Until the Curreys acquired their first Ocotillo lot in 1960 we always spent Christmas in our trailer at Agua Caliente, a county park completely surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.* In fact, Mother and Dad always said that I took my first steps there.
[Sign at the Park entrance, undated slide from my personal collection]
So last week when I finally began the monumental task of scanning the 35mm color slides, I wasn't surprised to find pictures taken at Agua Caliente, including the ones below of Mary's Store, both the old one and the new.**
[Mary's old store 1952, from my personal collection]
[Mary's new store 1953, from my personal collection]
Of course the Curreys would stop by to chat with Mary when were stayed at the park but they were too frugal to be customers at her store and I didn't realize that she was running county library branch there too until I was doing research for this post.
According to the San Diego Union, Mary Smith's concession at Agua Caliente dated from 1950.
[Date: Sunday, June 25, 1950 Paper: San Diego Union (San Diego, California) Page: 21
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And Desert Magazine's March 1951 issue had a feature story about Mary and her store.
[Internet Archive, Desert Magazine, March 1951]
I found a report of Mary's death in a letter printed in Desert Magazine's March 1960 issue:
A Desert Lady Passes . . .
I am a friend of Mary Smith, and I want to tell you of her recent passing. I'm sure many of your readers are acquainted with Mary Smith and her "smallest store" at Agua Caliente Hot Springs, Calif. She passed away Dec. 29 at Mallacoats Rest Home at Alpine.
After Mary sold her store at the springs, she bought five acres in Mason Valley, later selling that, too, and coming to live with my husband and me at Campo. She was bedridden in my home for nearly two years.
In December. 1958, my husband passed away, and so I had to put Mary in a rest home.
Mary was born in Utah on June 1, 1891. Her maiden name was Mary Elizabeth Lape.
MRS. PAUL JOHNSON
[Desert Magazine online files]
You can read a current story about Agua Caliente here.
**I think her old store may have burned.
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