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One hundred two...years!

The Spirit of Tehachapi


February 1, 2020

Pat Gracey

In the summer when the temperature soars to 102 degrees we're looking for a cool place. When driving South from Tehachapi we'll be almost to Los Angeles as we drive 102 miles. Time wise in years would take us back to 1918 and the end of World War 1. It also takes us to Kathryn Chwaz's celebration of her one hundred second birthday. She greeted friends from Tehachapi, Boron and other cities at an open house held at the home of her niece Janet Roper. Jan. 15 and 16, 2020, found Kathryn on her feet welcoming scores of people who had traveled to see her. The walker she was using did not slow her down much.

Two beautifully decorated cakes were on hand for the traditional cake eating but the omission of one-hundred-two candles was for practical purposes as when, on her one hundredth birthday celebration she was greeted with a blaze on her cake that took five blows to get them under control. No one assisted in those five blows.

People may have met Kathryn as she is not a stranger to Tehachapi where she now lives with her niece. She is the baby sister of the late Monsignor Francis Pointek, who for some years was pastor of St. Malachy Catholic Church. Her "older" brother was able to celebrate his 100th birthday on Sept. 23, 2013.

On Jan. 15, 1918 Jacob and Catherine Pointek welcomed Kathryn into the world in Wilkes Barre, Penn. While growing up in Wilkes-Barre, Kathryn would be witness to the Roaring Twenties as well as the great depression of the Thirties. She moved to New York as a young woman with her sister, Mary. Working at various jobs she became a bookkeeper, a cashier and even ran a "stale bread" store for Ward Bakeries, these stores were also known as "day old bread" stores.

During World War II, Kathryn began corresponding with a young soldier whose address had been given to her. They wrote for many months and she even became acquainted with his family before ever meeting him. The long distance correspondence became a marriage and her name was changed to Mrs. Frank Chwaz.

Kathryn reminisces about her first experiences with the great Mojave Desert. Kathryn and Frank were encouraged to come to Boron, California by her older brother, Father Francis Pointek who was pastor of St. Barbara's Church in Randsburg. Upon arriving in the small desert town, she took a good look and said, "Frank, don't even take the bags out of the car!"

Later on, her brother introduced them to the many good points of desert living for she became one of Boron's long time residents, even serving as mayor twice. They settled in Boron on Sunday, April 3, 1949. That date is absolutely correct; it comes straight from Kathryn who says it was definitely a Sunday.

Her husband, skilled in instrumentation, began to work at the Boron plant. Not long after that her sister, Ann Ogin, her husband, Carl and daughters, Janet and Lois, became residents of the small community. Kathryn and her sister began a store they called Boron Department Store, which they operated until 1979.

The camaraderie that existed throughout the Open House for Kathryn here in Tehachapi was definitely "hometown" and heartwarming. It was a good time.

JUST FOR THE RECORD: A few other events happening in 1918:

1. World War 1 ended and the Armistice signed on Nov.11.

2. Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States.

3. The Spanish Flu pandemic was nation wide.

4. Baron Manfred von Richthofen – the Red Baron – famous World War 1 German flyer, who had shot down eighty American planes during their air combat, was shot down by an American pilot. These were the early aircraft of the time. His funeral was held in France by the American forces. The German military were guaranteed safe conduct to and from the service. The orders were followed.

5. Babe Ruth was still playing ball for the Boston Red Socks and not yet for the Yankees.

6. AND...Kathryn Pointek (Chwaz) was born to make the world a better place!


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