ROSAMOND — The rich history of the area around Rosamond, from gold mining to exotic cats, racecars to Pancho Barnes, was on display Thursday at the Wanda Kirk Library in Rosamond in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Kern Antelope Historical Society.
“It was awesome,” Society President Gretchen Winfrey said as the event began to wind down Thursday evening.
Visitors took in informational displays, maps, old photographs, artifacts and more showing the varied history of the High Desert area.
Event co-chairwoman Fran Thompson showed a collection of photographs presenting a “then and now” view of Rosamond, showing what has, and hasn’t, changed over the years.
She spoke of the time before the Antelope Valley Freeway was continued through to Rosamond, when residents were known to ride their horses downtown.
Photos showed the five different post office locations, including the counter from one that is now used at the Wayside Cafe.
The high point of the day was sharing this rich history with busloads of fourth-graders from Westpark and Rosamond elementary schools, who took in displays and learned about their community.
“The kids were awesome,” Winfrey said. “I was amazed at how well the fourth-graders behaved. They were interested; they asked questions.”
Among the popular displays with the students were the old Model T Ford, Willow Springs racecar and vintage truck, and the demonstration of gold mining techniques.
Presenter Joe Pauley demonstrated how panning for gold worked.
“I showed them how the gold stays at the bottom” of a shallow pan of water, while the other dirt floats to the top, he said.
Displays from the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound, complete with fur for them to touch, proved popular, and a new experience for many students who didn’t know the facility was in their backyard.
Teachers were sent back to class with packets of information for follow-up lessons and activities, Winfrey said.
Ella Williford Garcia shared stories of the Rosamond Community Fair, a popular event which ran in the spring from 1965 to 1972 and included the Little Britches Rodeo.
“Basically everything they did at the Antelope Valley Fair we did here,” she said.
As it was months before the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival, the Rosamond event gave area 4H members an early chance to showcase their livestock, something of a practice run before the animals were mature enough to be sold.
The fair and its accompanying parade drew celebrities from Los Angeles television shows, and residents competed for titles of Miss Rosamond, Honorary Mayor and Mr. Sagebrush, a whiskers contest.
A sign of their times, the display included souvenir ashtrays commemorating the fair. These hold a special memory for Garcia, as her grandparents owned the plant which fired the designs on the glass surface.
The Kern Antelope Historical Society was founded in 1959 for the purpose of learning and preserving the history of the High Desert area.
The organization holds its regular monthly meetings and historical programs on the second Thursday of each month, except July and August, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the library.