A car chase through the streets of Tehachapi and City Park, a failed roadblock and a baseball bat
Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi
September 14, 2019
This crazy incident happened one winter in 1980, when I was in high school. One of my older brothers worked for my family's business, Ricker Motors (on Tehachapi Boulevard where Haddad Automotive is now). He went into B & B Liquors in the morning to get a soda and some kids in two cars asked him to buy them some beer. He thought that they were friends of mine, so he did – he bought them two cases of beer. They were actually from Arvin and I had no idea who they were.
Then before lunch, a classmate named Johnny V. came to Tehachapi High, saying that he'd been jumped and beat up by two carloads of kids, who were in a new Cadillac and another big car, like a Buick. He thought that they were from Mojave, but it was those Arvin kids. We didn't like out of town kids coming into Tehachapi and beating up locals, so some of us decided that we would go settle the score at lunch. John R. and I jumped into Ronnie B.'s 454 Chevelle, which was a very fast car, and Robert R. got into Rich H.'s old Cougar and we took off in search of the intruders. We didn't have to go far – we found them by the Mormon Church on Anita Drive and confronted them. At first they were combative and some words were exchanged, but I guess they didn't like the way things were beginning to look, because they jumped into those two cars and took off. We took off in hot pursuit after them. They drove down Snyder and then down D Street, heading west toward City Park.
We were racing after them, and when we got to the park Ronnie drove his Chevelle over the curb and onto the grass, through the park, dodging trees and kids who were there for lunch, trying to get ahead and cut off the Cadillac and the Buick. John kept saying, "Slow down, Ronnie, you're going to hit somebody!" but Ronnie kept going, saying, "I know what I'm doing, I'm the best driver in Tehachapi!" It was ridiculous. Both of the Arvin cars made it to Tehachapi Boulevard and headed west, blowing right through the stop sign at Green Street with us behind them. John Smith, who was the Tehachapi chief of police at the time, was just coming out of Kelcy's (Restaurant) and saw us, but he didn't have his car and there wasn't much he could do. When the two Arvin cars got down by the Bowling Alley (Mill Street) they whipped around and headed back east again on Tehachapi Boulevard.
We followed, and this time at Green Street, the Cadillac in the lead made a quick left across the tracks while the Buick went straight east on Tehachapi Boulevard. Both the Chevelle and the Cougar with us Tehachapi kids followed the Cadillac, which sped onto North Mill heading for Highway 58. We got on either side of the Cadillac with our two cars and had them hemmed in. There used to be a Chevron station not far from where the Tehachapi News office is now, a little closer to the freeway, and as we got close to it, another Tehachapi kid named Lance T. raced ahead in an older sedan and turned sideways in front of the Cadillac. I guess he was thinking that he was making a roadblock, except the Cadillac didn't stop, it T-boned his car on the driver's side. It rammed him so hard that it pushed his car back about 12 feet, and threw Lance clear out the passenger door, where he landed about six feet away, unconscious.
The collision buckled up the hood of the Cadillac so I don't even know how the driver could see out, and as they went around Lance's car, they ended up in the mud off the road. At this point, yet another Tehachapi guy, Eddie S., who had been out of school for several years, happened on the scene and spun his white pickup into the Cadillac's way, smacking the car with his rear fender. We all jumped out, but the Cadillac was still going, spinning its wheels in the mud as they tried to get out of there. Some guys were aiming kicks at the car and kicked off a sideview mirror. As the Cadillac spun around, the bumper hit my knee and made me mad, so I ran to Ronnie's car and grabbed a wooden Louisville Slugger bat. I hurled that bat at the car from about 25 feet away and it spun end for end, helicopter style, and crashed through the driver's side window. Just then the Cadillac finally got enough traction to get out of the mud and somehow managed to get back on the freeway and drive away, looking all trashed with the front smashed, the hood all buckled up, the driver's window broken out and more.
"Let's get out of here!" was the common sentiment, since we figured that cops would be coming, and we went back to school. Lance's car was out of commission, but he had regained consciousness. And you know, nothing more ever came of that – there were no reports or complaints to the police, so there was no investigation and no tickets were issued. A couple of cars got wrecked, but no one got in trouble by the school or the police. It sounds so unbelievable now, but it happened just like that. I'm a father and a grandfather now, and I'd worry about my kids and be furious if anyone was driving crazy like that through the park or on the streets now. I'm just glad that no one really got hurt. We did some dumb things in high school.
– Mark Ricker
Like Mark, most – but not all – of the miscreants in this story eventually turned out alright, including one who became a California Highway Patrol commander. The full names have been withheld to protect the idiots – there were no innocents in this incident.