By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
The Switzerland monuments on Lake Drive in Crestline, that were built in the 1940s to welcome folks to the Club San Moritz property that surrounded Lake Gregory, were recently restored by the Rim of the World Historical Society.
Volunteers took down the thick wooden signs, took a month to restore them and recently replaced them back onto the top of the roofs of the rock, Swiss-style monuments. The signs are heavy – weighing more than 50 pounds each – and are made of cedar boards 2 ½ inches thick and two boards high, placed on top of each other making them 15 inches tall and eight feet long. The signs have the letters routed into them on both sides and have the yodeler, which was the emblem of the Club San Moritz, on the side of them that’s adjacent to the street.
The two monuments are on each side of Lake Drive, about a block from the lake, and the signs have often confused new residents and visitors, since they read “Switzerland” on them as people travel toward the lake and “Happy Return” as folks enter the Lake Gregory Village area of Crestline, going away from the lake. The messages were written from the perspective of the private Club San Moritz, which promoted Crestline as being the “Alps of Southern California.”
As you entered club grounds, they wanted you to think you were entering Switzerland. The club’s post office, located in Valley of the Moon, had the name and postmark of “Switzerland.” With that thought, the phrase “Happy Return” makes sense, when leaving club lands. They wanted members to return often to visit the Club San Moritz.
The club had weekly events that centered around the holidays, family and lake activities. It had thousands of members. You had to be a member to purchase property in their tracts, although many members just came up for weekends of fun and rented the many weekend rental homes in the area.
Rim of the World Historical Society Club President Bill Pumford helped Al Stearns remove the signs in October. Stearns restored the signs in his workshop by removing the old finish and filling in the wood cracks, repainting and resealing the wood, which should enable them to last for at least another 20 years of service. Then Stearns and Pumford led a group of historical society members in reinstalling both signs.
Stearns was the man who last spring restored or made and installed the yodeler figurines that are on bus stops and the chamber office and San Moritz Lodge in Crestline for the historical society.
The old signs were actually replaced by historical society members Russ Keller and Jim Huff in 2003 after they had been standing for about 60 years. That replacement was necessary because the yodeler figures had rotted and fallen off.
The high towers of the rock monuments had already been removed about a decade before that by a County Road Department crew. At the time of the 2003 sign replacement, the entire signs, after historical research, were completely recreated as original and reinstalled.
Twenty-five of the rock pillar street signs in the “D” streets and nearby areas of the San Moritz tracts were also replaced in that same time period, under a county grant given to the Rim of the World Historical Society with Huff and Keller restoring them. This 2021 sign restoration was undertaken because the signs were showing wear, and the historical society did it under their own funding this time to keep them in good repair.
The historical society also operates the free Mountain History Museum at 27176 Peninsula Drive in Lake Arrowhead. They hope to be open one weekend of each month this winter, from 11 to 4 p.m. In January and February, they plan to be open on the third weekend, on Jan. 15 and 16 and Feb. 20 and 21, weather permitting.