The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

A few years ago

The Spirit of Tehachapi

 

The Opera House, an early Tehachapi building, was located on F Street where the College Community Health Clinic building now stands (113 East F St.), next to the little yogurt shop. It was a focal point for dances, local entertainment, meetings and silent movie films. A 1915 Tehachapi newspaper announced a Charlie Chaplain movie, The Little Tramp, being shown at the local Opera House.

Margaret Erbel, a young Tehachapi resident still in her teens, was known to play the piano for the silent films. Without inspiring climactic accompaniment, the sad, glad and bad moods of the film were lessened. Imagine a villain absconding with a fair maiden in stark silence. No way. The same Margaret Erbel would play for the Saturday night dances at the Opera House and then arise early the next day to play the old pump organ at St. Malachy Catholic Church. The Opera House burned and I have no idea what started the blaze. Time seems to erase a lot of facts that everyone knew at the time but no one bothered to write down. The blaze was not even printed in any surviving papers of that era but Margaret Erbel's daughter, the late Mary Farrell, remembered her mother talking about the blaze. Fortunately, Mary mentioned it to me one day.

When the present Hitching Post Theater was built, they had a contest offering a prize for the best name of the establishment. I sent in The Opera House for my entry with an explanation of the historical issue, but the present name was chosen. It's good and has an Old West flavor but I wonder if they knew there was a Hitching Post Bar for some years on the west side next to Kelcy's Cafe's former site on Main Street (Tehachapi Blvd.)? I used to walk past it on my way to the telephone office where I worked as an operator in 1947 and 1948 for 65 cents an hour. If I had the all-night shift I would pass by at 10:30 in the evening to the sounds of music and singing wafting out of the Hitching Post Bar to greet me.

They usually left the front door open for some reason and I could sometimes see people sitting at the bar or dancing. Occasionally I would see a spot outside on the sidewalk where someone had vomited and also have been known to step over large wet spots on the sidewalk in front of the establishment which I hoped was spilled beer. What bothers me most is, I can't remember what their phone number was! The local populace seldom called by number but depended on the operators to know. We did, mostly; there were only a few hundred numbers! How could I have forgotten?

The Bank of Tehachapi was a quaint, attractive old light gray/brown brick structure that was built in 1906. Green Street was lined with Honey Locust trees that added to the charm of the scene. The Tec Computer Repair used to occupy that site and now it's a salon. Different building, of course. The earthquake did away with the original structure. It was one of the few banks in this country that did not need to close during the throes of the depression of the 1930s. I was employed there as a teller/secretary having left the telephone operator job behind. Perhaps a little more prestige but I still only made 65 cents an hour. The other teller I worked with, a man, made twice what I did and I did all of the secretarial work, also. Women's Lib hadn't hit Tehachapi, yet.

As a result of my employment, I was a participant in the move from the old bank on Green Street, to the new one on F Street. The new bank was built in 1948 on the old Opera House location. Today, the College Health Clinic occupies the site. The day we moved in did not merely involve walking a half block to the new location; we also had to move the money! No Brinks truck was called, just the local law man (singular). He drove over in his vehicle and we five bank employees all rode with him, and the money, the half block to the new bank and the new bank vault that actually had a timed lock. The vault in the old bank was somewhat less secure but it did have a combination lock.

We were never robbed but one day my boss, Mr. C. V. Spencer, spent some anxious moments as he watched a local man standing in front of the bank under a locust tree chain smoking and nervously looking up and down Green Street obviously waiting for someone. The man was known to have robbed a bank in the Midwest and had actually done time for the deed. Finally the nervous chain smoker was picked up by someone in an old Chevy sedan and off they went! Actually, the ex-bank robber was a very nice man and became a well-respected citizen who lived here for many years until he died. He'd have gotten a good laugh had he known what my boss was fearful of on that long ago day.

Today, as I stop by the ATM to get cash with a little plastic card, I seldom think of how it was done in the "old days". As a telephone operator I knew everyone's phone number and in the bank I knew everyone's bank balance!

 
 

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