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HSUMD to hold Annual Dinner May 21

The Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert (HSUMD) Nick Rogers

The Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert’s Annual Dinner Meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, at 6 pm, at the Historic USO Building, 230 W. Ridgecrest Blvd., with doors opening at 5:30. The program will be a follow-up to April’s “Wedding of the Waters” program, a video presentation of Huell Howser’s 1999 recreation of the event.

There will also be an election of officers and other business. A delicious tri-tip dinner, lovingly prepared by HSUMD members Joe DePina, Tammy Pounds, and Norma Abbott, will be served by our esteemed partners, the High Desert Quilt Guild (who will also provide dessert). Tickets will sell for $20 and will be available for sale at the HSUMD Book Store on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm.

At the April meeting, audiences learned about the original “Wedding of the Waters”, the 1937 brainchild of Father John Crowley, the Desert Padre, that marked the opening of the highway from Mount Whitney to Death Valley. The idea of this grand three-day event was to transport a special gourd of water from a lake on the side of Mount Whitney, using various modes of transportation from California’s history down to Badwater in Death Valley. At that time, that journey spanned the highest and lowest points in the United States. Father Crowley hoped that the historical event would promote tourism to the Eastern Sierra. Participants in this festival included the governor of California and Hop-along Cassidy, as well as a genuine prospector and a stagecoach driver from the 1870’s.

In 1999, the renowned television personality, Huell Howser, dedicated an episode of his PBS “California’s Gold” show to a remarkable recreation of the 1937 event. This was a unique opportunity to witness history come alive, as he enlisted descendants of the original participants, and in a few cases, actual participants were still living and able to reprise their roles. A few members of the 1937 audience were also still at hand to talk about their impressions of the big day.

Joan Brooks, author of the definitive biography of Father Crowley, and members of the Eastern Sierra Museum, located in Independence, will lend expertise at this event. The video will be presented following dinner and other business.

The nominating committee consisting of Alan Bailey, Gary Staab, and Liz Babcock is hard at work developing a list of candidates which will be sent out to members before and during the meeting. The election of the board of directors, a crucial part of our democratic process, will be one of the main pieces of business at June’s annual meeting.

HSUMD meetings are open and free to the general public. They are held on the third Tuesday of the month except in July and August. For more information, call 760-375-8456 during Book Shop hours: Wednesday through Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm.