1914 celebration had a real bang

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By Pat Judkins Leader Correspondent
Lucerne Valley had already held one community Fourth of July celebration by then, but in 1914 the festivities grew bigger and louder.
    It was a big year for Lucerne Valley, then known simply as Box S. The first item on the Lucerne Valley Improvement Association, organized in 1912, was a road over Rabbit Dry Lake, then just known as Dry Lake. It was completed in 1914, and on July 10, 1914, work started on a cement block school the county built on land across the road from the Box S Ranch, where the Baptist Church now stands. The land was donated by the Mulholland and Goulding families. This school was known as Lucerne School.
    The first Lucerne Valley Days were held in 1914 to celebrate the September completion of the 43' X 48' school building.
    As July 4, 1914 approached, there were more settlers in the valley than there were when the first July 4 celebration took place in this community two years earlier. "Dad" Goulding thought there should be more entertainment than the various races and swimming competitions held then. Since fireworks were out of the question in the dry desert, and for other reasons, it seemed reasonable that some loud explosions should be a part of the Independence Day observance.
    In larger towns, cannons were shot. In smaller communities it was popular to shoot the anvil. Following is eyewitness Junie Gobar's account from Gobar's Raising the Dust of the first shooting of the anvil here during the 1914 festivities:
    "We had two blacksmith anvils and had to use both of them. We put one on the ground, and to this we added an inch-and-a-half union nut, which later we filled with powder. Then we set the other anvil on top of this filled nut. From this we ran a trickle of powder about six feet away. Harold and I were acting as assistants; and when Goulding gave the signal, we touched off the powder. The top anvil went about twenty feet into the air with a deafening roar and ring.
    'On account of the noise, we didn't hear Goulding groaning. When the smoke cleared, we saw him sitting on the ground nursing one leg. The pipe nut being of malleable cast, had splintered and one piece had penetrated the calf of Goulding's right leg, making a serious wound. We carried him to the house, washed and bandaged the injured leg, then helped him to a chair outside, well back from the keg of gunpowder.
    "Walter White was standing around during the preparation of this blast, but he wisely kept his distance and his counsel, knowing Goulding. Harold and I, not knowing any better, had handled the powder and lighted the trickle. This procedure White considered all wrong and dangerous. After the excitement was over and Goulding was comfortable and calm, White came over from his safe distance, and calmly lighting a homemade cigarette, remarked, 'You boys should be ashamed to let all that there powder go to waste,' and with these few words, he took charge.
    "White built a fire on the forge to heat a piece of iron to wire to a 1 x 1 inch stick of wood, 6 feet long. Then, with a sledgehammer head to hold the powder, set the anvil on top of this. By the time all this was ready, the iron was red hot. Walter took the stick with bolt iron wired to it over to the anvil. There was a good, clean explosion; the anvil went up in the air. All the time it was going up and coming down, it was sweetly ringing. White had in the meantime put the iron backon the fire, Harold picked up the anvil and replaced it, while I acted as powder monkey. We kept shooting this till all the powder was used up. During these operations, the rest of the picnickers stayed well away from the activity, keeping an eye on the children who were curious about the strange ringing sound. Goulding watched also, but with less interest. His injury laid him up all that summer."
Reprinted with permission of The Leader Publication, High Desert Publishing Company
Published June 6, 2001

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