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A trip to Reefer City, California

Heeeey, man�

Like, there's this place in, um, up north-- what's it?-- Kern. Kern County, man. Waaaay up there. No beach. No�. Hey, got some Doritos, man? Goldfish crackers, maybe. Oh, uh-- yeah. This place. Reefer City. On a map I saw someplace. Check the laundry basket. The Doritos were in there. So, Reefer City, man. Is it, like, a real reefer city? Can I maybe get up there? Probably have to take the bus, huh. I can sleep real good on the bus. Oh, yeah, Reefer. Is it a real place? Uh, could you give me a ride, man? Can we stop at McDonalds first? That's pretty funny, man.

-- Uh, like�

Okay, I say I never make up these questions. And I didn�t make up this question; I just kinda rewrote it. Every once in a while Grandma Alice has a clean-out of the work area. One year, all the elves had to go back to the DMV to have their drivers licenses replaced. What a nightmare. This week all we lost was our Reefer City question, emailed from, um, Oceanside, as I recall. Sorry. If we don't have the original question, we definitely do have the original answer.

So was there ever reefer in Reefer City? Probably lots. According to a 30-year-old article from the Los Angeles Times, Reefer City was founded in 1933. It was never incorporated, but R.C. was an official mailing address for decades. What kicked things off was the discovery of gold along a slope of Soledad Mountain, about six miles south of Mojave. A South African mining company swooped down on it and started hauling out metal, hand over fist.

Rather than build accommodations for several hundred miners, to supplement their dormitories the company went to the Southern Pacific railroad and said, "We'll buy as many old refrigerated rail cars as you can find." The SoPac found 50. They were wood, sturdy, 43 feet long, maybe 10 feet wide, and very well insulated against the heat. The mining company gathered all the reefers (as they're known in the train trade) and pulled them out into the sand. Miners moved in, built porches and extra rooms, wallpapered, laid carpet, put up fences, planted gardens. It was an all-reefer community with (eventually) electricity, piped-in water, school buses�a real Wally and the Beave sorta town.

The mine played out by 1942, but in its place we had a big war. Much better, economically. Marines and later Air Force personnel from Edwards AFB rented the reefers from the new owners until the early '60s, when enough housing was available in the town of Mojave. For a decade Reefer City was home to hippies, runaways, and desert rats. In 1971 the place was leveled by a private salvage company, which really just wanted exclusive rights to the fortune rumored to have been buried on the site by a legendary 90-year-old recluse miner. So Reefer City had reefer plus the obligatory mysterious hermit with a secret fortune. Classic Americana.

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Heeeey, man�

Like, there's this place in, um, up north-- what's it?-- Kern. Kern County, man. Waaaay up there. No beach. No�. Hey, got some Doritos, man? Goldfish crackers, maybe. Oh, uh-- yeah. This place. Reefer City. On a map I saw someplace. Check the laundry basket. The Doritos were in there. So, Reefer City, man. Is it, like, a real reefer city? Can I maybe get up there? Probably have to take the bus, huh. I can sleep real good on the bus. Oh, yeah, Reefer. Is it a real place? Uh, could you give me a ride, man? Can we stop at McDonalds first? That's pretty funny, man.

-- Uh, like�

Okay, I say I never make up these questions. And I didn�t make up this question; I just kinda rewrote it. Every once in a while Grandma Alice has a clean-out of the work area. One year, all the elves had to go back to the DMV to have their drivers licenses replaced. What a nightmare. This week all we lost was our Reefer City question, emailed from, um, Oceanside, as I recall. Sorry. If we don't have the original question, we definitely do have the original answer.

So was there ever reefer in Reefer City? Probably lots. According to a 30-year-old article from the Los Angeles Times, Reefer City was founded in 1933. It was never incorporated, but R.C. was an official mailing address for decades. What kicked things off was the discovery of gold along a slope of Soledad Mountain, about six miles south of Mojave. A South African mining company swooped down on it and started hauling out metal, hand over fist.

Rather than build accommodations for several hundred miners, to supplement their dormitories the company went to the Southern Pacific railroad and said, "We'll buy as many old refrigerated rail cars as you can find." The SoPac found 50. They were wood, sturdy, 43 feet long, maybe 10 feet wide, and very well insulated against the heat. The mining company gathered all the reefers (as they're known in the train trade) and pulled them out into the sand. Miners moved in, built porches and extra rooms, wallpapered, laid carpet, put up fences, planted gardens. It was an all-reefer community with (eventually) electricity, piped-in water, school buses�a real Wally and the Beave sorta town.

The mine played out by 1942, but in its place we had a big war. Much better, economically. Marines and later Air Force personnel from Edwards AFB rented the reefers from the new owners until the early '60s, when enough housing was available in the town of Mojave. For a decade Reefer City was home to hippies, runaways, and desert rats. In 1971 the place was leveled by a private salvage company, which really just wanted exclusive rights to the fortune rumored to have been buried on the site by a legendary 90-year-old recluse miner. So Reefer City had reefer plus the obligatory mysterious hermit with a secret fortune. Classic Americana.

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