Category Archives: Halls of History

Out & About—Abandoned!

Out & About San Diego

When I explored the East San Diego County boondocks for the first time, I was searching for history, not really thinking about why that certain history became part of history. I was following Highway 94 using a highway history tour book as a guide.

Highway 94 used to be a major east-west thoroughfare in San Diego County…. Until the mid-1960s when Interstate 8 was built. That caused vehicle traffic to abandon Highway 94. People who relied on that vehicle traffic had to move, leaving their former homes and businesses behind.

Chimney from a long-ago abandoned home

I never really thought about the connection between vehicle traffic, businesses, and even who cities until I drove part of historic Route 66 from Santa Monica, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada. Suddenly I understood. The price of progress. People enjoyed getting from here to there much faster on Interstate highways.

Former service station

Whole cities had been founded along railroad tracks, then along the first roadways, all to serve the people who traveled on the railroads and roadways. When the Interstate highway system came along, people no longer had a need to stop for a meal or sleep for the night. Driving from here to there could be accomplished easily in hours instead of days, weeks, or even months.

Abandoned home

Those who understood what was happening, or going to happen, quickly moved their homes and businesses near the Interstates, simply abandoning their former homes and businesses.

Abandoned home

Of the places I have visited, Jacumba and Barstow, both in California, seem to be the hardest hit. I can kind of understand Jacumba because it is out in the middle of nowhere. Barstow, however, is home to a huge railroad classification yard used by both BNSF and Union Pacific. Interstate 15 also runs smack dab through the middle of Barstow, so I’m not fully understanding what happened there unless people simply pass it by in their haste to get to Los Angeles or Las Vegas; Barstow is the midpoint.

Jacumba used to be Jacumba Hot Springs. It was a playground for the rich and famous from the Los Angeles movie, film, and recording industries, those who wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles for the weekend. Here are two pictures of what once has a thriving Jacumba Hot Springs bath house:

Abandoned business in Jacumba, California

I wanted to explore the interior so badly, but Jacumba is a small town and there are No Trespassing signs posted, so I didn’t want someone to see me go inside and call law enforcement.

Sadly, I see the same thing happening now with our shopping malls. Few people want to get dressed, go outside, and drive to a mall to shop when they can simply join Amazon Prime Now and have virtually anything delivered today or tomorrow.

It’s getting worse because the brick-and-mortar stores are losing foot traffic, and with the loss of that foot traffic comes a loss of inventory, so even when one does go to the mall, it’s rare that they have the item that one is looking for. People go back home and get those items from Amazon Prime Now. Eventually those same people learn that it just isn’t worth the time to go to the mall.

Some malls and shopping districts have lost so many shoppers and the resulting revenue that they have implemented parking fees. Huh? All that does is encourage people even more to shop at home on the computer with a cat on their laps, a dog by their sides, and a margarita sitting on their desks.

I don’t have an answer, which is why I’m not a politician with all the answers. I did read recently that some abandoned malls have been renovated into office complexes. I liked that. I’m wondering if the likes of Amazon could, perhaps, turn some malls and buildings, or parts thereof, into warehouses for the products they carry. Then other parts of the malls or buildings could be personnel support centers for those bigger businesses.

Abandoned building in Jacumba, California

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Out & About—Historic trains in Ogden Utah

Out & About The World

Granddad, as well as my dad, worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad, granddad as a Road Foreman of Engines. Dad also was a Road Foreman of Engines but had just been promoted to Vice-President of Missouri Pacific Railroad when he killed himself. They found his body on January 18, 1961, in a railroad box car in a small, isolated railroad siding northeast of Palestine, Texas. They estimated that he had been dead for three days.

After dad’s death, mom moved us from Palestine to northern Utah, first Hyrum, then Wellsville, then Logan, and finally Brigham City. Brigham City is where I became a rail fan. Among other things, I used to skip school and hop the Union Pacific trains, riding in a box car down to Ogden and back. A cool 38-mile round trip. I’m the reason why you don’t see open doors on empty box cars anymore….

In May 1969, when I was 14 years old, I was living in Kingsville, Texas, with my paternal grandparents. They had adopted me 3½ years earlier. May 1969 was the 100th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. I wanted so badly to go back to Utah and help Union Pacific celebrate, but said grandparents would not take me. I was sad. Granted, it was 1,500 miles away, but nevertheless…. Still sad.

My stamp collecting helped me determine that historic events were celebrated every 50 years. I did the calculations and determined that I would be 64 in 2019 when the 150th anniversary rolled around. I had a chance to still be alive, so I put it on my calendar.

Fast forward to May 10, 2019. Guess where I was. Yep. Northern Utah participating in many celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Two historic steam locomotives were due to be in Ogden, Utah, to help with the celebrations My #1 goal was to get a video of the two locomotives leaving Ogden to go back to the steam shops in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Here’s the video I got:

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Out & About—Calico Ghost Town

Out & About The World

Along with the cemetery in Calico Ghost Town (Abandoned, yet still in use), I found the ghost town itself quite fascinating.

Calico, California, was founded as a mining town in 1881, but by 1907 it had been completely abandoned. During those 26 years, it produced $86 million in silver from over 500 mines in the area. Population peaked at 3,000.

Walter Knott, of California’s Knott’s Berry Farm fame, bought the town in 1950 or 1951—sources vary on the date—and restored it based on historical photographs.

Following is a selection of photographs that I took on July 30, 2018, when I was there.

Calico, California

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town, California

Calico fire hall

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

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Halls of History—Abandoned, yet still in use

Halls of History

Cemeteries always have fascinated me. My wise old grandmother’s house in Kingsville, Texas, was just 15 blocks from the cemetery where my dad and two brothers were buried.

When I visited the California Ghost Town on July 30, 2018, one had to drive by the cemetery in order to get to the Ghost Towh. Of course, I had to stop to take pictures.

Calico Ghost Town cemetery

Calico Ghost Town cemetery

Calico Ghost Town cemetery

Calico, California, was founded as a mining town in 1881, but by 1907 it had been completely abandoned. During those 26 years, it produced $86 million in silver from over 500 mines in the area. Population peaked at 3,000.

Walter Knott, of California’s Knott’s Berry Farm fame, bought the town in 1950 or 1951—sources vary on the date—and restored it based on historical photographs.

A walk through the cemetery revealed that it still is in use:

New headstone in the Calico Ghost Town cemetery

I wonder who the cemetery caretaker is. I also wonder why Helen had the privilege of being buried there even though was born 25 years after Calico had been abandoned.

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654 South 100 West in Brigham City, Utah

Halls of History—A welcome sight for a hungry 6-year-old boy

Halls of History

I had two purposes for going to northern Utah in late July 2018.

One was to enjoy all the railroad action in the area since it’s one of the great railroad junctions in history with Promontory Point being the location where the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad met in on May 10, 1869, to complete the first transcontinental railroad. That should tell you where I will be on May 10, 2019….

The other was to visit my childhood homes after my mom moved us to norther Utah after my dad committed suicide in 1961 in Palestine, Texas.

I had no idea what the addresses of the first two homes were, only their general location and what they looked like. I did know the address of the third and final home.

It was the first home that I was really interested in, though, because that’s where my mom became an alcoholic. My dad had committed suicide over my mom’s “indiscretions,” and I truly think that alcohol was her way of comforting herself.

The only thing I knew for sure was that the home was directly behind Food Town, which later became Food King. I also knew that Food Town was on Main Street. I felt sure that something as big and as necessary as a grocery store probably would still be there. It wasn’t. I didn’t have a clue what to do.

I gave up and went to the Brigham City Courthouse and then to the library.

Brigham City, Utah, courthouse

Carnegie Library in Brigham City, Utah

I asked at both places if anyone knew where Food Town had been. Nobody did, but the librarian suggested that I stop at the Box Elder Journal offices across the street. They also didn’t know but being a newspaper, they had newspapers from the 1960s, and they set me up to browse the January 1964 papers. That was how I found the front-page newspaper item about one of my juvenile delinquency episodes (Police looking for passer of bad checks). Food Town had full-page advertisements in every paper, indicating that there had been two locations.

Food Town advertisement in the Box Elder Journal from January 1964, Brigham City, Utah

I went to 81 North Main Street since it was just a block away from the newspaper offices. There was a new Justice Center/DMV building there. Off to 870 South Main Street. There was not a Food Town or Food King there, but look what I found:

Location of old Food Town in Brigham City, Utah

It’s not a Food Town but I knew that was the location I was looking for. I parked, walked around back, looked across the street, and there it was:

654 South 100 West in Brigham City, Utah

House numbers were few and far between; the best I can determine is that the address is 654 South 100 West. The current view of the back of the strip mall from the house is quite different from what I remember.

Location of old Food Town in Brigham City, Utah

When I lived there in 1961, I could watch the food trucks arrive and the expired food being tossed out on the loading docks, a welcome sight for a hungry 6-year-old boy.

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Halls of History—Why me?

Halls of History

I attended Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah, for grades one through four, and half of grade five. There wasn’t a lake within fifty miles….

Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah

Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah

I went by the school on July 25, 2018. As I was looking through the front door, the principal came out of his office, saw me looking in, and opened the door to ask what he could do for me. I told him that I had attended Lake View from 1961 to 1965, and that I was in town exploring my childhood. Although the school was closed for the summer, he invited me in.

Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah

Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah

I didn’t remember anything about the interior of the school, probably because I spent more time skipping school than attending school….

I used to know the names of all my teachers, grades 1-12, and I believe I have a list of all of them, but I can’t find it right now. I do remember my Lake View Elementary teachers:

Mrs. Larson, first grade—Mrs. Larson lived next door to us. She had a beautiful garden full of Nasturtiums, so beautiful that I destroyed it one afternoon when I skipped school. She knew exactly who had done it. To this day, I love Nasturtiums but in 42 years of gardening, I have never had any Nasturtiums in my own gardens.

Miss Richard, second grade—I was in her very first class. After she put up with me, she either quit teaching or moved to a different school.

Miss Fonnesbeck, third grade—See below, Mrs. Gilmore, fifth grade

Mr. Boyd, fourth grade—The most popular teacher in school.

Mrs. Gilmore, fifth grade—When the State of Utah took me away from my family, Mrs. Gilmore took a special interest in me, even coming down to the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden, 19 miles, to visit me.

I kept in contact with Mrs. Gilmore through 1995, visiting her a couple of times in Case Grande, Arizona, where she had moved after retiring from teaching to be with her son. I also came out to her in late 1993, at which time she told me that Miss Fonnesbeck had been fired because she was a lesbian.

Mrs. Gilmore’s son wrote me when she died to tell me how much she loved me. I guess we each made an impression on the other, although I’m not sure why she would take such an interest in a juvenile delinquent child of ten who had no relation to her. Was it just her being a good teacher? A good person? Did I remind her of someone in her past? Were there others like me in her years of teaching?

Since that day when I read the letter from her son, I have always wondered why. Why me?

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Halls of History—Blaming Walmart & Amazon

Halls of History

When I was a juvenile delinquent living in Brigham City, Utah, I think I did everything except rape and murder. My most prolific delinquency task was theft. I was pretty good at it, even for a child whose age still was in the single digits.

I had gotten involved in stamp collecting (philately) when I joined the Boy Scouts. Sadly, every Boy Scout den I joined closed just weeks after my joining. Hmmmm. Maybe they knew something. Anyway, my interest in stamp collecting took me to the attic of our house, where the Boy Scouts manual said old letters and envelopes with stamps could be found. Sure enough. Unfortunately, though, I found a ton of letters addressed to me from my grandmother in Texas. All unopened, but all saved. The stamps intrigued me.

I took all the letters and hid them, taking them with me to Texas when my grandmother adopted me in 1965. I showed them to grandma, at which point she understood why she had never heard from me after mom had taken us there. Four years in Utah. As a juvenile delinquent.

When President Carter signed the extension of the Freedom of Information Act, I went to Brigham City, Utah, to get my juvenile delinquent records. I got them. I was amazed at the things I did as a child.

One of the things that WAS NOT on the 39-page list documenting my delinquency was my theft of a Harris Liberty Stamp Album from the Ben Franklin Five & Dime store.

Harris Liberty stamp album

I had taken the album with me to Texas, and had it until April 1993 when I left it in College Station as I abandoned the State looking for a new life. In 1978, though, while in Brigham City, Utah, I stopped at the Ben Franklin store, which was just a block from the Courthouse, asked for the manager, explained what I had done 15 years ago, and gave him $20 for the $4.95 album. Interest….

He was surprised, to say the least. When I was in Brigham City on July 25, 2018, I stopped by the Ben Franklin store. Sadly, it was there no more. It its place was a vacant storefront, Union Block Marketplace.

Brigham City, Utah

I was a little sad, wanting to blame Walmart and Amazon….

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