Tag: Big Bear History

Winter Sports in the San Bernardino Mountains

Big Bear Valley, CA, November 29, 2014 – In 1925, Walter Kruckman ran a bus line which serviced the San Bernardino Mountains. The Motor Transit Company had a franchise to the mountains which required them to operate a year-round bus service, even though they traveled empty in the winter months. Kruckman came up with the idea of developing public interest in snow sports to fill his empty buses during the winter season. He helped form the Southern California Winter Sports League and took the position of publicity director. Kruckman promoted winter sports with 15 minute radio spots detailing road and snow conditions, and attracted Norway’s ski champion, Sven Hansen, to donate his time as Big Bear’s first ski instructor. In the early 30s, the Viking Ski Club of Los Angeles provided instruction and began holding competitive, winter sports events in Big Bear. Downhill skiing was gaining in popularity and the historic Lynn Sling Lift opened in Big Bear in 1938 at the Snow Forest Ski Resort. After World War II, owner Clifford Lynn built a 3000 foot single chair lift. During the 40s and early 50s several small rope tows were constructed, including an Upper and Lower Moonridge Rope Tow, located where the base of Bear Mountain Ski Area is today. In 1947, Tommy Tyndall arrived in Big Bear and started ski schools at several of the ski areas....

Read More

Fox Farming in Big Bear

Big Bear Valley, CA, November 8, 2014 – In the long history of the Big Bear Valley starting with the gold rush days of the 1860s, fox farming was certainly one of the more unique enterprises. Raising foxes for their beautiful furs dates from the 1890s when a consistent strain of valuable silver foxes was developed from the common red fox. Demand for fur was high at that time and profits were quite large, so many in the northern areas of the country became fox ranchers. This included the very successful R. T. Moore of Maine. He heard about the climate in Big Bear and realized it was ideal for raising foxes. Cool summer nights and cold winters are perfect conditions for the industry and the high altitude and dry air eliminated many internal and external pests. In the 1920s, Moore purchased 84 acres east of Pine Knot, which he named the Borestone Ranch, and quickly built extensive pens and kennels. Today, the site of the original ranch is bordered by Fox Farm Rd., Teakwood Dr., Crater Lake Rd., and the rocky hills to the north. The pen-raised silver foxes required diligent care and feeding. A fine pelt could command as much as $1,100 in those days, but it was the sale of breeding stock that was the primary objective of fox farming in the early years because it...

Read More

Logging in the Mountains

San Bernardino Mountains, CA, July 26, 2014 – Although Big Bear and the surrounding San Bernardino mountain communities are best known for recreation, outdoor locations for Hollywood productions, and the gold rush of the late 1800s, it was logging that was the big industry in the early 1900s. Logging in the San Bernardino Mountains was once done on a very large scale. The largest operation was conducted by the Brookings Lumber Company. They logged 8,000 acres between Fredalba and Hunsaker Flats, which is  present day Running Springs, and extended northward to Heap’s Ranch and Lightningdale which is near Green Valley Lake. They operated continuously between 1899 and 1912 and even built a railroad to bring logs to the mill at Fredalba. Since the railroad operated in the high country and didn’t connect to other rail lines in the lowlands, the locomotives had to be disassembled and hauled by horse drawn wagons up the mountain. About 60% of the finished lumber was hauled by wagon down the steep grades to the Molino box factory in Highland, which made packing crates for the citrus grown in the area. The remaining 40% went to the company’s retail lumber yard in San Bernardino. In 1912, the company dismantled the Fredalba sawmill and moved it to...

Read More

Old Miners Days has Rich History

Big Bear, CA, June 14, 2014 – In the summer of 1927, Big Bear had a parade celebrating its history that went right down Pine Knot Blvd. Local Big Bear historians think this may have been the true beginning of Old Miners Days. This year marks 65 years of Old Miners Days, Big Bear’s longest running community event. Back in the early days through the late 1980s, Old Miners Days was a two week celebration featuring events like the Loggers Jubilee lumberjack competition, the Whisker-ino contest to find the most impressive facial hair, performances of  ‘The Blossoms of Big Bear’ and ‘Deadwood Dick’, and the Fawnskin Street Dance which celebrated the mid-point of Old Miners Days and the beginning of the last leg for the burro racers.  The Heritage Parade, which marks the beginning of festivities these days, was always the final event capping off the two weeks of Old Miners celebrations. 1953 marks the first year for the burro races which was the main event of Old Miners Days. Man and burro teams would race 40 miles from Apple Valley through Lucerne up to Holcomb Valley and down into Fawnskin, where they would take the time to celebrate at the Fawnskin Street Dance before the final run to the Elk’s Lodge. Due to traffic issues, the beginning of the race was switched to Pioneertown after about 4 years. In...

Read More

Resort Life… in Turn of the Century Big Bear

Big Bear, CA, May 31, 2014 – As soon as Big Bear Lake was created by building the original ‘Rock Dam’ in 1885, tourists started visiting  Bear Valley. In 1888, Gus Knight Jr. and John Metcalf purchased 80 acres on the south shore of the lake to build the valley’s first resort, The Bear Valley Hotel. Despite the fact that it took two days by stage and burro train to reach the valley, the hotel was always crowded. Unfortunately, on Christmas eve in 1900 the hotel burned to the ground but Knight rebuilt and was open soon after. In 1911, the ‘Pine Knot Resort Company’ was formed by a group of wealthy businessmen from Redlands. They bought the Knight/Metcalf resort and built the Pine Knot Lodge. Located along Pine Knot Blvd.  just south of where the Village is now, the lodge had a large dining room, dance floor, and 75 cabins by 1913. It was torn down in the late 1930s. The Big Bear Tavern was a stylish resort built in 1917 and still exists today as the Presbyterian Conference Grounds. If you had the money, the place to stay in the 20s was Stillwell’s. On a point just east of the village, it was the most luxurious and expensive accommodations in the valley. Stillwell’s was rebuilt after fire destroyed the pavilion in 1928. Seventeen years later, the ‘rebuilt’...

Read More