|Boron's Twenty Mule Team Museum steeped in history
|The Twenty Mule Team Museum in Boron, Calif.,
displays mining implements of the past.
A visit to the dusty
town of Boron brings at least one surprise: The Twenty Mule Team Museum.
While neither of Antelope Valley's larger cities of
Palmdale and Lancaster maintains permanent historical museums pertaining to the region,
the community of Boron began working toward creating a museum as early as 1976. Residents
raised thousands of dollars to purchase the land fronting the south side of Boron's main
thoroughfare, and renovated a house that was from the old chic Coast Borax's.(U.S.
Borax's) first underground mine at Boron.
While the town's name didn't become Boron until
1940, the town's history extends back to the '20s, when U.S. Borax discovered large
deposits of colemanite and Kernite.
As a result, the "company town" of Amargo sprang
up. It was named for the Santa Fe Railroad's Amargo siding that provided the best access
to the new borate mine, which began production in 1927. Naturally, the primary focus of
the Twenty Mule Team Museum is on the importance of the U.S. Borax Co. to the community.
And its ambience is as basic as borax.
Borax is king
Although not large, within its walls is housed every aspect of the history of the U.S.
Borax interests in the community and even
some before. Extensively covered is the route along which the legendary Twenty Mule Team
carted borax from Death Valley to the railroad at Mojave, before deposits were found in
the Boron area.
For those interested in old industrial implements, the
museum at Boron offers for view such items, including red fire hydrants, a station call
bell and a four-foot rotating drill all from U.S. Borax's early days.
Across the street from the museum is another remnant of former Borax days. In 1957,
topical, or open-pit mining began. "Grandpa 53" is a big yellow truck that
became the hauler of its day, and it carried tons of ore each day from the pit to the
conveyor belt, where it was transported to the "crusher" to be ground into
powder. Now the retired "53" is on display across the street from the museum.
Outside in the Twenty Mule Team Garden among other anomalies such as a Cletrac tractor and a hand
cultivator stands the old Sante Fe Railroad
depot. The building was moved to Boron from the now-deserted town of Kramer in 1941.
Besides the workman's world, the museum also houses just about every aspect of practical
domestic living from the '20s through the '50s, displayed in a no-nonsense manner.
Here you can find the remnants of Neva Butler's beauty
shop of the '30s, including her certificate of expertise in hair curling and her old
beauty salon chair complete with a medusa-like machine used to set hair permanents.
Displayed next to it is an old-timey kitchen, with its
huge kerosene stove and milk bottles from various Kern County dairies.
Other smaller exhibits encompass the biographies and
memorabilia of local characters such as the late aviatrix Pancho Barnes, and retired Borax
researcher "Walking" George.
A gift shop offers books on Death Valley (for the many
travelers who stop by on the way to the National Monument) and U.S. Borax, as well as mugs
and posters (such as a large map of the Twenty Mule Team route), and some Borax products.
Staffed by community volunteers, the Twenty Mule Team
Museum is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. seven days a week (except major holidays). Price of
admission is a voluntary donation. The museum is located at 26962 Twenty Mule Team Road,
Boron and can be reached by calling (760) 762-5810. Or visit the web site at http://www.rnrs.com/20MuleTeam/.