Historic 1945 USO Building by nyut545e2


									                                            Upper Mojave Desert  P. O. Box 2001, Ridgecrest, CA 93556

                                            Vol. 23 No. 7                                                        August 2008

Gala Dedication and Open House
               Historic 1945 USO Building                                                   Be sure to mark Saturday, Sept.
                                                                                         6, on your calendar — events will be
                                                                                         going on all day and into the night to
                                                                                         celebrate a significant milestone for
                                                                                         HSUMD — ownership of the historic
                                                                                         USO Building, 230 W. Ridgecrest
                                                                                         Blvd., which the City of Ridgecrest
                                                                                         turned over to us last March in rec-
                                                                                         ognition of the significant progress
                                                                                         we have made toward restoring the
                                                                                             We’ll host an all-day event at the
                                                                                         building, starting in front with a flag-
                                                                                         raising and celebration of veterans,
                                                                                         then moving inside for reminiscences
                                                                                         and dedication of the auditorium in
                                                                                         honor of Joe Fox.
                                                                                            The day will also feature the
                                                                                         Ridgecrest Exchange Club’s Parade of
 Unidentified USO officials confer with the builder as the USO Building                  1000 Flags, which will flow past the
 rises in Ridgecrest in late 1944 or early 1945.     Courtesy of News Review             USO Building on its way to the Re-
                                                                                         membrance Field at City Hall. What

        fter the Nov. 8, 1943 establishment of the Naval Ordnance Test Station           a picture those flags will make as they
        (NOTS) at China Lake, sailors, scientists, engineers and their families flood-   proceed along West Ridgecrest Boule-
        ed into China Lake and began using the facilities of the neighboring towns.
                                                                                         vard past our building!
    Because the nearest big-city recreational opportunities were more than 100
miles away, the federal government decided to provide a recreational building for the        Then in the evening, our celebra-
United Services Organization (USO) in Ridgecrest.                                        tion will close just as the building’s
      On Aug. 30, 1944, the Federal Works Administration approved the construction
                                                                                         opening celebration did in October
of a “V-1”-type building with staff living quarters upstairs. That same day Ridgecrest   1945 — with a USO-themed dance.
pioneers Joe and Bessie Fox sold the site for the building to the U.S. government for    This time the music will come from
a dollar. The Oct. 13, 1945, grand opening of the USO’s new Federal Recreation           our town’s favorite big band — the
Building featured a dance and open house.                                                Big Band X-Press under the direction
     With USO postwar budget limitations, the Ridgecrest club closed in 1947. The        of Jim McLane.
federal government transferred land and building ownership to Kern County, and the          You won’t want to miss a minute of
sign over the door was changed to read “Kern County Building.”                           this special celebration! See page 2 for
                                                                     See page 3          a complete program.
  M Dedication and Open House M Historic USO Building M
   Program at the USO Building, 230 W. Ridgecrest Blvd., Sept. 6, 2008

Opening Ceremony, 9 a.m.            Welcoming Remarks by JOHN DI POL of the Historical Society
(in front of building)              Flag Raising by Pearl Harbor Survivor JIM McCORKLE and
                                       World War II Veterans
Program Honoring
Our Veterans                        Dedication to Veterans by REV. EDWARD JAYNE
                                    Invocation by REV. GURNEY HOGGARD of Valley Community
                                       Baptist Church
                                    Music by the FARRIS FAMILY SINGERS
                                    Remarks by HSUMD President BRUCE WERTENBERGER
                                    Blue Star Byway Marker Unveiling and Dedication to Veterans by
1000 Flag Parade,                      DONNA THOMAS, President of the Oasis Garden Club
Sponsored by the Exchange Club
Proceeding Past the Building,         Morning Refreshments Inside the Building M
Approx. 10:40 a.m.                                           __________

Afternoon Program, 2 p.m.           Welcoming Remarks by JOHN DI POL of the Historical Society
(in the Joe Fox Auditorium)
                                    Pledge of Allegiance led by a BOY SCOUT and Featuring
                                       HSUMD’s Authentic 48-Star Flag
                                    Dedication of the Auditorium in Honor of Joe Fox and Remarks by
                                      a Member of the FOX FAMILY
                                    Remarks by a UNITED SERVICES ORGANIZATION Representative
                                    Close Harmonies by the “ANDREWS SISTERS”
                                    Remarks by CAPT. NORM PETERSON, Commanding Officer,
                                      Naval Air Weapons Station
                                    Remarks by Kern County 1st District Supervisor JON McQUISTON
                                    Remarks by Ridgecrest Mayor MARSHALL “CHIP” HOLLOWAY
                                    Remarks by HSUMD President BRUCE WERTENBERGER
                                    Remarks by Olde Towne and Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce
                                      Representative PEGGY BREEDEN

                                      M  and Punch Inside the Building M

Entertainment, 3:40 p.m.            M  ’N RENEGADES Line Dancers in WWII Uniform
                                          Costumes, Directed by PETE ROMANSKI

USO Club Dance, 8 p.m.              M  BAND X-PRESS, Directed by JIM McLANE

                            Dedication Program Committee: Kathy Armstrong, Chair
                  Patricia Farris, Patti Cosner, John Di Pol, Chris Cane-Prosser, Jim McRea,
            Jim McCorkle, Donna Thomas, Eric Kauffman, Jim McLane, Pete Romanski, Wes Staples

USO Building History                                                            from page 1      President’s Message

The county’s main use of the building was       In 2004 HSUMD began a project to reha-
for a justice court. After hours, the build-    bilitate the historic building and restore it
ing became a venue for dances, wedding          to use as a center for the society’s resources
receptions, club meetings, fashion shows
and graduation ceremonies.
                                                and exhibits and a venue for cultural
                                                events. The city agreed to turn the building
In the mid-1970s, the county moved its
local administration and courthouse to
                                                over if the society could prove it had the
                                                necessary resources.                                 Reached
China Lake Boulevard, and the former
USO building saw less and less use. Finally,
                                                Since then, with a lot of elbow grease,
                                                numerous fund-raisers and much sup-              T
                                                                                                he dedication and open house of
                                                                                               the old USO Building on Sept. 6
                                                                                         is a major milestone in its renovation.
on Aug. 27, 1979, the county sold the City      port from the community, the society has
of Ridgecrest the building on the condition     brought the building back to a habitable     It is cause for great celebration on
that it be used for recreational and cultural   state.                                   the part of the members of the His-
purposes.                                                                                torical Society of the Upper Mojave
                                             On March 5, 2008, the city government
Under city ownership the building saw        transferred full ownership to the society
                                                                                         Desert and all the volunteers and
little activity. The new Kerr McGee          and released the last construction covenant donors in the community (including
Center, built in 1989, took on many of the   in recognition of HSUMD’s restoration       the City of Ridgecrest) and elsewhere
recreational activities that had formerly    efforts. With your continued support, the   who have contributed so much to get
been the function of the USO building. In    Historic USO Building will be restored      us where we are now.
1993, the facility was closed to public use. — inside and out — to its former glory.         Much has been done in the past
                                                                                         three years; a little more needs to be
                                                                                         done to make the building fully opera-
                                                                                         tional. But more about that in another
                                                                                             We started out on this project be-
                                                                                         cause we recognized that the building
                                                                                         was a historic and unique asset that
                                                                                         should be preserved. We also recog-
                                                                                         nized that we needed more space to
                                                                                         carry out our charter responsibilities
                                                                                         to and programs for the community
                                                                                         as a public-benefit, nonprofit corpora-
                                                                                         tion. We are well on our way to mak-
                                                                                         ing full use of the building as an asset
                                                                                         to the community.
   Capt. James B. Sykes, the second commanding officer of the Naval Ord-                     So come on down on Sept. 6 at 9
  nance Test Station speaks at the February 1946 dedication of Kern County a.m. for a dedication ceremony out-
    War Memorial No. 1, an F4U Corsair aircraft parked next to Ridgecrest’s              side, then at 2 p.m. for an inside cel-
  USO Club in the early days. Just to the right of Sykes is Ridgecrest pioneer ebration, then return for a USO-style
   Larry Stevens, and behind and to the right of Stevens is Dr. L.T.E. Thomp- dance at 7 p.m. with the Big Band
  son, China Lake’s first technical director. U.S. Navy photo, courtesy of News Review X-Press.             — Bruce Wertenberger

                             H           eather Myles To Play Here Sept. 27
                                                T    he HSUMD concert series, in association with KZIQ The Coyote, Bud
                                                     Eyre Chevrolet-Toyota- Buick and Desert Garage Door, will present
                                                Heather Myles, the Honky-Tonkinest Gal in Country Music, and the Cadil-
                                                lac Cowboys at the historic USO Building, 230 W. Ridgecrest Blvd., Saturday,
                                                Sept. 27.
                                                        Save the date — and get your tickets now — only 200 tickets will be
                                                sold! Doors open at 5 p.m., with the concert starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are
                                                $22.50 each in advance, or $25 at the door. Tickets are available at KZIQ,
                                                Casey’s Steaks and BBQ, Red Rock Books and HSUMD board members. Call
                                                Mike Leming, 382-3390, for more info.
                                                        This will be a USO Restoration Fund-Raiser, so come on out, have a lot
                                                of fun and benefit our project to boot!
    Auditorium Name To Honor Donor of USO Building Land
At      the suggestion of Kathy
        Armstrong and other mem-
bers of the Fund-raising Committee,
                                           growing tomatoes and several kinds

                                           Trona Market.
                                                                                        He served on the local school
                                           of melons, which they also sold at the board, the Kern County Juvenile
                                                                                                 Probation Committee and
the Historical Society Board voted at          Then the Navy                                     the east Kern County Soil
our June meeting to name the USO           appeared on the scene,                                Coservation Committee.
Building’s auditorium the Joe Fox          and Joe became an                                         How did he have the
Auditorium in memory of the patri-         entrepreneur — subdi-                                 time to do all that? When
arch of a family that settled here even    viding his acreage for                                his friend, Sewell “Pop”
before there was a Ridgecrest.             the various needs of                                  Lofinck asked him that
    Joe Fox was a prolific writer, an      the growing Ridgecrest                                question, Joe confided that
accomplished pianist, an excellent         community. He sold a                                  he slept only about five
well digger and building contractor, a     lot of land, but he also                              hours a night, refreshing
talented photographer, a farmer with       gave a lot of it away.                                himself during the day (as
a green thumb and much more. But               An omniverous                                     Thomas Edison did) with
it was his generosity in donating local    reader and a lifelong                                 five-minute naps.
land to churches, schools and other        musician, he also                 Joe Fox                 Joe died in 1964 and
public institutions that earned him        made time in his busy               Photo courtesy of Bessie died in 1977. They
the right to be known as the founding      schedule to become a                    News Review both are buried at Desert
father of Ridgecrest.                      charter member of the Ridgecrest Elks Memorial Park, with their son Bur-
    Indeed, he and his wife Bessie         Lodge and the Maturango Museum,           dette, who preceded them in death,
were the donors of the very land upon      as well as one of the earliest members    and their son Elliot, who died in June
which our historic USO Building sits.      of the Navy League.                       1994.
    Joe was born in October 1890 in
Manassa, Colo. His early schooling
was in Benion, Utah, and he attended
college in Salt Lake City. After col-
lege he ran the family farm and apple
orchard near Benion, then spent a
couple of years in Hollywood, Calif.,
where he worked for his brother in
the plumbing business.
    He and Bessie and their four sons,
Elliot, Burdette, Lawrence and Wil-
liam, arrived here in 1934 in the
midst of the Great Depression. Joe be-
gan here by working at the Shangri-La
Ranch. Soon he got a job at Westend
Chemical Co.
    He saved his money and bought
the property where he and his sons
built a tufa house, still standing today
on the corner of West Ridgecrest
Boulevard and Norma Street. In an
adjoining structure the family raised
chickens — more than 6,000 of them           The Rotary Club of China Lake displays a plaque presented to the local
— and sold eggs and poultry at the           service organization by HSUMD in recognition of Rotary’s outstanding
Trona Market.                                support to the USO Building Renovation Project. Led by David Mech-
    Acquiring more land, Joe began           tenberg (kneeling center right), members refinished the stage floor
growing 40 to 50 acres of alfalfa.           — just in time for a gala USO Club dance! Also accepting the plaque
When his farming activities became a         are Rotary President David Haugen (holding the plaque just to the left
full-time job, he quit Westend. Bes-         of Mechtenberg), with other Rotarians surrounding him.
sie and the Fox boys were kept busy                                                                      Photo by Liz Babcock

Our Business Members —
                                                                 please patronize them!
Allen County Public Library,            High Sierra Auto & Truck                 Ridgecrest Automotive, LLC
          Genealogy Department          Phyllis M. Hix, Attorney                 Ridgecrest Moving & Storage
AltaOne Federal Credit Union            Hockett’s Building Supply                Sierra Odyssey, LLC
Anna Marie Bergens, Realtor             IWV Insurance                            Sierra Wave Tank Sales
Baxendale’s Antiques                    JRP Historical Consulting                Southern Sierra Medical Clinic
BevLen Haus – Bed & Breakfast           Dick Lewis Domestic Water Systems        Gary P. Staab & Assoc., Inc.
DeathValley.com                         Jack & Dana Lyons, Realtors              The Swap Sheet
The Flower Shoppe                       Netzer-Russell Consulting, LLC
TJ Frisbee Bicycles, Inc.               Nevins Tech. Consultants
George Import Service
H & R Block
                                        The News Review (Farris)
                                        The Pleistocene Foundation                      Help
L. R. Haugen, Realtor                   Kenneth G. Pritchard, Attorney
                                                                                   O   ur Gift Shop coordinator,
                                                                                        Chris Cane-Prosser, is
                                                                                   looking for public-spirited
                                                                                   people to contribute a few
                                                                                   hours — weekday or weekend
                                                                                   — to work in the shop and
                                                                                   welcome visitors to the USO
                                                                                      Please contact Chris, 793-
                                                                                   0741 or christinecane@msn.
                                                                                   com, to let her know you can

                                                                                 }   Thank You,
                                                                                      Don Joe }
                                                                                   In my haste last spring to recognize
CORRECTION                                                                     the many contributions of our outgo-
Apologies to Pat Burke, who we showed in the June issue holding a
                                                                               ing board members, I accidently left
seal and stamp from when the building was used as a county courthouse.
                                                                               out Don Joe McKernan,
Pat gave those items to HSUMD, and he and his family also donated a
                                                                                   Don Joe was one of those quiet
brick for our walkway. We reported that Pat, who arrived here at the age of
7, lived in a trailer behind his dad’s store, Burke’s Meat Market, which was
                                                                               members who did not speak often,
on Cochrane’s Corner (where the Bank of America now stands). But then          but when he did, he spoke to the
we said the family used the Mobilgas station across the street (where the      point and drew on a rich background
new Rite Aid is now). Pat explained that the station wasn’t across the street, of local history, business relations and
it was around the corner from Burke’s about where the Bank of America’s        common sense. He was always on the
parking lot is now. In the interest of accuracy, we include a photo Pat loaned mark. His sage advice will be missed.
us that shows exactly where the gas station was (the lower white building at       Apologies, Don Joe, and many
Cochrane’s Corner). If you look carefully, you can even see an old-fashioned   thanks for serving on the board.
gravity gas pump behind the cars parked beside the station. By the time this                      — Bruce Wertenberger
photo was taken, Burke’s Meats had moved across the street.
Bruce Wertenberger, President
       375-2369, brucew@ridgenet.net.
                                         Mike Leming, Accessions
                                                                                      You could be seeing this
Doug Lueck, Vice President                      inspirationalcountry@hotmail.com        newsletter in color!
       375-8202, racvb@filmdesert.com    Louis Renner, Membership                      Check out our website,
Joan Chartier, Secretary                        375-4379, linkrenn@verizon.net      www.maturango.org/Hist.
       499-9119, bevjoan1@verizon.net    Wes Staples, Audiovisual                   html, for an archive of our
Andrew Sound, Treasurer, Publicist              371, 4214, wcstaples@verizon.net,   newsletters. Thanks to our
       371-1795, asound@ridgenet.net             wes.staples@navy.mil               gracious webmistress, all
                M M M                                                               the recent issues are includ-
Liz Babcock, Newsletter Editor                COMMITTEE LEADERS                     ed in the archive as color
       375-7900, lizbab@iwvisp.com       Kathy Armstrong, Fundraising               PDFs.
Chris Cane/Prosser, Gift Shop                   375-2643
       793-0741, christinecane@msn.com   Janet Westbrook, Webmistress
Chuck Cordell, Building                         jwest@ridgenet.net
Martha Jauregui
Jim Kenney, Field Trips & Programs                    Important Reminders
       371-2458, rubiblue@verizon.net     M Annual dues are $20 per family for the calendar year.
Jim Lamb, Hospitality
       375-2503, 793-2040 (cell),         M Business Member dues are $30 for the calendar year.
       preacherman95355@yahoo.com         M Please remember the Historical Society in your wills, trusts and
                                             other gift giving. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

  Historical Society of the
  Upper Mojave Desert                                                               NONPROFIT ORG.
  P. O. Box 2001                                                                    U.S. POSTAGE PAID
  Ridgecrest, CA 93556                                                                PERMIT NO. 9
                                                                                     RIDGECREST, CA

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               Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 — Events All Day at the Historic USO Building

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