“Getting there is half the fun.”
With summer vacation season well behind us, it may be easier to assess the validity of that old adage. In the case of Idyllwild, and with a suitably elastic definition of “fun,” I think it rings true. Let’s return this month to Florence Casebeer’s “Logbook,” where accounts recorded by her friends illustrate the point.
I was born too late to experience any means of transport but the family car. Even my early memories of the old 1910 road from Banning through Poppet Flat are almost uselessly dim. I can recall a clearer image from 1947 when, after spending the war years in Oregon, we were delighted to discover the broad, if unpaved, expanse of what would become Highway 243.
So, I sensed a similar feeling as I read in the Logbook Mildred Hudson-Minnich’s contrast, in the days of horse-drawn buggies, between the treacherous old Crawford Toll Road from Hemet and the cutoff built by George Hannahs in the late 1890s.
Hannahs’ inspiration was connecting Idyllwild to the less harrowing road to Lake Hemet. He thus pioneered the later course of Highway 243 up from Mountain Center, except that he routed it past the dump — er, Transfer Station — site on the way to Saunders Meadow, then down into Strawberry Valley near today’s Idyllwild School.
Marion Snidecor, matron of “The House by the Side of the Road,” built in 1918 at the curve now lying between Idyllwild Heating and Little Chef in the Forest, recalled having come to Idyllwild in earlier times by lumber wagon, mule team, horseback, tallyho, even on foot. Waiting hours in later years for access to a crowded Control Road hardly seemed to her like progress.
Beyond those options, the stagecoach was perhaps the most exciting way to arrive. T. S. Milburn recalled the standard procedure on approaching the village: “The driver would flourish his long whip and the horses would come in on a gallop, people would gather on the porch of the [Idyllwild] Inn to see the new arrivals, the women in their long skirts and white shirt waists.”
Eva Percival remembered her first trip up in 1912. Taking the train from San Bernardino, she and her sister stayed at the Hotel Hemet overnight, leaving by stagecoach in the morning. While horses were being changed at Oak Cliff, where roads from Hemet have always begun to climb (including today’s Highway 74), the stage driver persuaded them they wouldn’t like Idyllwild and should stay instead at Keen Camp. This change of plan started a chain of events that would lead her to a new job in Hemet and a husband.
Dr. William Snyder’s family, after building their Idyllwild house in 1915, would arrive by car with Mrs. Snyder at the wheel. He refused to ride up the grade; instead, he and the children hiked. They often outdistanced the old Ford, and she would have to call them back for help to boost it over steep spots.
Likewise, Lue Munholland recalled driving up to a newly built house on Strawberry Creek in 1925, when the two-cylinder Buick required “much pushing and hauling” up the Control Road. By 1946 she was fantasizing a ride on the then newly planned tramway up from their Palm Springs home, followed by a “short horseback ride” down to Idyllwild.
The most harrowing account in the Logbook came from Ninnette Hooper. Her husband, C. C. Hooper, made his first trip up in 1918: “He came up the old 22 percent grade on a motorcycle, at midnight, in pouring rain.” Since nothing serious happened, next time he brought his bride.
Half the fun? You be the judge.