Written by Donna McCrohan Rosenthal
Arvin – Surrounded by seas of cotton, carrots, almonds, oranges, grapes, dairies, and farmland, this agricultural community dubbed “Garden of the Sun” lies southeast of Bakersfield at the foot of Bear Mountain.
Bakersfield street names – Before the town of Sumner became part of Bakersfield, letters of the alphabet designated its east-west streets, while Bakersfield used the alphabet for its north-south roads. When the two municipalities merged, Sumner’s “A” Street turned into “Alpine,” “B” into “Butte,” and so on, to avoid duplication and confusion.
Beekay Theatre – Starting out in 1936 as Tehachapi’s first movie house, it closed in 1980, reopened as the Old Theatre Plaza mall, closed, re-emerged as the Tehachapi Moose Lodge, burned, and, following extensive renovation, reopened as a home for the Tehachapi Community Theatre as well as comedy, concerts, and meetings (TCTonstage.com).
Bidart, Frank – The Bakersfield born poet studied at the University of California Riverside and Harvard University, received the Shelley Award of the Poetry Society of America and the Paris Review’s first Bernard F. Conners Prize, and is a triple finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Watching the Spring Festival (2009), Music Like Dirt (2003), and Desire (1998).
Cheesebush – Hymenoclea salsola, a member of the aster family also known as burrobush and cheeseweed, has small, abundant, petal-less flower heads, threadlike leaves and a cheesy smell. The shrub grows in sandy or rocky washes or loose, gravely hillsides in the Mojave Desert.
Christmas in Rand Camp – The annual December celebration in Randsburg re-creates Yuletide observances in a gold mining camp—complete with carols published before 1900, accompaniment on an antique pump organ, and light refreshments.
County Crop Rankings – Recent California County Agricultural Commissioners Reports list Kern County as state leader in pistachios (28 percent of the total) and alfalfa hay (17 percent) and second in oranges (24 percent) and grapes (14 percent). The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service 2007 census placed Kern County as Number One among the 58 state counties and 3,079 U.S. counties in “value of crops including nursery and greenhouse” and “fruits, tree nuts and berries.”
Dryden Flight Research Center in the western Mojave Desert – NASA’s primary center for atmospheric flight research and operations plays a vital role in furthering the agency’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery. For tour information, contact (661) 276-3311.
Empire Challenge – China Lake’s impressive exercise involves over 2,000 participants from industry, the military, and allied governments worldwide in a demonstration devised to enhance joint and coalition interoperability of intelligence data and technologies and their application to real-time battlefield situations.
Famous First – Comic superstar Bill Cosby performed the first show ever in the Bakersfield Centennial Garden and Convention Center, today’s Rabobank Arena.
Gateways – A billboard just outside of Rosamond declares, “Rosamond: Gateway to Progress.” A Mojave sign says, “Mojave: Gateway to Space.” Ridgecrest has often identified itself as the “Gateway to Death Valley.” The Kern River Valley has the Bob Powers Gateway Preserve, a rare type of wetland in the Sierra Nevada near Lake Isabella. Clearly, you can find a portal to just about anywhere from somewhere in Kern County.
GlobalFlyer – Designed by Burt Rutan and built by Scaled Composites in Mojave, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer aka Model 311 set the record for fastest time around the world unrefueled on March 3, 2005. Pilot Steve Fossett accomplished the feat in this “fuel tank with room for one” in 67 hours and one minute, maintaining contact with the support crew by means of a radio, satellite phone, and email.
Greater Mountain Communities – The Mountain Communities Chamber of Commerce representing Gorman, Lebec, Frazier Park, Lake of the Woods, Lockwood Valley, Pinon Pines, and Pine Mountain Club, describes their shared climate as “four equally perfect seasons” and offers a range of recreational options, everything from water sports to Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, and snowmobiling.
Henderson, “Kelo”– Ridgecrest resident Kelo Henderson held the title of “World’s Fastest Draw”and starred in the TV series 26 Men.
Indian Wells Spring – California Historical Landmark #457 near the junction of State Highways 14 and 395. When their wagon trains became hopelessly lost in Death Valley en route to Sacramento and the Gold Rush in 1849, the Manly-Jayhawker party crossed the Argus Range in search of water. They found it here. The spot became a stage and freight station and, about a century later, site of the Indian Wells Brewing Company and the Indian Wells Lodge Restaurant.
Isabella Dam – Because Bakersfield had experienced major floods in the past, the U.S. Corps of Engineers dammed two forks of the Kern River in 1953 to prevent future disasters. This resulted in Kern County’s largest body of water year-round, a favorite destination for boating, sailing, fishing, jet-skiing, and windsurfing.
Joe, G.I., G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) – Paramount Pictures release about the action hero relied in part on the advice of Ridgecrest’s Burroughs High School graduate, Navy Apache pilot, and Iraq combat veteran Chief Warrant Officer John “Buzz” Covington to ensure authenticity.
Kern Valley Museum – Tells the story of the region through fossils, mining, and ranching artifacts, cabin, blacksmith shop, giant stamp mill, an exhibit about the Edison hydroelectric plants, and the covered wagon and stagecoach from John Wayne’s classic Western movie Stagecoach (1939). Admission is free (www.kernvalleymuseum.org).
“LaV” – China Lake’s magnificent muse during the age of Magnificent Mavericks. The wife of 1954-1967 Naval Ordnance Test Station technical director and quintessential genius Dr. William B. McLean, LaV McLean taught school, entertained rocket scientists and VIPs, and helped shape the close-knit, committed NOTS way of life.
Lenticular Clouds – Lens-shaped “altocumulus standing lenticularus” form when strong winds blow up and around rough terrain such as the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Every so often, with the right lighting, people mistake them for UFOs.
Lopez-Hill House – The 100-year-old home originally belonging to Tejon Ranch manager Jose J. Lopez first stood at 1203 Chester Avenue. It was later rotated to face California Avenue, then moved to Rosedale Highway and Calloway Drive when commercial development threatened to change the neighborhood. Lois Lavern Hill lived in it for nearly 40 years beginning in 1966. On her death, her family donated it to the Kern County Museum where it proudly welcomes visitors today.
McCarthy, Kevin – Bakersfield Republican congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was unanimously named majority whip last November, making him the first Republican majority whip from California.
Ming, Leong Yen – An early settler in Bakersfield, Mr. Ming worked on the Central Pacific Railroad, owned a successful potato farm and ran a school for Chinese students. Ming Avenue bears his name.
“Night at the Museum: A Haunted Museum Night” – Prowl the halls with a flashlight-only guided tour for this October family event at the Buena Vista Museum...if you dare!
Old West Mounted Law-men’s Association – Launched by former Okinawa MP, mounted patrolman and Pinkerton detective James T. Murphy in 2000, OWMLA meets in Inyokern. Its members are active and retired sheriff’s deputies, state highway patrolmen, police chiefs, FBI, prison guards, and city police from several states. Honorary Member Clint Walker, famous as TV’s Cheyenne Bodie, once worked as a sheriff’s deputy in Las Vegas, NV. Mission statement: “To emulate and perpetuate the bravery, tenacity, and integrity of the Old West Mounted Lawmen.” Slogan: “Tell them we’re coming, and hell’s coming with us.”
Peregrine Falcon – A state-listed endangered species fully protected in California, the powerful, fast-flying, hawk-like American peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) swoops down on its prey from high above. Pesticides nearly wiped out the peregrine falcon in much of the country, but you might see some in the alfalfa fields around the Yule Elk State Reserve, shorelines of the Tillie Creek campground and in the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, especially during the winter.
Ridge Route Communities Museum – Displays at this noteworthy Frazier Park attraction focus on the mountains between Bakersfield and Castaic from Wheeler Ridge to below Pyramid Lake (www.rrchs.org).
San Andreas Fault Tours – The BLM occasionally conducts geologic tours in the Mountain Communities. For further details, phone (661) 391-6000.
Shell, Mary K. – A career journalist, she scored headlines of her own as the first woman elected to the Office of Mayor, City of Bakersfield (1981-1985) and second to serve on the Kern County Board of Supervisors (1985-1997). Among her achievements: founding the Beautiful Bakersfield Committee, spearheading efforts to create the Bakersfield Historical Preservations Commission, and establishing the annual Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast.
Thoene, Bodie and Brock – The bestselling Bakersfield-born couple have more than 45 historical novels and sales of 10 million copies to their credit. Additionally, Bodie has written for U.S. News and World Report and the Saturday Evening Post, and authored TV’s hit series The Fall Guy.
Uhalt’s Blacksmith & Welding Works – The steel-sided wood frame building at East 19th and Kern dates to 1920. Basque settler Bernardo Uhalt bought the business from Prosper Paquette in 1911 and moved it from Eureka Street.
Urner’s – David E. Urner sold cookware from the back of his bicycle before unveiling what today continues as Bakersfield’s 90+-year-old family-owned appliance center. For its 90th anniversary, Urner’s donated new mattresses to the Bakersfield Rescue Mission.
Voyager Restaurant –This themed eatery in the terminal building of the Mojave Spaceport affords flightline views and free WiFi, and prepares aeronautically-inspired dishes such as the Blackbird (sausage patties and eggs), the Long EZ (two eggs any style), SpaceShipOne (ham and eggs) and the White Knight (bacon and eggs). Order Joudis Crash Landing and you’ll get two poached eggs on corn tortillas, topped with mixed cheddar, jack cheese, and ranchero sauce.
“Wet Your Pants on the Kern” – With this catchy title, the Kernville Chamber of Commerce’s water recreation guide for Lake Isabella and the Kern River promotes special events and popular rapids such as Little Mama, Big Daddy, Twisted Sister, Screaming Right Turn, and Squashed Paddler.
Wind Scorpions – Also known as sun scorpions, camel scorpions, and sun spiders and in fact neither scorpions nor spiders but related to both, these exceptionally ugly little critters have humped heads and disproportionately big chelicerae, or pointed-appendage mouthparts. Nocturnal and not venomous, they move rapidly and live in hot, dry environments such as our own Mojave Desert.
X-Files: Fight the Future – Two filming locations for the 1998 movie-based-on-the- TV-series might seem particularly familiar: California City and a Bakersfield cornfield.
Yucca Whipplei – Native to California, it depends on the yucca moth for pollination. Its tall spikes covered with tight bunches of cream-colored flowers poke up out of the ground in areas such as Kern County’s high desert. Also called Our Lord’s Candle.
Zenda Mine – South of Bodfish, east of Caliente and west of Studhorse Canyon, it yielded more than a half-million dollars of gold and silver in the 1920s.
Photos Courtesy of Elizabeth Babcock (Rand); NASA/Carla Thomas (Dryden); Tehachapi Heritage League (Beekay); US Navy/Scott King (Cosby); Western Clippings (Henderson) Donald Laire (Indian Wells); Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Covington (G.I. Joe); OWMLA (Old West); Office of Congressman Kevin McCarthy CA-22 (McCarthy); Randel d. thompson(cloud); Kern County library (Ming); Urner’s,inc. (Urner’s); Timothy Russ (Scorpion)
Article appeared in our 27-6 Issue - February 2011