Leaving Lake Riverside, Chapter 7: The Sales Pavilion

This is the next chapter of my book, entitled Leaving Lake Riverside. To read the previous chapter, CLICK THIS LINK. For the next chapter, CLICK THIS LINK. To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK. Thanks for reading!

The Sales Pavilion

The sales pavilion was the last stop for the victims the land promoters intended to fleece. First they would be taken by 4-wheel-drive jeep on a grand tour of all the lots. Then, after a hearty lunch of hot dogs in the big tent, and maybe a buckboard ride or two, the marks would be led up a long flight of metallic steps that ran up from near the lakeshore to the pavilion.

The sales pavilion was eventually converted into this house on stilts. The metallic steps were replaced with concrete, and a copse of trees were planted in the front yard.

There, exhausted from the steep hike up the steps, and with distended bellies full of hot dogs, they would collapse into soft chairs and be held captive, unwilling to retreat back down that imposing flight of stairs. Besides, the air-conditioning felt refreshing.

Then, in the cool grave of that pavilion, the captives’ ears would be filled by sales pitch after sales pitch from their charming captors. Who were the fine, friendly sales staff of Beaumont & Associates.

My mother worked as a receptionist in the pavilion and she witnessed many an absurd sales pitch, dipped in unctuous complements, that was swallowed holus-bolus by various hostages. For example, one victim raised the concern that a piece of land he’d been shown contained a large, crater-sized hole in the middle of it. The salesman pointed out that the adjacent lot had a hill on it.

The pitch went something like this:

“Interesting that one lot has a hill and the other lot has a hole! What was that? Haha! That’s funny, but smart, too. Hmm, yeah, in fact that’s a great idea! Why yes, you could buy both lots, then knock the hill down with a tractor and use the dirt to fill the hole. Wow, you’re really a genius!” And in this manner, the fish was reeled in.

If anyone escaped back down the grand staircase, it didn’t mean they were free. No, no sirree. The only thing that was free was the hot dogs that awaited them in the circus tent. Or they could visit the nearby buffalo park where they could admire 15-head of giant woolly beasts from the genuine Old West, and besides, where were their kids?

Their kids? Why, we had them. Yes, my family had kidnapped their kids. We’d hoisted them onto the backs of horses and ponies, and absconded with them on long trail rides through the wondrous, enchanting hills of Lake Riverside Estates.

And while they sat there munching a hot dog, broiling in the desert heat, and yearning for the eventual return of their offspring so they could get the hell out of there, a loudspeaker would occasionally blast from the eaves of that nice, cool, air-conditioned pavilion, announcing that lot number so-and-so had just sold. An urgent voice proclaimed that they’d better act now because these great deals were all going quick, and that this was a golden opportunity they’d be a fool to pass up.

Better get back up those pavilion steps right now, dudes, or you’ll always regret it. Besides, you don’t want to die of heat stroke.


Leaving Lake Riverside, Chapter 6: Grand Opening

This is the next chapter of my book, entitled Leaving Lake Riverside. To read the previous chapter, CLICK THIS LINK. For the next chapter, CLICK THIS LINK. To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK. Thanks for reading!

Grand Opening

By Memorial Day weekend, the Old West had been restored to the former Parks Ranch, and it was time for the Grand Opening. The land promoters at Lake Riverside Estates had finished setting up the dog and pony show they intended for luring in and charming victims. Lake Riverside itself had been expanded to 55-acres of well water, and sported a brand new, horny toad-free, beach.

A television ad featured a sailboat skimming across the blue waters of the lake, under a clear, sunkissed sky. It beckoned the city slickers of Los Angeles and San Diego to come experience this new, recreational mecca that was rising up from the desert, near the beautiful San Jacinto mountains.

There were likely other kinds of advertisements, probably including a direct mail campaign, though I don’t remember any of it. But I do remember seeing the TV ad, and feeling excited about working at such a famous location. And famous it had become, because hordes of people flocked from all around to visit this highly-touted “Lake Riverside Estates.”

A giant circus tent had been erected near the lake’s shore, housing picnic benches and a buffet where free hot dogs, lemonade, and Hawaiian punch would keep the guts of our marks filled, so nobody would be tempted to leave the area in search of a restaurant. Behind this tent was a row of portable outhouses, for the convenient disposal of the consumed hot dogs and liquid refreshments.

Just a few yards away from the tent, at the edge of the lake itself, stood a wooden, rusticated sluice, with a stream of water flowing through it, and with a nearby stack of pans on a table. For a few bucks, you could grab one of those pans and mine for gold in the sluice, and be like a genuine prospector.

Not far from the gold panning operation, a couple of old ponies lounged, each suspending a hoof in the air while hitched to a buckboard. Here you could get a free buckboard ride and pretend you were traveling Old West style. That was the idea, you see. The promoters wanted to establish the ambiance of the Old West, while at the same time advertising all the progress that was supposedly about to take place at Lake Riverside Estates. But I do wonder if the Old West idea was more a Freudian slip by Beaumont & Associates.

In this mix of old and modern, the buckboard carted its passengers up and down a dirt road. But on the other side of the lake, a dirt airstrip had been bulldozed. So you could see a buckboard traveling down one side of the lake, while at the same time, an airplane might be taking off or landing on the other side.

The dirt airstrip at Lake Riverside Estates, with a small plane taking off.

The airplane that frequented this airstrip most often, had been leased by another land promotion scheme in Northern California, called Shelter Cove Sea Park. Shelter Cove was likely affiliated with Beaumont & Associates’ parent company, World Leisure Time, Inc, because they often loaned the plane out to Lake Riverside Estates. It was a Douglas DC-3 prop-job airliner that ferried in passengers with deep pockets, searching for a deep hole to bury their money in.

This DC-3 was a rickety, old war surplus plane that had been constructed in 1942. It could carry up to 32 passengers. The adults always joked, and kind of worried, that one day it would crash in a shower of sheet metal, propellers, and hapless investors flying everywhere. But at 11 years old I felt no worries. Instead, I always carefully watched it with bated breath as it landed and took off, hoping beyond hope to witness a real-live plane crash. But alas, this flying bucket of rivets always disappointed me.

Above the airfield, tent, and gold-panning sluice, part way up a rocky, desert hill, stood an architectural oddity. It was the sales pavilion. A cantilevered platform, supported by stilts had been hammered together upon the hillside. Then a modular building was lifted up by a 110-ton crane, with a 120-foot boom, and affixed onto this platform. This sales pavilion contained about a half-dozen offices, as well as a main lobby, and was accessed by climbing a long flight of metallic stairs.

Large, triangular windows, like jack-o-lantern eyes, formed the front wall of the pavilion, so that when you stood in the lobby you could enjoy a half-panoramic view of Lake Riverside and the surrounding desert. Planted in the middle of the lobby was a relief map on a table. This was a map of Lake Riverside Estates. Not of the current day, but rather, of the future vision.

A gridline of roads were displayed on this map, matching the dirt gridline that had already been scrawled upon the land by the promoter’s bulldozers. But these roads were depicted as paved, and the main thoroughfare nearby was depicted as a four-lane freeway, rather than its current status as a two-lane highway.

Many tiny, three-dimensional buildings were sprinkled over this map like so many houses and hotels on a Monopoly Board. These buildings sported labels such as, “Shopping Mall,” “Supermarket,” “Theater,” “School,” “Bank,” “Fire Department,” “Police Department,” etc.

As clients studied the map, or surveyed the area through the belvedere of windows, a salesman might point various things out to him, such as, “This is where the Sears and Roebuck is going to be built, and that’s where the bank will be constructed, and over there will be a gas station . . . ” and so on.

At this writing, it’s been more than a half century since all this took place. And yet today, all the roads at Lake Riverside Estates are still dirt. The highway nearby, California Highway 371, is still a two-laner. There are no shopping malls, supermarkets, or stores of any kind, nor any theaters or schools, banks, fire departments, or police departments. It was all a scam. Beaumont & Associates made no real effort to bring any of that development in.

If the investors could see into the future, they would have realized how grossly overpriced the lots were. And instead of being skinned for thousands of dollars per acre, they would have either walked away or offered to pay perhaps a few hundred an acre. At most.


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