murals in 29 Palms

Twentynine Palms California is a desert town with a population of about 26,000.   It lies directly east of Los Angeles and slightly northeast of Palm Springs.  It is the site of the Oasis of Mara, the site of the 29 palm trees planted by the Serrano Indians.  The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center is just outside of town.

Robert Plant sings a song called ’29 Palms’ although it’s not about the town.

Frank Sinatra recorded ‘The Lady from Twentynine Palms’ in 1939 and it was later covered by the Andrews Sisters as well as Doris Day.   Again, it’s not a song about the town!

I drove through it the other day because it is one of the towns at the northern edge of Joshua Tree National Monument.   As I entered the town, I noticed a sign that claimed that 29 Palms was the city of murals.  As it turns out, there are quite a few murals in town.

As I was taking pictures, I realized that it must be rare for people to walk around this town with a camera.  Then a few minutes later I decided that was wrong.  It is rare for people to walk around this town. Period.

What follows is most of the murals.  I am missing one of desert wildflowers and one of a giant lizard.  So be it. Most of the murals have an historical theme and most come with a story.  So, here is a brief account of some of the characters and events in the history of Twentynine Palms.

below: The story of cattle days in Hidden Valley.  Hidden Valley is a rock formation in what is now Joshua Tree.  Entrance to the ‘valley’ is through small openings in the rock formations.  It was once home to castle rustlers.

mural of a man lying on his back on scaffolding.  He is painting a mural that is unfinished.  The sky is blue.  Other parts are drawn and labelled as to which color they should be painted.  A very realistic cow stands beside the scaffolding.

Mural painted by John Pugh with help from Mark Molchan, Jeff Bryant, Alexis Ingle and Michelle Smith.


part of a mural - text with the story of cattle at Hidden Valley

below: The 29 Palms Stage and Express, a 1929 Chevrolet truck modified by John Hastie and used in 1938 when he started providing public transportation in the area.  John Hastie continued to drive until he retired in 1973.  It would be interesting to know how long this truck was in service!

a mural that illustrates the story of the 29 Palms stage and express.  An old truck is full of people and there are trunks and bags tied to its roof.

The text that appears on the mural about the stage and express in 29 Palms.

below: Keys’ Desert Queen Ranch.  Bill Keys arrived in 29 Palms in 1910 as the caretaker of the Desert Queen mine.  When the mine went bankrupt, Bill Keys claimed the mine site. He and his wife Frances raised their five children here and Bill remained until his death in 1969.  The wikipedia entry for Bill Keys (William F. Keys) mentions that they had seven children, four of whom survived.  It also depicts Bill Keys as more of a ‘character’ including the fact that he spent time in San Quentin prison for murder.   The ranch buildings still exist (they are within Joshua Tree National Monument) and tours of the site are available.

A mural titled 'Keys' desert queen ranch' with a painting of the ranch building as well as the Keys family.

part of a mural showing a portrait of Bill Keys (as an old photograph) and his wife.  In the middle of the painting is text that tells the story of their ranch in 29 palms.

below:  Orville Jackson Cones, aka Cactus Jack, or Jack Cones, the flying constable.  He became Constable of the area in 1932 and he held that job for 28 years.  He helped patrol the area by flying his Piper J-3 Cub.

mural depicting the story of Jack Cones, a policeman who flew airplanes.

The text that appears on the mural of Jack Cones

 below:  The above mural is signed,  O’Connor ’96.
Apparently the two guys who look like they want to help are Fergie and Floyd.

the signature on a mural, O'connor '96 and then there are two little workmen beside the signature that are drawn in black, both are wearing funny hats, both are older men. One has a can of paint and the other has a ladder

below: Another O’Connor mural, this one painted in 2002, depicts the story of Smiths Ranch.

A mural about the story of Smiths Dairy and their Saturday night dances

The text is smaller and more difficult to read in these photos but apparently Bill Smith and brother Harry came to 29 Palms in 1923.  They drilled a well that supplied the early settlers with water.  It also supplied a small swimming pool (see right side of mural).

part of a mural - pictures of Smith and text telling a story
Thelma Head (Mead?) arrived in 29 Palms a few years later and in 1930 she and Bill Smith were married.  Together they raised their family here.  They also developed Smiths Ranch with ice house, dairy, ice cream parlor,  outdoor theater, recreational hall, and trailer park.

mural, a young girl is eating a slice of watermelon while a man in blue overalls is sitting beside her.  Other children are in the background.

below:  O’Connor Graphics has a store in town.  Unfortunately it was closed the day that I was there.
But he does have a website!

Two small stores that share a common wall.  O'Connor Graphics on the left.  A very tall palm tree is near the center of the two buildings.

below: Prior to a flood control channel built in 1969, flash floods used to occur in 29 Palms.  During thunderstorms water would race from the mountains above the town, flood the highway, and then flood the main streets of town.

Whole mural showing scenes of a flash flood that passed through the town of Twentynine Palms.

The right side of a mural showing scenes of a flash flood that passed through the town of Twentynine Palms.

mural showing scenes of a flash flood that passed through the town of Twentynine Palms.  Left side of the mural.

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