A Celebration of Life will be held March 24, 2017 for Duane “Jim” Frerichs, a Navy veteran, farmer, Tehachapi businessman, bowler, golfer and community philanthropist. Jim passed away peacefully on Feb. 19, in his daughter’s home in Bakersfield; he was 91. Come share your memories with his family as they remember the man respected by many, and loved dearly by those who knew him.
Jim and his wife Teri, along with Bud and Helen Lutge, were well known in the Tehachapi community as they built and operated the Mountain Lanes, Mountain Crossing Restaurant and Mountain Inn complex from 1963 to 1981. However, Jim’s life was more than this business; his journey through life was filled with adventure and challenges, with his fondest experiences being those of family and friends, living in his favorite place anywhere, Tehachapi.
Jim was born in Laurel, Iowa, to Henry and Theresa Weber Frerichs. He, along with his older sisters, Carolyn and Helen, lived on the family farm with their maternal grandparents.
“His given name was Duane Merle,” said his daughter Duana Pera of Tehachapi, “but Dad said his grandpa couldn’t stand that name so he called him his little Jimmy, and the name stuck.”
But like many in the Great Depression, the family traveled west in 1933 to find work and a new life in California. Eventually their father, Henry, found employment in Tehachapi and the family settled here in 1933, and his little sister, Jackie, was added to the family. Jim attended all the local schools and had many fond memories growing up in Tehachapi.
“He would tell us about his snow days many times,” remarked James Frerichs, his only son. “He lived up Water Canyon Road by the old lime mill, and he would sled down to school and walk back! He literally did walk two feet in the snow to school and back.”
Jim’s sister, Helen, married Bud Lutge, and Jim became a brother and best-friend to Bud. The family shared that Jim would often talk about the times he, Bud and Helen herded cattle by horseback from the rail yard on Tehachapi Boulevard, up Curry Street to the ranch up Water Canyon. Back then, Curry Street was still a dirt road able to handle a herd of cattle.
Jim did not graduate high school. Instead, with World War II raging, he and two friends decided to join the Navy in 1943. Jim was the only one accepted into the Navy that day, and he soon found himself on the Liberty Ship James McNeil Whistler sailing in the Pacific Ocean Theater, primarily along the coasts of Papua New Guinea and Australia, as a sailor on a Merchant Marine ship.
Jim shared many memories of his time in the Navy, like the first day on the ship they were handed cartons of cigarettes for boredom! Jim became a radioman and learned to use Morse Code. He remembered vividly sitting at his radio station one day just listening to the typical communication chatter when he realized he was hearing distress sounds from another ship in the area. He also joked about a time when he and another radioman conversed via Morse Code, ship to ship, just for something to do, as his ship was docked in San Diego, but he had to stay on board to prepare for radio communications.
Jim received an Honorary Discharge from the Navy in 1945 when the war was over and returned to California, but he settled in the Burbank area where his family had relocated. He found employment as a milkman and worked for the Lutge family dairy. In 1946, he met his future wife, Teresa “Teri” Entrikin, when he delivered milk and ice to her family’s home.
“My Mom told us her mother noticed how handsome the milkman was each time he came to the house,” said Dana. “And my dad noticed my mom, too. He would also go to the Newhall Theater where my mom worked as an usher to try to ask her out. He finally got the nerve and asked her on a date. They got married in 1948, and remained married until my mom’s passing in 2014 — 66 years!”
Jim and Teri welcomed their first daughter, Sheri, in 1953. They relocated to Lancaster where they bought 40 acres of land on the east side and raised 10,000 laying hens and farmed acres of alfalfa. But tragedy struck when Jim contracted polio and was hospitalized in San Fernando. He was given the Sister Kinney method of treatment and fortunately overcame what could have been a crippling disease. In 1959, James was born, and then Dana in 1961.
Sheri shared, “My dad worked hard every day, plowing fields, fixing tractors, watering alfalfa, feeding chickens and grading thousands of eggs. But he loved it. He often said he could never be happy working for anyone but himself. My dad’s idea of fun was camping, fishing and hunting, otherwise known as family vacations.”
After years of tilling the soil and being pecked a million times by hens, Jim and Teri made the crucial decision to join Bud and Helen Lutge on a business adventure back in Tehachapi. The two families created a partnership and built the Mountain Lanes Bowling Alley, bar and coffee shop in 1963. They added the Mountain Inn in 1975 and the gas station in 1977.
Jim was the caretaker of the property; each day he would work behind the scenes as the lane mechanic, a bartender, a pool man, a hotel repairmen and the thousand other tasks he accomplished as a business partner. But Jim and Teri also bought an apple ranch on the corner of Backes and Highline from 1968 to 1973. As Bud Lutge once said, “Jim Frerichs never picked up the light end of anything." Between the bowling alley bar and ranch, Jim was working all the time. For the Frerichs children, this was just a normal way of life. Spending time with their dad meant they were either working with him in the orchard or working at the bowling alley.
“I remember the nurse coming from Dr. Troy’s office to fix my dad’s fingers,” said Dana. “He would get his fingers crushed in the bowl returns and would not go to the doctor so the nurse came to my dad.”
“I spent many repair moments with my dad,” said James. “I was with dad up on the roof of the bowling alley in the middle of winter. We were peeling chunks of ice off the roof to fix a leak. When I threw a large piece of ice off the roof, the wind blew it right back in my face. I thought I'd broken my nose. Dad checked me over and said I was fine so we got back to work.”
For Jim and Teri, the apple ranch was their place of solace and connection to the earth. But apple ranching in the late '60s was not easy in Tehachapi. The frost was the devil to an apple crop, and Jim suffered a frost three of the five seasons. They eventually traded the ranch for a house in town in 1973, and remained in this same house for more than four decades.
Mountain Lanes was the hub and activity center of Tehachapi, and a great place to hold special events. Every year, the Lutges and Frerichs would prepare for the Mountain Lanes’ New Year’s Eve parties. Jim would enlist the help of his kids, and they remember clearing out the lane approaches and rolling all the balls down the lanes. They would blow up hundreds of balloons and watch as their Dad and others hoisted the big net of balloons up to the ceiling for the infamous drop at midnight. The Mountain Lanes also hosted many of the Tehachapi Mountain Festival dances in the motel parking lot. Jim would work with others for two days to fence off the parking lot, create a bar, bring in the bandstand, all to throw the largest dance party Tehachapi ever had to this day. Hundreds would come through the gate, while Jim and the families worked to provide the festival-goers with a fantastic country dance.
Even though the Mountain Lanes was a business venture, Jim formed many long and endearing friendships. Hundreds of people came through the bowling alley over the years, participating in bowling leagues and competitions that Jim and Bud actively developed. From these close associations came acts of community philanthropy. Jim was a member of the Black Sheep Club and helped construct the rodeo grounds in the 1960s. As a founding member of the Tehachapi Sportsmen's Club, he participated in building the gun range located on Sand Canyon Road. Jim and Teri also donated time to Boy Scouts Troop and Pack 136 over many years, and once again aided in the construction of the new scout building on D Street. As cancer survivors, Jim and Teri also participated in the local Relay For Life and were co-torch bearers in 2009.
Travels and fun
Jim always said some of his happiest travels were with his various bowling buddies, who eventually expanded their interests to include golf. The gang, which was often composed of the Lutges, Booths, Knights, Smiths and many many more, would load up their motor homes and travel a golf circuit from Tehachapi to Pahrump, to Vegas to Southern California. Jim's favorite was the golf course at Furnace Creek in Death Valley.
Dana shared, "It was fun to see our parents golf. My dad used to say he could never see why anyone would want to chase a golf ball around a field, but once he started golfing he couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t rather be golfing! When dad could no longer play golf, he became an avid golf watcher on television. His favorite golfers were Jordan Spieth, Ricky Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, and if Spieth was doing badly he would just shut off the television and pout.”
In 1981, Jim and Teri, along with the Lutges, decided it was time to sell the complex. It was an incredible business adventure for everyone, but more adventures lay ahead as they enjoyed retirement. However, even after the sale, Bud and Jim continued to help the Us with the business. Jim could be seen occasionally walking to the back lanes again, with his bowed legs, running to the back to reset some pins, or unjam a machine.
Jim and Teri’s vacations now encompassed more than hunting and fishing, as they took to the road, traveling around the United States and Canada, visiting numerous friends and family along the way. Jim was the captain of his 36-foot Pace Arrow motor home and Teri was his co-captain. They traversed the United States three times and captured the essence of the beauty of America. But Jim would always say, “There was no place like Tehachapi.” He loved Tehachapi for the four seasons, especially the cool summers and moderate winters.
But fishing was still very important to Jim, and he routinely spent one month every year at Crawley Lake with other friends and family for opening day of trout season. They were often joined by their grandsons, who to this day have stated that spending one week with grandpa on the boat everyday trolling for trout was better than Christmas, always.
A family together
Again tragedy struck in 1992, and Jim was diagnosed with non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy, but never was able to be cancer free. The side effects of the cancer left Jim with neuropathy in both legs, and, later in life, he would have to learn to live with chronic lymphatic leukemia.
But Jim’s true tragedy was losing his wife to dementia. Jim took care of Teri during her 10-year illness and never wavered or complained. Teri suffered from vascular dementia and slowly lost her memory until she passed away in August of 2014.
Today, Jim is survived by his sister, Jackie Kelso, brother-in-laws John Entrikin, Ralph (wife Tamela) Entrikin, and sister-in-laws Thelma Entrikin and Dena Wayman. His children: Sheri (husband Mike) Redding, James (wife Lynda) Frerichs, Duana “Dana” (husband Mike) Pera. His grandchildren: Brett and Amber Redding, Nathan and Shawnie Frerichs, Trent and Garrett (wife Ollie) Pera. His great-grandchildren: Kami (husband Ryan Nielsen), Bo, Hunter, Chase, Ethan, Teresa, Asher, Levi and Ryder. His great-great-grand-daughter: Bentli. And many wonderful nieces and nephews. He is also survived by cousins in Canada who Jim discovered later in life and loves dearly.
Jim will be remembered and celebrated on March 24, at The Shed, on Tehachapi Boulevard, at 9 a.m. The family is providing a breakfast buffet in Jim’s honor. He loved breakfast! Jim and Teri will be interred together at 12:30 p.m., at the Bakersfield National Cemetery. In lieu of plants or flowers, please donate to either the American Cancer Society or your local American Legion.