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Life on Old Town Road at the White Feather Ranch

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi

Our family moved to Tehachapi in 1930 when my parents, Julius and Jeanne Fritz, swapped their home in Willowbrook for 47 acres of land and a farmhouse on Old Town Road, which had been there about 10 years at that time and was known as "the Burton place." The property was dominated by an enormous Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana) and my Dad wanted to name the place "Lone Tree Ranch" but someone else was already using that name so he settled on the "White Feather Ranch," because he immediately started raising some of the first white turkeys to reach the market in California.

Dad would buy 500 of those day-old turkey chicks at a time from Sears or Montgomery Ward and they'd arrive in Tehachapi by train. We go down at 2 o'clock in the morning and meet the Night Flyer at the Tehachapi Depot and pick up those crates of chicks. They'd always throw in a few extras in case any died, but we hardly lost any and we'd end up with 500 or more turkeys.

The White Feather Ranch was the perfect place for us to weather the storm of hardship that was the Great Depression. We had 10 acres of apples, five acres of pears, turkeys, rabbits, hogs, a milk cow or two, and also hunted deer and quail and raised vegetables. Despite not having much money, we always had plenty to eat and often shared with others as well.

There was no electricity on Old Town Road in those days. Firewood provided the fuel for heating and cooking at the White Feather Ranch. We'd go out with our team of two white horses and a sled and cut fallen oak wood with a handsaw all over what is now Golden Hills. One night Mom was driving the team in with a load of firewood and a steam train was coming up the canyon from Keene. One of the old Malley engines blew its whistle and the team bolted. We were all running behind them hollering and then they came to a tree and forked it, with one horse on one side and the other horse on the other, which stopped 'em. We only lost part of the load.

Me and my brother Eddie would herd 500 turkeys back up in Rattlesnake Canyon behind the White Feather Ranch, where the turkeys would forage, eating grasshoppers, seeds and other treats. We'd have them back up in there for a few hours and then at feeding time we'd yell "prrrrrrt!" real loud and all those turkeys would take off flying and gliding back down to the ranch where we could shut them in for the night.

– Dottie Fritz Marble Newton

Dottie remembered when the first road was paved in Tehachapi in 1932 (Woodford-Tehachapi Rd.) and she was the Grande Dame of Old Town Road throughout her long life.