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A family affair

The Spirit of Tehachapi


October 27, 2018

Claudia White

Lena Hayes and her two daughters, Sody and GayLee as children standing with their mother. Sody's two children, Tim and Cindy, also pictured as kids.

A group on the BeeKay Theatre mural shows us three generations looking quite happy as they stand in line waiting to see the movie. The painting portrays Lena Hayes and her two daughters, Sody and GayLee as children standing with their mother. Two other children are in the picture. They are Sody's two children, Tim and Cindy, also pictured as kids. Sody's memories of her home town seem to fit in with that line of town folk waiting to buy a ticket. Here are a few of her memories.

Lena Hayes, the mother in this story, was well known in the small town of Tehachapi. I would see her occasionally with her little girls, Sody and Gaylee in a ladies shop on Green Street called Lottie Lee's. Customers in the shop were able to sit on padded stools in front of the counter to visit during their shopping. The pretty little blonde girls in the mural were also allowed to sit quietly and listen to the ladies discuss the latest town happenings; sometimes called gossip according to Sody.

Gaylee, one year older than her sister, began Kindergarten at the local elementary school, later called Wells Elementary. Sody, along with the family dog, Mister, went with her the first day. Miss Edwards, the teacher, said she and Mister could stay that day but after two weeks the principal, Mr. Wells, told her mother that she would have to wait until next year. I'm not sure what he said about the dog.

Mister had his own adventures which included chasing cars. Once, when the car won, he suffered a broken leg. With no veterinarian in town the two girls carried him to the local hospital on E Street and asked Dr. Harold Schlotthauer to fix it. He put a cast on the dog's leg in the hospital kitchen and then removed it in a few weeks after it healed.

During the days of World War II and continuing into the 1950s, in Tehachapi, there was a little hut atop Wells school run by (probably) the Civil Air Defense. It was maintained by local volunteers who would call in when a plane flew over. Lena Hayes took her shift in identifying aircraft while the girls played on Wells' playground. They often had their friends, the Dowdy girls, Marie and Patsy joining them. They brought their dog, Mister and the Dowdy girls brought their pet, "Teddy." The dogs went down the slide with them. Sounds like fun.

In the summer the girls were allowed to play with friends out-of-doors until the street lights came on. In the street they played Kick the Can and Hide and Seek. They could walk to the library or the drug store for a coke without their parents. There were games in the park for the kids in summer and there were dances, for the early teenagers on Mondays. Lena Hayes helped on the planning committee. The girls didn't mind their mom being around and neither did their friends.

Sody tells of a restaurant downtown called the Greasy Spoon. She recalls that it is where she learned to smoke. She would not say who she was with that showed her the art of inhaling but does say that it took her 40 years to kick the habit.

Looking over Sody's notes about her childhood in Tehachapi, makes one want to re-visit those good old days. She recalls a person called "Okie Dokes" who was reputed to live under the Depot. Now, I am older, by some years, than Sody and I also had heard about "Okie Dokes." Other folk used to talk about him and that he lived "under the Depot." I never saw him but I also never heard anyone say he was not real. People talked about him. Why had I never seen him? Could this have been a whole community joke just to fool the kids? Why would anyone live under the depot? I hope he lived under the depot. I think. I hope he was real but I never saw him.

Then there was Gypsy Joe who lived in a bunk house in Bisbee's Pear Orchard. She had seen him but I only knew of him. Faces in the past.

There were favorite teachers and not-so-favorite teachers. Dear friends who have remained dear friends to this day. To name a few: Sally Lange, Shirley Feldman, Helen Anthony, Laura Martinez, Patsy and Marie Dowdy. All identified by their maiden names. All friends of Gaylee and Sody.

It was a good time – being a kid in Tehachapi.

Note: I just called my old friend and school classmate, Hugh Vasquez (class of 1946). He said Okie Dokes was very real but he lived under a potato shed, not the Depot. Hugh Vasquez and his wife Pat are good friends and know about Tehachapi and its characters. Okie Dokes was real! I'm so glad.


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