Museum gathering to spotlight valley, base history

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Museum gathering to spotlight valley, base historyJon Riddick assists a crew move an F/A-18 off the base and onto the China Lake Museum’s new site on Las Flores Avenue — Photo by Laura Austin


It was the 1970s. China Lake employees and their industry partners were conducting a full-scale test of an early developmental model of the AIM-9L Sidewinder on local ranges. During the test fire, the missile brought down the full-scale target in a ball of fire.

The team, eager to celebrate their success, gathered at the Acey Ducey Club to watch projections of the flight films and begin their analysis. The conversation turned to the curious nature of the intercept — an apparent anomaly missed through the free-flowing beer.

If you want to know the shocking discovery following the next test firing, you’ll have to come to the China Lake Museum on Friday, Nov. 9, to hear the conclusion.

(A clue: there was no free-flowing beer at the following analysis …)

The celebrated successes and informative failures are just a few reasons to come out to the museum’s nostalgic walk through China Lake and Indian Wells Valley, when Dr. Bob Smith and Scott O’Neil host China Lakers, past and present, along with valley pioneers who will share stories and anecdotes.

The event is part of the four-day celebration of the Navy’s 75th anniversary at China Lake. (See related story below).

Smith noted that he has already lined up several speakers for the discussion, which will be held from 3-6 p.m. on the museum patio. The China Lake Museum Foundation will be selling beer and wine and invites all members of the community to come out and share their stories, or just listen to others who are sharing theirs.

“I hope we can get some of our ESDPs [professional trainees], who can hear what it used to be like living and working on base,” said O’Neil.

“You don’t always feel like you belong to an organization when you’re young and at the beginning of your career,” said Laura Hickle, CLMF president. “But I think this opportunity to share the stories, the culture and the history of our ‘old guys’ will help some of our younger employees see that the people who came before them went through a similar rite of passage when they were new — they had to learn and figure out the system, and their place in it, when they were starting out.”

Smith promised something for every interest, including those curious about the “creative” housing solutions during the early decades (another hint — some of these included old mining shacks and event tents) as well as the technological challenges that have faced our civilian scientists and engineers over the years.

The China Lake Museum, at its new community-side location, will offer free admission during the weekend celebration. On Saturday, Smith will moderate a series of STEM demonstrations from noon to 3 p.m. at the museum. The museum foundation will also host a gala dinner at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, that will serve as the capstone of the celebration.

Visitors can also view the latest addition to the museum grounds — an original refurbished F/A-18 Hornet that was towed off base and onto the museum property last Saturday.

Story First Published: 2018-11-02