Above: Luis Fuerte and Mohahve Historical Society (MHS) president Jim Mustra at the June 27, 2019 MHS meeting. Photo by Mary DeSantis.
The following article by John R. Beyer appeared in the Daily Press, Victorville, June 28, 2019.
APPLE VALLEY — After 12 years as Huell Howser’s camera and sound man, Luis Fuerte had much to tell a standing-room only crowd at Redeemer Church on Thursday.
The event, attended by well over a hundred and twenty people, was sponsored by the Mohahve Historical Society, which had invited Fuerte to speak last year. His talk, centered on Howser, his longtime friend and television personality, proved so popular with local history buffs that Fuerte was invited back this year.
Fuerte, a five-time Emmy winner, discussed his book, ‘Louie, Take a Look at This! My time with Huell Howser,’ which detailed his time working with Howser for KCET in Los Angeles. The many stories he related didn’t disappoint the gathering, as he told tale after tale about driving all around California, in search of that special story Howser could share with his television audience.
According to Fuerte, “It was just the two of us in the car – us and the equipment, that is. Especially, that darn heavy hand microphone he always carried.”
Fuerte said that he grew up in the San Bernardino area, after his parents had emigrated from Mexico, and graduated in 1960 from Colton High School. He enlisted in the United States Navy and was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “Someone had to protect the Hula girls,” Fuerte said, jokingly.
After his military stint, he entered college and a friend showed him around a small television studio in which she worked. This, according to Fuerte, was when he knew he wanted to be behind a camera.
“I fell in love with filming and that’s all I wanted to do,” he said. Little did he know, that he would not just be a cameraman. His knowledge would also have to include lighting, editing, sound, and anything else needed to complete the project.
“I think it was 1989,” Fuerte said, “and I was in the commissary at KECT, where I was now working as a utility cameraman, when I heard this loud southern twang coming from a very tall man across the room. I knew instantly, it was Huell Howser. I went over and introduced myself and joked that maybe we’d work together sometime.”
Two weeks later, the television station advised Fuerte that he would be shooting a video-log with Howser. The men hit if off, and the video-logs eventually turned into “Califonia’s Gold,” the television series which made Huell Howser virtually a house-hold name.
“Huell and I were complete opposites,” Fuerte said. “He loved being in front of the camera and being shy. I wanted no part of that. I was fine to be the man behind the camera for good.”
Fuerte related one story of how he and Howser did an episode on a window washing team in downtown Los Angeles. “You know, Huell was afraid of heights, and so was I. But I was so busy making sure I had the right shots that I never realized we were standing on a window washing contraption 71 stories above the streets of LA. When I think of it now, I have terrible flashbacks.”
When asked if Howser did research before hitting the road, Fuerte smiled and said, “No. He didn’t want to know too much about the topic. He told the producers to give him a little information, and he would take it from there. He wanted to be surprised.”
KCET loved the way Howser worked, according to Fuerte. “We never did more than one take during an episode. Huell was a very cost effective host and the station loved that. Could there been more takes sometimes? Yes, in my view, but that wasn’t how Huell worked. Shoot the scene and move on, Louie, he would often tell me.”
Fuerte told of another experience in which the duo filmed and episode at the ’16 to 1′ gold mine in the town of Alleghany. “Here we were, down in tunnels deep beneath the earth, and they are actually blasting parts of the mountain away above us. Neither of us liked that experience very much.”
“You know, we filmed all the California Missions, including some in Baja. When we hit the seventeenth, Huell looked over at me and said he was going to become a Catholic. When I told him he’d have to go to confession, the idea sort of slipped away from Huell,” Fuerte said.
Though Howser died on January 7, 2013, at the age of 67, that doesn’t mean his personality and spirit are forgotten. Especially not with Fuerte. “I learned a lot from him. There’s so much history here. It is such a diverse state that we live in.”
At the end of his presentation, Fuerte said, “Huell Howser was an icon in California, and always will be. There won’t be another Huell Howser, that’s for sure.”
by Luis Fuerte
This hardbound book describes the time Fuerte spent working as Huell Howser's cameraman on the popular television show "California's Gold."
This book is available for purchase by clicking the link below.
Apple Valley resident and museum curator, Bob Cambridge, joined us on May 23, 2019 for a very colorful and entertaining account of his family's historical connections to the Victor Valley. The following is a summary of his lecture, which included several audio clips taken from taped interviews of his great-grandfather Carl, which are part of the Mohahve Historical Society's Oral History Project.
Story by Mary DeSantis
In 1890, Lieutenant Alfonso Cambridge was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after a serious horse accident in which he lost a kidney. He had been working the Indian Wars as a cavalryman in Wyoming and South Dakota.
Alfonso moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he lived for a while. He got married and started a family there, but his old Army injuries forced him to seek a warmer climate. Alfonso took a job building and repairing ice-making machines for the Army and was subsequently sent to Fort Grant, Arizona.
In 1904, he sent for his wife and two sons to join him and they crossed the country by train. The oldest son, Carl (born in 1892) was 12 years old at the time, and he described their travels being delayed for two days because of a huge storm and flooding that washed away some railroad bridges near White Sands, New Mexico.
Young Carl was fascinated by the Indians he saw at Fort Grant. He befriended them and learned as much about them as he could. This developed into a lifelong study of Native American culture and heritage.
As Alfonso’s work dictated, the Cambridge family moved from fort to fort throughout Arizona and New Mexico. Carl befriended local Indians everywhere he went, and they would give him gifts when he had to move on to the next fort. These gifts were the beginnings of the vast collection that he eventually turned into a museum as an adult.
When he grew up, Carl began working in construction. In the early 1930s, Carl was hired to supervise construction of the Desert View Watchtower on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The tower and kiva complex was designed in 1932 by a good friend of his – the Fred Harvey Company’s architect, Mary Colter. Since women were not allowed to be licensed architects in those days, all her plans had to be approved by a man who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad.
Carl headed up a crew of all Native Americans. Because they trusted him, he was invited to attend several ceremonial dances that non-Indians are rarely privy to.
The Local History Collection at Victor Valley College (VVC) Library has many hours of recorded interviews in which Carl, in his later years, described those adventures. Transcripts of the oral histories are available to the public.
In 1940, Carl and his wife, Gladys (nee White, born 1895), moved to Apple Valley with their seven children, where he became a dairy and alfalfa farmer. His seven children are nowadays referred to as “The Elders” by their many descendents.
When he retired in 1961, Carl dedicated his time to archaeology and turned his home on Bear Valley Road into a museum which he called the Apple Valley Museum. All that remains of that building now is the foundation and a few broken stone walls, which can be seen just east of Apple Valley Road, in the field opposite Sonic Burger.
Roy Rogers paid Carl a visit one day and asked him to change the name of the museum. Rogers planned on opening his own museum and wanted to call it ‘the Apple Valley Museum.’ Carl obligingly renamed his establishment ‘the Cambridge Museum.’
The Newberry Cave was discovered in 1957 and Carl dedicated a lot of his spare time on this archaeological dig which was headed by Dr. Gerald Smith. As well as conducting excavations, Carl would teach groups of visiting students about the history and significance of the location and finds. Dating of artifacts at the site place human occupation of the area as far back as 15,000 years.
“Pack rats had taken over the cave and they seemed to take delight in chewing just the pieces that we were interested in,” said Carl on an audio recording which his great-grandson Bob played during his lecture in May. But bat guano had encased other artifacts in cement-like cocoons, which preserved a great many items that would otherwise have decayed over time.
The family has 19 hours of taped interviews of their patriarch, most of which were conducted by the Local History class at VVC, led by the teacher, Paul Smith. Students from Smith’s first class in 1963 went on to form the Mohahve Historical Society (MHS) a year later. Carl Cambridge Sr. was a founding member and the charter president of the MHS.
After his passing in 1971, Carl Cambridge Jr. “Bud” and his son Jim Cambridge carried on the tradition as curators of the museum. Jim Cambridge was instrumental in organizing the first Young Historian group in the High Desert in 1978. Known as the Desert Seekers, this group became very active in the High Desert. The Desert Seekers Motto was “Preserve for tomorrow, live and enjoy today, by understanding and protecting yesterday.”
Carl Cambridge Senior was a friend of famous American architect, Mary Colter. In the early 1930s, Carl was a supervisor on one of Colter's unique building projects in the Grand Canyon. Watch the documentary about Colter's Desert View Watchtower and Kiva by clicking the link below.
Story and photos by Mary DeSantis
Our April 25, 2019 general meeting featured Daily Press writer Matt Cabe as our guest speaker. Cabe is an award-winning journalist and Victor Valley resident whose easy-reading conversational style has endeared him to readers of his regular column, "This Desert Life."
Cabe’s presentation chronicled filmmaking in the High Desert from the Silent Era through today’s biggest blockbusters, and detailed how the local economy has benefited, both culturally and financially, from movie production in the region.
In 1910, Dr. Harris Garcelon began homesteading in Apple Valley on the future site of Jess Ranch. The ranch hosted many celebrity guests of the era, most notably Tom Mix and William S. Hart, who “battled for the title of Greatest Movie Cowboy at that time,” said Cabe.
Hollywood’s relationship with the High Desert has endured ever since those early days of silent film. The continuous filming of movies in the High Desert over the past century offers snapshots of our local communities at different stages of development.
“When you watch these movies back to back, you really get a sense of the High Desert’s evolution,” Cabe said in a recent Daily Press interview. “Victorville is a perfect example. In the 1920s, you see this sleepy desert town, and a Mojave River full of water. By the time you get to the 1970s and beyond, that rural atmosphere has been replaced by something that’s increasingly urban. And it’s all part of our shared history.”
Cabe singled out Saturday Night Bath in Apple Valley as one of the greatest snapshots of what Apple Valley’s historic landmarks looked like at a certain point in time, while at the same time labeling the comedy the worst film he has ever seen.
“Saturday Night Bath in Apple Valley is essentially an advertisement for the town. Newt Bass was very astute…and was very intelligent when it came to business and advertising,” said Cabe. Bass was a real estate developer and one of the founders of Apple Valley, and was an instrumental backer of that film.
Approximately 200 silent films were shot in locations such as Old Town Victorville, Lucerne Valley, and Mojave Narrows. Thousands of films have been shot in the region since the Silent Era.
“How can you tell that a movie is made in the High Desert?” asked Cabe. “The Joshua trees.”
Hollywood icon John Ford directed several films here, including The Grapes of Wrath (1942). Ford looked to the desert to film another classic, Stagecoach, in 1939. “Stagecoach is essentially the film that made John Wayne a star,” said Cabe. The famous stagecoach chase was filmed in Rabbit Dry Lake in Lucerne Valley.
Inland Empire Film Services, a San Bernardino County government department, tracks the amount of movie production money that goes into local communities. In 1993, local businesses saw $3.5 million in income. In 2016, that amount was $33.8 million. From 1995 to 2013, movie companies had a $1.4 billion impact in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties combined.
Matthew Cabe is a fount of movie history knowledge. I can’t wait for Matt to combine all his research into a comprehensive book on the History of Movie Making in the Victor Valley.
As well as being an award-winning investigative reporter for the Daily Press in Victorville, California, Matthew Cabe is the Weeklies Editor and also writes a regular column.
Enjoy some of Matt's colorful, conversational, and always entertaining commentaries by clicking the link below.
As time goes on, we will be adding more great articles and photos about previous and upcoming Guest Speakers.