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Adalay Elva Johnson Bassler

The Spirit of Tehachapi

 

Harry and Adalay Bassler in some happy, golden years. April, 1985.

Some stories begin with "Once upon a time" and that's as good a place to begin as I speak of long time Tehachapi citizen, Adalay Elva Johnson Bassler, who celebrated her 94th birthday on July 23. A host of friends were there to wish her well. It was time, I thought, to get acquainted with the vintage lady and find out what kept her busy these many years. I might as well begin at the beginning.

Traveling back four score plus fourteen years ago, we find that she is one of the twelve children born to Emil Harry Johnson and Judith Louise Isaacson in Farnam, Nebraska. It's interesting to note that hers was a single birth between two sets of twins. Ruby and Reuben preceded her and Dora and Dorothy followed a bit later. A younger brother, Donald, age 90 is her only living sibling, and lives in Calabasas, California.

At the age of nine she came to Los Angeles to live with a sister, Alene. She and her future husband, Harry Bassler, were to later meet in Los Angeles and marry in 1948.

Some of Harry's brothers lived in Tehachapi and encouraged the couple to come and take part in some business ventures in the small community. As fate would have it they arrived in 1952; just in time for the historical Tehachapi Earthquake. Still, in spite of the unusual welcome they began what was to become varied and successful business enterprises.

East of town, near today's Love's Truck Stop, George with help from the brothers Harry, Jim, John and Lee helped build a house and shop which for years was Bassler's Auto Body shop. Adalay was the very efficient bookkeeper. Some years later the business was to move it's location to H Street where Scott's Auto Body is now located.

The auto shop business thrived and their Hitching Post Bar located on the main street in town next to Trusty's Café (Kelcy's location) kept them busy. Adalay could keep the books and help serve the drinks that bartender Pete Galan made.

Northeast of town on some acreage the Bassler's planted fields of alfalfa. The harvest was good as well as the profits. Bassler became a well known name in Tehachapi.

Knowing how to deal with the public , a small restaurant –The Snack Hut-became a popular café and was a favorite after school meeting place for high school students as well as an evening eatery for the citizens of the town.

Today, I spoke to Adelay's granddaughter, Charlene Jones Appling. Come to find out Charlene went to school with my youngest son, right here in Tehachapi! It's a small town!

During Adelay's "spare time" she managed to be a mother to her three children, Delbert, Richard and Kay as well as being an avid quilter, doing arts and crafts plus canning the summer fruit as it came in season. She lives in the same house that she and Harry had built on what is now Beech Street. Their home, built by contractor Larry Martin, was the first house to be constructed before the tract of homes in that area, all built by Larry Martin.

Charlene Jones Appling, the granddaughter of Adelay, checks daily to see if "Grandma" has eaten that day and had a daily nap (or two). Charlene also has many events and dates tucked into her memory that will keep the past years of the Bassler's in Tehachapi, a part of the history of the community and how it grew.

It's hard to keep up with ninety-four year old Adelay Bassler. While sitting at her dining room table gathering facts of her life, I noticed a pack of Virginia Slim cigarettes on the table with a cute little pink lighter aside. I looked at her and she laughed and said, "Yes, I still smoke!" At 94 it's a little late to kick the habit. She told me when she was in her earlier years her father and uncle, to save money, bought tobacco and "rolled their own" cigarettes.

They liked the way she made their smokes from Velvet Pipe Tobacco and little cigarette papers. The papers came in brownish color and white also. She could roll them so they looked almost like "store bought." That's how she began to learn to smoke. As I was saying goodbye to this "Senior" citizen she was taking an occasional puff off her Virginia Slim cigarette and sipping a glass of red wine.

Adalay Bassler, a walking history lesson who is loved by her family and friends. It can't get any better than that.

 
 

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