This post will be of most interest to the Carlsen family because we all experienced Victorville together. Of course, anyone is welcome to read on.

In the summer of 1960 a small caravan of two VW Beetles, suitcases stacked on their roofs, made its way across the U.S. on fabled Route 66. All eight of us, Dad, Mom, Lars, Lief, Alf, Kurt, Hans, and Ingrid, emerged from the eastern forests of Pennsylvania, sped through the rolling prairie of Kansas, and entered the bare naked southwestern desert. I was ten years old.

Cowboy westerns dominated TV and movies in 1960 and the landscape I peered at from the back seat of that Beetle as we passed from Tucumcari, New Mexico through Arizona, Needles, to finally arrive at Victorville, looked an awful lot like a scene from Gunsmoke or Wagon Train. “How cool!” we kids thought. We’re gonna be cowboys!

Mom was worried about rattlesnakes and Dad talked about maybe getting a pair of snake-bite-proof Gokey boots. Alf wanted his own horse. I was happy just to be “Way Out West.” We had most recently lived at rainy Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany so the Victorville sun took a little getting used to. We kids spent our first week at the officer’s swimming pool (yes, officers and enlisted were segregated) on George AFB while Mom and Dad looked for a house. I still remember hot-footing across the blistering sand and squinting at the brightness of it all.

If I ever had a home town, I guess it would have to be Victorville. I attended school there for grades five through nine. My dad retired there in 1970 so it served as the family home base for several years of my young adulthood.

Mary and I stopped by on our way from Death Valley to Joshua Tree yesterday and we decided to spend a day. I really haven’t seen my “home town” but briefly since about 1972. I thought I’d have a look around.

20130205-153614.jpg16216 DEL PARQUE CT

Victorville was a much smaller town when I lived there. I think the population was around 7000. Victorville now is one of those large yellow smears on a map that has swallowed up surrounding towns into one continuous maze of streets and shopping centers. I’m guessing the area population now has to be at least several hundred thousand. If Victorville grows just a little more it will grow together with San Bernardino which has already grown together with Los Angeles. Thus, Victorville will soon be part of Los Angeles.

George AFB was decommissioned some years ago but Victorville seems hardly to have noticed. The base now serves as a “logistics” center for large commercial jets. There are scores of them parked along the old runways.

We drove through the old neighborhoods this morning. The First Christian Church, etched in my memory by many a boring Sunday sermon, is now home to a Spanish-speaking congregation.

20130205-154742.jpgFIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Del Rey Elementary has hardly changed in the fifty years since I ran wild on the large dirt playground (that has now been planted with grass.)

I stopped by the two former family residences. The Del Parque neighborhood looks a little worse for wear but the woman who came out of our former house, Sofia Ontiveros, greeted me with a big smile and invited us back for coffee tomorrow (she had to attend a funeral.)

The Villa Drive house has been very well taken care of. It looks essentially the way it did when we lived there. The people who bought it from Mom and Dad in 1973 still live there. They invited me in and I took some pictures. She has decorated it tastefully and done some minor remodeling.

20130205-155756.jpgVILLA DRIVE LIVING ROOM

20130205-155926.jpg VILLA DRIVE FAMILY ROOM

In 1960, D Street was “Old Victorville.” Seventh Street was the main thoroughfare and the shopping center containing Hartwick’s Market was “New Victorville.” D Street is pretty much about the same sleazy place it was back then when it was home to Riley B’s and other GI bars. Seventh Street is full of vacant old storefronts and the Hartwick’s shopping center is gone! There is nothing left but the concrete pads where Rexall Drug, Hartwicks, 5, 10, 25 Cent Store used to be.

20130205-160701.jpgOUR DODGE RAM HAS HARTWICK’S PARKING ALL TO ITSELF. HARTWICKS WAS AT LEFT, DRUG STORE AT RIGHT

If any of us need reminding that we are dust in the wind, Victorville reminded me. It’s a strange feeling to see the current inhabitants racing around town like they own the place. But of course, they do. I am the intruder, the stranger; not just because I don’t live here anymore but because the town has changed so much I really don’t know it anymore. I imagine my displacement must be a little like the guy who divorces his wife and then sees her with a new husband. He probably thinks “she used to be mine” and that’s the way I feel about Victorville. It’s a little sad.

20130205-162539.jpg16350 VILLA DRIVE

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