|Lucerne Valley has always liked to
celebrate and have a good time, but until 1970, this didn't always
happen on July 4. Sometimes residents of decades past would take the
cooler route, and observe Lucerne Valley Days or something similar in
the fall when temperatures were not 106 degrees.
For 32 consecutive years, however, the Lucerne Valley Chamber of
Commerce has held Independence Day celebrations on an annual basis. It
started holding these celebrations even earlier, in 1959, three years
after the chamber formed.
For 25 years, the Roadrunners, a division of the local Chamber of
Commerce, has also been involved. The Roadrunners have spearheaded the
drive for the annual fireworks spectacular that culminates at dark
following the 4th of July activities the Chamber organized.
Before the Fourth of July became such a big deal, Lucerne Valley Days
were the main event in Lucerne Valley. Held in the fall, it became more
and more elaborate over the years.
Gobar's Raising the Dust tells us "the community really went all out for
up-to-date entertainment in 1945." Gobar said they "imported" Indian
dancers, installed loudspeakers, and hung huge banners across Highway 18
at Box S. However, it was reported that "the law made (them) remove the
banners as soon as they heard about it."
The days grew from one to three days of reveling. The work began weeks
before the actual holiday - which was September 9 in 1945. That was also
Mrs. Goulding's birthday.
The Box S Ranch was the center of all the festivities for many years,
and so it was after much deliberation among newcomers, in 1945.
Box S had the shade trees, and corrals used when featuring calf roping
that year. A grandstand was built and a booth was constructed for the
The event barely came out in the black after the hiring of entertainers,
among them a group of professional Indian dancers from Hollywood that,
it was said, had to have space for their tepees close to restrooms and
running water, as well as a place to get their meals. Huge banners,
removed by Victorville law enforcement, had to be returned to Los
Angeles and the rental paid.
In 1958 the Lucerne Valley Chamber of Commerce with its president, the
Rev. Charles Coon, planned an all-day July 4 picnic and sack races to be
held at Midway School. Everyone brought food for their family plus some
Lemonade and watermelon were free, as was a Walt Disney film and cartoon
- followed by square dancing.
That year the activities began to be less homespun and pioneer style and
became more western. Folks wore Levis, fancy boots, Stetsons, and grew
"One didn't have to worry about the cost or about having to shell out
quarters and dimes to the young fry, because there was nothing for sale
except friendliness and good will and relaxation," Gobar said of the
earlier celebrations. "No one would care to go back to the days when
there were no television, radio, good roads, and other things that make
life out here more pleasant and comfortable."
"These blessings did not rob us of the intangibles we regained in 1958
at Midway Park, when everyone found he was putting something of himself
into making this day memorable."
In 1970, the year many of today's Forth of July traditions were first
organized, a multi-day celebration in fall was still observed in Lucerne
Valley. The Chamber of Commerce Wells Fargo Days on October 24 and 25
the year, in addition to the newly improved Independence Day
In 1976, the Chamber put on the biggest celebration ever, a Bicentennial
"Happy Birthday" parade and festivities. The festivities lasted three
days that year.
The "Time Step" float entered by Honorary Mayor Jim Johnson and his
wife, Darlene, and co-sponsored by the Lucerne Valley Chamber of
Commerce, won the Theme Trophy in the local parade on July 3. The
following day the float was entered in the San Bernardino County
Veterans Parade, and won the Sweepstakes Trophy. The following week, the
Time Step won the best Theme trophy and first place in the Apple Valley
"Lucerne Valley deserves some county-wide recognition for it's
enthusiasm and participation in the full three day Bicentennial
Celebration held here, and we all considered it an honor to represent
Lucerne Valley in San Bernardino." Darlene Johnson said.
As still is the case in Lucerne Valley, many volunteers put endless
hours of time and talent into this undertaking. The Johnson's designed
and built the float, and it was said that all the children riding on it
really made it come alive.
The Time Step depicted the steps in time from George Washington to
Gerald Ford, from the colonies and the birth of the Spirit of '76 to
placing our flag on the moon, and to the peace found in Lucerne Valley.
Youngsters wore costumes designed and made by their mothers, and held
signs that told the story.
Some of the youngsters that day included Dean Pederson who portrayed
Gerald Ford. The Spirit of '76 drummer was Ed Rader, flag bearers were
Paul and Renata Becker, David Turner was an astronaut, and Sharon Turner
played the flute.
Bill Escher drove his one-ton flatbed truck, pulling the 22-foot float.
In 1989, Pastor Allen Stanfield spearheaded a July 4th reunion of former
residents, most of whom attended Midway School.
Among them were at least three children of Rosa Koehly, who had been the
postmaster back in 1912, when Lucerne Valley first celebrated the Forth
of July. They were Helene Koehly Wood, Lorraine Koehly Knowlton, and
Marguerite Koehly Coates.
Several former teachers also attended. One of them, Ethel Windchanz, was
the Grand Marshal of the July 4th Parade that year.
The reunion was well attended, and several functions were held at Midway
School in honor of those who once attended.
Many Lucerne Valley/Midway alumni either rode a float or followed on
foot in the 1989 Independence Day Parade. In addition to the many folks
that traveled a distance to their hometown, many residents who attended
Midway School also participated; people like Troy and Betty Reed, other
members of the Donaldson family, the Delperdang family, the Regensburgs,
John Russell, the Barnett and Veale family, Dick and Ethel Owen, and the