1949: MARCIA WYNN: “Blasting powder was always a favorite means of celebrating such special events as the Fourth and the receipt of good news. During the Spanish American war it was used as “salutes” to celebrate any good tidings coming into the mining country, whether it was over in Kernville, in the mountains nearby, or in Randsburg. Anvil salutes, they were called. They were created by filling a large wagon-wheel nut with powder, placing the powder-filled nut on an anvil, then putting another anvil on top — sort of an explosive sandwich, the blast being set off by means of a long fuse or a long, lighted rod. The resultant noise was very satisfactory, but if anyone present felt the occasion had not been done proper justice he could handily repair to the nearest saloon to remedy the oversight.
Fourths of July were also ushered in with a few good blasts of powder. Randsburg was no exception, as may be seen by the following excerpts chosen at random from early copies of the Randsburg Miner.
“The Fourth was a day long to be remembered at Randsburg. The exercises began with the salute at sunrise of 45 guns. In the absence of guns (the editor means cannon —there were plenty of guns in camp) dynamite was used, and the first explosion awakened every sleeper in town. The parade formed at ten o’clock and marched from Miners Union Hall …” The day ended as usual, with a dance. “The ball was an elegant affair.”
Then again, several years later, another item concerning an Independence Day celebration: “The late morning sleepers were rudely awakened by the firing of salutes on the adjacent hills. Some of these were terrific, as much as one hundred pounds of giant powder being put off at one blast, sufficient to shake every building in town . . . ”
The Fourth was a very large day in the mining camps. Collections were taken up beforehand to buy prizes for the various races and games, and to provide all the ice cream the children could eat—which was considerable. One dressed in one’s starched best, at least the ladies and girls did, and the girls wore their hair in neat braids, with their best hair ribbons tied at the end. The boys had their hair slicked down, too, and wore clean shirts and shining faces. Wagons and rigs lined the main streets, with the exception of that area in which the festivities would center, and in which the Independence Day address would be made. Bunting draped the fronts of all the stores on the main street, and many a delivery wagon and rig. The whole town was in a mood for fun and celebration. The womenfolk put a last hasty touch to cake, cookies or sandwiches. Restaurants prepared for all comers. The saloons had already been doing a larger business for two days past. In spite of all the danger to the tinder-dry town, anyone with the price was buying firecrackers and fireworks. If half of the town’s children were expected to have stomach-aches the following day no one had the heart to count the dishes of ice cream they stowed away, for ice cream was a special treat in the camps, to be had only at a few places where they had proper refrigeration.
Gunny-sack races, egg races, potato races, three-legged races, burro and horse races, and just plain foot races. The Independence Day speech would set everything off. It was usually made by the Justice of the Peace or someone holding an office in the county, and was impatiently but politely put up with. Everyone was anxious to get on with the day’s festivities.
The town drunk was handled with good-natured tolerance; a few special-occasion drunks created some excitement. Those drinkers who had commenced several days early usually missed the real show.
Altogether they were very satisfactory Fourths, and the children never forgot them.” - Desert Bonanza
(See: Surroundings> Ballarat> Shorty’s First Funeral, COMING SOON.)
PLAYBILL: GLORIOUS 4th OF JULY, 1900: (The Fine Print):
“The $5,000 assortment of Fireworks is to be in charge of a Special Committee of 100, under the direct supervision of The Great and Only SAM BEERS the World-Renowned Fire Wizard. Imported at an Enormous Expense. Fire Department in attendance.
The News of the Day will be received at the Randsburg R.R. Depot by the Lightning Operator, M. R. Lopez, who will also receive the first telegraphic message from Mars at 9 G.M.
The Execution of 10,000 Chinese
Will take place in front of the Johannesburg Hotel from 9 G.M. to 5 G.E.
Their heads to be served at the Hotel, a la mode. No extra charge for this special dish. These Chinese were imported direct from Tien Sien for this occasion.
General Buller, commanding two British regiments, will dress parade during the execution of said Chinese.
The Bonfire Exhibit will be given by the representative of the KERN COUNTY LAND CO., who will burn 100 Tons of Hay in front of their Warehouse on Broadway.
The Sham Battle will be a Bombardment between the Battleship Red Dog and Pinmore, on their respective tailing ponds, Griffith and Godsmark in command.
The Foot Race will be given by Mining Experts, the admission fee being a pair of leggings; the prize, the Yellow Aster Mine and Mill.
The Declaration of Intentions will be read by the Secretary of the Combined Water Works, who will come from Los Angeles for that purpose, where he is now enjoying the cooling zephyrs from mother ocean.
A Great Exhibition of Strength will be given by the Miller Brothers, who will carry the Johannesburg Hotel to Randsburg and back, without stop or water. W. S. Miller incidentally consuming a barrel of his world-famed whiskey en route.
S. H. Fairchilds will exhibit his Trick Mules at any old time when requested.
Teagle Brothers will present a Car Load of Groceries and a bunch of Segars to the person holding the lucky number.
J. N. Carrow will Shoe a Ten-Horse Team in Ten Minutes by the Town Clock.
Capt. Colson will Cut ‘Steen Thousand Feet of Lumber against time, before breakfast, to enable him to thoroughly enjoy his supper.
The Randsburg R.R. Co. will run Three Special Trains, to take care of the crowds expected from the Suburbs.
Orator of the Day (and Deputy Constable): W. W. Godsmark
Marshal and Aids: A. Benham et al
Citizens in Uniform, Officers on Foot, Ladies on Horseback and Babies in Automobiles.”
– Rand Desert Museum Collection
The reader may assume this document to be Bill of Fare to a Roast of the aristocracy of local society, nuanced jibes, no doubt hilarious to the community; perhaps excepting the Chinese.
Interesting to mark the depth of animosity towards the immigrants, then as now competitors for the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Unlike many camps which tolerated ‘China Town’ enclaves, feelings ran high enough in the Rand to forcibly expel several orientals hired for the kitchen of one establishment.
Locally, to the benefit of travelers to and from the excitement at points North, Chinese veterans of the Gold Rush and railroad building, contributed the labor to build the death-defying ‘road’ over the Slate Mountains, between Searles Lake and the Panamint Valley, infamously known as the ‘Slate Range Crossing’. The ruins of their camp are visible from above, circular rock piles which once supported roofs made from the ruins of the many wagons which failed to navigate the hair-pin turns. Scraps of lumber, rusted hardware, barrel hoops still decorate the landscape. - WJW
(See: Joburg> Transportation> Freighting> Nadeau).