‘Abandoned Randsburg’

REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books

Cynthia Ackley Nunn, 144 pages, more than 100 color photos, trade paperback, Arcadia Publishing, 2019, $24.99



Subtitled “The Mojave Desert’s Liveliest Ghost Town” and just released three weeks ago, “Abandoned Randsburg” delivers on many levels.

A bustling burg a century ago, Randsburg grew from remote nowhere to a population of 3500 with the discovery of gold. As Nunn demonstrates, the town still maintains a unique energy. She does this with engaging stories and packs in more than 100 full-color photographs that capture Randsburg’s wealth of visuals run amuck – from folk art in yards to the General Store’s immense banana split.

In its prime, the then-city boasted 30 saloons, hotels, theaters, brothels, opera house, skating rink, bowling alley and its centerpiece Rand Mine (later Yellow Aster), one of California’s largest gold producers ever. Citizens ranged from banker to barber to outlaws and “soiled doves.”

Most of the old businesses have closed, but some remain open, among them The Joint, the General Store and the White House Saloon. Nunn embraces their history and, delightfully, the way that the past emerges in 2019. In discussing the former Louie’s Place built in 1898, she explains that it burned down. Subsequently Dickinson’s Saloon, it finally became the White House Saloon which serves the famous Eagle Fizz drink for which she even supplies the recipe. Captioning a picture, she observes, “I can almost hear the creepy echo of old boots thumping across the wooden planks of the porch and the door slowly creaking open to admit entry to the ghost of a long dead grizzled old miner, while a spectral female voice from within yells, ‘Git yer boots off ya dirty varmint, afore I remove them for ya with two blasts from the shotgun!’”

Nunn details the mines, churches, cemeteries, and rich vein of tales behind them. For instance, local legend Francis “Frank” Marion (“Shady”) Myrick lies beneath his tombstone. As presiding judge in a case involving Booker T Washington, Myron deprived the groundbreaking educator of a generous bequest left to the college Washington founded, the Tuskegee Institute.

Nunn, who once ran an international paranormal investigation team, calls Randsburg an experience for all five senses and perhaps the sixth senses if you include ghosts. From days of yore to off-road dirt bikers and motorcycles to Old West Days every September, she celebrates its vibrant spirit in this very worthwhile library addition.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Story First Published: 2019-08-16