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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Memories of Bishop

I was missing Bishop the other day and since I couldn't visit I decided to blog about it.  So I started looking at pictures and one thing led to another and three days later I am finally getting to my blog.  Bishop is a small town about halfway between San Bernardino, CA and Reno, NV. on US Hwy 395.  It is located in the middle of the Owens Valley.  The rough and rugged Sierra Nevada mountains contain the valley on the west side and the White mountains form the Eastern border.  On the other side of the White Mountains is Death Valley and to the west of the Sierras lies Yosemite (that's an approximation - Bishop is a little north of Death Valley and a little south of Yosemite) .  But that may help situate its location in your mind.

Two of my siblings (my brother, David, and my sister, Sharon) were born in Bishop - I was not so lucky!  My dad worked first in a dairy in Bishop and later as a school bus driver.

While researching old photos for this blog, I found a postcard written by my Dad and sent from Bishop to family.  The postmark on the reverse of this postcard is July 29, 1948.  That would have been my first trip to Bishop, even though it was impossible for me to enjoy the beauty of the area.  I was born on January 4, 1949 so I hadn't yet seen daylight but I was definitely along for the ride.
Main Street in Bishop 1948, looking north.
The message on the back of the postcard reads:  "Hello Gang, Having a swell time.  Caught several fish and have hopes of catching more.  Bill" 
And that is very much what Bishop is all about; the great outdoors, fishing, hunting, and just enjoying creation.

Not exactly the same angle, but here is Main Street in the early sixties.  Notice Schats Bakery on the Left.  This bakery is the home of the famous Sheepherder bread and is still in operation.  They have changed location to a larger facility on the north end of town but the bread remains the same.  The drugstore on the right was now a Rexall Drug.  They had a soda fountain and we always went there for ice cream sodas when we first got into town.

Bishop, CA, Main Street (Hwy 395) early 1960s
And here is what it looks like today.

Bishop, CA, Main Street April 2010
I have so much I could write about Bishop.  I think this will have to be part one and who knows how many parts will follow.  I want to tell you about where we stay in town when we are traveling by car, and about all the wonderful rivers, streams and lakes in the area, and where to camp and where to eat...but for this time I just need to write a little about my own history with Bishop.  This is mainly for my family so I won't be offended if the rest of you wait for more interesting material.

My first memories of vacation involve Bishop.  Daddy was always in a hurry to get going - he didn't want to waste one minute of his vacation time.  His excuse was he wanted to get across the desert before it got too hot.  But we all knew that he just wanted to get to the stream and start fishing. 

We had two main destinations as we headed towards Bishop.  The first was the camping part and that was most always Fish Springs.  This was just a small creek located near Big Pine, Ca.  Not quite to Bishop but we would make it there in a few days.  Back then, there was no campground, just a wide dirt area next to the creek where fishermen could camp and enjoy the creek.  We were always the only ones there.  We camped first in a tent and many years later in a 13' camp trailer.  Daddy's first act upon arriving was to get out the dipper and head to the creek for that first taste of pure mountain water - wouldn't do it nowadays but back then the water was pure and clean.  This is an old slide taken on one of our camping trips in the late 50s.  Pardon the quality.   I am the girl on the left, and the rest are the Kirby kids, Gene, Myra, and Stanley.  The Kirbys were our best friends and we had many fun camping trips together.
Donna and the Kirby Kids playing in Fish Springs
When we went back to find the place in 2010, we found it is now a county park with rustic facilities, a charge to stay there, and LOTS of people...even big rigs!  Some things just do not stay the same.
Tinnemaha County Park (used to be Fish Springs)
It was kinda sad to see how much the area had changed.  When we camped there, it was ordinary to go for a  walk in the sage brush and find old Indian arrowheads.  They were not "artifacts" then, just old arrowheads and it was fun to collect them.  Wish I still had them now!! 

After several days at Fish Springs, we would head on into Bishop.  There we would stay with our friends Bob and Opal.  Bob and Opal ran the local Indian Mission for the Paiute tribe.  It may be more politically correct to say "native American" but this is not how it was in the middle of the last century.  The people referred to themselves as "Indians" and so we did as well.  I mean no disrespect when I use that term now - it is just how it was.

It was behind this mission that I caught my first fish.  We went back in 2007 and found that old mission and my favorite 'fishing hole".  To say the mission has changed is a huge understatement.  It still has a cross on the front but it is dilapidated and overgrown and I doubt that it is still a mission.  We did not see anyone around at all.
Former Paiute mission
A small unnamed creek ran behind the mission and it was in the corner of that concrete structure that I caught my first trout.  There was more water in the creek and the trout hung out under a swirl of leaves that had collected in the corner.  I tried for days to catch that fish and I think he finally took the bait just so I would leave him alone.  But, I caught him and pulled him in.  After dragging the poor fish across the yard and yelling for my dad at the top of my lungs, I insisted on putting the half-dead trout in a bucket of water because I didn't want him to die.  Daddy got me a bucket of water, unhooked the fish, and gently placed him in the water, even when I am sure Daddy knew what the outcome would be.  Alas, his trip across the ground had been way too traumatic for my fish and he died and I ate him.  I was about 9 years old at the time.
In the corner of that concrete structure is where I caught my first trout.
I have so much more to write about Bishop but the hour grows late and I grow weary.  To be continued....


  1. You are a great storyteller, Donna, and your photos enhance your story. The fish died, so you ate him...precious!

  2. Thanks for coming over to visit me... I have added you to my favorites and joined your followers list... Not only do you have a great name but birthday too... I was born 1/21/49! LOL LOL You write a great post and photos were very good. I know we'll be good bloggin buddies~
    Have fun & Travel Safe

  3. squamama, have you noticed how many "Donna's" are travel bloggers? I went my entire working career and never worked with another Donna...now they seem to be everywhere...must be the age LOL!! Welcome to my blog and a late Happy Birthday to you!!

  4. Hey, you look like someone we should follow! Thanks for your visit to Our Life on Wheels, even though not much has been done there lately. We remember Bishop! The one time we stayed there we got infested with tiny moths swarming up from somewhere and getting into everything, including our mouths and hair. We had intended to stay a week, left after two days. Actually took us eigjt months to finally get rid of all of them because they kept reproducing. We even had to buy a big vacuum cleaner to suck 'em out of the shower stall and other fine places they found to be. We'll go back to Bishop someday, armed with a case of Raid!

  5. Oh, don't give up on Bishop! There are SOOO many beautiful places in the area....I'll be adding some more as time allows. Someday I'll tell the story about the moth, the preacher, and the water bucket LOL!! Thanks for visiting.