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Sagebrush Route Tour

La Delta

Photo of La Delta and water tank
2.10 -- La Delta (west) -- now a residence.

Originally named Pinky's Service Station. Theodore Simon "Pinky" Ruiz had been a peace officer in San Bernardino, and around 1920 he moved to Oro Grande, where he was the constable. Just exactly when he built the station is not known, but in July 1931 he sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Alva Dickens.

The new owners cleared the land and declared their intention to remodel the building to first-class condition, and to build several cabins to accommodate tourist travel. Like many other roadside businesses on Route 66, they sought to provide attractions for the travelers, something to catch the eye or furnish a diversion while the customers waited for service. The Dickens had a pet Gila Monster, and in the spring of 1932 they planted a cactus garden.

The Mojave Desert may not have appealed to the Dickens family, or the attractions of Los Angeles were too much, because they left in October 1932 and returned home. One legacy they left was the name La Delta, which one author speculated might have to do with the proximity of the Mojave River.

Mr. and Mrs. Casson purchased the business and owned it for several years before selling to Mr. and Mrs. Burge, he being a former employee of Greyhound Bus Company. The Burges began operating the way-stop in August 1937, and stayed open "practically all night as well as all day." Short orders were served with all kinds of drinks, but no beer as yet at the time of their opening.

Mrs. Burge was missing one leg, and local resident Bill Bender remembers her and the place well: "Up on the highway where Highway 66 and Robinson Road met were some buildings, a gas station and a reservoir. You can still see parts of the reservoir and the tower that held the water tank. While my uncle would go in on a hot summer day for a beer, I'd swim in the reservoir and it seemed a mile across even though it's now just a little ol' thing. Maybe it shrunk after standing in the sun all these years."

In later years, Bill stated, "before the freeway came through, [my wife] Helen used to catch the bus there if she was going below. The one-legged lady that ran the place would just hang a red bandana on a nail and that was enough to flag the bus." A gas station and store were located up front next to the highway, but they have since been destroyed.

Still existing at La Delta is a nice example of a 1930s auto court, a forerunner to the modern motel. First came the auto camp in the World War I era. These were very primitive, perhaps just a spot to pull off to the side of the road where you could camp and cook a meal, perhaps pitch a tent. Water may or may not have been provided. Various cities attempted an auto camp within the city limits to promote business, but sanitation and other problems became too great and the practice was discontinued.

The next step in the evolution was the auto court, which provided a structure in a supervised setting, such as a service station with surrounding buildings. Water and sanitary facilities were usually provided, but the latter might consist of a simple outhouse. The structures were very small, intended to take the place of a tent, and hardly seem habitable to today's traveler.

Of course, the ultimate evolution was the modern motel. The changes took place from about 1920 to 1935, so for Route 66 and way-stop afficionados, La Delta is a good spot to study this roadside development.

The U. S. Geological Survey memorialized La Delta by putting the place on its maps, one example being the 15 minute series map published in 1956, entitled "Victorville." To have an area named after a service station and auto court is a bit unusual, at least for this stretch of road, and perhaps it is not all that common elsewhere.

Oro Grande Underpass

Danny's Place

The Iron Hog

La Delta

End of the Trail

Elva's Malt Shop

Potapov's Service Station

Sage Brush Inn

White Orange Cafe & Motel

Watson's Richfield

Polly Gas

Helendale Store

Burden's Store & Post Office

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