January 2016 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts









Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

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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.



Pondering the Weather: Yesterday and Today

By Cecile Page Vargo

When I was a child I never knew what a storm was.  I thought it was something they had in the Midwest and back east. I never realized that those periods between droughts when the torrential downpours would come for days on end were actually storms…..it was just mother nature doing what mother nature does. And the dry hot winds we had when it wasn’t raining were just Santa Ana’s. I never thought of them as a storms. 

 I’m not going to tell you that I had to walk miles in the snow like my Kentucky born daddy told me or Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about in her famous books. I’m not going to tell you that I had to hide in a hand-dug underground shelter when the tornadoes were coming like my Oklahoma born mom did. I’m not even going to count the big snow of my third or fourth grade year when I had to bundle up and figure out how to walk in the slippery one inch or so of snow up the street and across it to the elementary school. It was sort of scary by my young Southern California standards, but I knew this wasn’t Little House On the Prairie style weather by any means. But watching modern mostly city type folks reactions to weather makes me wonder how our forefathers and our younger selves survived at all.

 There was some flood control in La Crescenta in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but not by today’s standards. When the big rains came my walk across the street was way worse than that inch of slushy snow I had to tackle that one time. La Crescenta Avenue would have water coming down it fast, and they would put up wooden ramps for us to walk across it. Thankfully, I don’t remember it ever going past the three foot side of the ramp from the curb, but I do remember crossing those little ramps scared to death I would lose my footing and wind up in the floodwaters.  I do also remember that one year long after that, a young child did do just that, but I don’t remember what the outcome was. 

Check dams and debris basins were installed in San Gabriel Mountains canyons  to control runoff and flooding into the Crescenta Valley which was devastated by a flood and debris flow in the 1930's.

 The high school was near the elementary school, and by then I believe the flood control was enough we didn’t need ramps. Junior high was a half mile or more up the street.  My Dad worked nights and slept day time.  My Mom didn’t drive.  On rainy days I just had to gear up and tackle them.  It was a toss of the coin which way I was going to go.  La Crescenta Avenue had the least amount of flooding, and had sidewalks. But if you took Rosemont Avenue…there were mostly no sidewalks below Foothill as I remember and you had to try and avoid the flood waters.  I hated torrential downpour days, but somehow survived it. Umbrellas, by the way, were usually useless, as the winds came with the downpours. 

 Now as an adult I have graduated from my childhood family that got scared in a summer thunderstorm in Tuolumne Meadows campground and moved to drier Wawona on the other side of Yosemite, to a hardy camper who has learned to respect these storms and enjoy them. On heavy rainy nights in the winter, tucked in my warm bed here at home, listening to it, I am taken back to primitive back country camping and 4wd trips in the Southern Sierras. Monache and Bonita Meadows always come to mind. It was a given when we got to our lunch spot at Monache every year that the clouds would build up, the sky would rumble, and the rain would turn into hail. Ah! Such fond memories of sleeping in our tiny dome tent with three big dogs and hail so hard that it stayed on the ground and looked like snow. The winds would almost flatten the tent at times, and we crossed our fingers that the lightening wouldn’t hit the trees that sheltered our campsite. But when we woke up the next morning and dared to peer out our tents, the storm was moving out and the rest of the trip would be beautiful. Of course, we had to watch for bad trail conditions, but we were prepared for that too, and it made it more adventurous.

 My camping days have graduated also, to living in 1870’s buildings in two of California’s major ghost towns. Again, my snow experiences at both towns have been limited to two or three inches on a Thanksgiving evening, or a Memorial Day weekend.  But rain, thunder, and hail, are all pretty much par for the course. It’s pretty much a given that that you’ll get that nearly every afternoon around 4 or 5 in the afternoon in  Bodie, and you learn to ignore the weird looks the tourists give you when you have a rain coat tied around your waist when you start your shift in the morning. It was in Bodie, in fact that I tossed a coin to decide whether I should walk from my house near the mining district, to the residential district down the street in one of those storms after hours, or stay put. Halfway between the two the loudest thunder I had ever heard in my life hit.  I continued on my way and my fellow co-worker and I sat on the porch of her old house and chatted and watched the lightening. One sounded like it hit pretty close to her house and it shook like an earthquake…so we decided then to go inside.  I was prepared to spend the night with her instead of walking back up to my house, but it subsided and I had a dry hike up the hill in the dark without a flashlight back to my house. My roommates informed me that what we had heard was actually a strike that went in one window of our house and out the other…causing no harm but startling everyone. I guess I took the right toss of the coin by chancing the visit at the other end of town.

 Cerro Gordo is perched on a mountain top on a slant. Being a desert mountain top you can sit and watch the clouds form and the storms go all around you. But the storms do decide to hit the townsite once in awhile. Nothing like sitting on the porch of the American Hotel or the Belshaw House watching it all. The Chinaman’s Shack has a screened in porch that works too.  When the wind suddenly kicks up with some force, and the sounds of the lightening get louder and louder, you brace yourself for what is to come. A little rain, a little hail maybe, and the water starts trickling down the dirt roads. Never experienced a flash flood type storm up there, but they do happen, and I’m thankful we are near the top of the mountain, but looked wearily at the mine tailings behind us sometimes and wonder how they keep from washing down. The lightening knocks the electricity on and off, and  you sit in your bed tucked in your covers and listen to the rumbles for a hours.  When you wake the next morning, like the Southern Sierras it’s mostly all over and you are ready for a new day. You wake from what little sleep you got in awe of mother nature and being allowed to be a part of it.

Cerro Gordo doesn't usually receive a lot of snowfall compared to Bodie, but it tends to blow into drifts and partially melt and refreeze creating a slick ice surface. January 2016 daytime temperatures are about 10 degrees F (not counting wind chill).

 When I’m at home in my sort of updated 1939 Yellow Cottage and the weather finally hits with a vengeance after long periods of drought… I sit and reminisce of the those backcountry times and watch as my  street floods worst than La Crescenta did when I was a kid, I have no sidewalks, and the flood drain across the street above my block doesn’t work well. My flat  backyard is drought proof part Tujunga dirt and rocks and sand we brought in when we had an above ground pool years ago.. I watch it turn into a natural pool.   I sort of shrug and take it all in stride.  I live a block or two below where the coffins landed when the Parson Cemetery washed out a few years before I moved here in 1981.  Unless it’s something really catastrophic, I don’t worry too much. We are well away from the hillsides here and still on quite an incline with things to go past us and not take us away. Anything is always possible with mother nature, but I have learned to live with it and respect it, keep a level head as best I can and sit back and enjoy the ride, while keeping some common sense about it in the meantime.  And I have the modern media to alert me to any danger, and to inform me that all of this time. I actually have been experiencing storms and I didn’t even know it. 

For more on the weather, flash floods, and controlling it check out these sources: 







We also recommend Owning The Weather, a documentary with Roger and Cecile Vargo as consultants and an interview with Roger, http://owningtheweather.com/.

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