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Summer Stroll around Downtown – Share a glimpse into the past

The Spirit of Tehachapi


Nick Smirnoff (NPPA)

Docent Anna De Graf, shares the history of the Beekay Theatre with the tour walkers.

Before this goes to press the Heritage League will have already sponsored what they called "a Summer Stroll", which in actuality, will have consisted of a group of people "strolling" from one location to another with a Heritage League member stopping and giving a bit of history of a few local sites.

The Stroll will have started at the Depot where a short orientation took place before the leisurely walk began. I would not be on the walk itself but stationed at a prescribed location, however, I have a few memories I can share of local lore.

Just across from the Depot (in the old days) one would see a two-story brick building which extended down the block and housed many businesses. Upstairs, though, were the rooms of the Juanita Hotel. The lobby on Green Street, which I never entered but often peeked at through the window, had heavy overstuff chairs and tables with lamps alit. It looked welcoming. There was a pool hall downstairs in that same area. I never went there either! The sidewalk, I recall, had those metal doors which could be opened and supplies loaded into the basement under the building.

I hated to walk over them for fear that I might just end up in the basement.

Just across the street was another pool hall and Lange's Electric Shop. In the late 1940s Emil Lange used to leave a television on after he closed at night so people could watch the fights or wrestling. Most folk did not yet have televisions. Cable wasn't availabe and it took huge antennas to catch the signal.

On the corner, where Gallery 'n' Gifts is today, was Squires Drug Store. It was owned by local man Vaughn Squires and was a meeting place for people to pick up a prescription and perhaps enjoy a soft drink or ice cream at the fountain. No food was served. Grace Errea, local woman, worked there selling the usual small town items such as patent medicines, magazines, newspapers, and jewelry, as well as serving those picking up their prescriptions. She also manned the fountain. When she got off work her lifetime friend, Margaret Sola, would take the next shift. Margaret's father, Joe Sola, owned a barber shop in the same block. Her father's establishment was also a meeting place for local citizens.

Green Street, until 1936, was a dirt road, and the BeeKay Theater was built the same year the street was paved. It was a lovely new structure and such a wonderful addition to the city. At first no concessions were sold but later on one could smell the popcorn all the way down the block. Mr. Kanstein was usually there overseeing things. The ladies taking tickets, that I remember, were Mrs. Kanstein, Margaret Sola, Grace Errea, Bertha Capdeville Jennings, my sister Evelyn Davis, along with many more. Admission was ten cents for children under twelve, high schoolers were twenty-five cents, and adults were forty cents.

The "old" Bank of Tehachapi building was constructed in 1906 on Green Street. Phil Marx, Sr., later to become a bank president, began as a newcomer to town and worked along with bank President, Albert Ancker. It was a small, handsome building, constructed of a grey brick material. The summer of 1948 I was to be employed there with Steve Spencer as my boss. Later that same year we moved to a new building on F. Street. Bank of Tehachapi was one of the few banks in the U.S. that did not fail during the 1930s depression. The old building went down in the 1952 earthquake.

Just up the street on the corner of E and Green Streets one will notice the Community Congregational Church, constructed in 1928. Its history goes back to 1881 (in a different building) as the first church in Tehachapi. The night of the stroll the members of the church served the slices of apple pie to participants.

Just down half a block is Tehachapi Hospital with its two huge pine trees towering above the structure. The trees were planted in 1906. Drs. Madge and Harold Schlotthauer began practicing medicine in Tehachapi in 1932 in the old Asher home (now gone) on the corner of E and Curry Streets.

In 1934 they purchased the Capdeville Hotel and it served as a hospital until the earthquake rendered it uninhabitable. A new structure replaced it and still serves. The Schlotthauers were known as Doctor Madge and Doctor Harold. Highly skilled but known as a friend to their patients, Doctor Madge once told me, "We felt such a responsibility to the people of Tehachapi." In 1958 they were joined by Doctor Vincent Troy who was to also become a legend to the people of the community.

Rounding the corner the strollers found yours truly at the old Lloyd Hayes residence on the corner of F and Curry Streets.

Nick Smirnoff (NPPA)

Harold Cox portraying Phil Marx, Sr. the bank president at the Bank of Tehachapi in the early days. The bank was located on South Green Street right across from the BeeKay theater.

I grew up living on the opposite corner in the vintage yellow home. I, as a twelve year old, remember looking across the street at a rather "ugly duckling" sort of house. I recall, when winter time came, their dog used to lie in the street because the pavement was warm. The cars just drove around him. Recently Charles White purchased and refurbished the home and with a few professional touches here and there it has turned into a lovely, attractive "swan" of a home.

Heading back to the Depot area the group passed what is now known as the Family Life Pregnancy Center. It started out as the Odd Fellows Lodge Building. With its original cement grey exterior, it has served as a hotel, a theater, a dance hall, a telephone building, Zond Wind Turbine office, and a Catholic Church parish hall, to name a few. The main thing is it has always been a Tehachapi landmark for me. Built by local construction man, Flint Iles, about 1932, it survived the earthquake without any damage.

It has been a long stroll but it seems I have just scratched the surface of memories.

The Old Timer's Picnic is next month. I'll have to take notes!


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