Z is for ZZYZX


                                                              A – Z

I’m proud to be a part of a wonderful organization called the Writers of Kern. They are having a “Blog Challenge” and I’m participating. I’m writing my normal two blogs per week but challenging myself to be prompted by the alphabet. Hope you can read all twenty six from A-Z. For more good reading check out the Writers of Kern’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/95572300558/

Finally we’ve reached the END of the Blog Challenge. Great fun and a new experience.
Thanks Writers of Kern.

Z is for ZZYZX

One of my favorite words…Zzyzx. Most Californians who head to Las Vegas are familiar with that word. About nine miles before arriving in Baker, home to the world’s tallest thermometer (100 miles from Las Vegas), there is a road sign.
THIS ONE
Zxyzx Road

Curious George, that’s me, couldn’t drive by that wonderfully named road without checking it out. I made about six trips a year from Southern California to Las Vegas between 1981 and 2008. After a dozen or so viewings of “zzyzx road” I had to turn off and see where it took me. Remember, Google didn’t exist. Self-adventure was in order.
No, I didn’t say Selfies.

The road was paved for about five miles and turned into a dirt road with a different name. Where the paved road ended I learned a shitload of interesting facts, some of which I will bore you with right now.

At the end of Zzyzx road sat some buildings, new and clean looking with palm trees spread around the acreage. And right there in the middle of the Mojave Desert was a small lake, obviously spring fed. It even had a peculiar name, Lake Tuendae and a more peculiar background story.
lake-tuendae

Way back when, the site was known as Soda Springs. It dates to prehistoric times, ancient arrow heads and rock art can still be found. Heading east, about 40 miles, one comes to another watering hole called Bitter Springs. Those two points became a route between Utah and California for ‘49rs, Mormons and other immigrants to California. It was also the homeland,  watering and grazing place for Paiute Indians (you know, the ones who got here first).

In 1860 some travelers were attacked along that route and an expedition of soldiers were sent out to punish the suspected Paiute tribe. Major General James Henry Carlton carried bad feelings toward the Paiute from another run-in he encountered so when he found a few Indians he be-headed them and hung their bodies and heads along the trail for all to see. The San Francisco press found out and printed the story of these atrocities. It was called the Bitter Springs Expedition. Major Carlton was ordered to get rid of all the body parts and get back to Fort Tejon.

In 1905, the Tonopah and Tidewater railroad laid a bed along the old wagon trail route and carried Gold, Silver and Borox (the line was built by the “Borox King” Francis Marion Smith). When mining dried up the railroad was shuttered in 1940. The scrapping of rails and wood was completed by 1943.

Now the story gets interesting…and fun.

Along came a self-proclaimed Doctor, Minister, Faith Healer and radio evangelist by the name of Curtis Howe Springer (1896 -1985). He was a better than average bull-shitter. In the ‘20s he got involved with an automotive technical school called Greer College. They went bankrupt in 1930, but Mr. Springer traveled and lectured throughout the ‘30s as the “Dean of Greer College” or “President of the Springer School of Humanism” or “President of the American College of Doctors and Surgeons” or “President of Westlake West Virginia College” (non-existent) plus he promoted himself as the head of four other non-existent colleges. His lectures were always “FREE” but he would stop in the middle for donations and then try to sell everyone a $25 psychoanalysis session. He would always follow his name in the program flyer with either M.D.- PhD – D.O. or N.D.

Springer was finally busted in late 1935 by the American Medical Association who labeled him a complete quack and found he had never attended any college or university.

He still got on the radio somehow. He became a radio evangelist and he sold exclusive herbal medicine. His Antacid Re-Hib was found to be mostly baking powder and his famous Antediluvian Tea was found to contain a strange mixture of laxative herbs. He opened a health spa in Pennsylvania but was shut down for non-payment of his taxes in 1937.

In the following five years he opened (and closed) five more health spas out east.

AND NOW WE GET TO ZZYZX!!

In 1944 Springer ran from his debtors and his first wife to the Mojave Desert. He and his new fiancée filed a mining claim for the abandoned army outpost and railroad area in the Soda Springs area. His claim was for a track of land twelve miles long and three miles wide (12, 800 acres). He opened a Hot Springs Health Spa and named it “Zzyzx…the last word in Health.” He recruited homeless men from Los Angeles to build fake hot springs that he heated with a hidden boiler. Springer erected a 60 room hotel, a cross-shaped health spa with mineral baths, a broadcast studio for his radio program, an airstrip designated as “Zyport” and a castle for himself. Yes, a castle.

Every Wednesday was free bus rides to the Zzyzx Mineral Hot Springs and a free soak in the “fake” hot springs.
Zzyzs Mineral Hot Springs

His preaching and medicinal cures were carried live on 221 radio stations across the country and another 102 abroad. With your kindly donations he was curing everything from hair loss to cancer. All of his concoctions were shown to be a mixture of celery, carrot and parsley juices. If you were one of the lucky Zzyzx Health Spa attendees you were treated to two sermons over a huge loudspeaker system every day, plus goat milk, Antediluvian Tea and a self-administered $25 hemorrhoid cure.

Preacher Springer’s fortune grew but so did his greed. In the early ‘60s he started marking off lots on his land to allow his “huge” donors to build their homes next to the Zzyzx Spa.

Now remember the idiot had filed a mining claim which meant he was basically leasing this land and had to validate to the Fed Geologists that there was minerals under the soil. When building permits were issued for homes on land he didn’t own it caused quite a concern. He was accused of squatting and evicted along with hundreds of his followers.

Springer fought the charges for years, but in 1974 he was found guilty of all charges. That included making false medicinal claims that his potions cured everything from sore toes to cancer. The Government refused his offer to pay back taxes for thirty years and put him in jail for sixty days. When he was released he and his wife moved to Las Vegas where he died in 1985.

In the late ‘70s, the Bureau of Land Management allowed the California State University to take over the facilities and land for a “Desert Studies Center.” A group of six schools run the site.

That’s where I came in. When I reached the end of Zzyzx road I found the buildings called the Desert Studies Center. It was a cool looking place. Here’s a current picture.
Cal State Univ Desert Studies Ctr

No one was around when I visited so I turned around and headed off to Las Vegas.

I am flabbergasted at the constant quackery and nonsense absorbed, believed, practiced and paid for by the gullible American public. Every few decades another con-man shyster sells his brand of medicine or religion to a generous public willing to make the chiseling pettifogger rich or powerful or both.

The list is long and still growing. Many of today’s established religions and congregations were started by convicted con-men (or should be convicted con-men). Every preacher claiming to cure your ills if you’ll just touch your TV screen and send some money are con men. When will we ever think for ourselves?

Excuse me while I go send some money to Pat Robertson…my hemorrhoids are acting up.

 

About bakoheat

Writer/Musician
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7 Responses to Z is for ZZYZX

  1. fiddlrts says:

    I always wondered about the story behind the road. This has to be one of your best posts ever.

    It is a true American tradition to run after snake oil isn’t it?

  2. Robert D. Levinson says:

    Thanks, Dan, for sharing the history, and mystery of Zzyzx road. Never took the time to investigate. Must of been more concerned whether or not my ’74 Vega was going to make it up Baker grade.

    • bakoheat says:

      I think the real reason was that Blackjack money you stashed was burning a hole in your pocket.

      • Robert D. Levinson says:

        It was in my genes pocket. I have (had) my Russian Grandmother to thank. She was crazy about Vegas. Nothing like it back in the USSR. Thanks Grandma!

  3. joanraymondwriting says:

    Very interesting. Hope the “remedy” helps you! By the way, “He would always follow his name in the program flyer with either M.D.- PhD – D.O. or N.D.” Does the N.D. stand for Not a Doctor??!

    Congrats on finishing the challenge. I really enjoyed your posts.

  4. khotisarque says:

    Zzyzx is a very popular z-word; your blog is much more informative than mine!

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