STO­RIES FROM THE PAST

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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.

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