Posted by: Bonnie Phelps | August 11, 2012

95 years young, Pat Jones shares some Palomar History

Usually there is a year built for the cabins I have the privilege of listing.  My most recent listing, that little hamlet known as Happy Holler doesn’t give a date.  I asked the owners if they knew when it was built.  They sent me links to two different articles mentioning their property that I’d posted years ago: Reminiscing with Pat Jones   and  Ralph Tillinghast, the Sage of Palomar

The owners of Happy Holler reminded me that Ralph Tillinghast built their cabin.

One of our old-timers, Pat Jones had told me that years ago.  I decided to give Pat a call and we had a delightful conversation.  I asked him about Happy Holler and after a couple of minutes, started typing notes.  I thought some of you might enjoy a little history lesson from Pat Jones:

“I am going to be 95.  I was born the same day the Bolshevik’s took over Russia, and Lake Hodges had taken some of our family property and finished their dam, November 8, 1917.    My mother would say when I was in trouble, “Was it because the Bolshevik’s took over, or that damn dam took some of our land, or you were born?  I don’t know what was worse”.

My wife is a year older.  We go up to Palomar quite often.  I’m still driving and know my way up the mountain.

My grandfather built his cabin on Palomar in 1921. The original cabin is still there.  We added on to it all around. It was not made for winter, it was made for summer.  We had the first indoor toilet on Palomar.    We even beat the Mendenhalls.  My grandfather built the indoor toilet for my Aunt who was a cripple and could not use an outside privy.  It had the water box above the toilet with a pull chain. Of course, we didn’t have water then – no water company on Palomar yet.  So, that was my job to go down to Pedley and get water for that toilet.  We kids would go down to Pedley Valley almost every day.  That was quite a trek.  Of course we didn’t have cars up on the mountain much.  We walked everywhere.

We were instant friends with the Tillinghast family.  They had already finished their first cabin at Happy Hollow – probably in 1920 or earlier.  That little upper cabin used to have only three walls.  The inside was where you stored stuff.  The next wall was where they put snow.  Then they would put a wall of sawdust.  They would get the saw dust from the mill down at Pedley. The roof would come off.  A neighbor would come over with horses, and we would pull the roof back where we would shovel in snow.  That would be their refrigerator.

Mrs. Tillinghast would stay about a month or month and a half in Escondido.  Mrs. T was an extremely good piano player.  We would go down to Baileys and play for dances.  We danced at Bailey’s – Mrs. Tillinghast at the piano, Roy at the coronet, I at the violin.  Those were the good ole days!

In the 1920 and 30s, most of the people who came for the summer on Palomar were from Escondido, Oceanside or La Jolla.  The dads never stayed over the week.  They all had jobs during the week.  They would come up on Friday bringing fresh supplies and go back down Sunday to go to work.  Of course there was no South Grade then.  They rarely came up the West Grade (known as Nate Harrison now).  They would come up the East Grade.  They would be driving Model T Fords and they would run hot.  They would always bring up big milk cans full of water.  They would use it for the car’s radiator.  Then they would fill up the cans on the East Grade from Cedar Creek.  They would bring water up in those milk cans for our cabin.  The East Grade didn’t end up where it does today.  The Grade came up from just above Cedar Creek, through what is now the Birch Hill area, and the road went past where the Lodge is now, and down behind where the water company is, right to our cabin.

One thing is in error with the history of Palomar though is the year they built the Lodge.  It was not there in the early 1930’s.  I think the Lodge was built about 1935.  I think they mix the earlier date up with little store that was to the left of where the Lodge is now.  Up until a few years ago, there were old bed springs and boards from the store.  The store cook there used to cook at San Quintin.  He said he just worked there, but we never knew for sure.  His specialties on Palomar were the same he made at the prison.  One was something like a pot roast.  I know it had beef in it.  He got his meat from Mendenhalls.  He’d go down to the Mendenhall Valley and pick it up. He also made real good macaroni and cheese.  He had a slot machine in there too – a one-armed bandit.

They had horses and a grader and used to grade the roads for us.  Of course, all the roads on Palomar were dirt then. My Granddad built the road by the way, all the way from the Palomar Lodge, past where the Fire Department is now, to the Summit.

My grandparents had a house at 408 East 5th Street in Escondido. That house is still there by the way. Lovely house. My Grandfather had one of the first automobiles in Escondido.  Guess what was in the back seat?  A buffalo hide.

The floor in our cabin is a walnut floor and that was originally the second floor in that 5th Street house when they remodeled it.

Palomar never had any pine trees after about 4000 feet.  Pine trees are not native to Palomar.  They steal the water from the cedars, firs and three kinds of oaks that are native to the mountain.

We were good friends with the sisters who wrote Teepee to Telescope.  Catherine Wood and – what was her sister’s name?  Below their cabin is a cabin that was built by my uncle.  The floor was from a roller skate rink.  It is maple and is about 4 to 6 inches thick.  This was from a portable roller rink.  They would move the roller rink from town to town and put up a tent.  When they got to a new town, they would set it up, sand it, and put varnish on it. My uncle got some of that roller skate flooring when part of one of those rinks burned down.

I used to herd cattle right here where I live now in Rancho Bernardo, at a retirement home called Casa Campinas, looking out to Lake Hodges.

Our family owned Sycamore Creek Ranch.  There were only about 15 families in the entire area of what is now Rancho Bernardo, Poway, the Lusardi family ranch, the family that owned the 4-S Ranch, and all of the Poway Valley.

I remember when the people of San Diego County pleaded with Washington DC to let our local Indians stay on their land and not ship them out.  It was a terrible thing. I know a lot of that history.

Do you know of the play Ramona?  We had an even better play after they built the Felicia Park in Escondido along the creek.  I was in the original Felicita program after they built that park along that creek.  I am the only one alive that was part of the first Felicita Park Program.  My dad furnished the horses. They made him Peco’s lancer.  I would bring those horses across the old bridge (there is now a new one) across Lake Hodges.  Our horses were even scared of an automobile.  I had a horrible time with those horses sometimes.  I had to get the horses unsaddled after the play and get their lariats back on.  I always tried to get back over that bridge before the Pickwick stage went by.  As you probably know, the stage carried the luggage on top, covered by a canvas top.  It would slap in the wind and scare the horses.  I was the only kid in the play and had to wear a Mexican Uniform.  I never got to see the third act because I had to leave to get those horses across that “damn” bridge.

Wish I had some early pictures of Palomar.  I entered the Navy six years before Pearl Harbor.  I had my Palomar album of pictures with me in the Navy.  I lost that album when I was in the Hawaiian Islands.  Always hoped that I’d have it returned.  I know a lot of local history and glad to share it with anyone.  But, if you are talking to me, you have to talk real loud because I’m hard of hearing.”

+ + + + +

It is always a joy to visit with Pat and Lydia.  I highly recommend it!

Bonnie Phelps


  1. We still have a sign, in the Bailey Dance Hall, that reads:

    Three piece Orchestra
    playing tonight

    It is a cherished part of Mountain history at Bailey’s.

    Thanks for the memories.
    Terri and Brad Bailey

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