Vern Lawson is on vacation. Please enjoy these “best of” Vernacular columns. This column originally appeared May 10, 2019.
In 1949, I arrived in Antelope Valley to begin what has become 70 years of practicing journalism through thick and thin.
When I started, newspapers were manufactured by a laborious process that involved hot lead, used to create individual lines of type.
Reporters pounded battered Underwood typewriters to write stories about the happening news of the day or the week.
Later, we graduated to electric typewriters and, in a huge shift, advanced forward to computers. The Internet gave journalists data from the whole universe, available with a few taps on a keyboard, plus a few cuss words when the new-fangled machines went awry, sometimes swallowing elegant columns into the bottomless, dark pit of deletion.
Overnight, I’ve been trying to remember some of the major news stories that emerged from the growing populations in the Greater Antelope Valley over the years.
My first big story was found in the sheriff’s station where an elderly man was sitting, wrapped in a blanket. A deputy had found the guy sunning himself in the nude.
One of the most coincidental homicide stories occurred circa 1957. A 19-year-old woman who had provided my wife and me with babysitting services, was found killed in her home. A second murder had occurred three blocks away where a young New Zealand woman was found dead.
Both murders had occurred in a 36-hour time frame and, at first, it was assumed that they might have been done by the same person.
The girl was murdered by her brother’s acquaintance and the wife of a man who had a men’s shop in downtown Lancaster was killed by another shop owner.
The big stories often came from aviation companies that began building and testing aircraft during a rapid growth period between 1950 and 1957 and are still continuing to make history in the 21st century.
In 1962, Palmdale became the first local town to incorporate as a city. California City was born in 1965 and Lancaster became a city in 1977.
The Antelope Valley Freeway was developed stretch by stretch over a dozen years. It was completed to Mojave by 1972.
Thanks to consistent lobbying by Antelope Valley leaders, the state agreed to split the California Aqueduct into a West branch to serve Los Angeles and an East branch to provide northern Feather River water to Antelope Valley and as far south as Perris.
During the 1950s, a number of military test airplanes crashed into the high desert after taking off from Edwards Air Force Base and AF Plant 42.
After Los Angeles airport personnel surveyed Southern Californian regions, it was announced in 1968 that Palmdale would be the site for an expansive intercontinental airport.
A large spread of real estate was purchased east of Plant 42, but the enormous new airport was never built. I wrote dozens of editorials calling for the “early development of the Palmdale Intercontinental Airport,” to no avail.
Thousands of news stories covered the Greater Antelope Valley, as organizations continue holding long, boring meetings day and night.
The Antelope Valley Hospital was just a wishful project when I arrived in 1949, but by the summer of 1955, it was open — a remarkable community project.
Now with more than half a million people living in the Valley, the news keeps evolving day by day and the Antelope Valley Press continues to report on the stories that matter here on the high desert. It’s been a fun journey for me.