STORIES FROM THE PAST
50 years ago
FIG TREE JOHN — In a secluded, out-of-theway spot located on the Salton Sea called Fig Tree John, data is collected for flood measures.
Imperial Irrigation District keeps track of the level of the Salton Sea at this point. It has to: In the past, people have raised nasty words and even nastier law suits about the sea’s level.
IID, of course, contributes the major portion of the water that empties into Salton Sea. Naturally, it also get the blame for anything out of the ordinary that occurs.
IID tries to please everyone (and usually gets a nod of approval from no one) and attempts to keep the level of the Salton Sea at a more or less stable level.
Unfortunately, keeping the depth of the sea regular practically is impossible.
Rain, for instance, cannot be planned. The recent Southern California floods and storms must be blamed on Mother Nature, not a water company like IID. But IID has to clean up nature’s mess.
Luckily, when rain fell in the Salton Sea area a few weeks ago, it also drenched Imperial Valley farmlands. As a result, farmers did not request as much water from ID.
If farmers do not want as much water, neither does IID. It cuts its water call with the Bureau of Reclamation.
Every little bit helps, of course, but ID maintains that it alone cannot control the sea’s level. “We can’t regulate rain or what Coachella Valley and Mexico send to the sea,” says A.J. Boles, IID engineer.
People are advised in the Salton Sea area to build homes at 220 feet below sea level. The sea, which currently is about 231.5 feet below sea level, seems to be far enough away from resident’s porches.
40 years ago
LETTUCE TALK — In the middle of the present labor strike, of course, are the laborers who are sacrificing the busiest time of their year to walk in picket lines. They, indeed, are the pawns in an incredible chess match.
Stories of their struggle, while no doubt as valid as any other story, have been repeated time and again.
But have we considered the struggle of what is actually the crux of the situation? Have we considered lettuce in the Imperial Valley?
Keep in mind that without it, we’d only be speaking about a handful of workers who would busy themselves harvesting carrots, broccoli and cabbage. Why, without it, the Valley would be about $70 million poorer.
Valleyites were early to recognize the significance lettuce would have in California, being one of the first head lettuce production areas to be established in the state.
In fact, “as an advertisement for Imperial County, the lettuce crop has done as much as any other crop-produce,” according to an account of lettuce’s beginning locally in “The First Thirty Years,” by Otis Tout.
While that held true in 1930, it no doubt still does in 1979. Witness the teams of reporters covering the strike and the outraged shrieks from consumers when lettuce prices begin skyrocketing as proof of that.
According to Keith Mayberry, University of California agricultural extension farm adviser, “records indicate that about 10 acres of lettuce were grown and shipped in 1915.”
That number doubled in1916 and from 1919, Imperial Valley lettuce acreage soared from about 100 acres to about 41,000 acres. The war years were tough on Valley output, however, as acreage hovered around the 20,000 mark for about 10 years.
30 years ago
Move over Larry Bird. The Boston Celtic great is about to be replaced from the top spot of Brawley High boys’ basketball coach Mike Zazvrskey’s list of favorite players.
The player taking his place: Jason Jongeward. Why?
Maybe because his three-point basket with 21 seconds left gave the Wildcats a 61-60 lead over Central — which held up as the final score —giving Brawley the Desert Valleys League win Friday night at Central.
The win gave Brawley a third place finish in league play and a playoff berth.
Or maybe because his three-point basket and two free throws earlier in the quarter helped erase a sixpoint Central lead, as the Spartans tried a ball-control offense to run time off the clock.
20 years ago
Drivers heading in and out of the Imperial Valley on Interstate 8 past the site of the Imperial Valley College Desert Museum will soon be treated to some highway eye candy: a sandstone inlaid terrace in the form of a snake, picnic shelters cut into the hillside to keep out the wind and eventually, an ethnobotanical garden featuring the best of the Valley’s fauna.
All of it is being built with the hope of luring travelers and local residents to the site of the Imperial Valley College Desert Museum and making the museum a featured attraction in this part of the state.
Thanks to a $239,000 federal grant funded through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, or ISTEA, the area right off the Interstate 8 Ocotillo exit is receiving a makeover in anticipation of the eventual construction of the museum at the site.