Dear Mrs. Niemeyer,
I read your letter in Sunday’s Antelope Valley Press about your fourth-grade class in Aviston, Ill., and your goal of learning about the country by hearing from people in all 50 states.
That sounds like a terrific project and I expect students will learn more this way than they will from a textbook. They will remember it longer as well.
I write a column for the newspaper and I am also a teacher, so I know about looking for ways to spark student interest.
Having lived here for most of the last 40 years, I can tell you a little about our area, the Antelope Valley.
Students, you might be interested in knowing that our area played an important role in the historic mission to land a man on the moon.
The astronauts trained here, at Edwards Air Force Base.
Oh, and that man who was first to walk on the moon? Neil Armstrong? He used to live here, and I had the chance to interview people who knew him
And the pilot who flew higher and faster than anyone, Pete Knight, also lived here for many years. He represented us in the state Legislature after serving as mayor of Palmdale.
The Space Shuttle — which took astronauts to space and back over and over — was built here, and thousands of Valley residents proudly worked on it.
Many other important aircraft were built here, which is why Newsweek magazine gave us the name Aerospace Valley in 1983.
Our area has a great deal to offer; though, like everywhere else, there are always people who take what they have for granted and choose to complain.
I was just thinking about this on Saturday, when it was 70 degrees, sunny, without a hint of wind. Beats the snowy winters of my own home area of upstate New York, I thought.
I am sure Aviston is much greener than the Antelope Valley. That is one thing that takes getting used to. Though we are just an hour’s drive from Los Angeles, we are in the Mojave Desert.
It gets hot — typically over 100 and sometimes into the 110s in summer — but, as the chambers of commerce like to remind everyone, “it’s a dry heat.”
Because we are over the mountains at 2,300 feet of altitude, it also gets cold in winter. After many years without snow, we’ve had it twice this winter, though it didn’t last long.
We get plenty of windy days, but, thankfully, no tornadoes like the Midwest. We do get earthquakes, though, which can be scary, but we do our best to prepare and after a while, we get used to occasional shakes.
We have many more people than when I first moved here in 1980. The population is about 500,000, as compared to about 100,000 when I arrived.
If you like sports, you’ve probably heard of Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers all-star. He is from Palmdale and went to Pete Knight High School, named for the pilot mentioned above.
Other famous people who lived here include Hollywood legends John Wayne and Judy Garland.
I like to say this is the biggest small town in America. There may be half a million of us, but it seems as if we all know each other.
There are many good, kind, giving people here who go out of their way to help others.
Oh, and the antelope? They were here when the first settlers arrived in the 1880s, but not so much anymore.
Best of luck with your project.
William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.