Emax, art and Idyllwild

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Untitled (1970), Ernie Maxwell, belongs to Idyllwild Arts Academy Krone Museum

Ernie Maxwell, Idyllwild Town Crier newspaper founder with his wife Betty, discovered an environment in Idyllwild in which to express his many talents, impressing his spirit permanently on the community. In addition to writing, cartooning, hiking, snake killing, philosophizing, humoring folk and cavorting around the mountains, Ernie was a sculptor, potter and oil painter.

In the 1950s, Ernie became involved with the new Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts, joining the Associates of ISOMATA and the Idyllwild Arts Foundation board, and teaching summer classes there in art and conservation.

Self-portrait with Betty Maxwell (1973), belongs to Idyllwild Area Historical Society

Born a century ago this year in 1911, he received a Sacramento Junior College art scholarship, and earned an art and philosophy bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. An old college friend, Ted Keys, went on to create the “Mabel” cartoon still syndicated throughout the U.S.

Dancers by Ernie Maxwell, painting belongs to Idyllwild Arts Academy Krone Museum

After graduation, Ernie drew for The New Yorker and Esquire magazines. In 1939, Ernie picked up newspaper experience writing and drawing for both Copley News Service and the Los Angeles Times.

In that same year, Ernie and Betty were married.

In 1942, Ernie enlisted in the Army Air Force while studying radio.

“Because I also had been cartooning for Esquire Magazine, noted for its pinups and pretty girls, and drawing for Farmers Market [in Laurel Canyon], I was quickly grabbed by the AAF, even though the cartoon editor of Esquire considered my women ‘gruesome,’ and he suggested that I look at fashions in Vogue magazine,” Ernie wrote.

Ernie Maxwell carving in his studio. Image courtesy Idyllwild Area Historical Society


“My first station was Douglas, Ariz., where the squadron commander said he already had 12 radiomen and needed only two. I did murals in the day room.”

He then was sent to Santa Ana Air Base to join other artists in illustrating and learning about aerodynamics.

In 1944, while Ernie was on furlough, the Maxwells bought a Fern Valley lot and began building a home in January 1946. In October 1946, they started the Town Crier, giving voice to Ernie’s many talents.

In the early 1970s, artist Liz Paine and Ernie opened the Cedar Tree Gallery featuring local artists’ work as well as their own.

Even after the Maxwells sold the paper to Luther and Marilyn Weare in 1972, Ernie remained as a writer and cartoonist, and continued to hand write the headlines.

He died Aug. 20, 1994, in Meadowbrook Convalescent Home in Hemet.

Celebrate Ernie Maxwell Week: July 4-10

All Week

  • Maxwell and how he shaped Idyllwild: Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum
  • Maxwell: The publisher and newspaper founder: Idyllwild Town Crier
  • Maxwell the Artist: Krone Museum, Idyllwild Arts Academy

Friday, July 8

  • 10 a.m. Memorial hike: Ernie Maxwell Trail
  • 5:30 p.m. Potluck centennial celebration & fundraiser for the Idyllwild
  • Community Center and presentation of the Ernie Maxwell Community Spirit Award: Idyllwild Nature Center

A sampling of Ernie’s cartoons


Contributor and former Town Crier Editor-Publisher, Becky Clark started working at the Crier in the 1980s, when Ernie was still writing his column.

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