Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Victor Valley Museum

According to, Rhonda Almager, facility manager at the Victor Valley Museum, the reason to visit the museum is simple: “People need to, discover what’s in your own backyard. That’s what we offer here at the museum. A chance for locals and tourists to truly understand the rich and diverse history the Victor Valley has to offer.”

And there is a lot to discover in this museum about the local area.

An extinct mammoth tooth, how cool is that? 

You can go ahead and touch ancient items from the local area.
I could not have agreed more. In fact, the motto, ‘Discover your own backyard,’ is brazenly painted within each mural that decorates the museum’s exterior, located at 11873 Apple Valley Road., in the town of Apple Valley.

Not a fancy facade - but treasures are within the walls
It is pure coincidence, that in our own blog, which is equally penned by my lovely spouse, Laureen, on a broad array of topics of both research and exploration, we ask the question, ‘What’s in your backyard?’

Who had that saying first? Hmmm
No plagiarism, simply a melding of ‘like’ minds. The philosophy is to understand all the wonderful and exciting places a person can visit in their own community. Though, our blog covers a wide variety of subjects from around the world, we would like to focus this column on those places to visit and explore within our own backyards near the Victor Valley.

Living in Southern California, opens up endless possibilities. The question of how far one would travel to visit something worthwhile was a topic for intelligent, thoughtful, and research backed discussion.

We ended up taking a map of the southwest, used Victorville as the center point, and drew a radius of approximately two hundred miles, the distance we felt qualified as a day-trip. 

“There,” I stated. “That will be our backyard for our local stories.”

That's a pretty big backyard!
Laureen grinned, as she often does with some of my pronouncements, but did surprise me by agreeing. 

“I know people who will drive hours just for dinner or to go to the beach for the day. That should work.”

Of course, the section of the radius over the Pacific Ocean may not get much attention, unless the reader counts Catalina Island, as well as the Channel Islands as destinations for a day trip. And, why not?

So, for this first trip, we settled for one really close to home. The Victor Valley Museum, a branch of the San Bernardino County Museum.

According to Almager, the attendance to the museum has skyrocketed over the past year or so. “We received over 9,000 visitors this year. That’s nearly 1,500 more than the previous year.”

"I want to see the exhibit first!" "No, me, first!"
Of course, the next question was why this occurred? “We have new exhibits, our prices are people-friendly, and now we offer a family activity at the museum on the second Saturday of each month from noon to 3 p.m.. It’s really been a great hit. Hands-on events, guest speakers, and the chance for people to meet people and possibly make new friends.”

The museum boasts a great deal of varied and quite interesting exhibits. One of my favorites, my kind of stuff, was the section called, ‘Earthquake Country.’ Yes, we know that the valley is near the focal points of both the San Andreas and Garlock fault lines, but the information shared on how the faults were created and what would happen during a really, really big shaking was fascinating.

That's a comforting title! Egad!!!!! 
There’s an interactive video, with Dr. Pat Abbot, from the San Diego State University explaining over and over (it loops all day) how the valley was created and what to expect during an earthquake. The professor, also does a bit of DIY on how to reinforce residential walls. Making them stronger, just in case.

A very cheery fellow, this Dr. Pat Abbott
Interestingly, or a harbinger of things to come, two weeks after our visit, Southern California received the strongest earthquake in two decades. In Searles Valley, near the city of Ridgecrest, a 6.4 'foreshock' rattled the desert, then followed up the following day with a 7.1 earthquake. Property damage, some injuries, but luckily there were no deaths.

Further exhibits explain how the Native Americans, who first resided in the Victor Valley, survived in a sometimes harsh environment. There are plenty of artifacts to view, found by local archaeologists, such as pottery, projectile points, metates (for crushing grain), clothing, and baskets woven from deergrass and sisal. There is also a really ingenious woven net for catching rabbits – they would never hungry with the multitude of rabbits making their homes in this valley.

Ancient pottery from local N.A. tribes in the valley
A large display, and another looping video, about the desert tortoise is a must see, to understand how fragile these lumbering desert creatures are and how they are quickly being eliminated by human encroachment and eaten by ravens. Oh, those ravens!

I'm hiding because everyone is looking for me - geeez!
Found tortoises are often equipped with ‘GPS Logger’ technology, which allows scientists to track individual tortoises 24/7. It used to take weeks to physically keep an eye on any one particular tortoise, but now with circling satellites, their every movement is tracked.

Much like our cell phones. 

The museum won the National Association of Counties award. The reason why is easy to see with the meticulous care taken to ensure the public truly enjoys their visit in a warm, friendly, educational, clean, and fun place to learn.

One exhibit may confound the younger visitors though. It is a large glass case with two very strange looking objects in it. The objects have a dial – yes, they are phones, but not just phones that many of us remember having at home, the dreaded ‘land line.’ These two artifacts are actually phones used to communicate during mining activities when gold and silver were being pulled out of the earth in earlier times. 

But they do resemble the rotary dial some of us remember.

What are these things?
According to Almager, “People keep coming back again and again to check and see if we have new exhibits. All I hear from departing guests is, we loved it, more interesting than we thought it would be, and I’ll be back.”

We’re not Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it doesn’t take a tree surgeon to realize going back to revisit the Victor Valley Museum is simply a must.

So, go and see what’s in your backyard, and we know you’ll have fun doing it.

For more information on the Victor Valley Museum: (760) 240 – 2111 or visit their website at,

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Mentoring in the 21st Century

With all due apologies for this hasty post, we just completed a presentation at the Innovative Schools Summit in Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, and the requests for our PowerPoint were such that we felt it worthy of a post.

Below is the link to the pdf of the presentation. Thank you sincerely to all who joined us in making a difference for kids.

Link to pdf: Mentoring in the 21st Century

For further information please contact us by email at or by text at (760)265-2676.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

In the Pen - Temporarily

John's cell-phone rang, though he didn't recognize the number, he went ahead and answered it.

Of course, it was a telemarketer, "Hello, this is No-Name, and I am calling about solar power for your house."

Sounding very quiet and serious, John interrupted the bothersome robo-seller, "I'm sorry, I can't speak right now. I'm in prison." It seemed apropos -- it was a cell-phone call, after all.

Mr. No-Name, apologized and hung up. When does that happen? A bothersome salesperson just hanging up?

Of course, the prison John was speaking about was the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho.

Not a particularly inviting facade...
Laureen and John had traveled to the City of  Trees, to visit daughter Kelly and her husband Travis. Sightseeing is a must and one place on the top of the list was the Old Idaho Penitentiary. What more could an explorer and researcher desire then to spend quality time with family in a dank, dark, cold, and possibly haunted prison?

Travel Channel ghost hunters always
look better in green light.

This solid rock penitentiary is so well known for its hauntings, that a paranormal group from the Travel Channel visited and performed their paranormal rituals. The crew from Ghost Adventures studied, listened, viewed, filmed, and tried just about everything else these paranormal ghost hunters do - usually with green night vision goggles (we really enjoy that dramatic piece) and concluded that it could be haunted.

Cell-block constructed in 1911
There was a heaviness to the place. One felt strange anxious feelings, as we traipsed around the cell blocks where men and women spent some of their worst and often final years on this planet of ours. In one cell block where very young men were held, even as young as fifteen or younger, the feelings of oppression and sadness were overwhelming. The cold stone walls only accentuated the feeling of hopelessness these inmates must have felt, cooped up day after day serving their varied sentences for crimes for which they had convicted.
Solitary - about as dank as it could get

Now, many of these inmates deserved to be in prison for some pretty heinous crimes. One such deserving soul was Lyda Southard, who had a penchant for killing several of her husbands to collect on their life insurance. And there was Harry Orchard, convicted of assassinating the former governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg with a bomb outside the gentleman's home in Boise in 1905. Orchard confessed that he was a hit man for the miner's union and they, the union had a beef with the former governor.

Other crimes committed in the early years of Idaho also warranted lengthy prison sentences: murder, robbery, burglary, horse stealing, larceny and the such, but some would seem rather silly to lock someone up in the twenty-first century. Polygamy, cohabitation without being properly married, homosexuality, and plenty more offenses which shocked the public morals at the time the prison was operating.
The ones who spent their eternity at the penitentiary - in a way
No matter the crime - laundry had to be done -
John in front of the prison's laundry facility

Different times also meant different crimes.

The penitentiary was built using prisoner labor, and the sandstone, which makes up most of the sprawling prison, was mined from the nearby foothills. As the prison population rose, so did more buildings using prison labor. As one warden stated, "It was better to use free labor than cost the state to house the people who the prison had to be built for."

Constructed started in 1868 and a public ceremony touting the state of the art prison was held on July 4th of 1870.
That's some good construction - and cheap too!

The date seems a bit ironic for celebrating the completion of a prison.

The prison stayed in the business of incarcerating criminals for 101 years. Over 13,000 inmates spent time there, but with no more than 600 at any one time which was the maximum it could contain.

Ten inmates were executed in the prison - the last being Raymond Snowden. He had been out drinking with his date, Cora Dean, on September 23, 1956, when they got into an argument and he ended up stabbing the mother of two, thirty times with a pocket knife. He left the dead woman beside the road, only to be found the next morning by a paperboy making his deliveries in Garden City. Snowden was convicted of murder and executed on October 18, 1957 by hanging. It is said, Snowden dangled at the end of the rope in agony for fifteen minutes before succumbing to his penalty.

So, maybe Snowden is still hanging around the penitentiary, scaring visitors.

Are Laureen and Kelly seeing a dangling ghostly Snowden?
In 1973, riots broke out over the outdated systems - poor plumbing, unhealthy water, very little heating or cooling offered by the old buildings, and so in December of that same year. the penitentiary closed for good.

Guard Tower
The penitentiary now stands as a historical landmark in the state of Idaho. It is a fascinating site to explore, to look into the cells where prisoners spent their days and nights, to read many of the inmates personal histories - some sad and some tragic - both for the inmate and their victims.

The penitentiary also has a museum sporting a marvelous collection of weapons from the earliest days to modern weaponry.

 John and daughter Kelly in front of a Gatling gun - impressive weapon
For more information -