What do a dapper group of Bishop youths urging onlookers to “Vote the County Dry” and a shotgun-wielding governor of California have in common? Both are featured in the Eastern California Museum’s 2016 Calendar, which celebrates parties, parades and picnics.
In 2016, Inyo County will celebrate its 150th birthday, so the 2016 calendar offers glimpses of some of the more notable and unique celebrations and parades during the past 150 years.
The following is a brief overview of some of the more notable photos in the calendar.
January has a great shot of Bob Gracey carving a graceful turn on skis at the Onion Valley Ski Area, above Independence. Gracey was the driving force behind the ski hill, which boasted a rope tow and big plans to become a full-fledged ski resort. Unfortunately, those plans didn’t pan out.
Harvest Festivals were exciting events in Inyo County in the early 1900s. In Bishop, local schools and groups created intricate, complex floats pulled by teams of horses for the annual parade. The West Bishop School’s float in the 1912 parade is featured in February.
Parades grace March. In one, a dapper group of young boys is shown parading in Bishop carry a sign urging, “Vote the County Dry” as part of a 1910 campaign rally to ban the sale of alcohol in the county. The parade worked. Inyo County went “dry” that year, and became a temperance trendsetter years before Prohibition.
The May photo is a bit bittersweet. It shows a large group of train enthusiasts packed into open-air rail cars being pulled by the Southern Pacific Locomotive No. 9. The train riders are taking the last passenger train ride in the Owens Valley, in 1954. Today, No. 9 is at the Laws Railroad Museum, and its partner, No. 18, is in Dehy Park in Independence.
Seeking relief from the scorching heat of July are the stylish swimmers shown enjoying the pool at the Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley. In Keeler, a bathing suit contest at the Keeler Beach and Swim Club in 1929 features eight bathing beauties in rather demure bathing suits.
Harking back to the days when a California politician was comfortable shooting a gun in public, September features the massive celebration in 1937 that marked the opening of the Mt. Whitney to Death Valley Highway. California Governor Frank Marriam was on hand to “cut the ribbon,” which he did with a blast from a shotgun. The shot capped a spectacular celebration/promotion, The Wedding of the Waters. Famed Father Crowley organized the extravaganza, which featured taking water from the base of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and transporting the water via train, horse and automobile, then as a final touch, dumping the water out of its container while flying in a plane above Badwater in Death Valley, the lowest point in the lower 48 states. The event drew national attention.
The most famous “picnic” in Inyo County history is depicted in the November photos, The “Occupation of the Alabama Gates” in 1924. Inyo County residents seized the gates and turned the water from the LA Aqueduct back into the Owens River bed. The four-day protest ended after the group received vague promises from the LA business community about helping calm the conflict. After huge picnic and barbeque for more than 1,000, everyone went home. But in the end, the promises didn’t turn into action, and the protest did little to ease the conflict between the Owens Valley and Los Angeles.
The 2016 Eastern California Museum Calendar is available at the Museum, 155 N. Grant St., Independence, for $10, at local bookstores and businesses, and can be ordered over the phone by calling 760-878-0258, and will be mailed out for $13.
The calendar is made possible by the ongoing support of the Eastern California Museum by the County of Inyo Board of Supervisors; a generous donation from the non-profit Friends of the Eastern California Museum, and a special donation from the Coso Operating Company – Terra-Gen Power, LLC, which operates the Coso Geothermal Plant, in Inyo County, and is one of the largest producers of renewable energy in the West.