Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Going to school: Lil’ Red Schoolhouse begins two-day move

ON THE MOVE: Roy Dean, of A-Arid State Enterprises, Inc., in the orange safety vest, directs his son, Seth, at the wheel of a 26-wheel rig as the Lil’ Red Schoolhouse makes the turn onto Lee Avenue to begin its 11/2-block journey Tuesday morning. The 68-year-old school will travel another half-mile early this morning to its new home in Bullhead Community Park. (BILL McMILLEN/The Daily News)

The Daily News

BULLHEAD CITY — The Lil’ Red Schoolhouse traveled a block and a half Tuesday morning, a prelude to its half-mile trek today to its new home in Bullhead Community Park.

“I’m giddy,” said Lisa McCabe, chief information officer of Golden Vertex, a local mining company overseeing the project to create the Colorado River Heritage Center at the park in northern Bullhead City.

She wasn’t the only one. Several dozen spectators — some who are working on the CRHC project and others just curious to see history in motion — clustered near the schoolhouse before it inched its way down Lee Avenue, from its longtime home near Third Street to an overnight resting place on a vacant lot off Highway 95 between First and Second.

“That was fun, wasn’t it?” asked Roy Dean, of A-Arid State Enterprises, the company moving the schoolhouse. Dean directed the operation as his son, Seth, piloted the 26-wheeled Peterbilt rig slowly down the street.

“Home-moving is unique,” Roy Dean said. “Not everybody can do it. I grew up doing this.”
He said his father started the company; he joined the operation at the age of 12 and eventually took over. He said Seth likely will follow in his footsteps because “it’s in our family’s blood.”
Moving the schoolhouse the short distance appeared to be pretty easy for the A-Arid State crew.

“They’re all a challenge,” Roy Dean insisted. “They all have their idiosyncrasies, big or little.”
By building standards, the Lil’ Red Schoolhouse is relatively small. But that definition of “small” is a brick building weighing about 106,000 pounds. When loaded, the schoolhouse rig was 25 feet wide, 70 feet long and 21 feet high.

The height was an issue getting the schoolhouse out of its original location — the schoolhouse was built in 1947 and opened the next year as the first building for the Bullhead Elementary School District more than 35 years before the city was incorporated. A main cable line for Suddenlink Communications had to be taken down to allow the schoolhouse relocation to begin. Another Suddenlink line had to be taken down in the vacant lot to allow the rig to approach Highway 95. No other utility lines had to be removed, although crews from Mohave Electric Cooperative were on hand in case they were needed. Fortunately, the overhead power lines were well above the schoolhouse’s corrugated tin roof.

Dean said the schoolhouse wasn’t too eager to make the turn onto Lee Avenue at the beginning of its trip.

“Until you make the turn, you really don’t know how it’s going to respond,” he said, noting that the rig had to stop, dollies underneath had to be adjusted and the process had to go extremely slowly as the long load got headed the right direction.

“After that, it was pretty smooth sailing,” he said.

The moving process will resume early this morning when the rig creeps onto Highway 95 for the short trip to the main entrance at Community Park. Because it is traveling on a state highway, the entourage will be accompanied by Arizona Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety vehicles. Highway 95 will be blocked for a short time — between 5:30 and 6 a.m., if all goes well.

The schoolhouse eventually will wind up in the grassy area at Community Park, where a concrete slab already has been poured.

“Of course, once the building is in its new home, there’s a ton of remaining work, at both the new location, as well as buttoning up the Third and Lee location,” McCabe said earlier. “That is currently being scheduled, with careful consideration of the 30,000 or so people expected to be in Community Park ... (for the Aug. 8 Bullhead City River Regatta).”

Plans for the Heritage Center, which already has the head frame from Moss Mine on site, also include the Colorado River Museum. Museum officials, Dean and Heritage Center planners have discusses options ranging from moving the existing museum from Davis Camp to building a new building to house the museum’s many exhibits, artifacts and historical documents.

The American Heroes Museum and other historic pieces of the Tri-state also could wind up in the Heritage Center.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rolling to a new home: Historic Lil’ Red Schoolhouse moving to park next week

The Lil’ Red Schoolhouse is now on wheels and ready to move to its new location in the Colorado River Heritage Center at Bullhead Community Park. (NEIL YOUNG/The Daily News)

Mohave Valley Daily News

BULLHEAD CITY — Next week, the historic Lil’ Red Schoolhouse will be moving from its Lee Avenue and Third Street location to the Colorado River Heritage Center at Bullhead Community Park. The building’s journey will take two days.

At 7 a.m. Tuesday, the schoolhouse will be moved from its original location to vacant lots on Lee Avenue between First and Second streets. The move could take anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour, said Lisa McCabe, Golden Vertex chief information officer, who is overseeing the heritage center project.

“Our number one priority to work closely with Suddenlink to make sure the disconnect of the overhead wire is as short of a time as possible,” she said.

The building will remain in the vacant lots until daybreak Wednesday, when it completes the final leg of its journey onto Highway 95 and to Community Park.

The Arizona Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety and two pilot cars will meet where the building is parked.

“ADOT will conduct an inspection, and once they give the go ahead, the load will proceed 1,440 feet south on Highway 95 to the ‘launch ramp’ entrance of Community Park,” McCabe said.

After the schoolhouse travels down the highway at a speed of 2 to 3 mph, taking about 20 minutes, the anticipated arrival time in Community Park is between 5:30 and 6 a.m., she said.

“The load must go through some maneuvering in the chamber parking lot and the grassy area of the park,” McCabe said. It should be in place within an hour, she said.

It will take another five days to secure the building at its new site, McCabe said.

“Of course, once the building is in its new home, there’s a ton of remaining work, at both the new location, as well as buttoning up the Third and Lee location. That is currently being scheduled, with careful consideration of the 30,000 or so people expected to be in Community Park August 4-8 (for the Bullhead City River Regatta),” McCabe said.

When completed within two years, the heritage center will include the Colorado River Museum, the Moss Mine administration building and the American Heroes Museum.

“It’s a great time for Bullhead City,” she said.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Con artist builds a crooked road in Death Valley

Feb. 9, 1969: Death Valley naturalist Dwight Warren checks a portion of Titus Canyon Road, which had been closed by a cloudburst. This photo by staff photographer Frank Q. Brown was published in the Feb. 21, 1969, Los Angeles Times.

Posted By: Scott Harrison
Los Angeles Times Framework

The history of Titus Canyon Road was explained in a May 22, 1977, Los Angeles Times article by staff writer Charles Hillinger:

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL MONUMENT – It is undoubtedly the longest one-way, no-other-way road in the country.

The 27-mile road winds its way west through a scenic gorge in two states – California and Nevada.

It is so narrow in spots there is barely enough room for a car to squeeze between the 500-foot-high sheer limestone walls that rise spectacularly from the canyon floor.

Titus Canyon Road is, for good reason, the least used of nine roads into Death Valley, America’s hottest and driest place.

Its 27 miles are miserable, none of it paved, strewn with dirt and rocks.

The road was built by a con artist who pushed it through the canyon in 1925 to provide access to one of the most notorious mining hoaxes of the century.

It was in Titus Canyon that Chauncey C. Julian “salted” the Grapevine Mountains and spawned a town near Bloody Gap he called Leadfield.

He proclaimed the hills in “his” canyon were alive with pockets and veins of lead, and published brochures showing ships steaming up Death Valley’s Amargosa River to the mouth of Titus Canyon to take on ore.

The Amargosa River is bone dry.

In March, 1926, Julian ran a 15-car “Leadville Special” train from Los Angeles to Beatty, Nev., for 340 investors – 24 of them women – to visit their diggings. The investors were driven from Beatty through the winding gorge to Leadfield in a caravan of cars.

A hotel, stores and homes were built in Leadfield. But the town lasted only two years. There was a post office from August, 1926, until February, 1927.

Then the bubble burst.

Julian skipped the country and fled to Shanghai where he committed suicide in 1934.

A handful of decaying structures still stand at Leadfield on the Titus Canyon Road, named after Morris Titus, a miner who entered the narrow canyon to do some prospecting in 1906 and never was seen again.

It gets so hot along the road that the National Park Service closes the canyon from mid-May to mid-October – so that nobody gets stranded and perishes in the scorching sun.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

California Gold cameraman Luis Fuerte recalls life with Huell

Luis Fuerte, award-winning cameraman for the late Huell Howser, of the California Gold television show, recounted his travels and fond memories of his employer and friend for the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society on Thursday, July 2. (Paul Prado Photography)

By Paul Prado
Special to Highland Community News

On Thursday, July 2, the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society hosted a lecture by cameraman Luis Fuerte. Fuerte was the editor, lighting director, sound engineer, on air operations person, and cameraman for the late Huell Howser, who hosted KCET’s California Gold.

Fuerte spoke of his travels and times filming with the ever-curious, effervescent, and spontaneous Huell Howser.

“One day, Huell said, ‘Luis (pronounced Louie), I have an idea for a show called California Gold,’” Fuerte said. Fuerte said the format of the show came about during a four-day shoot at a train festival in Sacramento. “That is the first actual California Gold as we see it today.”

Having the privilege to work with a dynamic personality, Fuerte said, “I could tell when he (Howser) needed a break or when things weren’t working out. I could read Huell real well. We worked well as a team. I learned to read him so well, with the tone of his voice”.

Someone asked if the shows were scripted. Fuerte said, “He (Howser) always wanted to be surprised, you remember his famous, ‘Golleeey’ or ‘Reeeeally!’ He knew about the story, but not a lot. He would stop at flowers in a field, and do a story. He was easy going. He could get people to talk to him. He could do a story on a door knob (implying that Howser was that interested in what he saw). He loved working.”

In 2001, after many instances of telling Howser that he wanted to retire from the show, Fuerte gave his last notice to leave California Gold and started his own business.

Howser’s entire collection of his California Gold series was given to Chapman University. The university constructed a replica of his office and has every episode cataloged in a newly constructed building in Howser’s honor. There are pictures of Fuerte, with Howser, in the exhibit that is free to the public.

“The program was good. It was very well done,” said Charles Kiel of the Highland Area Historical Society. “It’s great to meet the guy behind the camera. He contributed a lot to the show California Gold. We’re grateful to Huell and Luis for their part in preserving history. The show was a good documentary about things.”

“We can now put a face to the name when Huell would always say, “Hey, Luis (Louie) get a shot of this!’ He brought to us things that we didn’t know about in California. Those little things; like a “door knob,” commented Kathy Toy of Highland.

Fuerte is scheduled to have a book of his memories, travels, and work experience with Howser published in the near future. The book is aptly titled, “Hey, Louie Take a Look at This!”

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Museum tells story of California water conflict

An exhibit titled “Building Bill’s Ditch” at the Eastern California Museum in Independence commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct’s completion. The “Bill” of the title is William Mulholland, the chief engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power when the aqueduct was conceived. (Daniel Davis-Williams)

Sacramento Bee

The jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada that tower over Independence are almost all granite and no snow this year, one of the most visible signs of drought in Inyo County.

Thousands of feet below in the Owens Valley, the Eastern California Museum, which houses an exhibit on a pivotal moment in the state’s water history, has failed to see an uptick in attendance.

“The thing with the snow is almost shocking,” said Jon Klusmire, services administrator at the museum. “Even last year, there was snow on the peaks and some of the fingers sticking out.”

The museum holds vast collections of pottery and beadwork from the Owens Valley Paiute and Panamint Shoshone tribes alongside exhibits on ranching, mining and Norman Clyde, a pioneering mountaineer famous for bagging the first ascents of numerous Sierra Nevada peaks.

But the exhibit most relevant to California’s current predicament with water is also the museum’s most recent addition, an exhibit titled “Building Bill’s Ditch.”

The exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct’s completion. In a series of black-and-white photographs and century-old letters and pamphlets, it showcases how the city of Los Angeles bought and controlled strategic plots of land throughout the Owens Valley in order to absorb tributaries of the Owens River. Bill was William Mulholland, then chief engineer of the city’s water department.

Mulholland understood that the combination of a booming population in Los Angeles and an arid environment meant that water scarcity would eventually thwart the city’s growth. He saw in the Owens River a distant yet potential source of water for the fledgling metropolis he believed was destined for greatness.

There was only one thing that could slow Mulholland’s efforts to hoard Owens River water: the people of the Owens River Valley, many of whom had an inconvenient desire to retain their main source of water.

Agents of the water department were careful not to alert the populace during some of the first land buys. A former mayor of Los Angeles, Fred Eaton, shopping for land on behalf of the water project, kept his true motives closely guarded while scouting and acquiring the future locations of key sites of the aqueduct.

“The first wave of land deals and options was pretty sneaky,” Klusmire said. “The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the city of Los Angeles were heavy-handed in getting what they wanted.”

Even while Klusmire and the exhibit tell a story of swindle, they offer visitors a full perspective of the controversy that refrains from assigning all blame to Los Angeles. “Local people kept selling land to them (LADWP), and they have ever since,” Klusmire said.

“In ‘Chinatown,’” Klusmire added, referring to the 1974 Roman Polanski film about a detective (played by Jack Nicholson) navigating his way through a maze of corruption and water rights in Southern California, “everything is a big secret.”

But during the actual events of the early 20th century that inspired the film, he said, not all the agents of Los Angeles were as secretive as the movie portrays. Eventually, Los Angeles even placed advertisements announcing its hunger for land in newspapers throughout the Owens Valley. Some of those ads are now behind glass in the Eastern California Museum.

While drought dominates local, state and national headlines, the Eastern California Museum’s attendance has held steady at about 10,000 annual visitors, although slightly fewer visitors have been stopping by during winter. The reason is less snowfall in Mammoth Lakes, the Sierra resort town popular with skiers and winter recreationists. Tourists heading north for Mammoth Lakes during the winter often stopped at the Eastern California Museum, which is just off U.S. Highway 395.

But in a strange balancing act, the visitors lost during winter are regained during the summer months, also due to changes in Mammoth Lakes’ tourism.

“Summer (attendance) is increasing enough to make up for the drop in winter. Partly, that’s because of Mammoth, too. They’ve gotten pretty aggressive with summer programs and events,” Klusmire said.

Visitors who do come – some from as far as New Zealand, England and Hungary – also learn that the Owens Valley has seen great changes in the last century.

“The whole landscape has changed,” said Krystal Kissinger, a graduate student from California State University, Northridge, conducting research in the museum’s archives.

Seen from a car window, Owens Lake, once deep enough to float a steamship, is now a shimmering puddle drying under the sun. The surrounding valley is distinctly dry and crisp around the edges.

Chuck and Jon Shuey, brothers road-tripping through the Owens Valley and recent visitors to the Eastern California Museum, said they think LADWP should do more to assist the Owens Valley in displaying landmarks of the aqueduct. But LADWP is not eager to showcase the tactics it used in acquiring Owens Valley land, they said.

“I think they’re bashful,” said Chuck Shuey. “If it weren’t for DWP, the whole valley would be green.”

The department says it’s doing its part to educate the public. “The Department of Water and Power not only opens its lands up for public use, but we also provide tours of the aqueduct system several times a year,” said LADWP spokeswoman Amanda Parsons.

According to Klusmire and Roberta Harlan, the museum’s curator, LADWP actually owns the land where the museum sits. LADWP has no say over the content of the exhibits, Klusmire said.

In order to raise attendance, Klusmire and Harlan plan to hold more events that involve speakers, presentations and book signings, hoping to entice larger crowds into the museum’s diverse collections on eastern California history.

Harlan, for her part, would like a bigger building to house the museum. Since LADWP already owns the land, maybe it would be willing to fund an expansion?

“Don’t think we haven’t suggested that,” Harlan said with a laugh.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Warren family excavates 19th century homestead

Mark and Sylvia Warren stand in front of the homestead they built in Morongo Valley in the 19th century. (Stacy Moore, Hi-Desert Star)

By Stacy Moore
Hi-Desert Star

MORONGO VALLEY — “We have pioneering in our blood,” Mike Arnett told his family, and the proof was right before them: a new monument marking the spot where their ancestors Mark and Sylvia Warren built a homestead in 1885.

The Warren homestead is on San Bernardino County land a short walk from Covington Park. The building is gone, destroyed by a 1929 fire and simply the work of passing time, but the Warrens’ descendents recently found out where it had stood and began a restoration project.

Larry Turner spearheaded the project. The grandson of Lela Warren Arnett, the youngest of the Warrens’ 11 children, Turner organized his family into a labor force to excavate the footprint of the old homestead, clear away brush and clean up the footpath leading to the site.

“It’s been a project of love, saving this place for history,” Turner told his family when they gathered Saturday morning to see the fruits of their labor.

The family placed a concrete and granite monument that tells visitors the story of Mark and Sylvia Warren and their homestead. The guests of honor for the monument unveiling were the Warrens’ three surviving grandchildren: Lois Arvicson, the daughter of Ed Warren, the first of the children to be born at the Morongo Valley home, and Mary Ellen Grimes and Marion Arnett, the daughter and son of Lela Warren, the youngest of the 11 children.
“Grandpa raised cattle and Grandma raised kids — 11 of them!” Grimes said.

Turner also thanked Donna Muñoz, general manager of the Morongo Valley Community Services District, Mike Lipsitz, who facilitated permission for the project when he was field representative for county Supervisor James Ramos, and the Morongo Basin Historical Society, which also helped.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department provided a 14-man crew to help tear out brush.

Couple met when wagon train stranded

The story of Mark and Sylvia Warren is tale about making a paradise in a wild land, the power of hospitality and the human spirit, but it begins with a truth uncomfortable in today’s America: When Mark Warren first met Sylvia Paine, she was 12 years old. They were married two years later, in 1866. He was 35 and she was 14.

Chuck Warren, an emigrant from Maine who made a living driving a freight wagon, first saw Sylvia Paine as he drove from the Port of Los Angeles to Prescott, Arizona, Arnett said. Encountering a wagon train lost near Baker, he gave them directions and went on his way. When he returned, he found the Paine family was still there,
stranded in the desert on their months-long migration from Texas to California because of the death of their ox. He loaded them into his wagon and took them to his San Bernardino ranch, where they lived for two years.

Chuck Warren at first wanted to marry the oldest daughter, but she was promised to someone else. Instead, he married Sylvia.

Arnett gave his perspective on Sylvia’s age to his family members.

“This 14-year-old had endured privations,” Arnett said. “She knew how to survive on the meagerest provisions. She knew how to take care of her family.”

The two remained married for 51 years, until Chuck Warren’s death in an automobile accident in 1917. Sylvia bore 11 children, living some of the time at the Morongo Valley homestead and other times in Banning and Yucaipa so the children could go to school.

A sound home where strangers were welcome

Chuck Warren found the land for his Morongo Valley homestead on one of his freighting trips, describing it as a beautiful oasis.

The stream ran year-round,” Arnett said, gesturing to a ravine behind him, now dry. “This was a lush area.”

Around the house, built with adobe brick, the Warrens created a ranch that provided amply for their children and the miners and cattlemen who passed their way.

Arnett quoted his grandmother Lela’s words: “The family never suffered any real hardship for there was a sound, protective house for them to live in and always an abundance of food,” she wrote.

With cattle, crops of vegetables and sugar cane, fruit orchards, chickens and a hog, the Warrens lacked for little.

“There were beautiful alfalfa fields, apple trees with red apples peeping through the leaves and grass covered the ground everywhere,” Lela Warren wrote.

In the winter, they could depend on an abundance of wild game, including rabbits, quail, dove, ducks and deer.
“Whoever came by was always asked to eat with them,” the pioneers’ daughter remembered.

“Pioneering isn’t so bad when everyone works together and for the good of all,” she told Arnett. “Mark and Sylvia were not great as most people value men and women, but their greatness was in their goodness.”