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Starting Again: 1945 - 1972While the postwar exodus to California saw millions of emigrants. Passing through Victor Valley reroute to the promise of a new start on the good life, only a handful was to remain here. The goal for most was a tract home in the San Fernando Valley, or later, Lakewood - or Orange County. With comparatively little local industry, there were few jobs to be had and the water supplies available at the time were adequate to support neither great factories nor great tracts of residents.
Among the observers of this situation were "Newt" Bass and Bernard J. Westlund, friends and partners in oil-drilling ventures around Signal Hill and elsewhere. Drilling in the Apple Valley area, Bass found instead of oil, something even more valuable: water. Well aware of the importance of this resource for area growth and probably equally aware of just how far what was available could be stretched, these gentlemen began the development of the acreage they bought up as a recreational and retirement, or "bedroom" community rather than the idealistic farming valley begun in the 1900s.
With extensive advertising and sales offices in other cities, Apple Valley lot sales reached the 5,000 mark within five years, starting in 1945. Hardly comparable to real estate activities elsewhere in Southern California, but significant for Victor Valley in that thousands were made aware of the region and other developers were attracted to the scene. While some went bust, others made some headway and the area marked a steady growth.
Following the Apple Valley example, developers built golf courses and other recreational facilities and modern homes began to replace the weather-beaten board shacks left behind by the homesteaders. Where in 1909 the Apple Valley School District had to "borrow" one pupil from out of the area to start first classes with the minimum seven required, between 1949 and 1958 three elementary schools and a junior high school were built and even expanded. Measuring the permanent character of postwar growth, Victor Valley today boasts 26 schools, public and parochial, from elementary through junior college. (Editor's note: remember - this was written in 1973)
Hospitals, hotels and shopping centers were built. By 1962 the 50th anniversary of Victor Valley's first telephone service saw nearly 10,000 individual subscribers on the line. The same year, Victorville was finally incorporated as a city, and the little Methodist church laboriously built by 22-year-old Rev. Olliver M. Butterfield in 1914 had been joined by 23 of other denominations.
Between 1950 and 1972, the population grew from 9,400 to 50,000 permanent residents and hundreds of thousands of others who share our recreational facilities annually. The worn footpaths of Indians and Spaniards, the wagon ruts of mule teams and ox teams and the thin steel tracks of the railroads were joined by multilane concrete freeways and hundreds of miles of paved streets and roads. Daily commercial air service to Apple Valley Airport began in 1972, and the contrails of high-flying jets began to streak the sky over the ancient lakebed. A new era was about to begin.
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