What's In A Name?

by Harry Nelson

Many places and streets in PMC bear personal, as opposed to generic, names. You may ask "where did those names come from?" or "who were those people that these places were named for, or after?" I don't think I know ALL the sources for ALL the names, but here's what I know (or at least remember).

The street names throughout PMC were chosen by the developer, Tenneco. Most of the names reflect the alpine or resort flavor that Tenneco was trying to sell. Obviously, they didn't have spell-check then, so there were (and are) some glaring errors: the signs for "Arctic Drive" were spelled "Artic" for many years. And of course "San Moritz" was spelled phonetically, instead of the correct "St. Moritz" (it's still that way!)

Some main streets were given personal names, after Tenneco CEO's, or other VIP at the company. Thus we have Freeman Drive, Symonds Drive, and Askin Drive. Some of the lanes and access roads were given personal names, too, like Schroeder Place, (after Warren Schroeder, an early perennial Chairman of the POA Board), and Gotthard Place----I don't know WHERE this name came from, but knowing some of the antics that went on near there, it may not refer to a person.

Fern's Lake was named for Fern (Fernan) Olivier, who championed the cause of cleaning up what was known as the Lower Lake prior to his death.

Lampkin Park was named for Larry Lampkin, one of the first team of salespeople who worked selling PMC property for Tenneco. Larry carried a longtime Pine Mountain tradition of serious partying a little too far, and expired at a young age at the Caravan Inn in Gorman.

The streets in the Village all have names, too. Originally, the buildings in the Village all had addresses of either Mil Potrero Highway, or Askin Drive, but years ago, the Kern County Fire Department required that all streets and lanes and access roads in PMC had to have individual and distinctive names, so names were chosen. (If you don't like them, blame me). However, some building and business owners never got that memo, so some businesses still have Askin Drive or Mil Potrero addresses listed, even though the building is on Pine Valley Lane, etc.

Prior to this change, many of the lanes and access roads throughout PMC had names that referred back to the street they connected to-- so you had Woodland Lane, Woodland Place, Woodland Court, etc. You can't blame the Fire Department for requiring a change.

Symonds Drive had similar related names. Two of those were changed to "Ebony" and "Ivory". "Why such an odd choice?" you may ask. Someday I'll tell you. (I guess, in retrospect, it's not a lot "odder" than "Sand" and "Gravel" !

Then there's "Mil Potrero" Highway. I don't know what's more difficult: spelling it, pronouncing it correctly, or trying to get someone on the phone to spell it correctly so you'll get your delivery on time (maybe!).

I've seen many places that "Mil Potrero" translates to "thousand meadows (or pastures)" or whatever. It doesn't "translate" to anything, because it's not real Spanish. Correct Spanish would be "Mil Potreros" (plural) not "Potrero" (singular). But the "Mil" was really "Mill" from the "Mill Potrero"-- so named by the Sneddens-- early settlers of this area, who had a cattle ranch in Lockwood Valley, and used the meadow where PMC Golf Course is now to feed their stock in the summer, because it was cooler than the lower elevations. "Mill" referred to the sawmill that existed at the time (Sawmill Mountain took the name as well), and "Potrero" was taken from the Mexican vaqueros who used the word referring to a pasture-like meadow or field.

Mount Pinos is from the Spanish for pine (pino), prounounced "pee-no", the plural being "pee-nos". There is no tilde above the "n" in Pinos. because there's none in pino. However, if pronounced correctly, it comes out "Mount Penis", so most people say "Mount Pie-nos" to avoid embarrassing explanations! To locals, using the words "Mount Piños" is always wrong.

Mount Abel is also called "Cerro Noroeste" (another of those almost unpronounceable Spanish names). Abel is a lot easier to say, but like so many things around here, there's an underlying set of facts:

Cerro Noroeste, which means northwest hill in Spanish, lies several miles west of Mt. Pinos. It is far more than a hill, since it is nearly as high as Mt. Pinos. Contrary to its official name, it is often referred to as Mt. Abel after Stanley Abel, who was a Kern County supervisor instrumental in having the first road built to the top of Cerro Noroeste in the 1930s and also construction of Highway 33 between Ventura and Maricopa. As a consequence many locals began calling the peak Mt. Abel, maybe because it was easier to pronounce. Among other things Abel is remembered as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and also as the county official who attempted unsuccessfully to have John Steinbeck's book The Grapes of Wrath banned from county libraries. The controversy over what Cerro Noroeste should be named was resolved in 1990 when the Board of Geographical Names decided in favor of Cerro Noroeste.

With thanks and appreciation to Harry Nelson for providing such invaluable information for those of us who appreciate history. Cheers!

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Peter Gray
telephone: +1 (661) 242-1234


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