High Glamour in the High Desert – The Apple Valley Inn

Even at the giveaway price of $2.75 an acre, most people probably thought Bernard “Bud” Westlund and Newton T. “Newt” Bass were crazy when they began buying up some 22,000 acres of “worthless” high desert land to the east of Victorville in the 1940’s. The area, which was known as “Apple Valley,” had for a time shown some real promise as an agricultural fruit basket with orchards filled with eponymous apples much in evidence. By the time Newt and Bud started their land acquisitions, however, all that promise had literally dried up and finding an apple in Apple Valley was about as likely as finding a diamond in Diamond Bar. But Newt and Bud hadn’t become millionaires by being stupid. Successful Long Beach oilmen, the pair had plenty of money to spend on new ventures, ventures they fully expected to turn a profit, which their little Apple Valley experiment would ultimately do, by about 70 million dollars or so within 15 years.

(LAPL)Were they psychic or just lucky? Probably a little of both, but either way, the pair had made their investment at exactly the right time and in exactly the right place. While it might not have necessarily looked like a “Golden” land upon first inspection, Apple Valley, some 93 miles to the east of Los Angeles, held some valuable charms that were soon to become readily apparent, the first being its agreeable climate. Sitting on a plateau 3,000 feet above sea level, unknown Apple Valley actually enjoyed milder year-round temperatures than world-famous Palm Springs, located about an hour to its south. And underneath the dry desert terrain was its second and most critical asset, water, and lots of it, an actual underground lake fed by pure mountain runoff delivered by the nearby Mojave River.

Newt Bass & Bud Westlund getting into the spirit of their new venture. 1947. (applevalley.org)

As Newt and Bud surveyed their recent acquisition they saw not the barren desert landscape most everyone else saw, but thousands of homes and businesses, a whole thriving community, which they named the “Apple Valley Ranchos.” The partners had correctly surmised that with the war coming to an end, the long dormant housing market was overdue for a boom of epic proportions. But Apple Valley Ranchos was not going to be some slapdash effort thrown up for quick profit. Newt and Bud wanted their development to be a showplace of good planning, a place people would be proud to call home. So before a single lot ever hit the market, Newt and Bud engaged prominent architect and fellow Long Beach resident Hugh Gibbs, a specialist in large-scale community developments, to help create a master plan for the future community. While Gibbs carefully planned and laid out a whole 6,000 acre townsite, Newt and Bud poured several million dollars into improvements with more to come in order to turn their vision into reality.

The Apple Valley Inn. 1949. (Robert C. Cleveland)

One of the most critical if not the most critical investment for the community’s success was in a hotel that would serve not only as a place for prospective buyers to stay but also as the social nucleus for the nascent community. To create the hotel, which was to be known as the Apple Valley Inn, Newt and Bud turned again to Hugh Gibbs. Built at the base of a dramatic boulder-strewn hillside at a cost of $750,000-$1,000,000, the Inn was designed resort style with a main building housing the public facilities and guest quarters arranged in private bungalows scattered about the 28-acres of grounds. Both the main Inn and the surrounding guest houses had been executed by Gibbs to evoke the imagery of an old western rancho with generous use of irregularly stacked stone and exposed woodwork stained in mellow hues. The theme was carried over into the Inn’s interiors, which featured heavily beamed ceilings, plank and adobe-style brick walls and floor treatments in cut stone and rust-red clay tile pavers polished to a shimmering gloss.

Entrance to the main dining room. The heavily beamed ceiling had been fashioned out of an old trestle of Nevada's historic Tonopah & Tidewater Railway.

Furnishings, overseen by noted interior designer Albert Parvin, completed the rustic effect. Parvin, who was to become Las Vegas’ premier decorator, responsible for the interiors of the Flamingo, Sahara, El Rancho Vegas, Last Frontier, Desert Inn and Dunes Hotels, arranged an eclectic mix of antiques and modern pieces in comfortable and inviting groupings around cheery fireplaces or floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Joshua Tree-studded grounds, the expansive pool and the starkly beautiful mountains beyond.

Newt and Bud knew they had a good thing going with their development and its pretty little Inn, but they also knew it wouldn’t sell itself so the pair invested heavily in advertising with Newt, clearly the Alpha Male of the two, becoming the public face of Apple Valley. A caricature of the developer with oversized cowboy hat, oversized chin, oversized chest and teeny-tiny little waist was created and plastered over every ad and brochure for both the development and the Inn for the next decade. Newt loomed large over Apple Valley literally as well as figuratively with the construction of his luxurious modernistic hilltop house perched 300 feet above the Inn, which had been designed by noted Mexican architect Francisco Artigas. From his dramatic hilltop aerie, Newt was master of all he surveyed with the whole of Apple Valley visible to him, and vice versa, of course, just as he wanted. As Newt basked in his role as “Mr. Apple Valley,” Bud appeared content to remain quietly in the background.

Newt and Bud’s PR blitz for Apple Valley included the hiring of a Hollywood publicity firm to arrange for famous people to come up to the Inn. To this end they had great success and from nearly the outset of its gala opening November 22, 1948, the charming Apple Valley Inn began attracting an enthusiastic and well-heeled crowd that would grow to include many famous film and television stars as well as leaders in such diverse fields as business, politics and sports who were drawn to the uniqueness of its architecture and starkly beautiful setting.

As enchanting as its high desert locale may have been, its remoteness initially created an unexpected problem, which brought about an equally unexpected solution. Originally, the local phone company had balked over the expense of installing telephones in the various guest cottages, leaving Newt and Bud with the untenable situation of guests being unable to communicate with the main inn. Their solution was inspired. Placed by the door of each guest house was a small cage containing a homing pigeon. When guests required anything from the main lodge they simply wrote their request on a notepad provided for the purpose, inserted it into the holder attached to the pigeon’s leg and released it. Within a short time, a waiter would appear, not only with the guest’s order, but also a fresh pigeon to await its next command. The homing pigeon idea, a delightful novelty for the guests, worked beautifully until one guest, perhaps feeling sorry for the busy birds, began feeding them biscuits soaked in brandy, which put an immediate end to their industriousness and, ultimately, the whole pigeon plan. By the time the pigeon plan went south though, the Apple Valley Inn was doing so well the phone company had a change of heart and guest phones replaced guest birds in each of the cottages.

During it’s heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Apple Valley Inn was one heck of a happening place to be with Bonanza Airlines making regularly scheduled flights between the high desert community and Los Angeles. But ladies beware! Apple Valley was Man’s Country. “Women are welcome and loved,” warned a 1952 ad, “but man is king at Apple Valley. There is no dressing up according to masculine standards. Full scope, however, is given to a man’s addiction to high-heeled boots, jingling spurs, gallon-sized hats and gay Western shirts.” Hmmm…Perhaps we should just move on.

When not playing dress up, guests had a multitude of other distractions at the Apple Valley Inn that included  hiking and horseback riding over 90 miles of trails, hitting the links at the adjacent championship golf course, taking a refreshing dip in the heated pool, a spot of tennis, perhaps some badminton, shuffleboard or a moonlight hayride. “You can be as lazy or busy as you please,” was the Inn’s motto. Yet for all its hearty outdoorsiness, the most popular activities at the Apple Valley Inn seemed to revolve around drinking and eating.

The Western Bar

In regards to the former, the Inn offered two unique “extravagantly stocked” cocktail lounges. The Western Bar featured cowhide banquettes, wagon wheel chandeliers and a hayloft, while the Blossom Room featured a sunken bar and large dance floor where guests could modern, folk or square dance to live music nightly to their heart’s content. 14 oz. steaks ruled the roost in all three of the Inn’s dining rooms and there were regular buffets, “Dixie” dinners, Hawaiian Poolside Luaus, BBQs, and Western Steak Frys, a veritable orgy of food, once again geared towards the manly he-man. “Hearty and enormous quantities – roast beef, thicker than thick, lamb chops and steaks, mammoth and charcoal broiled, and always apple pie and slabs of cheese.”

While the men are out doing manly things, the ladies can enjoy a quiet night of gossip in one of Albert Parvin's colorfully decorated guest cottages.

Jayne Mansfield presents a golf trophy at the Inn. 1958. (USC)

During these golden times, the Inn was filled to capacity with a mix of tourists and celebrities with its guest register bulging with such famous names as Bob Hope, Kirk Douglas, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, Edgar Bergen, Errol Flynn, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Gregory Peck, Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, Clifton Webb, Jane Russell, Barbara Stanwyck, Gene Autry and Fred MacMurray, among a host of others. So many stars came to the Apple Valley Inn during this period that Hedda Hopper made their comings and goings a regular feature of her syndicated gossip column. The hotel even received the blessing of no less of an authority on the western style than John Wayne himself, who declared “I have done a lot of traveling since I became a motion picture actor, yet as a hotel, the Apple Valley Inn compares with the finest anywhere.”

The MacDonald Careys enjoy a dip in the Apple Valley Inn pool.

One unusual guest of the inn was Richard M. Nixon, who sequestered himself away in one of the hotel’s bungalows after his razor-thin loss to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election in order to complete what was to become his highly praised 1962 best seller, Six Crises. It’s a fair bet Nixon did not participate in the moonlight hayrides or square dance contests during his time at the Inn, but another future president who did join in the fun was Ronald Reagan, no doubt a far more affable prescence at the inn.

In 1964, the Apple Valley Inn got its own celebrity manager when legendary cowboy star Roy Rogers took out a 25-year lease on the property, rechristening it the Roy Rogers Apple Valley Inn. It took a star of Roy Rogers’ magnitude to ultimately dethrone Newt as “Mr. Apple Valley.” After first visiting the place, Rogers and his wife Dale Evans had been so taken by Apple Valley they sold their long-time ranch in Hidden Valley and relocated permanently to the high desert community. “Up here we can get away from the rat race, slow down and enjoy life more,” declared Rogers, adding, “And, oh those balmy evenings. They knock me out.”

Throughout the remainder of the sixties and into the seventies, Rogers continued to provide the same western-style hospitality that made the Inn famous with the 14 oz. steaks, the BBQs, hayrides and square dances much in evidence, but by the time Robert Redford chose the Inn as a setting for his Academy Award-winning film, Ordinary People, in 1980, the halcyon days of the Apple Valley Inn had long come to an end. No longer the glamorous magnet for tourists and celebrities it had once been, the Apple Valley Inn had been thrown over for the glitzier Las Vegas, while the surrounding Apple Valley Ranchos had filled in and settled into a somnolent state of being merely a suburb of nearby Victorville (In 1988, it finally incorporated into its own municipality). Mercifully, Newt and Bud had both passed away by the time their beloved inn closed its doors in 1986. In 2003, there was an abortive attempt to reopen, but this ultimately failed and these days the forlorn looking former inn with its empty and fenced off swimming pool is used as a Baptist church and sits innocuously facing the nearby road and a rather uncertain future.

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116 Responses to High Glamour in the High Desert – The Apple Valley Inn

  1. Wonderful story about Apple Valley and the Inn. Great collection of photos and memories. Congrats on an interesting story about a little piece of history in the High Desert.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks so much Jason. Glad you enjoyed it! Would love to see something nice happen for that historic place.

      • Christy says:

        I have had a dream for many years to be able to buy the Inn and restore it back to the way it used to be. Our family moved to Apple Valley in 1966 so I remember the way it was. We lived just across Hwy 18 and 1 field from the Inn and could always here the music from the steak fry and evening band inside. My parents still live there and I can see the Inn from their home, they live very close. It breaks my heart to see the condition it is in today. I have driven through the parking lot many times throughout the last few years looking at the sad state of the place now and wishing I had the means to restore it. Remembering simply things about it, like the pomegranite trees that used to be around the rooms close to the main parking lot….and the German Shepard with only 3 legs that used to hang around by the wagon in the front…..And or course it was the nicest dining room in the desert at the time……So sad to see it all fade away….

      • Steve says:

        Thanks Christy for that great memory. I sure hope someone will bring both the Inn and Hilltop House back. They’re both pretty forlorned today, but at least they haven’t been bulldozed and as long as they’re still around then there is still hope. But the memories of that incredible Inn can never be lost. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Evelyn says:

    I miss the Apple Valley Inn & remember dancing there many times to the music & singing of Randy Andrews as well as other musicians.
    Unfortunately, when we went there after it was sold & reopened, the heat was not on, the prices were outrageous & there was no welcoming feeling or ambiance. I assume that is the reason it has since closed.
    Hopefully, some other investor will eventually purchase & reopen it as a viable place for dining, entertainment, etc. I have even attended weddings there in the past.
    Apple Valley could use a fine-dining establishment!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks so much Evelyn for writing. it’s so nice to hear from people who actually enjoyed the Inn during its better days. Those memories help make the Inn special. I too am hoping it will make a comeback. One thing we have to be grateful for is that its still there. No one’s torn it down yet so there’s still a chance of a restoration. Thanks again for the great comment.

    • Cristina Cruz says:

      Hi, I am Cristina Cruz I am doing a paper on the old Apple Valley Inn and was wondering if there is anyway you could give me any stories you have regarding the inn

      • Steve says:

        Hi Christina:
        I pretty much covered the main points I have already in my post. However, if any of our other readers have any stories, and I suspect they do, hopefully they will contact you. Thanks so much and best of luck on the paper!

      • Randy Cornish says:

        Chris, I have alot of pics of things that I own from the A.V INN, If you would like to use them for your paper.You can contact me at desertpapa1@gmail.com

      • Randy Cornish says:

        I have tried several times to send the photos to ya on the REPLY, but they always return.
        Is there another way I can get them to you?

      • Steve says:

        Hi Randy: Can you send them via paradiseleasedblog2yahoo.com? I think they’ll get through that way.

    • cynthia chrysafides says:

      let’s bring back the memories, I have a lot from the flying nun house in A,V I can help if you’re willing. Let me know foe the memories

      • Gayle Lee (Wrigglesworth) Pulley says:

        Is that what they called the Newt Bass home?! I never heard that! My friend & I went up there once & yelled “A parked car is a tool of sin!” Where did we get such a thing, & how silly were we?! But, very special memories of the way the Apple Valley Inn used to be! I’d still love a reunion there, if it is fixed up at all!
        ~Gayle Lee (Wrigglesworth) Pulley

  3. Bill Baker says:

    This brought back so many memories when I was a kid. back in 1967 thru 71 I used to go there with my mom and my grand parents. always seemed to be a good party going on for the families. I now am retired from the army and living in radcliff KY/ FT. Knox.
    I hope someday I will be back for a visit and show my family the Apple valley Inn there is a lot of history there and Apple Valley was where I was born in 1963.

    • Steve says:

      Bill, I’m so glad you enjoyed the article and it brought back some nice memories! I sure am hoping this wonderful piece of High Desert history has another renaissance. It sure deserves it. Thanks again for the comments!

  4. Dee says:

    Thank you, Steve for writing about this interesting and amazing place! I’ve never been there but wish I had.

  5. Randy Andrew says:

    Thanks Steve… this brought back great memories. I first went to the Inn in 1967 when I was stationed at George Air Force Base. In the late 70s and into the 80s my band played in the blossom room… is was like a second home for me. I played five nights a week and did an afternoon four hour daily talk radio show on KAVR. They did a nice job of renovating in 2005 but they couldn’t bring the old days back. Western Bar star, “Cousin” Glenn Moore and I tried at the grand opening, but it just wasn’t the same.

    • Steve says:

      Thank you so much, Randy for writing and sharing your memories. It’s been so nice hearing from people who remember the Inn from its heyday and particularly from someone who played the Blossom room! Thanks again for the great comments.

  6. Fran F says:

    It would be wonderful to get another visionary like Bud & Newt to pick this up and run with it. This has the bones to be done with and with the right operation it could be again.

    • Conrad says:

      My mother and father managed the Inn for a period of time before I was born in 1953. My mother used to tell me about the good times they had there, and all the famous folk of the day who were guests there. Her personal favorite was Phil Harris, but she said Jack Benny and his wife were also “very nice people”.
      When I was just a “little shaver” of 5 or 6, I used to wear my mom’s fancy cowboy boots (dad’s were too large), the one’s that were part of her daily attire at the Inn. I also remember seeing several spare postcards of the Apple Valley Inn in a mix of old papers from that time.
      It’s great to get the “back story” on the Apple Valley Inn (isn’t the internet great sometimes!)… when my mother could have told me so much, I didn’t know just how much I’d one day wish I’d asked.

  7. Bob and Carol Smillie says:

    I have the swinging bar doors from the Western Bar I remember Skip Young’s dog
    hanging around the INN. I also have the big plastic KAVR sign that hung at the INN
    If anyone is interested in these wonderful vintage memories of our historic INN contact me at smillieface@netzero.net

    • Brenna says:

      You should hold onto those, I’m going to research how to coordinate a restoration of the Inn and house. It has been on my heart for awhile.

  8. Rich Liebson says:

    How sad to learn that the Apple Valley Inn closed. In 1971 I lived at George Air Base, where my dad was stationed. I was 13 and had my bar mitzvah reception at the inn, which at the time was the nicest place in the area. A lot of relatives from back east came, and were very excited that the reception was at the famous Apple Valley Inn.

    I also ran a few 3-mile races there, and remember going to the pool afterward with my friends. Great memories. Thanks for this website.

  9. Katherine says:

    Thanks for the great article and pictures! I have wonderful memories of Apple Valley Inn as my family vacationed there every summer from the mid-70s until it closed in the 80s. We all remember fondly (and have the photos to prove it) hours spent in or around the pool, putting on the green, horseback riding, and just the friendly, relaxed atmosphere in general. Your blog brought a lot of those great memories back and reminded me what a special place it is. Hope it can be restored someday…

  10. katiann bass says:

    As I havent seen the inn in years, it is very nice to read about its history and a bit about my family as well. I am Newt Bass’ granddaughter and it is wonderful to show things like this to my children. Thank you, Katiann Bass

    • Steve says:

      It is always a delight to hear from people who knew the Inn in its heyday, but to hear from Newt’s own granddaughter is an especially amazing treat. How wonderful to have heard from you and I thank you so much for your kind words. I am holding my breath that somehow, some way, the Apple Valley Inn and Newt’s stunning house above it, with both be restored. Thank you SO much foryour comments.

    • Steve Richard says:

      Hi Katiann, Something here you might enjoy. Drop us a message on the FB page if you’d like more details. Thanks !

  11. This is the most well written article on Apple Valley’s history available online. Thank you for taking the time to create this article, it has made my day. The pictures are great!
    Would you mind if I link to this article…?

  12. Pingback: Apple Valley Inn, Apple Valley California

  13. Pingback: Newt’s Paradise – Apple Valley’s Spectacular Hilltop House | Paradise Leased

  14. Brady says:

    A fantastic memory of the Golden Days. The saddest part was the link on the side to the Hilltop house, which ends in showing it as a dilapidated ruin. I visited it several times when it was in it’s original condition. Words could not describe its grandeur.
    One minor correction is needed. It says that Nixon stayed at the Inn. In fact he stayed as Newt’s guest at a home on Tiger Tail Rd, near the Country Club. Our family purchased that home in 1966, while the Nixon visit to AV was quite fresh, and owned it for over 30 years. The memorabilia that came with included a note from Nixon to Newt Bass thanking him for the use of the house, as well as photos of him in and around the house.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks SO much Brady for the great comment and memories. And thank you for the update on Nixon’s stay in Apple Valley. I love that info! FYI: I got the info. he was at the Inn from a couple of L.A. Times articles. One from 1965 when Roy Rogers took over the Inn (10/21/1965). “There seemed to be no time, no place for reflection and Nixon’s book ‘Six Crises’ lay uncompleted. Determined to finish, Nixon looked about for a suitable retreat. He found one. He checked into a guest house at the Apple Valley Inn and in the quiet desert atmosphere went to work. When Nixon checked out, ‘Six Crises,’ was finished.” I’ll bet what happened was Nixon did check into the Inn first, but then Mr. Bass offered him the Tiger Tail house. That would make sense as his house would have been far more private than an Inn guest house. It would be so cool to see some pictures of Nixon at your house if you’d ever want to share. I have a real fascination for homes with presidential associations and there aren’t many Nixon ones around. Nixon’s own house up in Trousedale Estates in Beverly Hills, where he was living during the time he ran for California governor in 1962 was torn down just a few years ago. Thanks again so much for the comments!

  15. Dennis Baker says:

    I worked at the Inn in 1969-70. Senior in high school. Had a great time and met a lot of great people. Met Roy Rodgers and Dale Evens a few times.I also met Robert Conrad, Jane Wyatt, Lee Majors and other actors when they filmed the movie Airplane, As they used the old airport in the movie. Fun times!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Dennis! I am amazed to be learning of all the movies shot there. I originally thought only ORDINARY PEOPLE, but it turns out there were a number of them. Thanks for sharing the great memories!

  16. Debra Kastilahn Futryk says:

    I have many fond memories of the Inn. . .our neighbors, the Bascom’s ran the Horse stables, and KAVR was THE radio station with our Teacher from the high school as one of the hosts! The Inn was special with the re-naming with Roy Rogers & Dale Evans.They were both seen around town, and brought the Valley visitors to the Inn, by way the famous Museum with all their life’s memories. We all remember the Cattle Horn and silver coin car used to by Newt Bass to tour guests around Apple Valley for land purchase. It was featured on Antiques Road Show. As a past MISS APPLE VALLEY I had fun riding in the car for parades. I still remember the colorful stories of small town AV with all it’s characters. We all have fond memories at the Inn. . .
    Debra Kastilahn Futryk

  17. Pamala Anderson (Pam Bolding) says:

    Ah, how sweet was that trip down memory lane when the Inn was glorious! My first restaurant job was at the Inn as the buffet girl. I was 16, it was 1972, and I was innocently charmed by the grandeur. It really was the the diamond in the setting that was Apple Valley.

  18. Thanks for the great article which brings back so many fond memories of Easter Brunch at the AV Inn, petticoats and pinafores, Steak Frys, family gatherings and the wonderful waiter who I cannot remember his name but sure tolerated us kids when we were little then & my own kids in later years! Growing up in AV was a wonderful experience. There are probably several of us with photos, films and memorbilia stashed away that would be great provenance for future generations to enjoy. Is there a museum in AV? The Inn might make an excellent Visitors Center or should, at the very least, be designated a Historical Site and granted preservation status and restored to its original glorious old self. What a great attraction it would be for ye olde AV. Carrie Newton Miller, Guffey, Colorado

  19. Pingback: “A Real Pleasure Meeting You in Apple Valley” « Long Fade

  20. D L Johnson says:

    Your site, this post and, of course, the fabulous pictures, have brought back many memories. I worked at the Apple Valley Ranchos, Mr Bass’ real estate company, from 1972 to 1987 when it was closed. The Ranchos’ employees ate lunch at the Inn at least 3 times a week, so it was part of our life. And, @Randy Andrew, I had spent too many hours to count in the Blossom Room…I had your first album, but it disappeared in one of my many moves.
    I am quite aware of what happened to the Inn and the issues trying to add it as a California historical site, as well as the owners/leasees that did nothing to maintain the Inn as it should have been. Since both the Inn and the Hilltop House seem to still be there (Jan 2012), someone that cares about Apple Valley history needs to rejuvenate both sites and reopen both of them to the public. This was the beginning of Apple Valley by Newt Bass and Bud Westlund and history is a very important part of our lives.
    Donna Johnson

    • Steve says:

      Hi Donna:

      So great to hear from you and thanks for the comments. You’re absolutely right that this important piece of history needs to be preserved and restored. Hopefully, in 2012 both will get the “angel” they deserve. Their preservation and restoration would be a great boon to Apple Valley. Thanks again and please let me know if you ever hear of any updates on their status.

  21. Linda Seidenglanz says:

    Loved the inn..my senior prom was there in1965 so o o. much fun,,we had class reunions there…enjoyed many dinners there..plus dancing….Randy Andrew…..Great memories…

    • Debbie says:

      The 50th VVHS Reunion will be taking place this year 2018 on Sat Oct 6th at The Apple Valley Inn. The 60th VVHS Reunon was held in 2016-2017 at The Apple Valley Inn as well.

      • Gayle Lee (Wrigglesworth) Pulley says:

        I would love to have our reunion there in 2 years as well! You’re so right! Wonderful memories!

  22. Gail Stackelhouse says:

    We arrived in Apple Valley with the military (1974)…What a wonderful place. we still own a home there and have so many wonderful memories of the Inn. We had so much fun at the Inn…. I remember “Billy Jo, Love and Stuff” with the gong show…She had a beautiful voice and I had lotz of fun singing on the show…also enjoyed Randy Andrews. I sold lots of real estate in the High Dessert during my 25 year real estate career. We have a Roy Rogers room in out home in Custer, S.D. I have such wonderful memories of the Inn and their good Monte Cristo sandwiches.

  23. Bill Comb says:

    First introduced to the Apple Valley Inn in 1966 when I went to work for KAVR. My fellow announcers, Clip Helps, Chuck Russell, General Manager Alan Beach, Salespersons Fanny Dunicliff and Sully Sullivan, Traffic Georgette, and Cheif Engineer Wayne Dillard. The Inn at that time was the center of activity of Apple Valley, and the high desert really. Fanny would do a live
    1/2 hour from the dining room with stars such as Bob Hope, Phillis Diller, Randy Andrews,(who was
    still in the Air Force at the time) and many more. The Inn was a wonderful place to work and it was
    a wonderful time in radio (did not know it at the time) that has long since passed and will never be seen again. The days before large companies bought up all the stations in the country. I worked at KAVR 3 different times and I was fortunate to have spent so much time at the Inn, when it still was a vibrant, center of fun for all.

  24. Cheryl Markowitz says:

    Wow, how wonderful to read about so many people’s memories of the AV Inn. It brings back many of my own. We moved here in 1976 and my family immediately became a fixture at the Inn. Swimming in the pool, doing the Easter egg hunts every year (I loved finding the ones with a silver dollar in them!), riding horses at the stables (I used to lead many of the trail rides there), listening to KAVR right outside their window, meeting MASH stars who came for a visit, I even had my high school (AVHS) graduation party in the Blossom room. We loved eating at the restaurant and going on the hay rides. We also listened to BJ and Randy Andrews. Great times, great memories.

    I think someone should approach Cuba Gooding Jr. about investing in the restoration of the Inn, the stables and the Hilltop house. I’ve always envisioned the Hilltop house as a wonderful French Restaurant. Everyone can park at the Inn and then a nice car could take them to the Hilltop Maison for a beautiful dinner and view of the valley.

    Thanks so much for the article and the great memories Steve.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks SO much Cheryl for the great memories and the great idea too. It would make a great restaurant. They sure do both be restored. Hopefully, that will happen. (I’ve been buying Lotto tickets!) AND thank you so much for the link to the site of your mom. How cool is that? Great story and history. Thanks again!

  25. Cheryl Markowitz says:

    P.S. Steve, you might be interested in my family’s Hollywood history. Check out http://www.joanmarkowitz.com for a taste of our history.

  26. Billie May Bowron says:

    Moved here in 1976. A wonderful place to live. Raised three children here. In time gone by, the Apple Valley Inn, had a radio station there. Always listen to their programs. One day, they were playing some music, thought I would go there, for had some old 45 records, with music, I thought they would like. He did copy them (2), which I did hear later on their program. Then another time, the radio station went to one of the cafes there in Apple Valley, which I heard Roy Rogers, was there with them. So I thought, this was the time, to take up a folder, that I had from my parents, from a long time back, for Roy Rogers to sign it for me. Went there and Roy did sign it , with his name and also Trigger’s name on it. Still have this today. This folder had in it, from when Roy and Dale, first started their show, back in the 1940’s. For my Dad, played guitar with Roy’s band back then. The papers are of the show in words, that Roy and Dale had done. Our youngest daughter, was on Roy’s bowling tean, believe the first part of the 1980’s. Good memorys that will not be forgotten. Thank you Steve, for the menory’s.

  27. Daniel Seagondollar Architect says:

    Another movie that used the Apple Inn as a setting was the 1955 release of “Firefox” starring Jane Russel. The movie also has the notoriety of being screened on the ill-fated Andrea Doria the night it collided with the Stockholm and sunk.

  28. Newton T Bass was first married to my aunt, Loretta Pigott, in the late 1920s. They were divorced and she died in 1933. I have a few photographs of Newt (he was called “Blackie” by everyone in those days) that I would be happy to share.
    James J. Sparks

  29. csrolyne risk says:

    i lived in the high desert for 10 years,from 1976-1986. we stayed ther at the apple valley inn while my in-laws were building thei house. it is sad that t can’t be restored as a historical landmark. what about a historical society?

  30. Tom Flood says:

    My family moved to Apple Valley from San Jose in 1957. My Dad was sent to open the new Kaiser Permanente Cement Plant in Lucerne Valley (Cushenbury Springs). My parents, myself and 4 brothers and sisters spent a week at the Apple Valley Inn while waiting to move into our home on Allegheny Road. We had a great time “camping out” in the plush surroundings of the Inn. We especially enjoyed exploring the nearby desert. Later while in High School in Victorville, I worked at the Apple Valley Airport gas station, gassing cars as well as planes. We saw a steady stream of “famous” people arrive to stay at the Inn. Also, we serviced Lloyd Mangrum’s plane and Billy Casper’s plane; both parked at the station. We took care of all of Newt’s real estate company Cadilacs. We moved back to San Jose in 1962, so we missed the transition to Roy Rodgers. I will attend my 50th reunion at Victor Valley High School this Sept. Thanks for the visit to the past.

    • melody says:

      Hi Tom, you may have known my brother, Phil Watson would graduated with you,. He was at the reunion in Sept. He worked as a bus boy at the Inn during high school and at the cement plant one summer during college. We lived in the (formerly) blue house on Blackfoot Road within walking distance of the Inn.

      • Tom Flood says:

        Hello Melody;
        I do remember Phil. He was in the Class of ’61, as I recall, and I was in ’62, But you are correct the 2 classes had a joint reunion. I had every intent to attend (in fact I paid) but had the pleasure of having shoulder surgery instead. I have had it dislocated 3 times, ironically twice on the VVSHS football field. The dislocations finally caught up with me and were ruining my fly fishing cast as well as my golf swing. to say nothing of not being able to lift my arm. Thanks for saying hi. Please tell Phil hello for me.

  31. If you are looking for homes near the old Apple Valley Inn, visit http://www.DesertKnollsRealty.com for Apple Valley real estate listings.

  32. Nancy Wrigglesworth Lee says:

    This is fabulous, Steve! Thanks! My Air Force family bought a new house on Chief Joseph Road in the late 50s. My mom worked in the AV Inn gift shop and I once modeled poolside for MarLen Desert Casuals where she also worked. Such memories! And don’t forget that Sky King TV series was filmed here!

  33. Gayle Lee (Wrigglesworth) Pulley says:

    My sister, above, sent this to me, & I am so glad I got up at 6:00 this morning to be able to read through all of the fun & nostalgic information. I still dream of having a class reunion here! It must be restored, & I love the suggestion of Newt’s home being a restaurant!. Our father, an Air Force pilot, was also stationed at George AFB, but, we were told by one of his former ROTC students stationed there, that we must live in Apple Valley! I’m so glad we did, as we have so many fond memories. Our father played golf 365 days a year, according to our mom!

  34. Alison Rennie says:

    I moved to Spring Valley Lake in 1989 & never knew of the Inn until 1992. My Grandfather lived here and taught school in Victorville, during the heyday. My uncles (now in their late 60’s) recall busing tables at the Inn, as teenagers, and escorting Roy home (after much “pleasantry”). They fondly remember how gracious and pleasant Dale was each time. I’ve often hoped, as well, that someone with means will see great potential, here. I also look forward to meeting them in glory, one day. I understand the Hilltop House was used quite often for weddings and banquets during the 80’s (?). I enjoy hiking up and around the hill, there. Quite a beautiful view. I don’t like to go to the house, though. It simply puts a damper on the hike.

  35. Peter Johnston says:

    Apple Valley Inn was a location for the 1954 noir “Highway Dragnet” starring Richard Conte and Joan Bennett with some nice pool side footage and cottage interiors. Spent the last two days devouring Paradise Leased.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the info Peter! I didn’t know that. I’ll have to check it out. Very impressed with all the movies/TV shows that had been shot there. Most people seem to know only about ORDINARY PEOPLE. Thrilled to be learning about some of the others. Thanks again!

  36. David Decker says:

    Lived in Victorville 1949-1954. I’ve seen no mention of it, so let’s not forget John Charles Thomas signing off KAVR each day.

  37. Steve Richard says:

    Steve, thanks for these great historical narratives, pictures and commentary. We’re advancing the Hilltop House Re-vitalization at https://www.facebook.com/AvHilltopHouseForum . A place for the community to share more memories,photos and ideas for re-claiming AV’s premier venue.

  38. Charles Tornow says:

    Thanks so much for all the wonderful memories and photos. My family moved to Apple Valley in the mid 50’s. My first job was as a busboy at the Apple Valley Inn. As I grow older, I realize now just what a special place it was.

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  40. Sil Adkins says:

    This has been so interesting, and I’ve never even been to your beautiful state! I just love reading the history and looking at all the interesting articles. Thank you for such a great blog. After looking at the picture of the stage coach in front of the Inn, I swear the Bob Hope movie “Eight on the Lam” was also filmed here. The Inn seemed to have been very well built and should have been used for something useful. It’s a shame it was torn down, at least when I looked on google it appears it’s now gone. The homes and buildings in Europe seem to last forever, but not in this country. Very sad.

    • Brady Nations says:

      Yes, Eight on the Lam was filmed there and in the surrounding neighborhood. The scene in the golf carts was filmed on the fairways of the Apple Valley Country Club. I lived there at the time and had the opportunity to meet Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, and some of the other cast.
      The Inn is still standing, but no longer a hotel. It has served a number of functions, but none as elegant as its early days.

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  42. DEBBIE SIMMONS says:


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  45. Pete Mason says:

    I bought a matchbook collection at a Nashville Tennessee estate sale recently. A great number of the matchbooks were very interesting.Most were from the 40’s and 50’s a few earlier. One was apple valley ranchos home of Apple valley Inn. Reading about this place was extremely fascinating!
    Very well put together on the website and a wonderful story!

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  47. Jim Alig says:

    My granddad purchased one of the first lots at the ranches and built a large home on the 14 fairway in 1959. In 1966 and 67 at the age of 14-15 I lived with my grandmother in that house and we had dinner at the Apple Valley Inn almost every Saturday night. What a great life it was. I am so disappointed in what has become of the inn.

    Back in those years you would often see Roy and Dale at the Inn, and you could always tell when they we there by the cadilac with horns on the hood in the driveway.

    • Dan says:

      I was in the Air Force at George from 1956 to 1959. I spent many weekends at the Inn. There was sometimes I would sing or play the bongo drums with the band at the Inn. Lots of fond memories. In fact so fond that I plan on making a trip to the Inn in Oct of this year. I know it is run down now but I still want to see the Inn and the base and Newt’s house. I got to tour Newt’s house when being built. Fond memories.

  48. Patti Rinne Rosquist says:

    Thank you for this piece. I was dressed up as the Easter Bunny circa 1976 walking around the pool. Thanks.

  49. I recently purchased a cigar Indian statue that I was told use to be in the Apple Valley Inn Lobby. Can anyone confirm this?

  50. I remember collecting soda bottles to redeem enough money to go into the AV Inn and sit by the window in the dinning room and order a piece of Cheesecake…Ahhhh…the best cheesecake ever!!! Always made me feel special!!!

  51. tmtowersrus@MAIL.COM says:

    Does anyone Know how I could get in touch with Philip Markowitz? The Philip Markowitz from the Burbank,California are? My name is Tonya Balwanz please contac me at 337400494 or 9362033250

  52. Bob Gadbois says:

    I was hired as a DJ/sale rep at KAVR in December of 1954 shortly after KAVR went on the air. My program was called “Gabbin’ With Gabby.” With a last name that was difficult to pronounce, I became known simply as Gabby; very few people knew my real name! Early the next year, John Charles Thomas, America’s Favorite Baritone” had settled into a home on Highway 18 while he built a large home on Rancherias across from the Country Cub. John Charles owned 20% of the station and was taking over the management. Several months later, I became commercial manager of the station, but kept the time slot that I had as a DJ. I had to meet with Newt Bass each month to go over the profit/loss statement for the station. That was always stressful.
    In the pictures:
    TOP ROW to left to right: 2nd photo is Frank Barton, who had been a big name in radio news in LA and spent a few months with KAVR somewhere around 1956. The 4th photo is Wayne Dillard who spent a lot of time around the station when was in high school. He learned a great deal about engineering from our chief engineer, Dean Kiner, and eventually became chief engineer after I left.
    BOTTOM ROW left to right: 1st photo – That is me on the left and Leo McElroy who was with us shortly in 1956. The 3rd picture is John Charles at the control panel.
    I married Rita Lee, whose sister, Marie Finer, and her husband owned Finer’s Finer Food’s in Desert Knolls. Three of our 5 children were born at St. Mary Desert Valley Hospital.
    We left Apple Valley at the end of 1960. We had such wonderful memories of all the people we knew and dealt with.
    Bob “Gabby” Gadbois

  53. Tom Flood says:

    Hello Gabby,
    I remember you very well, I was a good friend of all the Finer children. I spent a lot of time at their home just down the hill from the restaurant. Also spent time in their pool at the restaurant. I accompanied the twins to babysit at your home.at least once. My family lived across Highway 18 from the restaurant and a couple of roads away up the hill.
    Good to hear your recollections.
    Tom Flood.

  54. Gerard(Gary) Finer. says:

    Tom, a voice from the past!!!!! I’m the twins older brother. Gary. Just talked to them. They were so surprised and hope to contact you. Do respond .

    • tom flood says:


      I certainly remember you as well as the rest of your family with fondness. It is difficult to believe how long ago all of my Apple Valley memories can be. This seems to be my year for nostalgia. Earlier today I was doing some planning about my 50th Stanford reunion. I would love to catch up with the Finer family. Tom Flood Sent from my iPhone


      • Rick Finer says:

        Hello Tom this is Rick Finer, wonderful to be in contact, you bring back so many good memories. Renee, Regene Gary and I are gathering for our quarterly Sibling reunion we plan to be in touch.

      • Tom Flood says:

        Hi Rick; Thanks for your contact. I look forward to the update on your lives.

  55. Regene Finer Hudson says:

    Hi Tom, it’s was so great to see your reply to Gary and Gabby. My siblings are all in agreement and say it would be wonderful to see you again. What’s the best way to make personal contact.

    • Tom Flood says:

      Hello Regene; It would be great to see you all. I live in Danville in the Bay Area. Where are all of you located? I used to travel the state all the time when I worked, but I retired 22 years ago.
      Let me know so we can consider how to pull this off.

      • Gayle Lee (Wrigglesworth) Pulley says:

        Wow, Tom, how long have you lived in Danville?! We found our 1st home in Lafayette in 1971, & moved in in February of 1972. Our daughter went to SRVCA all through Jr. High, & I sang in a Gospel Choir there for many years. We still have reunions there. I’d love to be a part of this reunion you all are discussing! What fun!

      • Tom Flood says:

        Hello Gayle;
        Ironic isn’t it to live in a town so far away from the desert and be from the same High School class?
        I worked in New York City in 1973-74-75. I moved into Blackhawk when I returned from NYC in ’75. Divorced in 1988, and moved to another part of Danville. My daughters graduated from Monte Vista. Great to hear from another Victor Valley High student.

      • Gayle Lee (Wrigglesworth) Pulley says:

        Yes, Tom, it is ironic, although it was my sister, Nancy, who was in your class. Where did you live in NYC & then & now in Danville? I was a Flight Attendant right out of college & lived on E. 65th, 63rd , between 1st & York & 78th in German Town, I think it was. Our friends at Blackhawk lived in one of the model homes along the 18th fairway & got many windows, as well as a skylight broken!! I found him a tie with a ball hitting & breaking glass with the sound of it when you pinched the tie!!

      • Tom Flood says:

        I realized after I sent the message that it was Nancy in my class, however I do remember Gayle as well. Does Nancy live nearby? I only lived in NYC for 4 months in an apartment across the river from the UN. I moved out to Basking Ridge, N.J. In Danville I live in a rural area across from Blackhawk off of Camino Tassajara. I’m still a Blackhawk CC member but live “outside the gates”. It is difficult to find rural in Danville, but I found 2 1/2 acres. I have a very large barn but without horses all it stores is “stuff”. Thanks for writing to me.

      • Gayle Lee (Wrigglesworth) Pulley says:

        Hi again, Tom,
        Nancy lives in CO. You are so right that it would be difficult to find rural in Danville, so you are blessed to have all of that. My husband is a Golf Course Architect, not a good thing to be during a recession! Do let us know if Blackhawk needs any redesign or such! We are headed to the Golf Industry Show in San Diego next week!
        You are welcome,

      • Regene Finer Hudson says:

        So good to hear from you Tom, thanks for responding. It will be great catching up. Love to know about your family. Brief info: Rick La Quinta Ca. Gary and Anne Spokane, the Renee and Chuck retired to Tri Cities Wa. Last November. Bill and I are in Zillah Wa. Small, country town in the central Wa. Oldest brother Bob lived in Huntington Beach and passed away 4 yrs ago. Terrible loss for all of us. I don’t know if you remember him.
        The four of us and spouses are gathering in Tri cities next week. You might be a better detective than I am so without mentioning names here’s how to reach us. Hint, our youngest sons name is the same as your Dads. He’s in Zillah and you can reach us through him. Bill and I are not in phone book. In the meantime I shall try the old fashion phone book to try and find your number or address?

      • Tom Flood says:

        Let’s get off this public bulletin board. My e-mail address: tmflood@pacbell.net
        Let’s just send regular e-mails. OK?

      • Gerard(Gary) Finer. says:

        Tom…glad to hear you connected with Regene.would enjoy seeing you at our gathering. If I can help with anything let me know via email: garyandannefiner@comcast.net. Hope to hear.


  56. Brian Barcus says:

    After reading about the fantastic history of the place, it was so sad to see the abandoned state it is in now : https://youtu.be/CTtTeZuN6Zc Hope someone buys it and restores it, or rebuilds a place the public can enjoy, such stunning views.

    • Brady says:

      Fascinating though saddening video, especially for those who had been there. One correction: that wasn’t Newt’s desk. That was the dinner table. The rocks it connected to are the actual peak of the mountain

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  58. jenettekime says:

    I have an original LA Times color weekly (or something) from Apple Valley from what looks like 1957. It has an article by John Wayne and others. I don’t see a date, but it’s a marketing piece. Is there a way to upload a pic and maybe get a year on the publication?

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