Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California
Old Timer of the Year
In 2014 the Twentynine Palms Historical Society announced the creation of the “Old Timer of the Year” award program. The goal of this program is to honor early or long-time residents who contributed significantly to the development or betterment of the Twentynine Palms’ community. The program is intended to honor “everyday heroes” whose contributions and efforts over the years have largely gone unsung.
2018 Honoree: Don Bolter
2017 Honorees: Ann Congdon and Cheryl Erickson
2016 Honorees: Dave Brownell, Walt & Velma Holland and Ted Vick
2015 Honorees: Bob and Edie Carter
2014 Honorees: Bruce Arnett, Marilyn Fernald and Nolan Lockwood
Nominations will only be accepted from Society members. However, nominees do not have to be Society members. Nominations must include the nominee’s name, contact information, and a brief written justification explaining how the nominee meets the below criteria. Any nominee must have lived in Twentynine Palms prior to 1960 or have been a resident for more than 30 years, and contributed significantly to the development or betterment of Twentynine Palms in one or more of the following ways, and must be able to attend and participate in the Old Timers Gathering and Pioneer Days Parade.
- Wrote a historically accurate book about Twentynine Palms.
- Provided an Oral History of Twentynine Palms or environs.
- An artist who depicts the cultural or natural history of Twentynine Palms
- Provided for the enhancement of the youth of Twentynine Palms through school, sports, and civic, social or church activities.
- Contributed to the history or betterment of Twentynine Palms.
Nominations may be must be received no later than August 31st. Submit nominations by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to 29 Palms Historical Society, Old Timer Nominations, 6760 National Park Dr, 29 Palms, CA 92277.
- The honoree(s) will be announced at the kickoff event for Pioneer Days and will be presented and feted at the Historical Society’s Old Timer’s Gathering.
- They will ride in the Pioneer Days parade in the restored Johnny Hastie Bus, “Old Betsy”.
- An article recognizing their contributions to the community will be submitted to the Desert Trail and to Historical Society Journal.
- The honoree(s) will receive a 1 year paid membership in the Twentynine Palms Historical Society and will have a brick purchased and laid inscribed with their name and “Old Timer of the Year 20XX.”
- A perpetual plaque and photo of the Old Timer(s) will on display in the Old Schoolhouse Museum.
2017 Old Timer of the Year honoree
Don Bolster is the youngest of three surviving children born to Ray and Billie Bolster. Ray came to this area around 1910 and worked with and for Bill Keys. In 1913, he homesteaded in Morongo Valley. He married Willie May Ware in 1924 and the pair honeymooned in Twentynine Palms.
Their boys, Walter and Richard (Dick), were born in Banning in 1927 and 1930, respectively. Baby brother Don was born on May 1, 1936, in Beaumont. After stints in Whitewater, Pasadena, Big Morongo Canyon and Etiwanda, the family moved back to Twentynine Palms permanently in 1944, and Ray Bolster became the community's first employed fireman. The family lived in the back of the fire station on Adobe Road until his retirement in 1958.
Don attended elementary school in the original schoolhouse here, and graduated from Twentynine Palms High School in 1954. After graduation, he attended college and enlisted in the Navy.
He created most of the artwork for the 1953 TPHS El Oasis yearbook and was editor of the 1954 El Oasis. In 2003, Don donated the 1953 El Oasis to the TwentyninePalms Historical Society. He returned numerous times to visit his parents and for class reunions. Every year for the last 18 years, Don has traveled from his home in Sugar Grove, N.C., to attend Pioneer Days, the Old Timers Reunion and the historical society's Old Timers Gathering. Don is the coordinator and driving force of the Old Timers Reunion, a weekend-long gathering of old schoolmates.
He is a longtime historical society member and has supported the organization with numerous donations of items, family genealogy, local historical information, participation in the society's 'Generations Project' and many remembrances of his childhood here.
He wrote the article, 'A pioneer son remembers 'way back when' in 29 Palms,' for the The Desert Trail's 2009 Pioneer Days edition, and has written several other articles for the newspaper and Old Schoolhouse Journal. He is the subject of George White's book, 'The Baseball Glove,' which is on display at the museum along with the glove. At the 2011 old timer's reunion he gave an excellent and moving speech at the 29 Palms Inn.
Among the many great experiences Don remembers growing up here as a carefree desert boy was helping to create the legendary and mystical Oh-bay-yo-yo in the Wonderland of Rocks above Indian Cove in what is now Joshua Tree National Park. The National Park Service dismantled the cave/cabin sometime in the late 1970s and the original Oh-Bay-yo-yo logbook, in typical roundabout desert fashion, was placed in Don's care. He still serves as its keeper and custodian.
'For his pioneer ties, contributions to recording area history and his continued support of the community and the Twentynine Palms Historical Society, we are proud to honor Don Bolster as our 2018 Old Timer of the Year,' said historical society vice president Greg Mendoza.
2017 Old Timer of the Year honorees
Cheryl Erickson - Ann Congdon
Ann Congdon is a hometown child, daughter of Bill and Prudie Underhill, the founders of The Desert Trail newspaper and later the walk-in and drive-in theaters and roller skating rink. Ann worked in them all until leaving to get her degree in Architecture. After raising two daughters and retiring from long careers, Ann and her husband Mike left their home in Annapolis, Maryland, and returned to Twentynine Palms in 2005 so that Ann could care for her mother, who passed in 2007 at age 92.
Ann enthusiastically and willingly shares her talents with the community through her volunteer work with Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center, the Twentynine Palms Historical Society, the Public Arts Advisory Committee, and Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) Advisory Board for the City of Twentynine Palms.
Ann is an early member of Sky’s The Limit (STL) Observatory and Nature Center. Back in the very beginning of the organization, when it was just a group of people with some just-purchased vacant land, Ann fully committed to help the project become reality by providing her architectural talent for free…before she even arrived. She designed the campus layout and the first buildings, as well as, the drawing concepts for the future buildings, which includes an observatory that will hold nearly a 100 visitors, amphitheater and classrooms. She led the printing of the STL’s Plant book, including assisting on making the grant happen for the book. She also does 99% of the design work and printing of STL brochures and other printed materials. The STL e-letter is happening because of Ann’s talents and get-it-done attitude. She has been one of the pillars that holds up this important educational institute that works for the good of Twentynine Palms and its many visitors. The tasks described are time-consuming projects and she readily tackles them using her special talents, energy, and love for her community. If all that weren’t enough, Ann also serves on the Board of Directors and is Secretary of the STL corporation.
Ann is an active supporter of the Twentynine Palms Historical Society, again using her architectural skills to help design an expansion for the Old Schoolhouse Museum. She has donated use of her childhood home, Broadview Hacienda, to the Society for hosting fund-raising events like the annual Desert Chic event.
Ann is also an appointed member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee (PAAC) for the City of Twentynine Palms Art in Public Places program. She is the “historian” for the group and assists in creating the annual exhibition schedule and designing the postcards for the quarterly shows at the city’s visitor center. PAAC couldn’t operate efficiently without her artistic and organizational skills. Ann is an assemblage artist and jewelry designer, and her work is often displayed at the Twentynine Palms Chamber of Commerce gallery.
Ann was recently appointed as the vice chair of the newly organized Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) Advisory Board for the City of Twentynine Palms, representing vacation home rentals.
In December 2011 she received the Twentynine Palms Mayor’s Recognition Award for her significant contributions to the city and the people in it.
Cheryl Erickson arrived in Twentynine Palms in October 1970 and became the head librarian at the Twentynine Palms Branch Library. She wasted little time becoming a vital part of the community.
Cheryl has the ability to be comfortable regardless of her situation. Her easygoing manner, knowledge and love of books, a love for people, and her take-charge attitude have been a blessing to the Twentynine Palms community. When she sees a void or a need, she fills it.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Twentynine Palms was uniquely endowed with a tremendous resource unavailable to older cities. The individuals who created and settled the city were still living, although many were in failing health. Both the immense value and impending tragedy of this situation were apparent. The historical record of Twentynine Palms was not found in books, but in people who were still alive, and unless steps were taken this history would literally pass away.
As the city’s pioneers died, many of the photographs, artifacts and other records of the city’s beginnings disappeared. Many of these invaluable items exited the city in the form of inheritances passed on to family and friends. Other items were discarded in the city dump. That broke Cheryl’s heart. She was determined to do something about it.
Of course the most valuable legacy, the thoughts and memories of the homesteaders, could never be reclaimed. The city and all of its future inhabitants were being robbed of its past – deprived of its greatest asset.
How long this historical hemorrhaging would have continued is speculation. What is known is Cheryl and fellow librarian Harold Weight collaborated to preserve the city’s history, beginning the task of identifying, cataloging and accumulating artifacts from the city’s gilded archives. Cheryl also undertook the epic challenge of interviewing more than 70 of the city’s pioneers—a task she thoroughly enjoyed.
The result of Cheryl’s and Weight’s labor is an extensive collection of books and documents on the history of this region which is stored in two locked bookcases and three filing cabinets inside the library. This resulted in Cheryl establishing the first local history collection in any library in San Bernardino County. For those seeking information about Twentynine Palms and the background of this region, Cheryl has provided a resource which represents one of the largest contributions to the city by any of its residents. All items are available for review by the public but are not available for circulation outside the library.
Cheryl’s work on this project led to her involvement in the formation of the Twentynine Palms Historical Society. She was one of the nine founding board members. She remains actively involved with the Historical Society, currently serving on the Board of Directors as the society’s corresponding secretary. Many of the large historical artifacts she and Weight collected are housed at the Historical Society.
For as many years as Cheryl has lived in 29 Palms, she has been an active member of Little Church of the Desert. It is the historic first church built in this town. For many years Cheryl played the organ for the services. As a Ruling Elder of the church, she oversees all the contracts and payroll, pays the bills and oversees the financial reports. She also oversees the entire operation of Little School of the Desert, a Christian preschool. Every year she travels to third world countries to help build schools, water wells and libraries.
Over the years Cheryl has opened her home to at least half a dozen foreign exchange students.
Thanks to Cheryl’s dedication to serving the city’s current needs while remaining devoted to preserving its past, the citizens of Twentynine Palms will have access to sources of knowledge and inspiration which can help guide the city in the years ahead.
2016 Old Timer of the Year honorees
Dave Brownell - Walt & Velma Holland - Ted Vick
David A. Brownell
Dave Brownell was only 19 years old when he came to Twentynine Palms in 1953 to begin his career in education as a fifth-grade teacher. 1953 was the last year classes were held in the Old Schoolhouse. In 1954, the new Twentynine Palms Elementary School opened where Dave continued teaching fifth grade. Dave had a deep connection to his students, not only as a teacher but as mentor and friend. A young man of many talents, Dave built his home here by hand, a house that still stands today and is the beloved home of Cheryl Erickson.
He left the desert in 1956 and taught in Cucamonga for several years and then moved on to the Coast Community College System. He ultimately became chancellor in 1984 and successfully guided the 60,000-student multi-campus system through very difficult financial times. He retired in 1988 but has kept active in education as an Educational Consultant and serving as the interim president of Prairie State College. He also enjoys owning and racing quarter horses at Del Mar with the Pacific Coast Racing Association.
Though his time here was short, David Brownell made a profound and lasting impact on his students’ lives, inspiring several become successful teachers themselves. Many of his former students wrote to the Twentynine Palms Historical Society about their fond memories of their beloved fifth-grade teacher. He remains in contact with some of his early Twentynine Palms students and fellow teachers.
Walter and Velma Holland
The Hollands arrived in Twentynine Palms in 1958 and were employed by the then Victor Valley High School District at Twentynine Palms High School. Walter taught Social Studies and Driver’s Education; Velma was the library clerk. Walter also was the Athletic Director and Student Activities Director.
In 1963, Walter became the vice principal of TPHS and in 1971 assumed the duties of vice principal at Twentynine Palms Intermediate School, today’s junior high school. Velma became the head librarian at TPHS, where she taught Library Science to hundreds of students. Many years later this writer can still use the Dewey Decimal System.
Walter left the field of education in 1975 to pursue a career as a local Realtor. He was very involved with the Realtors Association and its charitable fundraising and causes. Walter donated his cooking skills for the association’s barbecue events at Smith’s Ranch. Walter was a member of the Lions Club for many years, and served two terms as president.
Velma retired from TPHS in 1994. She has been a long-time member of the California Retired Teachers Association and has served as its president. The Hollands have been active members of the Twentynine Palms Historical Society since the early days. Velma served as secretary of the Board of Directors. When the society was raising funds to move the Old Schoolhouse to its present location, they were active participants with Walter again donating his culinary skills at barbecues and other events.
After the successful move of the schoolhouse, Velma became the librarian for the historical society, spending hours each week cataloging and organizing donated books and literature. Velma continues in that position today and volunteers as a docent at the museum. She has been an enthusiastic entrant in the annual Weed Show every year since arriving in Twentynine Palms. The Hollands have been members of Little Church of the Desert and are still active in church activities.
As teachers and contributing members of the community, the Hollands activities have greatly impacted the lives of their students and inspired them to pursue their dreams.
Dr. Ted Vick
Ted Vick arrived in Twentynine Palms during the early 1940s. His father had taken work with the Glider Academy at Condor Field. In true pioneer fashion, his family lived in a small cabin on Mesquite Springs Road that had a well but lacked electricity.
Ted began school here as an eighth-grade student in the original three-room school house. He completed the ninth and 10th grades at the new Twentynine Palms High School. His family had to leave the desert when the Glider Academy closed at the end of World War II. Relocating to San Bernardino, Ted completed high school there, and then graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara. He married his lifelong friend and love, Earlene, and began his career in teaching.
In 1952, Ted was hired to teach in Twentynine Palms in the same three-room building where he had been a student years before. In addition to his teaching duties, Ted served as the vice principal. His dedication to his students and strong but fair discipline garnered the respect and affection of his students. His crewcut and distinctive voice, as two former female students reminisced; had many of the eighth-grade girls “totally in love” with him. The Vicks had two children born at the Thomas H. Ince Memorial Hospital on Adobe Road. They were active in the greater community, and were greatly involved with the youth programs at Little Church of the Desert.
Ted and family left the desert in 1956 and returned to the city where he continued teaching while obtaining his master’s degree from the University of Redlands and ultimately his doctorate from U. C. Riverside. He spent his entire career as a teacher and administrator and also served on the San Bernardino County Board of education for 20 years.
Ted’s ability to greatly impact the lives and inspire not only his students in Twentynine Palms but those in every community he served is remarkable. Ted and Earlene return “home” to Twentynine Palms often to attend Pioneer Days, meet with former students and attend the Old Timers Gathering at the Old Schoolhouse Museum.
It is with great pleasure that the Twentynine Palms Historical Society honors Dr. Ted Vick as an Old Timer of the Year for 2016.
2015 Old Timer of the Year honorees
Bob and Edie Carter
Based on their quiet contributions to the community over many years, the Twentynine Palms Historical Society has selected Bob and Edie Carter as this year’s Old Timers of the Year.
Bob was a toddler when he and his family moved to Twentynine Palms in 1949. He attended school here and graduated with the Twentynine Palms High School class of 1964. After the death of his father in 1969 Bob took over the family business, Carter’s Cleaners. Bob and Edie operated the cleaners until 1991. From 1987 to 1999 Bob and Edie also operated Cottonwood Camping. Throughout their years in business the Carters continuously sponsored the high school band, A.S.B., and local sports teams.
Bob served as a volunteer fire fighter for nine years and was Captain of the Twentynine Palms Fire Department.
Edie served on the board of the Twentynine Palms Water District for twenty years and was a teacher with Morongo Unified School District. In 2010 she was named teacher of the month by the Twentynine Palms Rotary Club and was Oasis Elementary School teacher of the year in 2011.
Both Bob and Edie were actively involved in the beginnings of the High Desert Medical Center and the Theater in Joshua Tree. They were founding members of the Twentynine Palms Historical Society and Edie wrote and filed the Society’s incorporation papers. Bob built many of the early displays and display cases for the museum and recently the Hastie Bus Exhibit building. Both have served on the board for several years and remain active in the Society.
The Carters have, in their quiet unheralded ways, contributed greatly to youth and betterment of the community of Twentynine Palms. We are proud to present them as our 2015 Old Timers of the Year.
2014 Old Timer of the Year honorees
Marilyn Fernald - Bruce Arnett - Nolan Lockwood
Marilyn Fernald and Bruce Arnett
Marilyn Fernald first came here in 1948 as a 13-year-old with her family. The Fernalds returned to Twentynine Palms for good in 1952. Marilyn attended her first year of high school at the small three-room school that is now the Old Schoolhouse Museum. She graduated from Banning High School and while attending school in Banning she often rode “Old Betsy”, the recently restored Johnny Hastie Bus. After returning to Twentynine Palms, she, along with her parents Herm and Marie, built a commercial building on the family property on Didsbury Rd. From this building they ran the “A & F Swap Shop”. Marilyn worked at Hoffman’s Refrigeration and Brooks Jewelers. She owned a jewelry store in Yucca Valley and also managed and kept books for Arnett Sporting Goods. She was a dedicated “room mother” for all of her children during elementary school and was the costume designer for TPHS “Europe ’74”, a program where members of the music department and choral groups traveled to Europe and performed during the summer of ’74. Marilyn has been involved with the Historical Society for many years and currently serves as our display curator. She is a well-known local artist and has donated many of her works to the Society for fundraisers. Marilyn volunteers for many projects of the Society and for many years helped put on the Weed Show. In the mid 1950s Marilyn married Bruce Arnett and had three children, daughters Terry and Dana and son Keith. Three generations of the Fernald family have attended Twentynine Palms High School and four generations have made their home here.
Bruce Arnett arrived in 1947 as a recent graduate of San Bernardino High to help his father, Bruce Sr., build a commercial building on Adobe Road (most recently it was the Stumps Bar and Grill). In 1948 Bruce, along with his brother Leslie and cousin Jimmy, opened Arnett Feed and Fuel at the Skeleton Ranch on North Adobe Road. He also operated a trucking company with his cousin Jimmy in Yucaipa. Bruce continued to help his father build cabins and commercial buildings in the Morongo Basin. He built the first snack bar in Luckie Park in support of youth sports. Bruce was one of the first resident California Highway Patrolman in the area and later served as the first full-time San Bernardino County Deputy Coroner. He also ran one of the first local mail routes. Bruce later owned and operated Arnett Sporting Goods and was a cofounder of the Twentynine Palms Coaches Association. The Coaches Association conducted all organized youth sports in Twentynine Palms until the creation of the Park and Recreation District. Bruce served as the Association’s president and volunteered as a referee/official for many years. He has been involved with the Historical Society for many years and volunteers for almost every event, fundraiser and work party the Society conducts. Bruce was also a member of the Kiwanis for many years.
Nolan Lockwood graduated from Yucaipa High School and Redlands University, then accepted a teaching position at Twentynine Palms High School for the 1961-62 school year. He was a gifted math teacher who consistently found innovative ways to connect with his students. During his 37 years at TPHS, Nolan invested thousands of hours as the faculty advisor to the Associated Student Body and Student Council. He spent uncountable hours assisting and supervising ASB and Student Council activities and fundraisers. Inspired by his dedication, many ASB’ers continued in community service throughout their lives. Many former students have said they would never have survived math without Mr. Lockwood’s help and dedication. After retiring in 1998, Nolan became involved with the Morongo Retired Teachers Association and currently serves as its president. Nolan is a driving force for the Retired Teachers Association Scholarship Program. He also became a volunteer with the Twentynine Palms Historical Society and serves as our treasurer. His skills, attention to detail and financial acumen have contributed greatly to the continued success of the Society. Nolan continues to show his dedication by participating in nearly every Historical Society event, work party and fundraiser.
All of our 2014 Old Timers of the Year Honorees have, in their quiet unheralded ways, contributed greatly to youth and betterment of the community of Twentynine Palms. We are proud to present them as our inaugural Old Timers of the Year.
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