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By Susan Wiggins
Mayor Pro Tempore 

The desert, the new frontier in 1956

A Page of History


I found an article of my mom, Marion Deaver that she wrote in 1956. I know that because she actually wrote the year on it! If you read my column regularly you know I am always complaining and trying to guess the year she wrote something because she always cut the date off when she clipped her articles to save them.

With that said, the article proclaimed that predictions made a few years earlier that the desert would be a new frontier was gradually coming true. She added that “the women of the desert towns are doing their share to help spur the movement.”

While desert inhabitants “have not seen anything spectacular, no mushrooming growth, both the men and women are working to advertise the potential of the vast desert, “she said.

The desert chambers of commerce, businessmen’s associations and other civic groups work was gradually being noticed and rewarded.

The civic leaders in some of these towns which still exist in East Kern began to see industries come into the area, badly needed housing developments begin, new stores built and even some expansions of area businesses.

She spoke mostly of growth in Mojave, but added that other communities were working to the same end. California City was mostly a rumor in December, 1956 but construction there was slowly beginning.

My mother referred to the Mojave Businessmen’s Association, active for several years and which met weekly with an average attendance of 40-50 members, all working to bring in more industry and residents to the area.

The local Chamber of Commerce worked on parking problems and to make the Marine base into a county airport. That one goal was perhaps one of the most important goals of the community. The county took over the airport and maintained it until the early 1970s, when the residents of Mojave and California City voted to form an airport district, and the rest is history, as they say.

The Mojave Spaceport is thriving and there are too many innovative projects going on there to even mention here.

In 1956 a new Kern County Fire Station was constructed on Barstow Highway. When the firemen and equipment were moved the Kern County Sheriff Department took over the old fire station and remained there until a new County complex was built further down on Barstow Road which today houses the sheriff’s station, court services and some other county services.

I remember riding on a charter bus with other Mojave residents to fight to have that complex located in Mojave and not in California City, as its citizens wanted.

Everyone from both communities spoke before the Kern County Board of Supervisors and in the end Mojave kept its proposed complex, citing its central location in East Kern.

A new jail was nearing completion behind the old sheriff’s station, and included six holding cells. A new recreation building was on the county docket and $30,000 had been set aside to build in the Mojave Park. That’s where I attended Brownies and Junior Girl Scouts.

The White Family was nearly finished with construction of White’s restaurant. The complex included a dining area, banquet room to seat 100, and a large cocktail lounge. If you grew up in Mojave, you went to many an event in that banquet lounge – and when you turned 21, you knew what the inside of the cocktail lounge looked like!

When we walked into the restaurant, five feet away was a mounted mountain lion, presumably a trophy of one of the White’s. That lion got a little shabby before it was removed and the building eventually torn down. Oh the memories…but that would be another entire column…most of which could not be mentioned here!

A hardware store, three new gas stations, a 46-room hotel, another liquor store, and several churches were added during that time. There were also three grocery stores.

When I was young in 1956 there were enough churches to keep my friends and me busy all summer attending vacation bible schools, and the summer recreation program filled in the rest.

It was a great place to live in 1956.


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