29 Palms: An Oasis of Murals Part II

It may be a bit unrealistic to think you're going to see all of the murals in one day. I understand that tours are available, and one day when it isn't 110 degrees, I might just take one. Still, it's nice to linger over a work of art and just think on it a bit without rushing off to bag as many as possible. But if you just can't wait, then get up early in the morning, 'cause there are a lot to see.


Here's what Action 29 has to say about their project: The initial intent of the mural program was to spur local economic activity and to give the community of Twentynine Palms a sense of pride; consequently, the community has seen an economic rebirth. In the last thirteen years, Twentynine Palms has grown substantially, had dozens of new businesses

open, seen hundreds of new homes built, and perhaps the biggest project to date, the NuWu Indian Casino will open its doors in early 2009. Additionally, the murals have become a sub attraction to Joshua Tree National Park, which is located adjacent to the community of Twentynine Palms. Joshua Tree National Park has an estimated 1.5 to 2 million visitors annually, many of who come from Europe and Asia.


Mural #1: Bill and Frances Keys.  The Keys were pioneer homesteaders who settled at the Desert Queen Ranch in what is now Joshua Tree National Park.  Bill Keys, born George Barth in Russia in 1879, came to Twentynine Palms in 1910.  He was a cattleman, gold prospector, assayer, and an ingenious homesteader who could find a use for just about anything.  Visitors who take a Park Service tour of the historic Desert Queen Ranch can see that resourcefulness today.  This 14-foot by 80-foot mural was painted by Dan and Peter Sawatzky of Chemainus, B.C.  73365 29 Palms Hwy. at Pine Street (Plaza Furniture). Dedicated: November 19, 1994.

DANGER! This mural is going to be demolished thanks to a new Walgreen's drug store. Action 29 is trying to get $20,000 together to get this wall moved. If you can help in any way, make sure you call them up: (760) 361-2286.



Mural #2: Early Life at the Oasis of Mara.  The life-giving springs of the Oasis of Mara supported Native Americans and early settlers, and its famous fan palms were the source of Twentynine Palms’ name.  In this 17- by 80-foot rendering, Chemehuevi Indians gather and work in and near the water, a woman offers the exquisite baskets for which the tribe was known, and first surveyor Col. Henry Washington and his assistant conduct a desert survey in 1855.  This mural was painted by Ron Croci of Honolulu and Robert Caughlan III of San Francisco. 73777 29 Palms Hwy. at National Park Dr. (29 Palms Liquors). Dedicated: March 25, 1995.



Mural #4 (now #21): Our Neighbors in Nature II.

The original nature mural painted on this wall in 1995 became a community favorite, but the harsh desert sun faded the colors over the years beyond repair.  So in 2006, nature artists Larry and Nancy Cherry Eifert of Port Townsend, WA, returned to paint a new ecology lesson of Mojave Desert flora and fauna on the 13-by-86-foot wall.   This time, they featured the wildlife of the beautiful 49 Palms Oasis, located in Joshua Tree National Park a short hike from the Twentynine Palms city limits.  73484 29 Palms Hwy. at Desert Queen.  Dedicated April 22, 2006. There is a

good-sized "pocket park" here; a nice place to chill out and while you're there you might see what the 99 cent store has to offer.   


Mural #5: Desert Storm Homecoming & Victory Parade.  The Marines first came to Twentynine Palms in 1952.  Since then, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center has trained thousands of proud Marines, many of whom were deployed during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  When the troops came home from the Persian Gulf in 1991, more than 40,000 people crowded into the city for “The Mother of All Victory Parades.”  This 18- by 101-foot work is by artist Chuck Caplinger of Twentynine Palms.  6177 Adobe Road (Napa Auto Parts). Dedicated: October 15, 1995.



Mural #6: “The Flying Constable” Jack Cones.  Twentynine Palms’ most beloved lawman, Jack Cones, will be forever airborne in this 16- by 60-foot tribute.  Elected in 1932, he was the law here until his death in 1960.  He earned his lofty nickname by patrolling his 2,800-square-mile jurisdiction in a Piper J-3 Cub.  Mural artist Tim O’Connor of Twentynine Palms came to admire the constable after hearing stories of Cones’ exploits while taking flying lessons at nearby Cones Field in the early 1970s. 6308 Adobe Road (Crossroads Christian Bookstore).  Dedicated: January 27, 1996.



Mural #9: Johnnie Hastie & The 29 Palms Stage.  Starting in 1938, Johnnie Hastie provided public transportation from the desert to “down below.”  He built his first bus from a used 1928 Chevrolet truck, adding a wooden body, seats for 12 passengers and a sturdy roof to haul cargo.  During winter a stove onboard provided warmth from wood that his passengers had gathered.  When tires and gas were rationed during WW II, Johnnie filled endless shopping requests in Banning, hauling ladies dresses, restaurant and mining supplies, even live chickens.  This 13-foot by 32-foot mural was painted by Tim O’Connor of Twentynine Palms.  73339 29 Palms Hwy. (Superior Automotive).  Dedicated: February 15, 1997.



Mural #19: Good Times at Smith’s Ranch.  Bill Smith, who arrived in 1923 in his Model-T Ford, developed the haven known as Smith’s Ranch.  Bill and his brother, Harry, drilled a well and provided water to early homesteaders, and Bill’s shower and swimming pool were a welcome place to cool off on hot summer days.  Bill married Thelma Mead in 1930, and the ambitious pioneer couple built an ice house, a dairy, an ice cream parlor, an outdoor theater, a recreational hall, and a trailer park.  They had six children and were acclaimed as the first homesteaders to have children born in Twentynine Palms.  Painted by Tim O’Connor of Twentynine Palms.  6298 Adobe Road.  Dedicated: October 19, 2002.



Mural #11: Bill & Prudie Underhill and The Desert Trail.  After serving in WWI, the urge to homestead brought Bill Underhill to Twentynine Palms in 1928.  He helped build roads and the first public swimming pool, and was active in the first American Legion Post 729.  Establishing a weekly newspaper, The Desert Trial, he published its 4-page inaugural issue on April 18, 1935, proclaiming “Watch Twentynine Palms Grow!”  In 1941, Bill married Prudence Mason of Pasadena, who helped with the newspaper. Together they built the first indoor movie theater, drive-in theater and roller rink. This 10-foot by 40-foot mural was painted by Susan Smith Evans of Palm Desert, CA.  The Desert Trail, 6396 Adobe Road.  Dedicated: November 15, 1997.



Mural #13: Flash Flood.  Before construction of the flood control channel in 1969 by the County of San Bernardino, with the assistance of local engineer Bill Hatch, raging flash floods used to flow down from 49 Palms Canyon in what is now Joshua Tree National Park.  The water would wash out the main road (now 29 Palms Highway), rushing east around Donnell Hill and into the center of town.  While business owners lamented this deluge ruining their stores, local children would joyously ride the waves in their inner-tubes and handmade boats.  This 18- by 40-foot mural portrays the famous flash floods of the 1940s. Painted by artist Art Mortimer of Santa Monica, CA.  6248 Adobe Road (Peking Inn).  Dedicated: June 13, 1998.



Mural #15: Desert Wildflowers.  This third nature mural portrays beautiful Mojave Desert flora and wildflowers in full-color portraits of reds, yellows, whites, blues, and purples.  Each spring the desert valley comes into bloom, with desert primroses, desert lilies, lupine, encelia, verbena, blooming cacti, yuccas and Joshua trees.  Some years produce more prolific blooms than others, depending upon the amount of rainfall in the preceding winter season.  The background for this 12-foot by 60-foot mural are the rocks of Joshua Tree National Park.  Created by Dan Kelly of Yucca Valley, CA.  73617 29 Palms Hwy. (Hart’s Furniture).  Dedicated: May 20, 2000.







Mural #16: “Valentine’s Day”.  This trompe l’oeil mural tells a story about an artist who fell asleep while painting a mural.  Manifested from the artist dreaming about Cattle Days in Hidden Valley, a rodeo bull named Valentine is metamorphosed into reality next to the scaffolding. Named for the white heart shape on his head, Valentine also bears the McHaney gang brand, as if he traveled out of the historical scene in the mural. Waiting for the artist to awake, along with a patient vulture, Valentine will soon have his day.  Created by art illusionist John Pugh of Los Gatos, CA.  6219 Adobe Road (Crossroads Christian Bookstore). Dedicated: October 25, 2000.  Note: the photos don't do this one justice: this is more than a concept piece, it really is extraordinary.



Mural #20: Operation Iraqi Freedom.  On March 21, 2003, the First Marine Division crossed from Kuwait and began Operation Iraqi Freedom. This mural is dedicated to the men and women of the Armed Forces, especially the Marines and Sailors from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms. Marines from MCAGCC are depicted in this 100-foot mural in scenes taken from actual photographs, including the historic toppling of the 40-foot bronze statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad by 1st Tanks Battalion and the rescue of Shoshana Johnson and the seven POWs by 3rd L.A.R.  Painted by Don Gray of Murietta, CA.  6464 Adobe Road (CCI Computers).  Dedicated: January 31, 2004.



Mural #22: Native American Woman. Action Council for 29 Palms, a globally recognized non-profit mural organization, is proud to announce the appearance of Makoto Hashigami from Tokyo Japan in April 2008. Hashigami has scheduled two weeks to work on a mural at the Oasis of Mara, which is located on the grounds of the historic 29 Palms Inn. His mural portrays the Oasis of Mara as it might have appeared before the area was settled, with a Native American Indian woman holding firmly the ponds valuable water. Since its inception in 1995, Action Council for 29 Palms has used murals to beautify the community of Twentynine Palms, and along the way, it has become a symbol of hope to other aging communities around the world. In fact, several times a year other small communities wanting to know how to establish a community mural program contact this organization. 

Hashigami resides in Tokyo Japan, but visits the desert paradise each year. While visiting Twentynine Palms, he discovered the mural program and asked to be apart

of its growth. After working with Hashigami for well over a year, Action Council for 29 Palms has confidence in his astonishing talent. Action Council for 29 Palms believes Hashigami’s ability will be well displayed and worthy of the location selected.

Hashigami began painting the Mural at the Oasis of Mara on April 27, 2008 and finished in just under two weeks. 73950 Inn Ave, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 (760) 367-3505 www.29palmsinn.com  Dedicated: May 10, 2008. 


After a hard day's mural hunting, the best thing to do is to head over to the 29 Palms Inn for some refreshments. Make Makoto Hashigami's lady the last one on your list and enjoy the sunset.

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~ by ravenjake on July 25, 2008.

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