Ramblings From Randsburg: ON THE TRAIL OF… The Feet Which Made The Floors Creak For Over A Hundred Years … By Lorraine Blair
Is it possible to ‘live in this moment’ when you know the floor creaking under your feet has felt everything from bare feet to boots moving over it for more than a hundred years? Sometimes that knowledge can even make the room feel rather crowded...but then this IS a Living Ghost Town....
People shape where they live and are in turn shaped by their dwelling places.
Think about it.
Olivia McCarthy, who lived four doors east of me on Randsburg’s Highland Avenue...over 100 years ago... moved up from civilized Tustin, California in June of 1897.
Described by her daughter, Teresa, as a “pioneer wife,” Olivia never shared what she really thought of her husband’s idea to move to the fledgling mining community. With six small children (the youngest, Charlie, was only six weeks old), moving into a one room Rand dwelling was quite a challenge.
Her children never knew of the despair imposed on Olivia by the four- windowed-single-door building which was to be her home. They did remember that Olivia loved pretty things and hung colorful curtains on the windows. A charming old clock and two vases etched in gold had survived the journey, having been carefully packed in seemingly far away Tustin. Their presence helped shape one room into home.
At 313 Highland, there is still a letter B shot by BBs right in the wood of the very vintage front door. About thirty years ago an ‘old timer’ stopped by to tell us that an early family’s surname started with a B and the two sons had been the long ago mischief makers.
Those boys certainly shaped the little cottage’s front door for the curious of the future. We may never know how living at 313 affected them; I am aware they had their own room with a door to the outside and their very own wood stove for heating...on the other side of the cottage from their parents’ bedroom. Sounds like a great place for imaginative adventures to be hatched. Home was almost away from home.
Highland Avenue was quite a place to live in early Randsburg. According to Marcia Rittenhouse Wynn in the 1963 edition of Desert Bonanza:
The street that ran more or less parallel to Butte Avenue, but farther up the hill side, Highland Avenue, was frequently spoken of privately by the younger blades of the town as Pregnant Avenue, that being where many of the early families lived.Half buried in the dirt floor of the small fruit cellar under the porch at 311 Highland was found a very old wooden pull-toy horse complete with rider. One can imagine children playing with their toys...and exercising their imaginations...in one of the few cool places in the pre-A/C days. Heat drove them to the cool cellar where they could create their own world.
Fun remembrances, but why do some of us care? Why should we bother preserving all that old stuff anyway? Who really wants to hear the floors creak? Who wants to pour heaps of money into making some pile of hundred year old wood ‘live-able?’ Or experience a full year’s frustration just to obtain a county permit for pre-fab carport construction? Why not just sell-off what we can on Ebay...and be sensible? Why preserve history? Why try to find out what life in a mining camp was really like? Why choose to do all this? Why even live here with one foot hopelessly mired in the past?
People shape where they live and are in turn shaped by their dwelling places. Some of us really like the shapes we find ourselves in....
Lorraine Blair, like any good historian, is rightfully concerned about historical preservation, or the lack thereof, across the desert. I’m with her 100 percent, as we are losing much of our history before we have the chance to piece together the puzzles left for us.-SB