By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
The Mountain History Museum hosted three classrooms of third-grade students from Lake Arrowhead Elementary School on Thursday, Nov. 3, for a half-day tour of the museum. The students from Kristin Cardrant’s, Carl Zaeske’s and Laurie Johnson’s classrooms attended.
The original plan was for the students to also spend half of their day visiting the nearby Indian Rock Camp but the snowstorm the night before canceled that half of the field trip.
The museum was fully prepared for the 80 students. The students were allowed to grind acorns by hand on actual metates with manos (hand rocks) themselves, as led by retired teacher Vickie Walton. This gave them the experience the Serranos had when living in the Rock Camp meadow since they couldn’t go there that day.
In the museum, there is a model of a kiich, which indigenous people made to live in while in the mountains. The Serranos migrated yearly from the desert, where they spent their winters, up to the various elevations of the mountains during the spring, summer and fall, rotating between camp sites, as the various nuts and seeds they liked to eat would ripen. The students have been studying the Serranos who lived on the mountain.
Former teacher Rhea-Frances Tetley, who co-founded the Rim of the World Historical Society, described the various animals and birds of the forest and heard from the students about their own interactions with wildlife on the mountain. The youth got to see how big a bobcat or raccoon really is. Those who wanted to touched the furs of a fox, raccoon, opossum, rabbit and skunk to experience the various textures and densities of their fur. They heard about the mountain men, like Jedediah Smith, who traveled through these mountains seeking these kinds of pelts.
Historical Society President Bill Pumford told students about the lumbering era and early pioneer history on the mountain in the 1800s, showing them the huge saws used to cut the trees. He explained why oxen yokes had to be made from wood, rather than the leather used for horses, and how the farming and agriculture in the area was often done for the benefit of the work animals.
Ken Brafman showed the train diorama he created of the engines, dump cars and the cement warehouse used to build the cement-core, compacted-dirt dam that created the lake we know as Lake Arrowhead. They saw the model of the blue concrete outlet tower that sticks up out of Lake Arrowhead, which they know well. That tower is now over 115 years old.
The history of the various communities was all around the students on the walls of the museum. A video of the history of Lake Arrowhead Village, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this last summer, was showing all day.
The students got to learn the power of pulleys through the demonstration created by the Rim of the World Search and Rescue group. In the general store, retired teacher Sheila Arnett showed, through the Proscope, the magnification of many things including feathers, coins, students’ hair and skin; most interesting were tiny chia seeds the Serranos used in many of their meals.
Also in the general store display are examples of items sold in a store 100 years ago and information about the first post office in the mountains establishing the various mountain communities, with the photo of Lake Arrowhead’s first post office when the area was called Little Bear Lake. Also in the general store is a panorama view of the original Lake Arrowhead Village built in 1922 and purposely burned down in 1979.
In the theater were shown some early day silent movies. Hundreds of those “two-reelers” were shot in the mountain communities in the early days of movie making because of the variety of seasons and scenery, making it a favorite filming location. Skyland Productions, a major movie studio, owned by cowboy movie star Leo Maloney, was located in Crestline, with a western movie village set built along what is today Lake Drive in Lake Gregory Village during the 1920s.
A field trip to the Mountain History Museum can be tailored to the studies or interests of any group, such as this one was, when arranged in advance. The tours are free for any school, seniors, church, Scout or other groups, such as nonprofits, including homeschool groups. In third grade, students study how their hometowns developed, which gives them a sense of place and their part in the community. The mountains have a fascinating history, and each town has a separate story with most personality driven by the pioneer family of their town. If you or your group want to arrange a special tour, email the museum at [email protected] with the dates desired and if there are any certain the topics they are interested in learning about.
The museum, located at 27176 Peninsula Drive in Lake Arrowhead, will only be open to the public two more times this calendar year: on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend and also on Dec. 10 and 11 with Santa visiting the museum. The gift store will be open for the history fan in the family.
Photos (photos by Rhea-Frances Tetley)
Bill Pumford showing the students about the logging history of the mountains.
Ken Brafman with the train display showing the construction of Lake Arrowhead’s dam.
Vickie Walton demonstrating grinding acorns in metates.