January 2012 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles



Cerro Gordo is again open to day visitors, road and weather conditions permitting.

Please phone (760-876-5030) for current conditions before venturing out!

A caretaker is living on on the site and visitors must check in before venturing around the ghost town.

No supplies or accommodations are available at Cerro Gordo and visitors should bring plenty of drinking water and haul out their own trash. The dirt road from Keeler to Cerro Gordo is a steep, eight mile ascent. Four wheel drive is not usually required, but vehicles should have adequate ground clearance.

Phone 760-876-5030 for current information or contact us through email at:


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.

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

Mules can taste the difference--so can you

LOGO T Shirts Available


Explore Historic California with our  logo depicting the California backcountry and its rich history both true and farce.

We now offer shirts, sweats, jerseys and cups with our logo.

Click the shirt for details!


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.

Terri Geissinger is a Bodie area Historian, Guide and Chautauquan. A long time resident who lives in Bodie and Smith Valley, she is dedicated to preserving stories of the pioneer families, miners, ranchers and teamsters. Click the photo for information on her tours with the Bodie Foundation.

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.



Red Mountain, Osdick and Sin City

Where every night was Saturday night

and Saturday night was the 4th of July

by Roger Vargo

The Rand mining district straddles the boundary between Kern and San Bernardino counties. Gold was discovered in 1895 and the district developed around the town of Randsburg. Four nearly adjacent towns sprang up within 30 years; Randsburg, Johannesburg,  Atolia and Red Mountain. Once home to thousands of residents during active mining days, the area’s current population (2010 U. S. Census data) is 241 people.

Detail from (1896) Perris' Miners Map Of The Desert Region Of Southern California. The Rand district is in pink. The towns of Randsburg and Johannesburg are shown, but Atolia and Red Mountain were not in existence when the map was made, nor was the Randsburg Railroad.                                         (David Rumsey Historical Map Collection)

Atolia faded as tungsten prices declined after WW I and it became cheaper to import scheelite (tungsten ore) from China than to mine it in Atolia. Fortunately for the Rand mining area, fate was about to crack a smile for the third, and last time. In 1918 John Kelly, the Kern County Sheriff, sent out two experienced miners, Hamp Williams, Jr. and Jack Nosser to search for clay samples that could be mined for mineral paint pigment south of Randsburg.

The two men stopped to rest near a blue-gray rock outcropping. They were in an area that gold prospectors had trampled over many times. The Osdick brothers were subsistence mining gold nearby. The unusual looking rock caught Williams’ interest and he broke off a hunk. It turned out to be high grade silver ore. Sheriff Kelly was notified and Williams and Nosser staked out claims while Kelly was in Bakersfield recruiting investors who eventually provided $2,000 in start up capital.

The first load of ore that went to the Selby Smelting Works in San Francisco, mostly ore scraped from surface deposits, netted $1,639. The second load was slightly lower quality but still netted $1,328.98. Ore was averaging over $100 per ton. The first 20 cars had yielded returns of $128,552 and the mine had only been in operation for two months. The California Rand Silver Mine became the next big thing or the "Big Silver." (Clarke)

The "Big Silver" mine as shown in this June, 1919 photo from "The Big Silver": California's Greatest Silver Mine by Dwight L. Clarke wasn't so big, but all the rock was rich ore. The first load that went to the smelter in San Francisco netted $1,639. Shown in the photo is Hamp Williams, (white shirt, standing near rock pile) one of the discoverers.

                    (Photo: California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 1 , Mar., 1953)

Charles Moroney, general manager of California Rand Silver reported the "Big Silver" mine had "Drifts 104 feet, raises thirty two, and cross cuts 111. Values across and along the vein for a distance of twenty feet or more will average about $2.40 in gold and 60 ounces of silver...The mill has been operating at about 50 percent capacity during the month on account of shortage of water due to trouble at Goler wells. Concentrate shipments during this month to date have averaged a 40-ton car every two days."

Miners, businessmen, opportunists, gamblers, women of easy virtue, good for nothings, and possibly some old time Clampers flooded the area. Two towns sprang up. Osdick Town, named after Pete Osdick, the gold miner, was a relatively civilized mining community. Nearby was "Inn City," so called because the namers couldn’t agree whether it should be "Sin City", "Never In", or "Gin City". As the names implied, by whatever it was called, this was the place to party.

A story in the Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1922, described Inn City as "...the center of the night life of the Randsburg mining district and is reminiscent of the early California border towns." Another Times story two years later said, "Muscle, games and merriment were brought to a sudden stop at the famous Monkey House in the Inn City section of Camp Osdick last night when pleasure seekers, clerks and game keepers were startled into silence by the drawn guns of three hold-up men who proceeded to search everyone present, obtaining about $500 in cash and some jewelry.

...The Inn City section of Camp Osdick is made up of pleasure resorts of which the Monkey House is one of the largest and most active. Investigation of the robbery will be carried out by the Sheriff of San Bernardino county."

Exerpt from Los Angeles Times story, December 14, 1922 describing Osdick and Inn City.

               (Los Angeles Times archive via Proquest)

Osdick and Inn City fought over post office naming rights in the early 1920’s and misdirected mail was a constant problem. The Postal Department settled the matter once and for all in 1929 by calling the post office Red Mountain.

The Kelly "Big Silver" Mine (head frame toppled but still visible) was the major silver producer. Other mines were the Big Four, Silver Kings and Silver Glance. The Barker Brothers, of Los Angeles furniture fame, had a mill in the area. Production continued until 1929 when the price of silver dropped from $1 per ounce to as low as 28 cents. At that time the Big Silver was sold. Total production is estimated at about $12 million.

The Randsburg Railroad, now owned by the Santa Fe was still in operation. It provided efficient transportation not only for supplies, but for Red Mountain’s second economy, "entertainment".

Red Mountain became well known as a wide open town where one could get a drink in any place of business except the post office. Prohibition (1920-1933) had little effect, as warning came ahead of the raids. The town had more than 30 active drinking establishments. There were hotels and gambling establishments serving demon liquor as well. The recreational needs of not only local miners and residents were served, but miners from as far away as the American Potash Company works in Trona managed to travel to Red Mountain. This was fine with the Trona town fathers as it not only gave the men somewhere to blow off steam, but kept the less desirable elements of liquor, gambling and prostitution out of their back yards.

Week nights the town was lively, but on Saturday night the place roared. Bands came from Los Angles to play through the night and out of town crowds arrived to join in the fun or watch the show. Long after the silver boom was over, Red Mountain lived on as an old west type night spot.

The madams were proud of their high class houses, and the girls were easy on the eyes. Even outlying areas such as Brown’s Ranch ran a string of girls in additional to more traditional ranching activities.

With so much liquor, gambling and women, fisticuffs and gunfights were commonplace. One miner who previously worked in Nevada and Colorado said he found Red Mountain "running wide open and wilder than other camps of more fame. On the other hand, Rand had fewer mine accidents than most mining camps; but the men injured and killed in drunken brawls more than made up for it." (Starry)

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was active in the area to protest the saloons and put on free Saturday night dances in Johannesburg. Guards posted at the door smelled each arrival’s breath and refused admittance to anyone with liquor on their breath.

The California Rand (Big Silver) head frame is now toppled (top photo) and the  mill building is merely a skeleton of its former self. 

Mining activity, prohibition and the Randsburg Railroad all eventually faded away. Today Red Mountain is a small quiet community that bisected by Highway 395.


Clarke, Dwight L. The Big Silver California’s Greatest Silver Mine. California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 1 (March, 1953).

Starry, Roberta M.  Exploring the Ghost Town Desert, Los Angeles. The Ward Ritchie Press, 1973.

_______. Gold Gamble. Woodland Hills, Calif. Engler Publishing, 2003.

Wynn, Marcia Rittenhouse. Desert Bonanza The Story of Early Randsburg Mojave Desert Mining Camp. Glendale. Arthur H. Clark Co., 1963. 

Los Angeles Times newspaper articles via Proquest.

Rand Desert Museum http://www.randdesertmuseum.com/town_histories


DEATH in the Sky

B-2 Spirit bombers with mission callsign of DEATH

fly over San Fernando Valley

by Roger Vargo

A pair of B-2 "Spirit" bombers fly a holding pattern over the northeast San Fernando Valley, January 2, 2012. One of the aircraft made a flyover of the Rose Parade. Monitored radio communication between the aircraft and air traffic controllers revealed the planes were operating under the mission callsign of DEATH.

All B-2 bombers (except for one used for testing at Edwards AFB) are assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB near Kansas City, Missouri. Present costs of the aircraft today are estimated to be in excess of $2-billion, each.

DEATH 12 flies a holding pattern before making a flyover the opening of the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, Calif. January 2, 2012.





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