Updated photo record of Ridgecrest sure to be a classic

Updated photo record of Ridgecrest sure to be a classicBy Donna Rosenthal

Special to the News Review

“High Desert Double Exposures,” photography Mark Pahuta, text Elizabeth Babcock and Donald W. Moore, large-format paperback, 212 pages, 327 photos, 8 maps, Maturango Press (Maturango Museum), $29.95, 2020.

Back in 1989, Mark Pahuta and Donald Moore collaborated on “Ridgecrest, California: A Photographic Retrospective,” a collection of then-and-now area images. It sold out quickly, went into a second edition, and became scarce and highly prized.

Now, the indefatigable team of Mark Pahuta and Elizabeth Babcock have updated it. Subtitled “A Photographic Retrospective of Ridgecrest and its Neighbors,” this remarkable album adds recent pictures while expanding the scope to cover stops from Owens Lake to the north, Kern River Valley to the west, Garlock and El Paso Range to the south, and Poison Canyon to the east, dating from 1896 to today. It uses captions by Moore (who died in 2006); modified by Babcock as necessary, and amplified by new ones to go with new photos.

It offers such treats as a mom and daughter wading in Owens Lake, January 1, 1913, paired with a photo taken by Pahuta who “rose on the first day of 2013, so he could capture a view of the same spot where the mother and child waded exactly a century earlier. The Los Angeles Aqueduct had removed much of the Owen’s Valley water over that hundred years….”

Another picture presents Little Lake Hotel complex on U.S. 395 in 1924, with post office and Southern Pacific Railroad track, juxtaposed with the same place reduced to Sierra foothills following a 1989 fire. A 1951 keepsake displays Ridgecrest Theatre, subsequently the Ridge, then shifts from films to fries to the same site in 2019, occupied by Burger King. A 1955 shot records free pony rides in front of Cornelius Shoe Store, matched with one of Corny himself, and another of Corny’s Shoes seven decades later.

“High Desert Double Exposures ranges from structures fairly identical 30 years ago except with different tenants, to striking transformations, and to revealing aerial contrasts, all peppered with smart observations, for example “early builders showed a casual disregard for setback restrictions and couldn’t agree on the need for sidewalks, leaving headaches for future traffic planners and a challenge for pedestrians.”

Maturango Museum, the Historic USO Building, and Red Rock Books have copies available so you can snap up your own sure-to-be instant classic.

Story First Published: 2021-01-22