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A World War II Marine samples the Tehachapi farm life

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi

After graduating from Marine Corps boot camp in 1943, prior to being shipped to the Pacific Theater of War, the Corps sent me to the Marine Corps Air Station in Mojave, California. Being from the Midwest, I had never before seen the desert, and I liked the wide open spaces. It was winter and the blistering summer heat had been replaced by nice sunny weather most of the time, if you don't count an occasional wind of gale force. Anyway, I liked it.

From the base one could see the snow on the Tehachapi Mountains and it wasn't long before I ventured up there. The town's population in those days was about 1,500 souls. It was a jewel of a city with tall trees lining the streets. Farms dotted the outlying areas whose occupants, for the most part, were descendents of the original owners.

The citizens of Tehachapi had the spirit of wartime America about them and organized entertainment for the servicemen. Some folks took us in for dinner. Two families who had myself and many others in for Sunday dinner were Don and Lila Burgeis and Jeanne and Julius Fritz.

During my short stay at MCAS Mojave I spent most of my liberty time with the Fritz family at their White Feather Ranch on Old Town Road. Julius was some 30 years older than I but we hit it off grandly and I count myself fortunate to have known him.

Jeanne Fritz was very short; no more than four feet ten inches. She was an excellent cook and a fine hostess. She kept a steady stream of conversation going as she entertained and served her delicious meals. Having lived in a suburb of Chicago, I was fascinated by the rural life the Fritz family led. They raised hogs, chickens and hundreds of white turkeys (thus the name, White Feather Ranch). They had two daughters, Evelyn and Dorothy (Dottie), both married, and a son, Ed who was off in the Army. Another son, Dick, was quite young and still lived at home.

When I came up from Mojave I was able to help Julius out around the farm. I soon learned to operate their old Fordson tractor and to milk a cow, who was ornery and very contrary. She was a red Swiss cow who was milked in the last stanchion next to the wall; and she was a crowder. In no time at all she had me pinned between her smelly hide and the wall. Julius knew she would do this and he was greatly amused by a rough, tough Marine being trapped by a milk cow.

– Doyle Gracey

Doyle eventually returned to live in Tehachapi and married local girl Pat Davis Gracey. He was a highly respected and beloved member of the community who passed away in 2010. He wrote an entertaining memoir entitled "No Sh-t" Stories by Gracey.