May 2008 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts








Click on the 4Runner or contact us at for tour information.


LOGO T Shirts Available


Explore Historic California with our tour 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


Support Room 8's charitable legacy by donating to the Room 8 Memorial Cat Foundation or adopting one of their cats.

Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


Echo Park Historical Society Quarterly Meeting

May 14, 2008- 7 p.m.

Roger Vargo will speak and show a multimedia presentation on Room 8's life.

Barlow Hospital Library

2000 Stadium Way

Los Angeles


Mules can taste the difference--so can you




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



Click on the bag to find out how.

The #1 Source for Desert News Now Has A Forum.  Come Chat!

Visit Michael Piatt's site,, 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 to visit her site.


Back to the past in California City--Wimpy's!

8209 California City Blvd.,
California City, 93505



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. If you are interested in taking one of our guided tours with your vehicle, please contact us at:

     Several years ago, we bought our first SUV. We went to a one-night class at a local community college entitled "How to 4-Wheel Drive" by Harry Lewellyn. The following weekend we attended the hands-on day tour. We liked what we were doing so much that we began going out nearly every weekend and learned how to negotiate a variety of dirt roads. Our spare time was spent doing research on the history and ecology of our favorite areas. A one-day outing turned into 16 years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the Owens Valley.

     Our 4WD outings involve driving on easy to moderate dirt roads and are ideally suited to novice and intermediate level drivers. All tours are suitable for stock vehicles in good condition, although some tours do have vehicle size restrictions.

     Our tours are operated under permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management, and other authorities.

     We share our knowledge of the backcountry over the CB radio with our guests. We frequently stop to explore mining areas, old and new, and ponder the rocks, plants and animals we may encounter. We'll occasionally visit an old cabin or deserted mountain lookout.

     California has a fascinating history, from geologic unrest and prehistoric petroglyph scribes to the "Radium Queen of the Mojave" and the "Human Mole of Black Mountain." Load up your 4X, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to explore historic California.

Roger, Cecile and Marty

Room 8, The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

by Roger Vargo


Room 8 was a cat who adopted the children of Elysian Heights School in Echo Park, California. He lived at the school from 1952 until his death in 1968.

I attended the school and knew Room 8, Beverly Mason, Virginia Finley and Sam Ross.

He was portly, gray even at a young age, and liked to drink from faucets. He slept on desks, under desks and on rugs. He roamed halls and entered classrooms with impunity. He was Room 8, the most famous cat in Los Angeles. He was my friend and schoolmate.

Room 8 circa 1964.

Room 8 was a large, shorthair gray striped tabby cat who adopted Elysian Heights Elementary School in Echo Park. He showed up one day in 1952 and stayed at the school until his death in 1968.

Except for summer vacations─Room 8 disappeared each summer, and then returned to school on the first day of classes in September.

I first became acquainted with Room 8 in 1956 when I was in kindergarten. Our teacher, Miss Allen, told us about the cat, and his story, but I thought she said his name was "Room Mate." It made sense, too, as the cat was the roommate of all the students at the school.

Former student Angie (Medrano) Nicolai, who graduated in 1965, remembers kindergarten, "My first recollection of Room 8 was Miss Mason introducing him to our kindergarten class.  I remember thinking that he was a big cat in her arms.  She wanted us to know that he belonged to the school and that there may be times he would come into our classroom to visit.  She put him down and he immediately jumped up on the desk next to the window to take a nap in the warm sun."

Like most elementary schools in the 1950's, Elysian Heights had lots of rules. Don't talk in class. Wait in line. Raise your hand. Don't run in the hallway. No talking for the first ten minutes at lunch. All these rules were dwarfed in comparison to THE RULE.

I remember from later years transgressors of THE RULE returning palled from a session in the office with Miss Mason, the principal. And these were the very boys who snickered at authority, ran in the hallway and talked during the first ten minutes of lunch. There were few, if any, second violators of THE RULE.

For me THE RULE was easy to follow. I adored cats. Former teacher, Bob Bedwell recalled, "I saw one kid move (his seat) because the cat took his place." THE RULE, of course, was "Don't bother the cat." 

One former student said, "I never liked Room 8 because he sat on my homework." Former teacher Richard Arrow recalled that in deference to THE RULE, he appointed a student as "cat remover" whose job it was to relocate the tubby tabby when he interfered too much with classroom operations. Former teacher Ray Howell recalled Room 8 as "a very important member of the faculty," who occasionally slept on his foot while he was lecturing.

Room 8 came to Elysian Heights in 1952. "It was 1952 when a cat walked into the school. Many of the students who saw him are grown-ups now." wrote Beverly Mason and Virginia Finley in Room 8's biography, "A Cat Called Room 8" (published in 1966).

"The cat walked around the room. He jumped up and walked on the desks. Hands reached out and petted him. Someone said, ‘This I the skinniest cat I've ever seen.' " The children gave the cat some milk and went out for recess. When they returned, they discovered their lunches had been raided and the cat was fast asleep.

Later, the cat followed the children to lunch. According to the book, "The children gave him food from their lunches. He ate, and he ate, and he ate! Then, he walked across the playground and out the gate."

The following morning, the children were met by the cat who followed them into the classroom. Overcoming objections from the teacher, the cat was eventually adopted by the children, but he still didn't have a name. One student said, "Why not call him ‘Room 8', since that is the number of our room?"

Mason wrote in 1968, "No one knew where he went at night or during vacation. Like the swallows of Capistrano, he returned every September for the opening of school to sleep on the desks of children. Finally, he became the school mascot." According to Mason, Room 8 was a neighborhood cat who was born in 1947 and was mistreated by a boarder in the home where he lived.

Room 8's notoriety began to grow. The local news media began to take notice of his annual autumnal return to school. To students such as me, he was just part of the everyday scene at school. After all, didn't every school have a famous mascot? He usually could be seen patrolling the hall or asleep in some warm, sunny spot.

He frequently made an appearance during lunch. Even though feeding him was discouraged, he didn't discourage handouts when sampling delicacies from our little metal lunch pails. Room 8 was no longer a skinny cat. He had grown to be a big boy!

I don't remember much about our student government organization at Elysian Heights. I do remember, though, the most important position a student could hold wasn't that of student body president. It was the cat feeder.

Baeri Penn holds Room 8 in this sixth grade portrait from June, 1958.

The cat feeder or cat monitor wasn't an elected position. That most prestigious of all positions was appointed from within the ranks of the sixth grade class by collaboration between the teacher and Principal Beverly Mason.  An added benefit of being the cat feeder was having access to that most secret and restricted area on campus, the teachers' lounge, where Room 8 dined. The chosen one also got to hold Room 8 for the annual sixth grade class portrait.

Room 8's fame grew beyond the borders of Echo Park, or even Los Angeles. LOOK magazine ran a three page spread by photographer Richard Hewett in November 1962, titled

LOOK Magazine published a three page spread on Room 8 in November, 1962 with photographs by Richard Hewett.

"Room 8: The School Cat". His biography, written by principal Mason and teachers Finley and Valerie Martin was published by Putnam's in 1966. Room 8 made personal appearances with Mason and his feeders at local cat shows and community groups. He was made an honorary member of various organizations.

A short article about him appeared in the Weekly Reader (a national newspaper for elementary school pupils) in January, 1967. He appeared on Art Linkletter's "House Party" television show several times and was featured in a segment of the 1968 NBC-David L. Wolper television documentary, "Big Cats, Little Cats."

Teacher Shari Kerr later wrote, "I remember the many times radio, television, and newspaper people came to visit our classroom, Room 8. The only calm member of our class was Room 8. We were always nervous but to him it was routine and he was a ham actor."

Room 8 is remembered in different ways. Beverly Graham, whose children attended Elysian Heights, and now has a grandchild attending the school said, "He was always there. (He was a) great cat. Everybody liked him." Jean Baird, a former school clerk said, "Room 8 gave the school something that the students liked-a symbol-a cat taken in and cared for."

Read more about Room 8

Moose Anderson Days-2008

photos by Roger Vargo

Kern County Sheriff's Search and Rescue gets things cooking with a load of tri tip.
Returning workers wash up at the "springs".

The food line snakes around the walkway.

Cecile Vargo organizes raffle items (left) before Friends of Jawbone president Ed Waldheim gets things going after lunch.

A Kern County Sheriff's helicopter drops in at Jawbone.

"Rubes" line up (top) for a chance to dunk BLM area manager Hector Vialobos (left) and Friends of Jawbone president Ed Waldheim (right).
A snake poses for a photo on SC 103 during our 4X4 tour. Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved.                           Powered by