Auberry

Auberry is the incorrect spelling of the phonetically miss pronounced Al Yarborough. And there is not one Auberry, but two. Old Auberry started like most foothill towns with a general store and café, a blacksmith, and a bar, remnants of which are visible today. F.F. Witham built the first store on a dirt road with a wooden front porch in 1880. The Roots family owned the building when it was Auberry Tavern painted in big letters across the roof, replete with bar stools and juke box. Leonard stocked Kools cigarettes and served ice cream and meals. Fred Tuttle leased it from Roots and painted everything, including the Standard Oil gas island white with red trim. In 1970 a wood stove burned the store down, but the gas island is still standing. Mary Tuttle, Fred’s daughter and Barney Amundsen tore down the two-story Burlow hotel across the street and built Ponderosa Market. New Auberry was a company town. With not a lake, tunnel, or penstock named after him, John Eastwood conceived the massive hydroelectric projects that brought light and power 248 miles from Big Creek to Los Angles. To this day power and water, 80% by way of the Friant Kern canal, destined for southern California come from these mountains. Eastwood engineered three reservoirs and five powerhouses, and in 1920 a railroad, the San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad, that traveled from Friant on the valley floor to Big Creek in the heart of the Sierra Nevada was built. Half-way between was where Southern California Edison, who absorbed John’s Pacific Light and Power, built New Auberry. The mountains went mad with activity. Dispatchers with pencils behind their ears answered phones and clacked typewriters. Between 1911 and 1929 hordes of men wanting good paying construction jobs worked between Florence Lake, Big Creek and New Auberry. New Town or New Auberry had thirty three homes for those holding the best jobs, bunk houses for single men, a cookhouse, commissary, a big German night watchman who wore wooden shoes and a quintessential five o’clock whistle that never missed a five o’clock in eighteen years.

Auberry has a Community Supported Agriculture farm with a drop-off at Cressman’s General Store. Today, the caliber of the businesses, the massage studio, yoga classes, and the unique second-use boutique at Rock Tree Center belie the humble beginnings of Auberry. Not a chain store in the bunch, all the proprietors take pride in their trades and are committed to their historic foothill town, as were the spirited men and women who worked in these woods many years ago.

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Updated: Nov 30, 2021 5:15:am.