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

The house on Curry Street

 

July 21, 2018

Photo provided

Happy New Years from 1953.

A gentleman by the name of Merv Evens stopped by the house located at 413 Curry Street in Tehachapi, which is now the office of J.Williams and Jennifer's Terrace. He said he had lived there as a child and wanted to share some of his stories and photos of life in Tehachapi with The Loop's readers. Enjoy! – Christal Wheeler of J. Williams Personal Financial Planning, Inc.

My wife and I traveled to Tehachapi around June 18 for a few days to take glider rides as a birthday present for her. While there, we also hiked up Woody's Peak and bought some antique items at a yard sale. Since I lived there from 1951 to 1956, I wanted to pass by the places my family lived to see what they were currently like. My time in Tehachapi as a kid has always occupied a somewhat larger place in my childhood memories compared to other times and places in my life. Memories of this little town have always been closely held. During our visit I learned a classmate, Ed Grimes, who had served as mayor, had passed away. This got me wondering about other kids I'd known there, how many were still alive and living in the area.

Life in the early half of the 1950s was filled with active involvement in school, sports and other activities. We all went to Tehachapi Elementary School, which I understand has gone by the wayside in the past number of decades. The school was later renamed after our principal at the time, Mr. Wells, before being decommissioned. I didn't know Wells, but did know his vice principal since I wasn't exactly a model student – which I freely admit. I have a flood of memories of the kids, teachers, recess activities, Christmas chorale, the old library and sports. The sports program was expansive and coached by John Horton, a highly respected and revered teacher, coach and adviser to his students and players. I played right half back on the flag football team, was the center for the basketball team (not because I was tall, but because I could out jump everybody else) and ran on the track team. We traveled extensively from locations in the desert to Bakersfield for games and meets. Bakersfield was the big city to us.

Outside of school and playing with friends, we used to hike up into the mountains and climb around in the quarry on the south side of the valley. We were always a little apprehensive because of false stories of Chinese miners who worked in that area long before. Supposedly, they had been sealed in tunnels with dynamite and could still be heard tapping on the walls at night. I hiked in the mountains lots with my friend Dick Arnold. At that time we were afraid of the Russians invading, so we left caches of things to use there in case an invasion actually happened. We especially had a large cache of cigarette tobacco and wrapping papers, even though neither of us had ever smoked.

On the north side of the valley, we'd hike to the Rock Pile and climb around on the rocks. Sometimes we'd hike into the mountains on the north side of the valley. I found a large boulder there with Indian petroglyphs, which I'm sure nobody knows about to this day. We learned not to tell our mothers about rattlesnakes, since they wouldn't let us go back if we did.

My family lived on C Street behind the Apostolic church on the corner during the earthquake. Age 10 at the time, I have very vivid memories of the quake that happened a little before 5:30 a.m. I was awakened just as the sky was getting light by a jostling of my bed. As I was wondering what it was, another stronger jostling occurred. Then I heard what sounded like a freight train coming close and getting louder. Things started to really shake at that point, and I jumped out of bed. Somehow I realized what it was and went to awaken my two sisters sleeping on bunk beds. I was yelling at them to get up because an earthquake was happening. My sister on the top bunk stood up on it and jumped all the way onto the floor. The sister on the bottom bunk wouldn't wake up until I shook her awake. We started into the hallway at the height of the quake. There was one bare light bulb in the center of the hallway for lighting. At the other end we could see our parents, and we were all running toward each other. However none of us was going anywhere. When the quake finally started to subside, we ran out through the living room. One of my sisters sat down on the couch and wouldn't move, so we had to carry her out the front door. Once outside, the quake stopped and my father wanted to go inside to get coats for us. Every time he tried, another aftershock would come along. He finally went inside regardless of aftershocks.

We went to the downtown area, which was in rubble and near total destruction. My father was the manager of the Standard gas station (at that time) on the corner next to the tracks and across from the railroad station. It was a total mess. The attendant who worked there on the night shift described hanging onto a gas pump and waving like a flag in the wind as a 5 to 6 foot wall of water came through the drives from the collapse of the half a million gallon water tank nearby. He wasn't supposed to work that night. The attendant who was scheduled called in sick and he was called to fill in. It saved his life. From where the gas station was located, he could look down to the southwest corner of the next block. He lived in a second floor, corner room of the hotel there at the time. His bed was covered with 5 feet of bricks. People would come into my dad's gas station and relate their odd experiences during the quake. Of course the town was devastated. Clean up and rebuilding proceeded immediately contributing to what you see now.

After the earthquake we moved into the house at 413 S. Curry Street, which is now a thriving business and the location of Jennifer's Terrace. When we lived there, my room was a converted porch on the northwest corner of the house. It had no interior walls or insulation - just boards nailed to the outside of the studs and some kind of translucent plastic sheet nailed or stapled over the open areas about 4 feet above the floor. During cold winter nights, my mother would pile on blankets and heat up plates from the stove. She would wrap the stove plates in newspaper and put them in the bed to warm it up.

There was a door from my room opening into the kitchen. My mother had placed a Singer pedal sewing machine in front of the door to store things on, so the door could only be opened a couple of inches from my side. Sometimes she would make donuts and place them on top of newspaper on the sewing machine to cool after glazing. I'd make a hook out of a coat hanger and wait to hear her footsteps coming over to the machine to leave donuts. When I heard her footsteps going back across the kitchen, I'd quietly crack open the door and hook donuts with my coat hanger. They were hot and tasty, and she never ever knew I did that. After all if she did, I'd never be able to snag those donuts again.

Photo provided

Playing on Christmas Day in 1954 at our home on Curry Street.

I used to throw a football and play with Joaquin Horton, who lived next door, in the alley for what seemed like hours on end. His father was the teacher and coach at Tehachapi Elementary whom I mentioned earlier. During basketball season, we could go out for sports starting in the sixth grade, we had to use the high school gymnasium before their school day started. That meant we had to get up every morning at maybe 4:30 a.m. to get in a full practice. Mr. Horton would sometimes give rides to kids. Other kids' parents sometimes took them, but most rode their bicycles as I did.

While there visiting and looking at the Curry house, the owner kindly invited us in. The house has been divided into offices and completely changed around with an addition on the rear. Jennifer's Terrace was a vacant area next to the church in those days. I marveled at the transformation and attractiveness of the terrace area compared to the bare dirt years ago. It was heartening to see a 100-year-old house I'd lived in 65 years before artfully made into a place of business and celebration.

All in all, the visit was a mix of fun and nostalgic memories of a small town from a long time past.

 
 

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