Sunday, January 13, 2013

Adiós to the Valley - part five

One of the Valley's more intriguing places is the former Val Verde Country Club, opened in the late Twenties at a cost of $101,000. The train stopped virtually at the resort's front door.

For a brief spell, the Valley was the destination of the rich and famous. Not only was there winter sun, but 'old Mexico' with its quaint 'sleeping Mexicans', markets and colourful pottery was a peso's throw away. Even more attractive during Prohibition was in Mexico (as in Canada) you could legally drink until your liver expired.

If you click on the picture above, on the left, you can just see a trailer from when they were the fashion for some quite wealthy people. In the postcard below, note the wonderful 1930s murals on the buildings.

It's claimed Esther Williams, Dorothy Lamour and Bette Davis were among the stars who frolicked in the Olympic-size pool. That may be wishful thinking, but by the 1970s the resort was certainly owned by 'Rock Around the Clock' Bill Haley. Haley, who's said to have enjoyed mowing the lawn, was proprietor as the resort declined into terminal seediness.

By the 1990s, Val Verde had become, to put it kindly, an inexpensive RV and trailer park. That said, as I wander around, it's obvious there's a gritty sense of community. I suspect it would have the makings of a novel, if I wasn't so disinclined to creatively compose. 

My cheerful guide is Al, a retired autoworker, who first came here twenty years ago. 

In fact, Al helped put a chain around the, by then, structurally dangerous tower you can see in the postcards above and pull it down. The concrete structure just behind Al was next to the tower's base. The pool has long since been filled in; the bare patch marks where Esther, Dorothy and Bette supposedly splashed.

What was once the country club's restaurant is now the park community centre where residents get mail, check the coffee pot and play bingo.

Some odd murals, presumably dating to more prosperous times, flake away on the wall above the mail boxes and washing up.

Old timers - but not so old that they were here - say this trapdoor led to a Prohibition speakeasy. I dunno. 

Still, there's a whiff of what once was - white tuxedos, illicit cocktails, gramophones, sultry nights and nocturnal shenanigans among the Spanish arches and in the little 'cottages' now catering to those who delight in a nearby Wal-Mart.