Looking in My Own Backyard — Museums Hold Many Treasures

Enjoying the Summer as you hunt for antiques and treasures?

I was looking around in my own backyard for groups of people who would associate with the theme of the Southwest. I know it’s a wide-open subject. Among those that enjoy living in the High Desert, and often tell me about there favorite places to eat, visit, and buy, I realized they are also my prospects for my new digital magazine — VintageWest.

Collectibles are fun to find

Hunting through a grand assortment of goodies

Topping the list are those who love rummaging through the tight aisles of an antique store on the fringes of the Mojave River. Out in Oro Grande are  several new antique and collectibles shops, not to mention the many shops scattered throughout the Victor Valley. They’re eclectic, full of treasures, and reasonable in pricing. Times can be very tough for these newer entrepreneurs so if you love the hunt, then by all means take a drive to your favorite vintage place — most have air conditioning, too.

Mind Your Ps and Qs Antiques

Packed with colorful items in themed rooms

Then I thought about the folks who return to a place they enjoy. Families that come here to camp or even better, families who want to search out the Southwest history that lured them here so many times before.

If you now live in the High Desert, you may be one of those who came to visit only to decide that this was Your Country. Something led you here and you just didn’t want to return. These aren’t gold seekers in the same sense as the early pioneers who broke desolate ground to survive the desert’s heat and cold. These people would be better described as Southwest Seekers. “Southwest” being the definitive clue word. Whatever it is that draws people to the region is the same that drew families to Alaska, except the weather.

A jail worth peering into

An old weathered building once held outlaws

Once here, claiming the desert as their “forever home,” it wasn’t long before they, too, wanted others to know about this desert region. They became teachers, historians, authors, and even museum members, and docents. Their history is now a commodity to share and develop. In doing that, a small network of curators, their docents, and a growing number of members, took on the task of keeping the Southwest alive.

Whenever I venture into a new town, I always look for the local museum. I gain my bearings, learn about its history, and meet a few families that are still here —  third and fourth generations.

Now, in my own backyard, are the small museums, the ones that display family histories, they survive on generous donations from other families just learning about their new surroundings. They find adventure in reading about the trails that brought them, and the previous generations, to this land. They crave the stories of the early days, the tools that shaped this land, and the rich, full history that they can see and touch in museums and through historical societies.

A desert shack was once a home for settlers

An old home that beckons

If you are a Southwest Seeker, then you have set before you an array of little history nuggets: Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley, Route 66 Museum in Victorville and Barstow, Apple Valley Legacy Museum focusing on the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans influence in the Historic Apple Valley Inn complex, Mohahve Historical Society, Lucerne Valley Outdoor Museum, Mojave River Valley Museum in Barstow, and Railroad Museum at Harvey House in Barstow. These are just a few.

There’s plenty more.

Apple Vally's Legacy Museum

A Legacy Museum devoted to the days of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Farther out are the clusters of Searles Valley Historical Society’s historical homes, and museums in Trona, the northern tip of the Mojave. South of the Victor Valley is Johnson Valley and Yucca Valley with its Nature Museum. At the extreme end of the Mojave are the tribal lands of the Chemehuevi, Serrano, and Southern Paiute gathered in one point of interest at Malki Museum, just east of Banning on the Morongo Indian Reservation.

This list by no means names the only museums, but the ones where new families coming to the High Desert can search out and find their own treasures, their own pieces of history and interests as they define their own backyards.

Rusty

Gaining Southwest Audiences

I’ve always suspected that for every person who shows interest in the High Desert of Southern California, there are at least 100+ more who are secretly wondering, maybe reading, or even visiting it. Those visitors, Southwest enthusiasts, are newcomers arriving daily as vacationers, relatives of local residents, and even transplants from the urban regions.

The last frames of a mine at Doble near Big BEar

The last frames of a mine at Doble near Big BEar

Whatever you call yourself, be content in the fact that you’ve found a place to learn more about what this desert holds for all of us. I won’t be a cheerleader for everything High Desert, but I will share the gems of what makes this particular region so inviting to so many.

Did you know that the area is a history magnet for German and Japanese vacationers? Their cultures were void of any “cowboy heritage”, stories of outlaw shootouts in the dusty streets never happened, and not one Stetson-styled hat was created for fending off the blazing sun. Their early cultures exist from European warlords, Kings and royal families, and castles surrounded by acres of poor subsistence farming. Actually, the only continent close to sharing our Old West history would be Australia with its large land tracts, penal colonies in a vast desert countryside, and the eventual growth of large ranches — known as stations — of cattle, sheep, and horses.

Closer to home, I find that the culture of film making, Wild West storytelling, and the abundance of rural landscapes were “the perfect storm” to romanticize the culture of the Southwest. It remains the staple of many late night movie watchers who can now enjoy old movies from the comfort of their bedrooms –whether in Berlin, Tokyo or Perth. Movies have brought us closer together.

Since this blog is covering my continuing journey to produce a digital magazine worthy of the readers who love the spirit of the Southwest, I can only do what comes naturally and share my knowledge and extensive background steeped in its rich history.

I plan to cover selected topics each issue that will encourage the Southwest enthusiast in all of us. Admit it, you wore a straw cowboy hat at least once when you were little.

I knew it.

 

Rusty LaGrange