By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Last week, newly restored Yodeler wooden sculptures were reinstalled at numerous locations around town by the Rim of the World Historical Society, including a new installation at the Crestline-Lake Gregory Chamber of Commerce office.
The Rim of the World Historical Society (ROWHS) and Mountain History Museum have not been open to the public nor able to do much this last year due to the pandemic. However, these last few months, it was noticed that the Yodelers that Jim Huff and Russ Keller made and installed at the Rotary bus stop bench shelters in 2006 were very worn and needed restoration.
The Yodelers were fashioned after the Yodeler logo used by the Club San Moritz. The Club San Moritz, a resort that began in 1939 in the Valley of the Moon area of Crestline, went on to develop the land around Lake Gregory through the 1970s, which is the reason for the Swiss and alpine street names around the lake. The San Moritz Lodge, which was built in the 1950s, was their clubhouse.
Back in 2005, Huff and Keller had recently completed the restoration of the Switzerland monuments on Lake Drive that stood at the entrance to the lands of the Club San Moritz. They made the wooden Yodeler sculptures that grace those signs. They wanted to continue the Yodeler’s use in other locations in Crestline.
Since the design has historic roots, the men thought the new Rotary school bus bench shelters – made so kids could sit while waiting for the bus – were a perfect location for the Yodelers. They might inspire the kids to learn more about the town’s history, they thought. The Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club agreed. Rotary had installed the bus bench shelters on Waters Drive in Valley of Enchantment, at the entrance to Dart Canyon on Arosa Drive, in Arrowhead Highlands on Crest Forest Drive and at two locations on Lake Gregory Drive. Huff and Keller installed the Yodelers on each of them and a couple other locations in town.
About six weeks ago, Al Stearns of the ROWHS took down all of the remaining old Yodelers. He and Kevin Lathrop used them as templates for making four new ones, which took about four days. The past 15 years of weathering in the extreme weather had taken its toll and a couple were not restorable.
The first part of the restoration, which took three days, included reattaching all the missing or loose arms, using wood filler where necessary. Stearns and Lathrop sanded them all so they were ready to prime and paint and seal. They spent their first days doing that on the mountain, then they took them down the hill to Stern’s Garage to spend another five days painting them. A marine varnish was the final coat to give the paint extra protection.
“I got help on the painting from my wife, Linda, her daughter Jenny, plus Jenny’s three kids, Elijah, 19, Noel, 17, and Julia, 14,” said Stearns.
The installation of the Yodelers occurred on Wednesday, Jan. 13. “You couldn’t ask for better weather for doing these installations today,” Lathrop said. They used a ladder to get to the top of the shelter and tightly installed the Yodelers to each school bus shelter. ROWHS board member Bill Pumford assisted in the installations.
A new location for a Yodeler installation was the front of the Crestline-Lake Gregory Chamber of Commerce office. Chamber President Louis Boehle was excited and honored when he heard of the offer by the ROWHS to install one on the chamber office. “We at the chamber appreciate the installation of the Yodeler. We respect and support our local history and were proud to be considered for one.”
Chamber Office Manager Kathy Creighton said, “The Yodeler looks like he is waving hello to me, making me feel welcome each time I arrive. I like him up over the entrance. I hope the visitors to our office and visitor’s center also feel that welcome.”
Russ Keller, who was one of the original creators of the Yodelers back in 2006 in the “Huffpetto Workshop,” was on hand during the ceremonial installation of the first Yodeler in his own Yodeler outfit, complete with leather lederhosen, looking exactly like the ones being installed.
During the re-installation of the first Yodeler in VOE, ROWHS president Cindy Burnett said she was happy and proud that the society was able to restore the Yodelers and get them re-installed in only six weeks, considering all the other activities they have been unable to do this year. “I hope the community notices and appreciates the restoration of these pieces of history, which are again on display in the town,” she said.
“We are hopeful we’ll be able to have the museum open this next summer,” Burnett added. “We plan to have the new display room completed by then. We invite all residents and visitors to come see the new displays we have planned, which will enable them to learn more about the unique history of our area.”
“This has been a fun project, even though it was more involved than originally thought. It’s gratifying to know we’re contributing to the history of our mountain communities,” said Stearns.
The Mountain History Museum is located at 27176 Peninsula Drive in Lake Arrowhead at the corner of Rhine Road. They hope to have the museum open on weekends this next summer and entry is always free. The purpose of the Rim of the World Historical Society is to preserve and share the rich history of the mountain communities.