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The Spirit of Tehachapi

The Spirit of Tehachapi


Highline/Pole Line Road

In 2003 I wrote an article about a certain road, originally an old mining road in the area, and its history. Not ancient history but recent history. I chose a road that is straight as an arrow, well paved, lots of dips and mighty dangerous. That road, in years past, after the high voltage power lines were installed, was called The Pole Line Road. When I got married in 1950 I left it with its original name. Suddenly it became High Line Road. Don't know who changed it but it seems "the minute my back is turned" somebody wants to streamline things!

It was a desolate avenue in the 1930s for most people, unless they were going to an isolated residence in that area, they simply did not need to drive on it. To the young people it was considered an ideal spot for a Lover's Lane. It was still dirt in those earlier days but the speeders found it a great place to test their driving skills, or the lack thereof, and many serious accidents have resulted. Today, I avoid traveling Highline because of the fast moving vehicles. Also the dips that I used to love as a child that made my stomach turn over are now too scary. One never knows what is on the other side of that dip. A couple of four way stops have fortunately also slowed down the speeders.

When it was still Pole Line Road in 1939, and I was eleven in the Sixth Grade at Tehachapi Elementary School, my parents moved us to a little house nestled close to the Tehachapi Range that looked down on "the road." It was a cozy little home and one that was, believe it or not, ordered from Sears Roebuck. It was not yet wired for electricity so for nearly a year we used kerosene lamps in the bedrooms. My father, Chauncey Davis, being a person who thought, "if a little was good, a whole lot is better" saw that our living room was brightened up by a gasoline camp lantern hung from the ceiling. You could see it from town! If there were noxious fumes emitting from the lantern we all managed to survive. The view was spectacular.

That was the year that Tehachapi had a grasshopper plague. They arrived during wild flower time and ate everything that was growing. It was years before the hills would be covered by poppies again because the flowers had not had time to go to seed when they were eaten. The hoppers arrived without warning and left the same way. The sheepmen who brought their herds to the area were hard put to find grazing land.

My sister, Evelyn, was in high school during this time and her boyfriend said he could coast all the way back to town from our house. The standard transmission cars of those days would allow one to slip into neutral and roll right along. The Pole Line was still unpaved during this period.

An imposing hill/mountain –China Hill- can be seen clearly from town and borders the Pole Line. It was an excellent ski location and locals would be seen traveling to its slopes after a snow. The top of China Hill was steep and one could pick up a lot of speed before leveling off to create a great ride. The road and the mountain seemed to be vying with one another for a danger site. Ben Stinson, a popular high school teacher, brought a group of students for a good time and suffered a broken leg. Ellis Edell, the local Standard Oil distributor in the area was showing his three children how to handle their new Christmas skis and broke his leg in three places. Wayne Grubb, a high school shop teacher, was also among those who suffered injuries on the China Hill slope. Broken arms, strained backs and concussions were blamed on the wintertime sports location. People also used toboggans, sleds or a piece of tin to slide down the hill. Fortunately it is now out of the running for that purpose as it now has many houses on the once exciting slopes. But the Pole Line has outlived that site and is still claiming its victims.

I don't know exactly when the Pole Line Road became Highline Road but it took the "old timers" a little while to get used to it; some never did. So, you can take the Highline and I'll take the Pole Line!


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