Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California


"What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote." ~Edward Abbey

Old Schoolhouse Museum photo


The Twentynine Palms Historical Society is pleased to announce the 2016"Old Timer of the Year" honorees...

This year's honorees are Dave Brownell, Ted Vick, and Walt and Velma Holland. The "Old Timer of the Year" program was created in 2014 to honor early or long-time residents who contributed significantly to the development or betterment of the Twentynine Palms' community. The program is intended to honor "everyday heroes" whose contributions and efforts over the years have largely gone unsung.

David A. Brownell

David Brownell

Dave Brownell was only 19 years old when he came to Twentynine Palms in 1953 to begin his career in education as a fifth-grade teacher. 1953 was the last year classes were held in the Old Schoolhouse. In 1954, the new Twentynine Palms Elementary School opened where Dave continued teaching fifth grade. Dave had a deep connection to his students, not only as a teacher but as mentor and friend. A young man of many talents, Dave built his home here by hand, a house that still stands today and is the beloved home of Cheryl Erickson.

He left the desert in 1956 and taught in Cucamonga for several years and then moved on to the Coast Community College System. He ultimately became chancellor in 1984 and successfully guided the 60,000-student multi-campus system through very difficult financial times. He retired in 1988 but has kept active in education as an Educational Consultant and serving as the interim president of Prairie State College. He also enjoys owning and racing quarter horses at Del Mar with the Pacific Coast Racing Association.

Though his time here was short, David Brownell made a profound and lasting impact on his students' lives, inspiring several become successful teachers themselves. Many of his former students wrote to the Twentynine Palms Historical Society about their fond memories of their beloved fifth-grade teacher. He remains in contact with some of his early Twentynine Palms students and fellow teachers.

Dr. Ted Vick

Ted Vick

Ted Vick arrived in Twentynine Palms during the early 1940s. His father had taken work with the Glider Academy at Condor Field. In true pioneer fashion, his family lived in a small cabin on Mesquite Springs Road that had a well but lacked electricity.

Ted began school here as an eighth-grade student in the original three-room school house. He completed the ninth and 10th grades at the new Twentynine Palms High School. His family had to leave the desert when the Glider Academy closed at the end of World War II. Relocating to San Bernardino, Ted completed high school there, and then graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara. He married his lifelong friend and love, Earlene, and began his career in teaching.

In 1952, Ted was hired to teach in Twentynine Palms in the same three-room building where he had been a student years before. In addition to his teaching duties, Ted served as the vice principal. His dedication to his students and strong but fair discipline garnered the respect and affection of his students. His crewcut and distinctive voice, as two former female students reminisced; had many of the eighth-grade girls "totally in love" with him. The Vicks had two children born at the Thomas H. Ince Memorial Hospital on Adobe Road. They were active in the greater community, and were greatly involved with the youth programs at Little Church of the Desert.

Ted and family left the desert in 1956 and returned to the city where he continued teaching while obtaining his master's degree from the University of Redlands and ultimately his doctorate from U. C. Riverside. He spent his entire career as a teacher and administrator and also served on the San Bernardino County Board of education for 20 years.

Ted's ability to greatly impact the lives and inspire not only his students in Twentynine Palms but those in every community he served is remarkable. Ted and Earlene return "home" to Twentynine Palms often to attend Pioneer Days, meet with former students and attend the Old Timers Gathering at the Old Schoolhouse Museum.

It is with great pleasure that the Twentynine Palms Historical Society honors Dr. Ted Vick as an Old Timer of the Year for 2016.

Walter and Velma Holland

Velma and Walt Holland

The Hollands arrived in Twentynine Palms in 1958 and were employed by the then Victor Valley High School District at Twentynine Palms High School. Walter taught Social Studies and Driver's Education; Velma was the library clerk. Walter also was the Athletic Director and Student Activities Director.

In 1963, Walter became the vice principal of TPHS and in 1971 assumed the duties of vice principal at Twentynine Palms Intermediate School, today's junior high school. Velma became the head librarian at TPHS, where she taught Library Science to hundreds of students. Many years later this writer can still use the Dewey Decimal System.

Walter left the field of education in 1975 to pursue a career as a local Realtor. He was very involved with the Realtors Association and its charitable fundraising and causes. Walter donated his cooking skills for the association's barbecue events at Smith's Ranch. Walter was a member of the Lions Club for many years, and served two terms as president.

Velma retired from TPHS in 1994. She has been a long-time member of the California Retired Teachers Association and has served as its president. The Hollands have been active members of the Twentynine Palms Historical Society since the early days. Velma served as secretary of the Board of Directors. When the society was raising funds to move the Old Schoolhouse to its present location, they were active participants with Walter again donating his culinary skills at barbecues and other events.

After the successful move of the schoolhouse, Velma became the librarian for the historical society, spending hours each week cataloging and organizing donated books and literature. Velma continues in that position today and volunteers as a docent at the museum. She has been an enthusiastic entrant in the annual Weed Show every year since arriving in Twentynine Palms. The Hollands have been members of Little Church of the Desert and are still active in church activities.

As teachers and contributing members of the community, the Hollands activities have greatly impacted the lives of their students and inspired them to pursue their dreams.

The "Old Timer of the Year" program was created to honor early or long-time residents who contributed significantly to the development or betterment of the Twentynine Palms' community. The program is intended to honor "everyday heroes" whose contributions and efforts over the years have largely gone unsung.

The 2016 Twentynine Palms
Weed Show logoSM
will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 5 & 6.

This years theme is


Click here for the 2016 categories and rules.


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