused world attention on California and the Pacific Coast region. At the time, early settlers had few options in cross country travel: An arduous overland journey across the plains by oxen or mules, or long ocean voyages via Panama or around Cape Horn.

A growing sentiment in the west and east favored a railroad that would bind the nation closer together.

The roots of Southern Pacific Railroad's path through the Coachella Valley can be traced to the country's pre-Civil War days and the creation of the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California, incorporated June 28, 1861.

The brainchild of Collis P. Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins and Charles Crocker, the corporation was formed to build the western portion of the Pacific Railroad — a transcontinental link from Sacramento, east over the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Construction began in Sacramento in 1863 followed by authorization of Congress in 1863. The line traversed 690 miles over the mountains and across Nevada to meet the Union Pacific at Promontory, Utah, where the last spike was driven on May 10, 1869.

In 1865, the Southern Pacific Railroad was organized to build lines from San Francisco to San Diego and eastward to rails being proposed to reach westward from New Orleans.

The surveyors for the Southern Pacific route reached the site of Indio, known as Indian Wells at the time, on March 25, 1872. They reported that this point was halfway between Los Angeles and Yuma, Ariz. A perfect spot for a train depot.

Southern Pacific acquired a 22-mile railroad from Los Angeles to Wilmington, opened in October, 1869 and construction began during 1873 on lines north and east out of the city.

Trains were operated to Colton on July 16, 1895 and to Indio on May 29, 1876.

After the railroad's arrival in 1876, Indio really started to grow. The first permanent building was the craftsman style Southern Pacific Depot station and hotel. Southern Pacific tried to make life as comfortable as it could for their workers in order to keep them from leaving such a difficult area to live in at the time. It was the center of all social life in the desert with a fancy dining room. Dances were hosted on Friday nights.

While Indio started as a railroad town, it developed into an agricultural area shortly thereafter. Onions, cotton, grapes, citrus and dates thrived in the arid climate due to the ingenuity of farmers finding various means of attaining water — first through artesian wells.

The arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad would leave an indelible mark on the Palm Springs-based Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and shaped the future of the tribe. In the 1860s, the Federal government granted the railroad ten miles of odd-numbered sections of land on each side of the railroad right-of-way.

In 1876, when President Ulysses S. Grant established the present Agua Caliente Indian Reservation by executive order, only the even-numbered sections were still available. This created the reservation's "checkerboard" pattern.

In 1875, the Cahuilla Indians began working on the construction of the railroad. The tracks ran about six miles north of the Palm Springs Way Station, which served as a stagecoach stop from 1865 until the rail line was completed in 1887.

The Southern Pacific built a Spanish-styled railroad station in the 1930s, located in North Palm Springs on Tipton Road off Highway 111.

By this time, Palm Springs had already become a popular tourist destination and was known as a world famous winter playground for Hollywood stars. The Southern Pacific, traveling on what became known as the Sunset Route, now delivered travelers right at the doorstep of this thriving desert community.

A 1914 brochure touting the Southern Pacific Sunset Route as the "Best Route to the California 1915 Expositions" — the Panama-Pacific Exposition was being held in San Francisco and the Panama-California Exposition was taking place in San Diego — provided colorful descriptions of the stops along the route, which originated in New Orleans.

This is how the railroad's literature depicted the desert 100 years ago:

"Yuma, the Colorado River and California is reached 1,754 miles west from New Orleans … the route is through a region that is peculiar and interesting. At Imperial Junction, a branch line of the Southern Pacific runs south to the celebrated Imperial Valley, which has sprung into a wonderful existence in a night, almost, because of its splendid fertility, its varied, almost tropical products, freedom from frosts, great volume of water for irrigation, taken from the Colorado, and its rapid development and adaptability for all forms of agriculture, yet in the heart of the desert."

That year, 1914, the valley shipped more than 4,000 cars of cantaloupes alone, to all sections of the United States. From a waste only a few years ago, the Imperial Valley now has a population of 25,000 with fine towns, street cars, clubs, newspapers, excellent hotels and a high class civilization.

The journey is then through the Salton Valley and along the northern shores of the Salton Sea made by an overflow of the Colorado Rivers some years ago. Here the train runs for miles below the sea level, at Salton reaching the bottom of a great depression at a depth of 253 feet. This condition is peculiar and unequaled and is not even approximated by any other railroad in the world. The route through the California desert passes through Thermal, Coachella and Indio, all below sea level, and climbs the divide, reaching the apex at Beaumont, California."

Next week: Southern Pacific Railroad History in the Coachella Valley, Part II.

Sources: City of Palm Springs, Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Historian Pat Laflin, Coachella Valley Water District, Central Pacific Railroad website, Michael L. Grace (Palm Springs Rail Heritage blog)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

All steamed up: Brothers to recreate 1st car trip from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon's South Rim

Nick (left) and Chris Howell pose beside the 1902 Toledo steam car that is believed to be the first car to ever drive to the Grand Canyon. The two brothers plan to recreate the trip. They will be in Flagstaff Aug. 25-27. (Courtesy photo)

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Arizona Daily Sun

When English fish wholesaler Nick Howell purchased a 1902 Toledo steam car from an Internal Revenue Service auction in Michigan in 2004, he knew he had something special.

He just didn’t know how special or that the car would wrap him and his brother, Chris, into a wild adventure to the Grand Canyon.

Turns out the steam car was the first car to ever make the trip from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon and the brothers have brought the car back to the U.S. to recreate the trip. They plan to arrive in Flagstaff Monday afternoon and start for the Canyon on Aug. 26.

The public is invited to visit with the brothers. They’re expected to arrive in town at 3 p.m. Monday at the Courtyard by Marriott, 2650 S. Beulah Blvd. A Darracq roadster that will follow the Howells on their trip will also be there.

Residents may also see the brothers driving around town in the historic car. They’ve got other photo ops set up for the Coconino County Courthouse and the Weatherford Hotel.

The crew will start their trip at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at Hart Prairie Road (FR151) and Highway 180. They will be followed by the Darracq and a couple of other chase vehicles with cameras. They’ll drive until 7 p.m., then haul the car on a trailer back to Flagstaff for dinner.

Wednesday, they’ll start at 7 a.m. where they left off the night before and hope to arrive at Grandview Point at the Grand Canyon at 4:30 p.m.

At 5:30 p.m. they’ll load up the car and trailer it back to Flagstaff. Details of their schedule can be found on the Howells’ blog,

* * *

The Howell brothers live in England. Nick owns a fish wholesale business in Penzance and his brother does gardening and landscape design.

According to an interview with the London Sunday Times, Nick is a bit of a classic car enthusiast. He told the paper that he’s owned classic cars before and has several friends who own steam cars.

Steam cars were some of the first automobiles made. They burn gasoline, which heats water and turns it into steam. The pressure generated by the steam pushes a series of pistons that move the wheels of the car. The cars lost favor after the internal combustion engine was invented.

According to the brothers’ blog, when Nick unpacked the car in England, he noticed that the wheelbase was about six inches longer than the specs listed for a Toledo. The car also came with a newspaper clipping describing a similar car that was supposed to make a trip over the Rocky Mountains.

Using the Internet, Nick was able to contact 13 other Toledo owners around the world, who were just as puzzled as he was about the length of the car.

After eight years of research, Nick found a 1901 story in the Los Angeles Herald that described a Toledo steam car that was custom built for an Oliver Lippincott. Lippincott was a photographer who planned to make the trip over the Rocky Mountains. In order to make the trip the car’s chassis had to be lengthened by six inches.

A later article states that Lippincott canceled his Rocky Mountain trip in favor of proving to the public that a car could make the trip between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. Lippincott wanted to start a steam car line to the Grand Canyon. He needed a way to prove that the feat could be done and done faster than the stagecoach and cheaper than the train that made the run on a regular basis.

According to his blog, Nick thought his car might be the actual Toledo that made the trip to the Grand Canyon. He started fixing it up in preparation for showing it in a few car shows. For a 112-year old car, it was in pretty good shape. Nick only had to replace three pieces of wood on the body — two pieces were split and the third was scorched from the engine. He also rebuilt the engine.

* * *

Then this year, Howell and the Toledo were invited to participate in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance car show in California. He jumped at the chance and thought it might also provide him and his brother with a chance to recreate the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon trip by Lippincott.

He contacted the Arizona Trail Association and was able to recreate most of the trip on Google maps. He won’t be able to stick to all of the original route because of the terrain, but he plans to follow it as much as possible.

The Howells hope their trip to the Grand Canyon will be less eventful than Lippincott’s.

According to the book “Mountain Town,” Lippincott arrived in Flagstaff on Jan. 2, 1902, with the car and Winfield Hogaboom and TM Chapman from the Los Angeles Herald.

The three men hired a local man, Al Doyle, to guide them to the Grand Canyon. Lippincott boasted that the car would make the 67-mile trip in about eight hours, so extra food and water were not necessary. In the end, it took the men four days to reach the canyon.

According to Hogaboom’s tale in a Feb. 2, 1902, edition of the Herald, the trip started out all right until Doyle recommended the men stop because night was starting to fall. The men stayed the night with a couple of cowboys at “Moodyspan’s cabin.”

The next morning, the car was frozen stiff. The men used most of the gasoline they had to thaw it. Once they got started, they traveled another 10 miles before the water gauge broke and they lost all of the steam the car had generated.

At the same time, the car had used up the last of the gasoline the crew had brought from Los Angeles. They poured in some “gasoline” they had bought from Flagstaff to restart the car.

“When we started again it was plain to be seen that this fuel was not going to give the amount of heat required to keep up sufficient steam,” Hogaboom wrote, “Besides, it produced a dense volume of smoke that poured out of the ventilators and enveloped us.”

* * *

The car chugged along slowly for a few more hours, but before long the men had to abandon the luggage. About a mile after abandoning the luggage, the car’s sprocket chain broke.

The men were able to fix the chain but the next morning the car only went two miles before it stopped working again. The four men abandoned the vehicle and set out to cover the remaining 18 miles on foot.

One by one, the men, who had had nothing to eat or drink for the last two days, sat down and refused to walk any further. The only man to actually make it to the canyon on foot was Hogaboom. A team of horses was sent out to recover the car and the other men.

According to “Mountain Town,” the men and the car stayed at the Grandview Hotel at the Grand Canyon for four days before most of them returned to Flagstaff via a train to Williams and then Flagstaff.

Lippincott drove the car back, after a supply of good gasoline came to the hotel on the train. The trip from the canyon to Flagstaff took him about seven hours. His dream of starting a motorized bus tour to the canyon later failed.

* * *

According to their blog, the Howells’ trip to the U.S. is also turning out to be quite the adventure.

On Aug. 4, a few days before the brothers packed up the car to make the trip across the ocean, they received a call from former late-night talk show host Jay Leno. He had heard of their trip and offered them the use of his garage.

Leno collects classic cars and apparently has a few steam cars of his own. He picked up the brothers up from their Los Angeles hotel on Aug. 8 in a White steam car and gave them a tour of the town.

The next day, the brothers found out that their car was stuck in U.S. Customs. The car was released on Aug. 11. The brothers then had a bit of trouble installing a new gas burner in the engine and getting the car to run properly. On Aug. 13, they loaded the car onto a trailer for the trip to the car show the next day.

The first day of the car show, they ended up getting lost and then arrived before the rest of the classic cars at the gathering point. Then they had trouble finding the right fuel for the car. But they ended up winning the Chairman’s trophy.

The brothers plan to trailer the car to Flagstaff. They hope to arrive Monday afternoon and start their trip to the Grand Canyon on Tuesday.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Mojave Phone Booth

When Doc started calling a phone booth in the middle of the desert, he was sure no one would ever pick up.

WBAA Public Radio from Purdue NPR Transcript

Listen to the story


Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT, "The End Of The Line" episode; stories about what to do when there's nothing left to do. And our next piece takes place in southwestern United States. Some guys give up on their silly little ideas and other guys, not so much.

JOE ROSENBERG, BYLINE: OK. So this story starts out back in the mid-90s, in Phoenix, where Godfrey Daniels...

GODFREY DANIELS: My given name is Godfrey Daniels, but I go by Doc.

ROSENBERG: He's heading back home after seeing this band, Girl Trouble. And after the concert someone hands him a copy of their zine. Remember zines? If not, don't worry - they're kind of like, a pre-internet miniature magazine.

DANIELS: So as I was walking home, I was kind of flipping through it and on about the third or fourth page there were a couple of letters to the editor. And one of them mentioned that there was a phone booth in the Mojave Desert miles and miles from any pavement, just sitting by itself.

ROSENBERG: And this, for Doc, just made no sense.

DANIELS: I wasn't sure that I believed it.


DANIELS: Well, I didn't have any reason to believe it. I mean, I don't know if, in the age of cell phones, if it's the same, but, when you were out in the desert in those days you were on your own. You couldn't call people. So the idea that there could be this phone booth just sitting out in an un-contactable place, it was kind of like, if somebody was on the moon, you know, and you could talk to somebody on the moon.

ROSENBERG: Where did he say it was exactly? Like what was the nearest recognizable landmark?

DANIELS: He didn't say. It was a really short little paragraph and there wasn't really any solid information really, other than the number.

ROSENBERG: And so when Doc got home he thought, OK. Why not give it a shot?

DANIELS: And I jabbed in the number and it just rang. And I let it ring for a long time. And I was just imagining making a phone ring out where presumably no one could hear it except the coyotes. But then there was also in the back of your mind, the thought - what if? Like, what if somebody is wandering by? Who would be out there? Who would pick up? It just really grabbed me. And so I hung up and then I just kept thinking about it. I kept thinking about it all night long. I was thinking about as I fell asleep and it just somehow got me to its clutches.

ROSENBERG: And so the next morning...

DANIELS: I called again. I just kind of became obsessed.

ROSENBERG: Soon Doc found himself calling the phone all the time. When friends visited his house he'd twist their arm and make them call it. He even put up a post-it note in the bathroom mirror.

DANIELS: It just said, did you remember to call the Mojave Desert today? But it turned out I didn't need it because I used to call many times a day.

ROSENBERG: Like, how many times?

DANIELS: If I was supposed to be working, I was probably calling at least once an hour. And again this is all assuming that it actually existed, which I had no proof of.

ROSENBERG: Like, on speakerphone? Or, like, you would stop everything?

DANIELS: No, no, no because that would require explanations. I would just, you know, have the phone kind of cradled against my ear. You know, just listening to it ring.

ROSENBERG: Doc knew it was weird to keep calling a number with no one on the other end. But if he was ever pressed about it, he'd say it was like being a ham radio operator. One little person sending the signal as far as he could into the ether, wondering if another little person was out there listening in, waiting to be contacted in that uncontactable place.

DANIELS: So I figured I would be doing this forever. I really didn't think anybody would ever pick up the phone.

ROSENBERG: But then just one month after he started calling...

DANIELS: Just doing my daily call and...


DANIELS: I got a busy signal.

ROSENBERG: So Doc actually managed to record that call.

DANIELS: I look like I'm an idiot because I keep saying, wow.


DANIELS: Wow. No way.

And I thought, well, I must have mis-dialed. So I dialed it again. Then it was a busy signal again.




DANIELS: I realized, OK, either something has gone wrong with the phone company here or somebody is using the Mojave phone booth right now. I was totally hyperactive. My main thing was I didn't want them to get away. Like, I was thinking, I need to catch it right when they hang up that phone. So I just redial, redial. And it rang. And it rang four or five times. And I thought, oh, crap. And then I heard a voice say, hello.

ROSENBERG: Sadly, Doc was only able to properly record his own words at this now historic moment.

DANIELS: But as many times I had called, I had given remarkably little thought if any to what I would say, you know, and I said...


DANIELS: Hello. Are you in the Mojave Desert?

And she said, yeah. And I said...


DANIELS: You are. OK. This is going to sound like a strange question - why are you in the middle of the Mojave Desert?

She said, I'm making my calls.


DANIELS: Oh, like, you live out there? And you don't have a phone?

ROSENBERG: I got to say, when I looked at the transcript it was kind of funny because, like, you think everything is cool. You're like...


DANIELS: So what do you do out there?

ROSENBERG: And she's like cinder-mining.


DANIELS: What you do with cinder?

ROSENBERG: She's like, cinder blocks. And you're like, that's so cool.


DANIELS: That is so cool. This is so cool that somebody finally answered.

And she said, that she never heard the phone ring before.

ROSENBERG: Can you tell me her name?

DANIELS: Yeah. Her name's Lorene.


DANIELS: Lorene, it's nice to meet you. If the phones ever ringing again, pick it up. It'll be me. Alright. Nice meeting you. Bye.

ROSENBERG: Was there any sense of disappointment?

DANIELS: No. No. Disappointment about what? Not at all.

ROSENBERG: Well, let me put it this way. It's almost kind of like the idea that this phone is ringing out there in the desert and anyone could pick up. But then finally picks up and it's just Lorene.

DANIELS: No, no, no, no. See, I look at it the exact opposite way. Somebody did pick up and I had no right to expect anyone ever would. So this was great to hear a human voice in place of the ringing, you know, I mean, this was a payoff. It just encouraged me more. And the instant I hung up I kick myself because I had forgotten to ask her what was probably the most important question - which is where was the phone booth? But of course I had no way to get in touch with her except to find the thing.

ROSENBERG: So Doc calls around, does some sleuthing and a few months later gets his hands on the equivalent of an X-Marks-the-Spot map, showing the supposed location of the Mojave phone booth.

DANIELS: So I thought, oh, we're all set. So my friend and I took off and traveled all the way to the Mojave Desert. And this is in the middle of August. And so it's scorching hot, just scorching hot. Basically as far as you could see you saw Joshua trees and then we saw this little dirt path that was marked, you know, danger, danger, warning, maintained - blah, blah, blah. That was the road we were supposed to take. So we were, you know, we were just going along, going along. At first I thought this is not bad at all. But the further along that we went the road would narrow and the thing was that the sun was going down and in the daytime you've got these grand, huge vistas and you have a sense of where you are. But when the darkness drops it's just what ever you can see right in front of you. And we were ringed by storms. There was lightning almost in every direction. So then I started to think, if we have any kind of a problem unless we do find the phone booth we have no way of, you know, letting people know we're really in trouble. But at a certain point, just barely in the reach of the headlights, I thought I saw a line of telephone poles. And there was a little jut to the left and then a little jut to the right. And I brought the van to the stop with the headlights just shining right on the Mojave phone booth. It was really quite a moment and there's bullet holes in, it there's no glass it's all busted out, it's kind of a wreck, you know, but to me was just - it was beautiful. I needed to hear that phone ring. I needed to hear what I had been causing to happen all this time out there. So I called my friends pager and here I am out in the Mojave surrounded by Joshua trees and lightning and desert and now there's a familiar ring. And it was so loud, it was really loud, the bell was just crazy loud. For me that was kind of the moment, is hearing that phone ring. It was everything that I had been imagining when I was calling.

ROSENBERG: After that, Doc thought the story was over. He did keep calling the booth after all someone else could pick up. But that was just for him. He never really expected anyone else to care until he did something which would have not have seemed risky back in 1997. But which today is obviously very, very dangerous. He gave the booth a webpage.

DANIELS: And in those days the Internet, there wasn't that much on it. So I thought that was about as far as it would go.

ROSENBERG: But yeah, that's not what happened.

DANIELS: Next thing you know I'd go to my P.O. Box and there would be clippings about the Mojave phone booth from newspapers in languages that I didn't read. It just spread. So I thought, well, this is unexpected.

ROSENBERG: And so when Doc and his friends returned to the booth, about a year after his initial visit, when they got there this phone - way out in the middle of nowhere - which Lorene had said she'd never heard ring, it was ringing off the hook.

DANIELS: You didn't have to call anybody. It was just as soon as you would hang up the phone it would start ringing again. It was just crazy. You'd pick it up and, you know, who's this person going to be? Where are they going to be? And you had no idea it could be somebody from, you know, Vietnam or Iran or just anywhere. Some people would call and you couldn't talk to them because they didn't speak English. And again, you know, most of the time it wasn't about the content. You know, you're not really saying anything. It's really not the point. It's just the connection. An old trucker guy called and I think he just wanted to be listened to. He wanted to tell stories about his trucking days. And he didn't seem to have anybody to tell them to.

ROSENBERG: How many calls did you end up taking that day?

DANIELS: It would be over 100 guaranteed. And admittedly you hear the phone ring and after a while it would be like, you get it - no you get it. It's your turn. You get it. We eventually had to take it off the hook so we could sleep.

ROSENBERG: And when they put it back on the hook the next morning so they could leave...

DANIELS: There wouldn't have been a way to leave in silence. I mean, you were going to have to - since it was ringing all the time, you were going to have to drive away from a ringing phone.

ROSENBERG: And people weren't just calling the booth. They were visiting, traveling all the way out to the desert just for the honor of informing callers that yes, the phone booth was real.

ROSENBERG: This is from a short documentary made about the booth. It's just a montage of people from all over the place, taking calls from all over the place.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We're here. Where are you? England. We're from Switzerland. Australia. Right on, bro.

DANIELS: You were presenting yourself to the world in a way that anybody would wanted to could call you. There was no control over who could call that phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: No. I don't think. You used to work for the circus? We're you quadriplegic? Or paraplegic? Quad? Wait a minute, you got fired from the circus because your best friend slept with somebody else? How long were you in a coma? A couple weeks. Yeah me too. I was in a coma for two weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It's kind of fun. You should come out and do this.

ROSENBERG: Did you like the fact that it became popular or would you have preferred it to remain...

DANIELS: No, at first I liked it. The hesitation came about just because once something like that gets out of control then you know that the equal and opposite reaction is going to come. The only question was, when? And then in May of 2000, Lorene's brother on the way out to the mine stopped and answer the phone, because it was ringing of course, and talked to some guy in England. Who said, he was sitting there with his fiancee having tea and crumpets. And he talked to him for a little while. And then continued on to Lorene's. And then in the morning when they were leaving, the booth was gone.

ROSENBERG: In this case, the equal and opposite reaction had come in the form of the National Park Service. It turned out that the booth was almost smack-dab in the center of a new national preserve. And the phone had laid dormant, it hadn't been a problem. The park officials haven't taken kindly to all the new foot traffic or, for that matter, the ringing. By the time Doc figured out what was happening it was already too late.

Did you go out and see this for yourself?

DANIELS: No, no. I didn't go out until I think about, oh, 2009-2010, long, long after. I mean, once I knew it was gone I didn't want to go out.


DANIELS: Just be too sad, you know. I mean, I have a lot of fun there. (Laughter). You know, it was funny, too. That people did keep going out and they would go and visit the concrete pad that the booth had stood on and a guy made a really nice tombstone for the booth. And everything that anybody brought out there the park service hauled off. And eventually they came out and broke up the concrete pad and took that away, too.

ROSENBERG: So it was like it was never there?

DANIELS: Yeah. When I was there the only thing left was a few pieces of glass from the broken windows. And people would say, yeah well, it's not your phone booth. And I would say, I know, it's not my phone booth, but it's my fault, you know. It wasn't as though I set out to make a phone booth famous, far from it. It's just had I known I might not have done it. I mean, I might still. I don't know, but I might not have.

ROSENBERG: With the booth even hold the same appeal today given that we can now reach anyone anywhere?

DANIELS: No. I mean, that's something that I have thought about is whether it could have happened even five years later. And I just don't think it would have. I mean, that was kind of the magic of being in contact in an un-contactable place. And I don't think you have that feeling now.

ROSENBERG: Did you ever try calling the number again after that?

DANIELS: Oh, of course. Come on, Joe. (Laughing). Of course I did. I mean, they let it ring for a long time. I mean, they left - even though the phone was not there.

ROSENBERG: But, would that even make sense because you're not even making a phone ring anymore in the desert. You're just making a kind of a...

DANIELS: Sure. I would know that. But still it would be like listening to a song that meant something to you. I don't know. I guess I did just like calling out to the booth and hearing it ring in the end.

WASHINGTON: Big thanks to Doc for sharing his story. You can still see the original Mojave phone booth webpage in all its glory at And stay on the lookout as well for Doc's upcoming book about all his adventures in the Mojave. Many thanks as well to Karina Cleverly Roberto and Derek Roberto for letting us share clips documentary-short "Mojave Mirage." We'll have a link to both the website and the film. It's Now, when SNAP returns, it's all well and good to give your all for family and friends, but what about someone you don't even know? On SNAP JUDGMENT The End of the Line episode continues, stay tuned. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Footage courtesy of the documentary short "Mojave Mirage" by Kaarina Cleverley Roberto.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A look at Juan Pollo founder Albert Okura’s success, big dreams

In 2005 Albert Okura, founder of Juan Pollo restaurants, purchased the small town of Amboy for $425,000 from Bessie Burris. Okura is in the process of restoring the town. (Photo by John Valenzuela — staff photographer)

By Jim Steinberg
The San Bernardino Sun

AMBOY >> It’s 111 degrees in the Mojave Desert, and Albert Okura effortlessly unloads large boxes of drinks and snacks from the back of a van. It’s taken him three hours to drive here in a wildly decorated vehicle topped with a toy motorcycle mounted by a plastic chicken.

Nearby, there are several groups of European foreign visitors at the gas station or inside its adjacent convenience market. Okura could be overheard telling one cluster, “I own this town.”

It’s true. All part of a destiny.

The word destiny is important for Okura, 63, who is marking his 30th year in business as founder of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain, based in San Bernardino but with 28 outlets in Southern California.

Some day, that destiny will include overtaking KFC, in terms of number of chickens sold, he said.


Okura is marking this anniversary with a self-published book, “Albert Okura The Chicken Man with a 50 Year Plan.”

“Intellectuals don’t like the book,” he said, “but people who have started their own business do.”

The book is designed, he said, to give “life lessons” to people across the planet who want to get into the restaurant business.

There’s another reason for the book, Okura said.

With outlets in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties, Okura (who walks briskly and frequently wears running shoes) said,“I’m looking for someone smarter than me” to guide the chain’s future growth.

He’s also looking for an inventor who can bring sophisticated computer technology into the rotisserie chicken cookers to standardize the labor-intensive cooking effort required to turn out the kind of moist, tender and flavorful product Okura said customers have come to expect.

He’s also looking for someone with money to invest in the firm.

“That’s one of the reasons for the book.” Okura said. “So people would understand my philosophy and want to join me.”

The athletic-looking Okura, with an upper torso like a college track team member, said, “I’ve taken the company as far as I can.”


Okura owns the original McDonald’s restaurant site in San Bernardino, which is both his corporate headquarters and a museum, and has a small Route 66 Museum adjacent to his San Bernardino restaurant on 5th Street, which at one time was Route 66.

Inside, there are relics that harken to the early days of fast food, and it’s a destination for tourists from around the world.

And then there’s the preserved ghost town of Amboy, west of Needles and east of Ludlow on Route 66.

Owning Amboy is exactly the kind of unconventional endeavor for which Okura has become known.

“Okura goes off on these wonderful missions not tied to the bottom line,” said former San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris.

“Amboy is a complete hole in the ground...a money pit,” Morris said. “He thought it would be interesting to own a town on historic Route 66 even if it is as dead as doornails. He is interested in the history of the Route and the history of the city...the guy is a giver...he has ways of uniquely giving that are his own.”


When Okura first heard Amboy was for sale in 2003, he hadn’t heard of it.

But a friend told him he needed to buy it and when he saw it, he agreed.

In 1976, when Okura bought his first house, in Torrance, his real estate agent told him that he regretted not buying raw land decades before.

From that moment on, Okura said he believed buying a town would be his “destiny.”

For now the “destiny” of Amboy includes its two dirt landing strips, its 26-unit motel, an abandoned 1950s-era Packard in the parking lot. Roy’s Motel and Café is a Route 66 landmark.

Founded in 1859, the once gold- and silver-driven community met its demise with the completion of Interstate 40 in 1984.

Along with its landing strips and motel, it’s got a church, a functioning post office, four gas pumps and a variety of scattered buildings.

Like many communities across The Mother Road, Amboy had come to rely on tourism. Then the interstate sucked away its lifeblood.

But Okura sees a strengthening interest in Route 66 — domestically as well as internationally, and believes tourism may become a driver.


Initial efforts to buy Amboy for a $1 million-plus price tag fell through, but he was successful in 2005 for a mere $425,000.

“You see, it was my destiny,” he said, putting emphasis on the “was.”

Amboy hasn’t changed dramatically since Okura purchased it. But delivering a water system has been more complex — and costly — than anticipated. Okura believes he’s close to a working system that could supply water for future town growth.

One of the difficulties has been to find good technicians willing to travel to the remote Mojave location.

The gas station has re-opened, although pumps only work for regular gasoline. Bathrooms have been reopened and inside the station are drinks, snacks and a place to cool off.

There’s still work to do with the water system, but ultimately Okura would like to see a cafe operator come in and reopen the iconic Roy’s Cafe, although he says it would be difficult to make a profit.

“It would have to be a family operation to be successful,” he said.

The same is true for reviving the motel, he said.

Amboy is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, he said. “It’s more about the Amboy charm and the open country.”

The night skies are beautiful, he said. “For people who like the desert, it’s ideal.”


Although he’s no Harvard MBA, Okura is quick to recognize creative people and harness their talents. And he understands how to tap the power of traditional and social media to champion his Juan Pollo brand.

As an example of his showmanship, his numerous vehicles with wildly colorful cartoon characters painted on the sides are fixtures in the region.

But even this eruption of color doesn’t generate the buzz Okura seeks.

So he puts plastic motorcycles on top of some vehicles — using plastic chickens as riders.

On a recent drive on the 15 Freeway, a laborer in the passenger seat of a flatbed truck was seen using a smart phone to photograph Okura’s van as he drove it in the southbound lane near Barstow.

“You should see mothers pointing this vehicle out to their kids,” he said.

Years ago, Okura said, he had a very expensive, high-performance truck. And when he drove that along area freeways, “nobody cared.”

Bad news, too, has brought him attention.

Okura boasts that San Bernardino’s bankruptcy has brought him a lot of media attention, especially among international media outlets.

For most of those, including a television piece that aired across Italy, Okura said he strikes a positive note about how he’s going to focus on his business and prosper, while others, he said, complain about a municipal government that drove the city into financial ruin.


Another “destiny” in his life is overtaking Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“That will probably take about 50 years,” said Okura, a Chino resident.

That means, he said, he must live until he’s 113.

Medical science is advancing rapidly, he said, and after all, his father is 98.

Who knows....

Judi Penman, president and CEO of the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce, said of Okura: He “has more than just one dream, and he fulfills them. He is an honorable man with many talents. He digs in and accomplishes things.”

Cahuilla dug wells near La Quinta's Point Happy

Point Happy Date Gardens at the intersection of Highway 111 and Washington Street in the 1960s. This is now the site of Vons shopping center. (Photo: Photo courtesy of La Quinta Historical Society)

Denise Goolsby
The Desert Sun

The area just east of the Santa Rosa Mountains, where its foothills jut out into the desert near the intersection of Highway 111 and Washington Street in La Quinta, used to be home to the Cahuilla Indians. Later, it was a watering hole along a stagecoach route, and for many years, a working ranch.

The sprawling land where the ranch once stood is now occupied by Plaza La Quinta, a bustling shopping center anchored by a Vons grocery store and the Estates at Point Happy, an enclave of luxury homes.

The Cahuilla Indians found the area — which became known as Point Happy at the turn of the 20th century — a hospitable spot, as the Santa Rosas provided protection from fierce desert sandstorms and flash flooding.

Along the wash, the Cahuillas dug gently sloping pathways down to the springs below. The hand-dug "Indian Well" was located less than 300 yards from Point Happy. It was destroyed in the 100-year flood in 1916.

When gold was discovered in La Paz and Ehrenburg, Ariz. in 1862, Major William Bradshaw established the first trail through the Coachella Valley and across the Colorado Desert to California's neighboring state. Point Happy soon became a landmark for stagecoaches traveling the Bradshaw Trail. During this period, the stop began its tradition as a hospitable "watering hole" for desert travelers.

The area, tucked under the shadow of the Santa Rosas, was named after Norman "Happy" Lundbeck, an early desert settler who began homesteading the area in the early 1900s. Lundbeck established a stable and small store and sold wares to those traveling across the hot, dusty desert. A one-room elementary school was built on the property in 1916.

The Point Happy property and 135 adjoining acres were bought in 1922 by philanthropist Chauncey D. Clarke, who named it Point Happy Date Gardens. Clarke, who thought climactic conditions were similar to those in the Middle East, raised Arabian horses on the ranch for four years until his death in 1926.

J. Win Wilson, in a Los Angeles Times article dated March 8, 1925, said Clarke, "is a very enthusiastic booster for the dates and horses of the old world desert lands. The desert climate and condition, he believes, offer the finest training ground for making the horses both sure-footed and strong in shoulders and joints. In other words, he believes that conditions in the Coachella Valley are so similar to those in Arabia, where the Arab horses have been developed to perfection, as to afford ideal environment for the raising of this notable breed of equine."

The Times article described the agreeable conditions at the ranch, where at the time, Clarke had 11 horses — five stallions and six mares.

"His stud is provided with all modern conveniences: solid box walls, corrals, tank house and modern living quarters for his trainer. A quarter-mile track is also a feature, for regular exercising of his horses figures prominently in Mr. Clarke's plans."

Louise Rodarte Neeley, historian and a member of one of the city's pioneering families, recalls happy days at the ranch, where her father, Teofilo Rodarte was a foreman and her mother, Juanita, was the Clarke's housekeeper.

She said the ranch was filled with date palms and avocado, orange, fig, pecan, apricot, mulberry and grapefruit trees, row crops and sugar cane.

"We swam. We hiked. We had the mountain to the back of us," she said. "Growing up was happy. It was wonderful. Mother had chickens and a cow. We had the run of the place."

Her father was hired in 1923 and continued until his death in 1943. Her brother, Jess Rodarte was hired to tend the date trees.

Neeley said Mrs. Clarke's full-time gardener, Mr. Akahoshi, planted a large vegetable garden for home use and maintained an extensive rose garden and many varieties of annual flowers for the pleasure of their guests.

Knowing he was ill, Clarke sold his horses to the Kellogg Ranch in Pomona. Clarke died on Aug. 22, 1926. It is said that those horses became the breeding stock of the purebred Arabians in California.

His wife, Marie Clarke, a founder of the Hollywood Bowl, was instrumental in setting up and financially underwriting the Indio Women's Club. She continued to live on the ranch after her husband's death. She died on Oct. 30, 1948, leaving the property to Claremont College, which in turn, sold off parts of the property.

Point Happy Date Gardens was sold to William DuPont Jr., CEO of DuPont Chemical Corporation in the 1950s. He built a home in the Santa Rosa Mountains overlooking the ranch. To the southwest of the palm grove, he built a Spanish home with a pool and tennis court for friend Alice Marble, the top-ranked American woman tennis player in 1939.

Marble, a longtime Palm Desert resident, won 18 Grand Slam championships. She died at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs in 1990.

The house was finished on Dec. 16, 1965. DuPont Jr. died three days later. Portions of the ranch were sold off to subdividers.

The last owners of the ranch were Dr. Earl R. Kiernan and his wife Florence. By 2004, the final page was turned in the ranch's storied history with the construction of the Estates at Point Happy.

Sources: La Quinta Historical Society, La Quinta Museum, City of La Quinta Historic Context Statement, 1996.