Tuesday, April 11, 2017

California, Desert Palms & Soledad Canyon

Thursday, March 23rd - Wednesday, April 5th

 Thursday, March 23rd, my baby's 40th birthday, we arrived at Coast to Coast Catalina Spa and RV Resort in Desert Hot Springs.  Friday we drove over to the General Patton Memorial Museum.  The situation in North Africa was critical and America had to send its best, that meant Patton.

  February 4, 1942 Major General George S. Patton, Jr. was designated Commanding General of a Desert Training Center.  He selected an 18,000 square mile area of the California and Arizona desert, the largest military installation and maneuver area the world had ever known.  Temperatures were often 120 or more in the shade, which was seldom available.  Rainfall averaged less than 2 inches annually.  Camp Young at Chiriaco Summit east of Palm Springs was selected as Patton's base camp and headquarters.  There were 12 divisional camps of 15,000 men each.  At the height of the operation there were 190,000 men using 27,000 vehicles, including tanks and half-tracks, 1,200 artillery pieces, 100,000 tents, 400,000 cots and 300,000 gas cans.

The museum is at Camp Young where the extreme climates varied from 130 degrees in summer to below freezing in winter and included sand storms and flash floods.  The troops lived in tents with wood floors, no electricity, and none of the amenities of other stateside training installations.  Rattlesnakes and scorpions crawled into sleeping rolls and boots.  Going to the latrine at night was a daunting task, since there were frequently rattlers crawling about.  Water was rationed to one canteen per day.  It took several weeks to get used to the desert living on only a gallon of water a day.  Patton's training regime required all men to run a mile in ten minutes with full pack and rifle by the end of a month.  Men were required to take three salt tablets per day, but most actually ate dozens to fend off heat prostration, cramps and weakness.  The harsh environment taught them how to survive in North Africa.  By 13 weeks they were the best conditioned men on the front.

Rock-Ola Juke Box used by the soldiers from Camp Young in the Cafe at Chiriaco Summit.

In spite of the harsh environment and the hardness of his manner, Patton was respected, admired and even loved by most of his troops.

1st Lt. Mabel Emily Howe Cornwell (U.S. Army Nurse Corp) and Sgt. Gale Thomas Cornwell (U.S. Army Airborne) were the only mother and son to serve in combat in the European Theater of Operations during WWII.  He was 16 when he enlisted and she was 46 when this picture was taken a few days before D-Day.  Both served with Patton's 3rd Army.  He also served as a helicopter pilot in Korea and all three of his sons served in Vietnam.

"Rosie the Riveter" poster by J. Howard Miller was based on Rose Monroe, a worker at Willow Run aircraft plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  The original was done by Norman Rockwell for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post May 29, 1943.  The cover was an enormous success and stories about real life Rosies began appearing in papers across the country.  The government took advantage of the popularity of Rosie and embarked on a recruiting campaign of the same name.  It brought millions of women out of the home and into the work force and sold many war bonds.  It is still considered the most successful government advertising campaign in history.

Skeletons of Camp Young.  Canvas was used over frameworks like these mounted on a jeep to simulate tanks used for training maneuvers.

The training center was not only designed to train troops, but also for developing new techniques and testing equipment and weapons for desert warfare.  The terrain was far worse than anything in Libya or Mesopotamia.

Remains of one of the chapels from the camp.  Major General Walton H. Walker assumed command of the center upon Patton's departure Aug. 2, 1942.  Over one million men were trained before its closing April 30, 1944.

A few flowers on the desert drive back to Desert Springs.  I think the yellow ones are called Paper Daisies.

The purple ones are Sand Verbena and the other is one of the many varieties of Desert Dandelions.

We also drove through the town of Twenty-Nine Palms on our way back to camp.  They have many murals like this one with plaques telling about the history of their town.

Views from our campground.

Sunday, March 26th, we moved to Thousand Trails Soledad Canyon RV Resort at Acton, California just north of Los Angeles.

It's a huge campground with lots of big, old cottonwoods and oak trees.

They claim to have the largest swimming pool in the West, whatever that means, plus a splash park for kids, but it wasn't open yet for the season.  They also have another very nice pool and hot tub that is for adults only when this one is open.  I used the hot tub, but the pool was very cold.

Wednesday we went to the Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park, across the street from the Los Angeles Zoo.  Born in 1907, Gene Autry was a popular singing cowboy whose career spanned 60 years and multiple industries.  He endorsed a variety of products from guitars and cap guns to books and clothing, most marketed to adolescent boys and girls.  He appeared in 93 feature films and made 635 recordings, more than 300 of which he wrote or co-wrote.  Between 1940 and 1956 his radio show broadcast weekly over CBS Radio Network.  He was known as America's Favorite Cowboy and the museum opening in 1988 was the realization of his dream to build a museum to interpret the history and heritage of the West. 

There are murals around the main foyer.  Recognize anyone?

The Pony Express was an ultra fast, but short-lived mail service.  The 1,900 mile route began in Missouri and ran through Wyoming and Utah crossing the Sierra Nevada mountain range to Sacramento.  The riders exchanged horses at over 180 stations and the journey took between nine and ten days, for which they were paid $25 per week, compared to the going rate of $1.00 per week for skilled labor.  This sculpture "Special Delivery" depicts the critical moment when riders carried Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address from a telegraph station in Nebraska to newspapers in California in the record time of 7 days and 17 hours.  The Pony Express lasted only 18 months 1860 to 1861.

Modern art horse sculpture made from old metal parts of various machines.

This piece of art was made by Gerald Clark, Jr. from squashed beer and pop cans and was made to honor the tradition of Cahuilla basket weaving and to highlight today's problems with alcoholism and diabetes within the tribe and in the general public.

The Autry's collection of "The Handgun That Won The West" is one of the finest in the world.  Colt's Single Action Army Model Revolver was used by pioneers, peace officers, gunslingers, outlaws, cowboys and the military.  It is the most successful and recognizable revolver of all time.

The 1876 Buntline Special Model Revolver was advertised as the World's Longest Six-Shooter!  This toy sold for 69 cents, the gun used in the famous "Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" TV series on ABC Tuesday nights starring Hugh O'Brian.

This Los Angeles pattern bar was built by Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company in St. Louis, Missouri in 1900 and was used in Wibaux, Montana for nearly a century.  The carved female nudes on the back bar mirror were not commonly used, but saloons, for the most part, catered to men.  I'm sure my uncle frequently bellied up to this bar when he lived in Baker and I'm also sure my parents have been there with him on occasion. 

Tobacco and food were commonly available for saloon customers.  Cigars, cigarettes and tobacco were usually sold from a separate counter, or cigar apartment.  Fancy cigar lighters and trimmers were placed on the counter and cuspidors throughout the saloon.  The cigar counter also sold bottled wines and spirits, which sometimes were filled from barrels in the basement.  Most saloons offered free refreshments to attract customers.  Pickled eggs, crackers, sandwiches, oysters, celery and other salty foods were common.

According to the Topeka Daily Commonwealth in 1871, saloons had live music both day and night.  The five-piece orchestra at the Long Branch in Dodge City, Kansas was a typical band.  As high as $7 a day was paid to musicians who were accomplished on several instruments.  Coin-operated amusement devices became popular by the turn of the century.  For a nickel this Edison Multi Phone (early Juke box) offered a choice of 24 cylinder recordings simply by turning a crank.

They had lots of miniatures that were used as salesmen's samples back in the day, including plows, hay rakes, windmills, and even coffins.

The Gold Rush effect on the population left an important legacy.  From 1848 to 1855 some 300,000 immigrants came to California from all over the world making the Golden State one of the most diverse populations in the country.  Our country's immigrant history is kind of interesting, especially our history with Mexico.

300,000 people of Mexican descent were living in the American West in 1890 and described themselves as Mexicanos.  New Mexico was home to the oldest settlements, colonized in the late 1500's.  They settled the towns of San Antonio in 1718 and Laredo in 1755, and Tubac and Tucson in 1751 and 1776.  They founded San Diego de Acala in 1769, the first of 21 mission colonies and 4 presidios (military colonies) that extended 500 miles up the California coast by 1819.  The Texas Rebellion in 1836 led to its annexation by the United States in 1845.  The American invasion of Mexico in May of 1846 began a brutal military campaign that lasted almost two years.  Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico was forced to accept the Rio Grande as its border with Texas and surrender nearly half of its territory.  The U.S. forced Mexico to sell the present-day states of California, New Mexico, Nevada and parts of Colorado, Arizona and Utah, over one million square miles, for $15 million.

The earliest Asian communities in the American West were established by emigrants from China during the California Gold Rush.  By 1890 nearly 100,000 people of Chinese descent lived throughout the West, the majority in California.  Many lived in "Chinatown" districts that were part of cities, mining camps and farming towns.

In Texas and Indian Territory, African Americans struggled to overcome a history of slavery.  In Kansas, Nebraska and the Oklahoma Territory, rural communities formed, eager to escape the legacy of the South and its racial barriers.  In such cities as El Paso, Denver, Oakland and Los Angeles, railroads provided employment and aided the formation of urban neighborhoods.

The last 25 years of the 19th century saw an explosion of settlement in the West.  The Homestead Act in 1862, the Desert Land Act in 1877 and the Timber and Stone Act of 1878 made land speculation and settlement possible.  Between 1870 and 1900, 430 million acres were settled and 225 million acres were put under cultivation by nearly one million farmers.  The new West was dominated by white males and their influence over public law and policy gave them control of the lives of other immigrants and residents.

This Concord Mail Stage Coach ca. 1855 was driven as part of the California Stage Coach fleet in the Gold Rush era.  It held 9 passengers on the inside and the top could hold baggage or as many as a dozen more passengers.  Teams of 4 to 6 horses were managed by a driver with an express guard seated next to him.  Mail and packages were carried in the leather boot in the rear.  The coaches often transported gold to banks.  In 1997, after 150 years of use and neglect had turned it almost black from darkening varnish layers,  the Autry Museum began careful removal of the varnish, revealing the original paint scheme and details.  These coaches came in a wide variety of colors.  Some of the California Stage Company coaches were yellow, others were green and a few were red.

Black Bart robbed 27 California stagecoaches from 1875 to 1882 using an unloaded shotgun.  He always left behind crude poetry signed "The Po8".  When he left behind a handkerchief as well, the laundry mark led detectives to the culprit, Charles Boles, in a San Francisco boarding house.  He served four years in prison.  The shotgun he used is in the museum and was exhibited by Wells Fargo at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.  They also have one of his hand written poems on display as follows: "Here I lay me down to sleep to wait the coming morrow.  Perhaps success, perhaps defeat and everlasting sorrow.  I've labored long and hard for bread, for honor and for riches.  But on my corns too long you've tred, you five-horned sons of bitches. Let come what will, I'll try it on, my condition can't be worse.  And if there's money in that box, tis money in my purse."
Black Bart The Po8

Basket ca. 1930 made by a Mono Lake Paiute lady from sedge root, red bud tree and bracken fern root.  Originally used for collecting, cooking and storing foods, by the 1930's native baskets had become highly desirable as art objects.  This basket is about four feet across and was four years in the making.

These bison chairs were created in 1842 for Scottish Nobleman William Drummond Stewart for his family estate, Murthly Castle,following his return from a series of frontier adventures.  They included the 1837 rendezvous at the mouth of the New Fork River on the Green River in Oregon Country, an annual event that drew fur traders, Indians, French Canadians and trappers from across the Rocky Mountain west to join in "mirth, songs, dancing, racing, target shooting, yarns, frolic and all sorts of extravagances that white men or Indians could invent."

1896 silver, bronze and gold punch bowl by Tiffany with images of Native Americans, such as the figure wearing a bear claw necklace, were symbols of the wilderness that permeated the Victorian culture on many levels.  Wealthy households showed their status by entertaining with lavish serving pieces.

Both of these sculptures were made at the end of the 19th century, shortly after the U.S. Census proclaimed the frontier officially closed.  "The Bronco Buster" 1895 by Frederic Remington shows the triumphant feeling of winning the west, while "End of Trail" 1896 by James Earl Frazier  laments its cost, the utter collapse of Native America in its traditional form.

1948 Indian Chief Roadmaster motorcycle, their top model, was designed as a handsome, comfortable rival to Harley Davidson's heavyweight touring bikes, as American's took to the roads in the years following WWII.  Imagine the Indian head on the front fender with the custom-fringed leather work flying in the wind speeding toward the horizon.

Dale Evans The Queen of the West and Roy Rogers The King of the Cowboys did their first picture, "The Cowboy and the Senorita" in 1944, several years after Roy (an original member of the Sons of the Pioneers) had become a star.  They thrilled generations of matinee, radio and, by 1951, television audiences.   Most of their costumes were made by Nudie Rodeo Tailors.  These and the gun belt with Colt revolvers were donated by Roy and Dale.

Stage performance costume worn by Rex Allen, The Hawaiian Cowboy, designed by Nudie Rodeo Tailors and his Tony Lama boots and 1946 guitar.

Even Michael Jackson got into the western cowboy look.  He wore these specially designed metal cowboy boots to the White House in April of 1990 to receive the "Artist of the Decade" award from President George H.W. Bush.

He also wore this outfit on March 2, 1977 for an episode of The Jacksons.  The set of the TV variety show was decorated like a western saloon and he performed "The Cisco Kid" and "I Shot the Sheriff".

Western products for children were a mainstay of American marketing, associated with favorite film, radio and TV heroes of the fictional West.  Buck Jones, the Lone Ranger and Gene Autry were among those whose products included cowboy codes listing expectations about the behavior of the young fans.   Women and minorities were rarely reflected.

Quentin Tarantino's 2015 movie The Hateful Eight managed to both celebrate and rebel against the conventions and stock characters that define the western.  Members of the film's crew did research at the Autry Museum to ensure historical accuracy.  Some costumes and props, including the buffalo coat (left) worn by Kurt Russell were based on objects in the permanent collection.  The other costumes were worn by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L. Jackson.

Sombrero, gun belt and revolver worn by Chevy Chase and guns and gun belt worn by Martin Short in the 1986 movie, The Three Amigos.

Shirts worn by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall in the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain, a very good movie.

Gene Autry toys that kids back then wished for.  Hopalong Cassidy bought his movie rights for television in 1948.  Gene Autry and The Lone Ranger followed soon after.  Western series ran from the 1950's through the 1970's.  There were 39 prime-time western TV shows in 1959 when there were only three stations.

After leaving the museum we drove up by Griffith Observatory on the hill overlooking the L.A. skyline.

Thursday, March 30th, we went to spend six days with John's sister, Kathy, and several of her friends.  The following Wednesday, April 5th we drove all day to somewhere in Oregon.  Thursday we arrived at our next stop, Florence, Oregon.  More about that next time.


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