January 2015 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

Visit our Explore Historic California site on Facebook




 * Please contact owner Sean Patterson for information about visiting Cerro Gordo *



Contact us through email at:

Shop Amazon Smile


Support FOCG!

It's the same Amazon!

About Product Availability, Pricing and Services:

AmazonSmile has the same wide selection of products, low prices, and convenient shopping features as Amazon.com, including Amazon Prime member benefits.

Purchases Eligible for Donations:

Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages.

Click the FOCG/Amazon Smile logo above or visit:



Friends of

Cerro Gordo

The Friends of Cerro Gordo is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation established to assist in the preservation, interpretation and public enjoyment of Cerro Gordo.

Help support these efforts by becoming a member.

Click on the FOCG logo (above) for additional information and to join or make a donation.

Membership is only $10.

Now Available

Cerro Gordo

A Ghost Town

Caught Between


Cecile Page Vargo's collection of Cerro Gordo stories, true, farce and somewhere in between, is being published in a new book, Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries.

ISBN: 978-0970025869

The book gives glimpses of Cerro Gordo from the silver and lead mining days through the early twentieth century zinc era to its modern place as, according to author Phil Varney, "Southern California's best, true, ghost town." There's even a possible solution to the location of the fabled "Lost Gunsight Mine" that former Cerro Gordo owner Mike Patterson once suggested.

We are proud to team with the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert (HSUMD) in Ridgecrest, Calif., to bring Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries to print. This is their first major publishing venture. The book is  available for sale directly from HSUMD or through selected book sellers.

Contact HSUMD directly to order:

P.O. Box 2001, Ridgecrest, CA. 93556-2001.

Phone: 760 375-8456

Email: hsumd@ridgenet.net

Announcing our Arcadia Publishing Book:



Cerro Gordo

by Cecile Page Vargo and Roger W. Vargo

ISBN: 9780738595207

Arcadia Publishing Images of America series

Price: $21.99

128 pages/ softcover

Available now!

(Click the cover image for ordering information)

Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or online.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you

Friends of Last Chance Canyon is a new organization interested in sustaining and protecting areas within the El Paso Mountains, near Ridgecrest, California. The main focus is preserving and protecting historic sites like Burro Schmidt's tunnel and the Walt Bickel Camp.

Please click on either logo to visit the FLCC site.

We support

Bodie Foundation
"Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past


Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


The Panamint Breeze is a newsletter for people who love the rough and rugged deserts and mountains of California and beyond.

Published by Ruth and Emmett Harder, it is for people who are interested in the history of mining in the western states; and the people who had the fortitude to withstand the harsh elements.

It contains stories of the past and the present; stories of mining towns and the colorful residents who lived in them; and of present day adventurers.

Subscriptions are $20 per year (published quarterly – March, June, September & December) Subscriptions outside the USA are $25 per year. All previous issues are available. Gift certificates are available also.

To subscribe mail check (made payable to Real Adventure Publishing) along with name, address, phone number & e-mail address to:  Real Adventure Publishing, 18201 Muriel Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92407.

For more information about the Panamint Breeze e-mail Ruth at:  echco@msn.com

It's always FIRE SEASON! Click the NIFC logo above to see what's burning.

Visit Michael Piatt's site, www.bodiehistory.com, for the truth behind some of Bodie's myths.

Credo Quia Absurdum




Explore Historic California!

     Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically, industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to drive their vehicles off the paved highway.

     Click your mouse through the website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.



Bootlegging in the Foothills

By Cecile Page Vargo

From 1920 to 1933, the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol was banned throughout the United States, forcing many who enjoyed the beverage either to go dry or become criminals in the eyes of the law. It was common for communities away from the big city, such as our own Sunland-Tujunga area, to find creative ways to make their own booze in private with little danger of being discovered.

The climate of our local foothills was ripe for grape growing, and vineyards of table and wine grapes were popular. In 1906 a ride through the lower part of present day Tujunga Canyon Blvd would have revealed 45 acres of recently planted Cornichon table grapes, as well as Tokay and Malaga wine varieties. The Fehlhaber family eked out a decent portion of their living on the income provided from these grapes for many years. There was no irrigation in those days, but the family lovingly hand watered their grape crop with water from a deep spring behind their home. With the illegalization of liquor, 60 lugs of grapes sent to a Montrose wholesaler brought in a meager $5, forcing the Fehlhaber’s to find other resources to make money that were legal and more profitable.  

Men dressed as liquor bottles, walk as spirits in the Parade of the Departed in Los Angeles.

Herald Examiner Photo Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Caves in the canyon became popular places to hide stills. One such cave across from the Big Tujunga wash was discovered when the still inside caught fire. As the fire was put out, no one came forth to claim the equipment. A larger still was found in 1928, also in a cave in the canyon, after a search which took several months. Four men were arrested for the operation. Two hundred gallons of liquor, 9,000 gallons of mash in 30 wooden vats were confiscated. The cave was outfitted with a concealed trap door containing an electric signaling device to warn the approach of the federal officers.

A cottage owned by Dr. Humphrey, of Los Angeles, was raided by prohibition officers in June 14, 1924. Several varieties of kegs and barrels full of “White Mule” were punctured and allowed to drain into the ground. Of the four men arrested, the leader was carried away in irons. A few days prior to the arrest, Dr. Humphrey had been alerted to illicit activities when nearby residents reported the smell of liquor amongst the natural fragrances of rose and wild

Excerpt from 1922 Intoxicants, Industrial Alcohol and Narcotics by Lawrence Law Service describing alcohol prescribing rules for physcians.

 honeysuckle. Complaints of all too frequent visitors and odd noises were reported, as well. The liquor that was dumped by authorities flowed across the driveway of Dr. Humphrey’s cottage into a nearby orchard, irrigating a number of fruit trees.  No reports were made of ill effects on the trees, but it was noted that a young fig tree “received an especially copious wetting.” During the arrest, 2,000 gallons of mash and 20 gallons of whiskey were seized.

Physicians and pharmacists were allowed to sell alcohol with a license authorizing them “to use Spirits and  Intoxicating liquors for compounding prescriptions upon the Prescription of any Practicing Physician.” One man with a permit to make beer for medicinal purposes for his wife’s health was happy to share with friends who knocked on his door, but never profited from his brew.

Some homes in the area served as illegal warehouses for liquor. Others were known to serve as speak easies. At least one property in our local hills still retains the flag pole that was raised when the speak easy was open for business for thirsty foothill residents. One bootlegging family buried their bottles of liquor on their property when the word came that the feds were on their way. Be careful digging on your property, you never know what long forgotten liquor bottle you might find.

America's experiment ended on December 5, 1933 with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment by Utah.

Los Angeles newspapers announced the end to prohibition.





explorehistoricalif.com Copyright © 2015, All Rights Reserved.                           Powered by ebray.net