New desert and old desert

Driving to Palm Springs to meet with a friend for lunch I was in for a pleasant surprise.   While most of the desert along Hwy 111 had become overgrown and more like cities, Palm Springs has managed to keep it’s village feel.

Palm Springs is very dog friendly, everywhere you look people are walking their dogs along the sidewalks.  There are many restaurants and cute sidewalk cafes with outside dining so your four legged friend can remain at your side.

Maureen, spends her winters in Palm Springs and summers on Whidbey Island, WA and Montana.  She suggested a quaint little restaurant called Farm.  It is located in the downtown La Plaza shopping center. It is set back off the walkway fromm the retail shops.  The history of La Plaza is an interesting one.

“Back in the 1930s when Palm Springs was in its Hollywood heyday, the city boasted four large hotels – El Mirador, Desert Inn, Del Tahquitz and Oasis; the Chi Chi Club attracted nationally known performers; and the city had more swimming pools than any other place in the country, according to the late mayor Frank Bogert’s “Palm Springs’ First Hundred Years.”
Liz Ostoich, owner of Farm Restaurant, told us that La Plaza was developed by the wealthy Julia Carnell, of the National Cash Register Company. The story goes that she was friends with Palm Springs pioneer Nellie Coffman, who built the Desert Inn and invited Carnell to visit. Apparently Carnell loved the village, but lamented that shopping, entertainment and dining was too spread out. So she built La Plaza in the center of town that encompassed not only shops, a theater, probably a restaurant, but also housing for those working in the shops. Automobiles could park in the cobble-stone plaza near the shops; La Plaza was actually the first “strip mall” in California, if not the country.” -The Desert Sun

When you walk in you feel transported to a lovely French Café.  Most of the seating is outside, with umbrellas and flowers on the table.  Sitting there, enjoying lunch, we had hummingbirds darting around the flower on our table…mesmerizing.  I took a quick walk inside and there were beamed ceilings and fireplaces.  Antique furniture and paintings grace the rooms.

Ah, and the food! So delicious!!  The food is locally sourced, produce, eggs and meat and are used to create traditional French dishes.  I had the Brie sandwich, consisting of Pear, Brie, Date Jam, Arugula, and Walnuts. Served warm on a Baguette.  Maureen had the Croque Madame, Jambon de Paris, Gruyère, Béchamel, and Sunny Egg.  There were so many choices it was hard to pick just one and I doubt you could go wrong with any one of them.  They had lots of refreshing sounding drinks too, and are known to create the best Bloody Mary.  2nd and 3rd photos courtesy of The Desert Sun.

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As we parted, I promised that I would be back!  I would love to go hiking with Maureen and her dogs in the canyon behind her home.

On to the old desert….I stopped by the Palm Desert Historical Society.  It’s a small building manned by docents.  It’s located in the original first fire department in Palm Desert.  It was constructed in 1951.  In two rooms you’ll find a collection of historical photos, newspaper and magazine archives.

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I learned a couple of things that I didn’t know about the town I grew up in.  In the 1940s General Patton established his Motor Pool on Portola Avenue.  The Motor Pool supported the training of troops prior to battling the Germans in North Africa during WWII.

The 2nd thing I learned is that Bing Crosby was the one who built Silver Spur Ranch.  He also had a home there and it was rumored that at that home he entertained John F Kennedy.  It’s also the location where a tryst with Marilyn Monroe happened.  Originally, John F Kennedy was planning on spending his time in the area at Frank Sinatra’s, but after finding he had an “alleged” link to the mob he switched to Bing’s.

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My home for most of my childhood was on Feather Trail in the Silver Spur development.  I had some of my best memories of my childhood there, hiking in the desert daily with my dog, Patches, and my Siamese cat, Suki.  Riding my bicycle all the way to town (a rather steep couple of miles) to go listen to Harriet Oberhaus read stories at the library, or to get a slush at the Circle K with friends.

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There were some pics of Shadow Mountain Country Club.  We’d go to many functions there, and I spent a lot of time in their pool (even though we had a pool of our own).  I ended up babysitting many evenings for the tourists and golfers staying at the country club.

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Mr. Keedy was also represented, he started with a grocery store in 1942, the only other choices were to drive to Palm Springs or Indio.  He later opened the fountain and coffee shop where we often had breakfast or lunch.  It still exists today and when you walk inside it’s a time warp.  Looks exactly like it did in the 60s.

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I was surprised to see pics of White Sun Guest Ranch, since technically it is located in Rancho Mirage, but I was pleased to see them.  I have many fond memories of the times I spent riding there.  I often rode a cantankerous pinto pony named Sony.  My mom said she and dad would just laugh watching him buck all along the top of the wash as we were riding out.  I got to be really good at sticking in the saddle. 😉  In my teens I was hired as a horse wrangler and met lots of fun people from all over the world.

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The last pics are aerial shots of Palm Desert in the 60s and 70s, followed by a pic I found showing what the area looks like today (wish I could have found a shot from the same angle!).   PD historical society19PD historical society18PD historical society17palm desert today   If you get a chance, and you’re in Palm Desert. Please stop in and support this worthwhile museum.

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