California Dreamin’, living in an empty town, 1950’s

Those of you who have read my other blogs will remember that when we left Reno we went to stay with my grandfather and his second wife in California. After a month or so, due to my mother’s not getting on very well with her step-mother  we moved to La Quinta, a very small hamlet about 30 miles from Palm Springs.

If you have a look on Google you will find that nowadays there is nearly as large a population in La Quinta as there is in Palm Springs but, in 1956, I can’t imagine that the population was higher than a few hundred (I could be wrong, but that’s the impression we had when we were there!)  Our mother rented a two bedroom house from the local real estate agent. He apologised for the fact that he didn’t have a key to the property,  so we would either have to leave the door unlocked or go in and out a window! This probably should have set alarm bells ringing but ‘mommy’ rented it anyway.

It was a little, one storey house at number 600 Sonora and Bermudas which possibly no longer exists as an address – looking at houses on Google, the numbers seem to be in the tens of thousands, as many American addresses are. There was a living room with a front door, a kitchen with a back door and two bedrooms, each with two beds. Though it was winter, we didn’t need any heating as the normal winter temperature is somewhere in the 60’s Fahrenheit. I don’t remember what we did there in the evenings – I don’t think we had a television. Judy, Jennie and I didn’t go to school as it was nearly time to go back to Zanesville so we didn’t have homework. We’ve always been readers so perhaps we read. Maybe we just went out and explored during the day, went home in the evening, ate and went to bed.

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Not having a key to the house meant that when we were in we locked every door and window securely which, one night, we were very glad about. We could hear someone outside the front door about midnight. As we weren’t going to school we didn’t tend to go to sleep early so my mother and I were awake when we heard the noise outside. I remember she jumped out of bed and ran to turn on the outside light while I looked out the small window which overlooked the door. Whoever (or whatever) had been at the door must have heard us running about and had gone by the time the light was on.

My mother had to go to Las Vegas in person to go before a judge so that her divorce could be finalised. She took Judy and Jennie with her, and left me with my Grandpa. He and his family lived in an exclusive community called Smoke Tree Ranch. There was an outdoor community swimming pool with lifeguard/swimming teacher. The pool was open all year round but barely used during the week in the winter. I was lucky enough to be able to learn to swim in that pool in the few days my mum and sisters were away. I think I must have spent long hours and most days there because, when they returned, I could do the front and back crawl and had mastered the technique for breathing during the crawl. It’s a shame we never got on to the breast stroke as I find it really difficult now but possibly wouldn’t have as a nearly thirteen year old.

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After they came back, we returned to La Quinta for just a few days before packing up and going back to Ohio. There had a been a really bad sandstorm and there was sand in every doorway, tumble weed tumbling down the streets and, on the sill of the window we used to go into the house, a scorpion! ‘Mommy’ had sent Jennie round to go through the window as she was smallest but, luckily for her, she couldn’t actually get up onto the sill so she called Judy and me. We went round the house and Judy started to climb onto the sill when she reeled back, having spotted what we were sure was a poisonous scorpion. Now, we had read somewhere that you can’t kill a scorpion by squashing it so we found a lawn-edger and ran it over quite a few times so that it was no longer in one piece. (Nowadays, I would have covered it with something, climbed through the window, got a glass and caught the poor thing and carried it away from the house rather like I do spiders, butterflies and bees that come into my house.)

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Later that same day my mother got into conversation with one of our few neighbours who informed her that we shouldn’t really be living in the house. Apparently, the owner’s  instructions to the estate agent had been to sell the house and under no circumstances was he to rent it out!

We left La Quinta and California two days later and rode across the US in a train, a journey for which I have absolutely no memory.🙁

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(I couldn’t find any photos so did some very poor line sketches just to break up the text. Please forgive me!)

PS Do look on Google images at La Quinta. There are one or two photos showing it in the fifties and a short history on Wikipedia.

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About Candy

I am 74, was a teacher, then a dealer in antiques and collectables. When I retired to the seaside I started website selling antique and vintage games and wooden jigsaw puzzles. Now, I'm spending my time blogging, gardening and making oil paintings.
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