New Beginnings in Bakersfield

by Max Poteete

Reprinted from The DOLOP Spotlight-Intelligencer, Volume 1, Issue 3 (April 2002).

The place that we moved to in Bakersfield, 201 McCord, was a whole different world from what we left in Taft. Of course, to anyone who has seen the two "cities", that statement doesn't say much. Taft, with a population of five thousand souls more or less, was almost exclusively connected to extracting oil from the ground, or providing goods and services for the people who did that.

The land is hilly for the most part, sparsely covered dry and sear, virtual desert. As I think about it now, a most unappealing location to think about establishing a home and family. Dad and Mother did just that. I was only eight years old when we moved from there, and up to that time I thought Taft was the "hub of the universe."

Bakersfield . . . boy!! what a change. I don't remember any of the details of how we came to choose 201 McCord. Aunt Laurie lived only a short half-mile or less away; that must have been a point to help decide . . . whatever. The place had a sort of interesting, barely adequate house on it. There were seven of us kids, Peggy almost a new-born; arriving in Taft in mid-April and here we are moved and settling in on June 21 at 201.

The floor of the house was about head-height to an eight-year-old, off the ground, maybe four feet, supported by 4x4 posts, distributed here and there, spaced close enough to make a fairly stable foundation. Wooden steps at the front and back door, of course. Folklore said that the reason for building the house so high off the ground was that a few years before it was built there had been a flood in the area and raising the floor was just prudent. The river WAS less than a mile away to the south.

I'm fuzzy about the room arrangement, maybe a living room at the front with two bedrooms and a kitchen and dining room. I do remember a shed-roofed back porch. Oh yes, I mustn't forget there was also the "room with a path" some thirty feet or so from the back door. Weeds higher than my head dominated that path; they crowded it on both sides. It could have been mistaken for a game trail. It turned out that these weeds covered almost the whole place, and with a little imagination made an exciting area to hide in and explore.

There was gas and electricity from the San Joaquin Light and Power, and water, supplied by Oildale Mutual Water Company. The gas was piped to one outlet in the living room for accessing a heater, and to an outlet in the kitchen to supply the stove. Hot water as required was heated on top of the stove. There were no electric convenience outlets anywhere; each room had a single light bulb suspended from the ceiling, in a socket with a key-like on-off switch. It's easy to remember groping for the light in a dark room, it was just part of the drill of entering. This was a typical installation for gas and electricity in the area at the time.

The interior wall construction was really interesting. Instead of the usual wood studs with sheetrock or wood covering, the walls were constructed of thin wood planks maybe 10 or 12 inches wide and possibly three-eights of an inch thick. They went floor to ceiling, naturally, and they were covered with a flimsy muslin fabric that had wallpaper applied to finish it. Probably the big factor that imprinted these walls so permanently in my memory, was that the wall covering was falling away in big patches when we moved in.

I don't remember how the doors and windows were applied; I do remember it was drafty and not very windproof, and also the roof didn't leak.

Editor's Note: We checked with Monteen, family historian. We lived in the house from 1927 to 1930. Carol was born in the old house, Alan and Jessie in the new one.