What’s the big deal about a truck stop?
Oftentimes you come across some great history when you travel…as I did today when I stopped to make a little video on the Chiriaco Summit and the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum.
Chiriaco Summit, a stop-off about 30 miles east of Indio, California along Interstate 10, got its start when Joe Chiriaco came west from Alabama in 1927 to see Alabama play Stanford in the Rose Bowl. He never returned (no doubt because of the hot California women…actually, he met a Norwegian knockout and married her) and took a job as a surveyor.
In 1933, he saw an opportunity to start a business in what was known then as Shaver Summit:
In the early 1900’s, there was a gravel road out of Box Canyon that passed by Shaver Summit, running east toward Blythe. With rumors of new paved road between Indio and Phoenix, Joe began constructing a building, and on August 15, 1933 Joe Chiriaco opened his gas station and general store. He had one dollar in his cigar box till, and that dollar remains at the Summit. That same day, the new two-lane blacktop U.S. 60 also opened. passing in front of Shaver Summit. With the new U.S. 60 road opening, the gas station and general store thrived. And Joe Chiriaco as well.
Then is 1942 General George S. Patton established the the Desert Training Center, with its headquarters at Camp Young, adjacent to Shaver Summit…
About the same time as Joe Chiriaco began the business, the Metropolitan Water District began construction of the aqueduct project that would carry water from the Colorado River to the population basins of the Los Angeles area. After the completion of the aqueduct project, the desert returned to business as usual and until the spring of 1942, when Gen. George S. Patton established the Desert Training Center, with its headquarters at Camp Young, adjacent to Shaver Summit. Shaver Summit was the only place of its kind on limits to the soldiers for many miles. As Paul Wilhelm, a former soldier in the area at the time said, “Everything about Shaver’s Summit-of-the-road dispensary drew us like bees to blossoms.”
In 1945, Joe and Ruth Chiriaco established a rugged memorial to General Patton at Chiriaco Summit. Today there is a marvelous museum which honors the great American Hero, General George S. Patton and the Desert Training Center thanks to Margit Chiriaco Rusche and the Bureau of Land Management.
In 1958, a rural branch of the U.S. Post Office was opened and the name of the area was changed from Shaver Summit to Chiriaco Summit. Today, Chiriaco Summit is a family owned corporation with several family members continuing to work in different facets of the business.
Joe and Ruth passed away within months of each other in the spring of 1996. They embodied the true spirit of the desert and are dearly missed.
There’s a gift shop with some cool trinkets (and quite the selection of Mexican blankets) as well as their famous hand lotion.
Check out my video above. It’s a neat little part of American history and yet another example of American ambition and adventure.
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