It isn’t often that a reporter does a follow-up on a story covered more than 50 years earlier.
I had worked for Tehachapi News for about three months when we learned of an accident involving pedestrians in downtown Tehachapi. I don’t know how we got the news, but I recall clearly how helpless everyone felt as we waited for an ambulance to arrive from Mojave.
I remember standing on the sidewalk in front of Kelcy’s, and I believe that either Dick Johnson or Warren Johnson took photos — possibly both of them. At the time they were owners of Tehachapi News. In those days it was rare for the News to publish a photo credit or byline. The front-page story had no byline, but I know that I wrote it, largely referencing the police report.
Although Tehachapi Valley Hospital was less than three blocks away, there was no ambulance service in Tehachapi at the time. There were no first responders — just police officers, members of the volunteer fire department and people who did what they could to help the girls while we waited.
More than anything through the years I remember the frustration of waiting and the horror of the situation. I have since learned that the company that served the area at the time had removed its ambulance from Tehachapi when the hospital discontinued having a 24-hour emergency room. Fortunately, today we have not only a modern hospital with a 24-hour emergency room but excellent ambulance coverage.
What else is different today? Here are a few things:
• Tehachapi’s main street was still called G Street in 1972. The change to Tehachapi Boulevard came a few years later. If I’m remembering correctly, there were no stop signs along the street that ran from about where Big Papa’s Steakhouse is today to the east side of town. The bit of “old road” that is just east of that restaurant used to bring all eastbound traffic into town from Highway 58.
• Green Street, which extended north from the pear orchard toward the airport, was a two-way street all the way back then. Now its two main business blocks have only one-way traffic. And there is no pear orchard. But for about a century it occupied the now vacant area east of Curry and north of Valley Boulevard.
• Nearly all of Tehachapi’s businesses were downtown in 1972. A few businesses had opened in Old Town by then, but Tucker Road was still in the country. The many businesses near Tucker and Valley Boulevard were built much later.
• School now starts around the middle of August, but in 1972 it didn’t start until after Labor Day (and after the Tehachapi Mountain Festival).
• Wells Elementary School is no longer operational. Part of the campus is used as the school district office. In 1972 it was a K-6 school (with grades 7-8 attending Jacobsen Junior High School in the building on Snyder Avenue that now houses TILA and Cerro Coso Community College). Now Jacobsen is a middle school (and on a different campus), with grades 6-8.
• Southern Pacific Railroad still occupied the depot, although passenger service had ended the year before.
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