It was seventeen years ago on this date that voters approved a ballot initiative to amend the county’s General Plan, Zoning Ordinance and Westwood Area Plan to allow the development of a four-season resort near Westwood known as Dyer Mountain. It was proposed to build three golf courses, ski runs, along with thousands of houses, condos along with commercial retail projects. It became a contentious issue fought by environmental groups. Plagued with financial and legal issues the project has been derailed. I am sure there can be volumes about the topic.
In February 1925 groundbreaking occurred on the corner of Birch and Fourth Streets for the Westwood Theater across the street from the Opera House to the north. The majestic three-story Tudor style building was built in a mere two months, and became Westwood’s tallest building. On Wednesday evening, April 22, 1925, the Westwood Theater opened its doors for its gala opening. All 1,100 seats were sold out for the viewing of the featured movie “The Sea Hawk.”
The Westwood Theater was not entirely dependent upon films originating from Hollywood. On occasions, the local residents were able to see themselves on the big screen. In the spring of 1921 the Anita Stewart Company had a contract to film the Great Western Power Company’s operations at Butt Valley. The film company while there used the opportunity to film Red River’s operations. In August, Stewart’s film of Red River’s activities made its debut at the Opera House. As one reviewer duly noted: “The film is a good reproduction of the many plant activities and the town of Westwood in general. It may need a little censorship before it is ready to go to the general public. One street scene shows the block wagon pounding along, evidently on a hurry-up trip to keep home fires burning. A little behind is the garbage wagon doing its part to make Westwood a rival of spotless town. These little details have been already enjoyed by the “home folks” but when it comes to a general public proposition it is not desirable to give undue prominence to these very necessary activities.”
It is only fitting that on Labor Day that we remember the great purge of in which nearly 400 men, women and children were forced out of their homes in Westwood on July 13, 1938 over a labor dispute, one that lingers to this day. Yet, by the end of that historic day the California Highway Patrol, with the National Guard on standby placed a blockade on the community, sealing it from the world until things could stabilize. According to historian Gerald Rose about the historical significance of the purge he wrote, “Not until the 1941 deportation of Japanese-Americans was there a large forced migration of United States citizens.” To learn more about Westwood’s labor history, read Red River: The Turbulent Thirties.
One of the peculiar oddities back in Westwood’s early history there were no accommodations for the traveling public. The Red River Lumber Company who controlled the town wanted it that way. This would hinder any “undesirables” to try infiltrate the town, i.e., such as union organizers. However, Red River needed to provide some sort of accommodations for people visiting on official business with the company. Red River constructed the El Solano at 501 Birch Street to meet those needs.
In the 1930s, during Red River’s financial crisis, the company converted its American Legion Hall into a hotel known as the Blue Ox Inn, and thus the El Solano diminished in status. It would later be converted into apartments. In the fall of 1965 the Assembly of God Church renovated the building, and the second story removed. Today, it is a private residence.
In 1903, the first automobile traveled through Lassen County. Ten years later the car craze struck the region, as it did the rest of the state. These new car owners were anxious to travel, but the old wagons roads of yore, was not acceptable. In 1916, the voters of California passed an $18 million bond measure that led to the beginning of the state highway movement. Construction slowly began on Highway 36 and one of the momentous occasions occurred in 1923. It was the completion of the $45,000 concrete arch bridge over the Susan River at Devil’s Corral. In the summer of 1929, the last link of the highway between Red Bluff and Susanville was completed with a realignment of the roadway near Coppervale. The process to build the highway took nearly twelve years at a cost of a million dollars. The state initially designated as Highway No. 29 and in 1935 it was changed to Highway No. 36. Another important aspect when the highway was completed that state did snow removal to keep the highway open year around.
This was one of the biggest stories of 1978. It was not only an emotional issue, but a political one, too. It all began, in May, when Beaty & Associates made their intentions known that they would be logging adjacent to the cemetery, but harvesting trees in the cemetery. A group known as the Concerned Citizens of Westwood requested intervention from the Lassen County Board of Supervisors to prevent the logging in the cemetery for they feared it would be transformed into a “valley of stumps.” The County was hesitant to interfere, as they did not have the authority, as the county did not hold title to the property. It was cited even with adverse possession with the burial rights, it did not cover timber or mineral rights. Beaty later rescinded its plan to log the cemetery. Several years later, some large pine trees were removed as a safety issue. One of those trees, had a bronze marker attached to it, to memorialize the 1929 death of Fletcher “Cub” Walker Jr. who died in a airplane crash near the cemetery.
The 101 Nite Club was perhaps the liveliest of the four roadhouses between Susanville and Westwood. It is also the least documented, providing a challenge to unearth its story. The club took its name from the 101 Ranch and was located directly across from the ranch house. The operators leased the property from the McKenzie family, owners of the 101, but what the arrangements were is open to speculation, since those documents were never recorded.
The 101 was established in late 1937 or early 1938 by Old Town resident Steve Actis. It was a large structure containing a bar and dance floor and live music was a part of the routine operation. In addition, there was a separate gas station and restaurant and a number of cabins behind the club. The cabins were rented out to loggers, but also provided housing for the musicians who performed there. Continue reading 101 Nite Club→
1924 was one of the driest years on record in California. To have a better comprehension how dry it was, the highway between Susanville and Westwood remained opened all winter and it was not until the winter of 1929 when the highway implemented winter snow removal. In March 1924 when a few inches of snow fell in Westwood it was met with great excitement. By May with hardly any winter precipitation, problems no one thought would ever happen occurred. Duck Lake, the main water source for Goodrich Creek, which was Westwood’s water supply went dry. On May 10, Fletcher wrote “The water supply for the Town is failing us quite rapidly and it is now a race to get water from Clint’s Camping Ground Spring [Clear Creek] before the Goodrich Ditch water fails us.
“We are running the Town on meal hours so every one can get water for their meals and then closing it off. To do this requires water taken from the millpond. We are sure up against a real dry season as indicated by the Buck Brush and Manzanita leaves curling up and turning black. Springs that have heretofore been dependable are failing.”
As Walter Luff Jr., recalled during the 1924 drought they used the millpond water to bathe with and he stated the water tasted like turpentine. Relief came in the summer, when a pipeline was placed to bring water from Clear Creek to Westwood.
While most reservoirs in the region were constructed for irrigation there is always an exception to the rule. The Goodrich Reservoir on Goodrich Creek near Westwood was constructed in 1912. Its main purpose was for a domestic water supply for the residents of Westwood and also as a water supply for the Red River Lumber Company’s millpond. During the winter months, it found another use as it was a popular ice-skating spot. In 1931, the State of California inspected the dam, deemed it a hazard and was removed.
Some people assume that Red River Lumber Company’s operation at Westwood was that of a sawmill. It was more than that, and was a multi-facited lumber plant. On May 2, 1924 work began on a half-million dollar veneer plant just to the north of the sawmill. As what had become customary, it too would be built on a grand scale and when completed would be the second largest veneer plant on the West Coast. The two story structure measured by 100 feet wide and a 1000 feet long, with ample room to make additions should demand warrant. Three hundred men were hired in the spring of 1925 to operate the facility. Continue reading Westwood’s Veneer Plant→