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Forever Joan

The Spirit of Tehachapi


April 13, 2019

Claudia White

Joan Johnson on the BeeKay Theatre Mural.

Way back in 2011, the latest news was the BeeKay Theatre mural taking place in the form of a line of Tehachapi citizens, in an earlier day, waiting to buy a ticket to the show.

In the 1930s and '40s we received in the mail what was termed "The Show Bill" which gave one coming movies to be shown. One could plan their entertainment ahead. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we saw first run features. On Wednesday and Thursday we viewed what was termed "B" movies. Then on Friday and Saturday the kids enjoyed Westerns featuring the latest Hollywood cowboys.

Getting back to the mural one may see a young woman, Joan Johnson, a long-time friend. Well known in her own right and wife of Dick Johnson, former publisher of The Tehachapi News. Joan (Jo-an) made her mark in the community. She's gone now but her likeness still remains on the BeeKay Mural.

Forever Joan,

I met Joan Peacock Johnson in the early months of 1949 when Dick brought her by my parent's home to meet me. The next time I saw the cute little dark haired girl was when she walked down the aisle at their wedding in Delano. I recall, after the ceremony, their posing for the wedding photo. They stood, intently talking and laughing with each other. Finally, the photographer who was attempting to snap their picture said, "Could you stop talking long enough for me to take your picture?" And that's the way it was for the 67 years of their marriage. They had a lot to say.

Joan was in grammar school when her parents moved the family from Tennessee to Delano where her father started a barber business. The "southern hospitality" that is so well-known in the south was already ingrained in her nature. To visit the Johnson's meant you were welcomed into her beautifully decorated home and would soon have some sort of refreshment served with conversation that made one feel like she really cared. She did. I always have subscribed to The Tehachapi News from wherever we were stationed and when Joan started writing her "Over The Back Fence" column I was delighted. She had her finger on the pulse of the community with her report of an event or person. I usually read her column first.

Often, when I wanted to make sure I was correct about some local happening or date, I'd give her a ring and say, "Joan, how do you remember this event?" If she said she recalled it as I did, then I'd say, " Well, then it must be factual." Recalling historical happenings can be tricky, for sometimes when interviewing someone about an event, they often tend to embroider the facts to make a better story. Not a good thing to do. Joan and I and our friend, Jon Hammond always stick to the facts.

We were both on the Mural Committee and she and I had the same vision for a mural -- a field of wildflowers: poppies, lupines, owls, clover, Indian paint brush, etc., with an oak tree in the background on one side and a Joshua tree or yucca on the other. Of course, we see the real thing each spring, but it would be nice to have a year round field of wild flowers.

Joan was the only person who had ever called me "Patsy" instead of Pat. I mentioned it to her once and she offered to switch to just Pat. I declined for it was a special thing to me, and that made it sort of a gift.

The home she kept for their family was a combination of beauty, hospitality and history. Each piece of the furnishings had a story. Each community also, has an unforgettable citizen: the kind that makes a difference where ever they go. Forever Joan, kind, smart, loving, generous, funny, a true friend - you're getting the idea.


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