Over many years of writing and taking photos for Tehachapi News, I have researched lots of different topics and found an abundance of interesting facts in books, old periodicals, libraries, on websites and in museums. My favorite source of information about Tehachapi history, though, is from listening to our treasured oldtimers — the people who lived it. Those who were there. And they stayed here and spent their lives in Tehachapi, and were willing to share their memories with me.
So I in turn share their stories and experiences with you. It is my way of honoring them and the lives they lived. And we benefit from gaining a deeper knowledge and appreciation of what came before us in the Tehachapi Mountains — tales about the old home place.
One of my favorite people to interview was Margaret “Peggy” Dickerson Pedigo, a Tehachapi farm girl who grew up helping her father on the Meadow Brook Dairy, working as hard as any boy, and she later worked for many years in Tehachapi school cafeterias. Peggy was a free-spirited, independent and self-invented woman, and she told me of her childhood on a little dairy in Tehachapi.
She was forever a girl when she told me how she loved to lie back on a gentle slope in the meadow grass, watching fluffy cumulus clouds drift across Tehachapi spring skies and imagine castles and palaces made of clouds. She lived a long and well-examined life of her own choosing, and passed away at 91 in 2007. Here are some of Peggy's comments about the dairy:
“My parents, Evard and Hazel Dickerson, began farming and dairying in Tehachapi in 1911. Their dairy was located below the Tehachapi Pioneer Cemetery in what is now Golden Hills. The place was called Meadow Brook Dairy, and it was right where Meadowbrook Park is today — our dairy was the source of that name. My Dad, “Dick” Dickerson, raised registered Milking Shorthorn cattle, so we sold the milk that the cows produced as well as registered dairy stock.
"Every summer, Dad used to make arrangements with Southern Pacific Railroad to bring a railroad stockcar into Tehachapi, and he’d load up about six of his best cows, and he’d take them on a circuit of fairs and livestock exhibitions — that was how you got top dollar for your stock, by winning ribbons, and Dad did win with his cows. They were just beautiful — he’d put brass weights on the ends of their horns to make sure they were totally symmetrical, and he’d keep them so well-groomed. He’d take everything he needed for him and the cows to be gone for about a month, and he’d usually travel and camp with them in the stock car.
"He was down in Southern California, in Santa Monica, and he took them out on the beach and washed them in the ocean. They were so gentle, they go wherever he’d lead them. Can you imagine that? Beautiful Tehachapi cows, getting washed in the sea. . . I think the cows enjoyed their annual summer vacation. It was a lot of work for my Dad, but he enjoyed it too."
I learned the most about Tehachapi from Hooks Anderson, my neighbor, adopted grandpa and one of my best friends. Here's what Hooks remembered about one of Tehachapi's first projectionists.
"Harry Beauford Jr. was a film projectionist and he had two projectors and one amplifier. We’d load them up into Harry’s old Model A Ford, which had an enclosed delivery truck bed on it, and then we’d haul ‘em up to Kernville so he could show movies there once a week. After the show we’d load them up again and bring them back. Once we tipped over near Walker Pass, but people who’d been at the movies lifted us back up on all four wheels and we drove on home.
"One afternoon Tootie (Hooks' wife) and I were in Downtown Tehachapi, going to the movies at the BeeKay Theater on Green Street when it was still new (it opened in 1936). A group of people were milling around outside the theater because one of the owners, Louie Kanstein, he wasn’t selling tickets or letting people in because he wasn’t sure there was going to be a show that evening, because he couldn’t find his projectionist: Harry Beauford.
"Then the crowd heard the roar of a small airplane overhead, and we all looked up and suddenly a man jumped out of it! We were all shocked. As he was tumbling toward the ground, he opened a parachute and floated down and landed. We all clapped and cheered when the jumper stood up and we could see it was Harry. Louie Kanstein opened the doors, we all went into the BeeKay and Harry went into the projection room to get things started, just like it was a normal evening.”
Thank you for being interested in Tehachapi's past, and being willing to listen to the lively people who have long inhabited these mountain valleys. . . .
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to email@example.com.