murals in 29 Palms
Twentynine Palms California is a desert town with a population of about 26,000. It lies directly east of Los Angeles and slightly northeast of Palm Springs. It is the site of the Oasis of Mara, the site of the 29 palm trees planted by the Serrano Indians. The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center is just outside of town.
Robert Plant sings a song called ’29 Palms’ although it’s not about the town.
Frank Sinatra recorded ‘The Lady from Twentynine Palms’ in 1939 and it was later covered by the Andrews Sisters as well as Doris Day. Again, it’s not a song about the town!
I drove through it the other day because it is one of the towns at the northern edge of Joshua Tree National Monument. As I entered the town, I noticed a sign that claimed that 29 Palms was the city of murals. As it turns out, there are quite a few murals in town.
As I was taking pictures, I realized that it must be rare for people to walk around this town with a camera. Then a few minutes later I decided that was wrong. It is rare for people to walk around this town. Period.
What follows is most of the murals. I am missing one of desert wildflowers and one of a giant lizard. So be it. Most of the murals have an historical theme and most come with a story. So, here is a brief account of some of the characters and events in the history of Twentynine Palms.
below: The story of cattle days in Hidden Valley. Hidden Valley is a rock formation in what is now Joshua Tree. Entrance to the ‘valley’ is through small openings in the rock formations. It was once home to castle rustlers.
below: The 29 Palms Stage and Express, a 1929 Chevrolet truck modified by John Hastie and used in 1938 when he started providing public transportation in the area. John Hastie continued to drive until he retired in 1973. It would be interesting to know how long this truck was in service!
below: Keys’ Desert Queen Ranch. Bill Keys arrived in 29 Palms in 1910 as the caretaker of the Desert Queen mine. When the mine went bankrupt, Bill Keys claimed the mine site. He and his wife Frances raised their five children here and Bill remained until his death in 1969. The wikipedia entry for Bill Keys (William F. Keys) mentions that they had seven children, four of whom survived. It also depicts Bill Keys as more of a ‘character’ including the fact that he spent time in San Quentin prison for murder. The ranch buildings still exist (they are within Joshua Tree National Monument) and tours of the site are available.
below: Orville Jackson Cones, aka Cactus Jack, or Jack Cones, the flying constable. He became Constable of the area in 1932 and he held that job for 28 years. He helped patrol the area by flying his Piper J-3 Cub.
below: The above mural is signed, O’Connor ’96.
Apparently the two guys who look like they want to help are Fergie and Floyd.
below: Another O’Connor mural, this one painted in 2002, depicts the story of Smiths Ranch.
The text is smaller and more difficult to read in these photos but apparently Bill Smith and brother Harry came to 29 Palms in 1923. They drilled a well that supplied the early settlers with water. It also supplied a small swimming pool (see right side of mural).
Thelma Head (Mead?) arrived in 29 Palms a few years later and in 1930 she and Bill Smith were married. Together they raised their family here. They also developed Smiths Ranch with ice house, dairy, ice cream parlor, outdoor theater, recreational hall, and trailer park.
below: O’Connor Graphics has a store in town. Unfortunately it was closed the day that I was there.
But he does have a website!
below: Prior to a flood control channel built in 1969, flash floods used to occur in 29 Palms. During thunderstorms water would race from the mountains above the town, flood the highway, and then flood the main streets of town.