The Early Years
Our museum association began back in the early 1960s when several residents from older generations felt compelled to organize a collection of memories. The idea was not new but in our valley not many thought of preserving an era of simple living and families raising their children on the desert.
When things began to change: more families arrived, more schools had to be built, more farmland and mining production; it was then that the familiar had to be protected. Collections stored in attics and in dry fields were rounded up. En masse it would have filled ten barns but there was no center location.
Frances Hankin became our first President of the fledgling organization. She helped organize the plan to have an indoor display in the Lucerne Valley Community Center — just a back section so grade school children could see how their parents had lived.
By 1983, Orville Green with his wife, Lina, grew the membership by offering potluck dinners and a presentation each month. Guest presenters came to share with filmstrips, vacation slides of European countries. Members of other regional museums came to speak to our group. Our members were eager to go on field trips. We joined with the San Bernardino County museum network to gain more exposure and help in funding.
Our dreams of seeing a museum building had to be shrunken to the size of a 12×20 wooden shed. It houses a very small portion on display today. We lovingly call it the “Green Room.”
Over time, our organization of nearly 200 members decided to break away from the county and establish our non-profit status. Donations helped keep the budget going but we needed more help if we planned to see our dream of a full-sized building. Longtime resident and member, Gil Tegelberg bequeathed a large sum as seed money to help in our goal.
A Milestone in Membership
By 1988, our membership had grown to 250+. I remember the days when Orville Green would have to announce one table at a time for potluck dinner — we had as many as nine tables lined with hungry member-families waiting for food and entertainment.
I also remember one of the Christmas celebrations where child prodigy David Mount Jr. at age 5 played a selection of carols on the piano. He was mesmerizing. About that time, our field trips caravaned as far as Big Bear and Ridgecrest, Claremont and Riverside, outings that we may have never done on our own. We also hosted local field trips with other museums and historical societies.
After Orville Green and Lina passed away, we lost our momentum for awhile until our new President Chuck Rader took the reins. The focus and activity level seemed to go up and down. Chuck was like a father to the collection, encouraging new acquisitions and training docents. We knew that without a building to share our collections, it would difficult to gain our dream. We also lead school grade tours through our museum each year.
I was elected as president in 2010 with a small but loyal Board of Directors. We are once again hosting a new public information series called “Evening Desert” — here you can learn directly from experts in the field of High Desert history, ethnobotany and native culture, prohibition, and antique arms, to name a few. We’re growing our membership little by little as we learn to embrace the technology that other large museums enjoy.
The next step is to network more with other small museums in the High Desert, create larger PR campaigns, and partner with other small organizations with similar goals to gain a larger audience.
Be sure to check our Outreach Programs often for current updates. Better yet, sign up for our email notifications when we’re planning another presentation in our Lucerne Valley Community Center.