Daily Press: Keeping the Name, Changing the Reputation

I had a nice visit from a couple of members of the Mohahve Historical Society recently. They take the spelling of their organization from the journal of military leader and explorer John C. Fremont, who explored our region during 1843 and 1844.

The 100 or so members of the historical society meet the fourth Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley. There’s no charge to attend the meetings, which feature speakers discussing local history or points of interest. If you wish to join the organization, a single membership is just $20.

Anyway, the Mohahve Historical Society isn’t too happy with Hesperia Mayor Eric Schmidt’s attempt to rebrand this area as the Mojave River Valley. They say the region has been known as the Victor Valley for more than 100 years. The region officially includes Hesperia and Apple Valley. Unofficially, it also includes Adelanto, Phelan and Baldy Mesa. The region, as well as the city of Victorville, was named after railroad pioneer Jacob Nash Victor.

Society members also point to history books that say the Mojave River Valley actually refers to the area of Barstow, Daggett, Lenwood, Hinkley, Yermo and Calico. (I’m not sure why there is no mention of Newberry Springs.)

They note than 50 businesses and organizations use Victor Valley in their names, including Victor Valley College, the Victor Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Victor Valley Museum.

Their stance? You can change the future if you want, but you can’t change the past. Nor should you. This region should continue to be referred to as the Victor Valley and the Barstow area should continue to be referred to as the Mojave River Valley.

As I told them, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I really don’t care what we call this region. I am more concerned about its reputation than its name.

Unfortunately, names and reputations kind of go hand in hand.

What do you think of when somebody talks about Beverly Hills or Newport Beach? How about Pomona or San Bernardino? If you’re like me, the first two have positive reputations, the latter pair not so much.

What is the Victor Valley’s reputation? Have you asked anyone you know lately? Have you asked yourself? My guess is it’s not that great. I’d say Victor Valley usually gets the same kind of response that San Bernardino and Pomona do.

But the great thing about reputations is you can change them. And you don’t have to change the name to do so.

I’ve seen that many times over the years. Cities or areas that had crummy reputations finally summoned the courage and conviction to do something about that. Actually, I think Pomona is trying to do that now. It’s made some impressive strides in the past decade, particularly in its downtown, which now has a really nice arts district.

Fontana is another city that’s been improving its reputation for several years. Twenty or so years ago people in Ontario and surrounding cities and even here were fond of calling Fontana “Fontucky.” There were some really rough areas. There still are a few, but there also are some really nice housing developments now and the downtown area is getting cleaned up. Home prices are up, neighborhoods are cleaner. There are many arts, entertainment and cultural events throughout the year.

We need to start improving the Victor Valley’s reputation. To do that takes work, by all of us. Things are getting a little better up here, but we have a long way to go.

I’ve seen neighborhoods that look cleaner, and more property owners are sprucing up their landscaping. I’ve even seen some business owners improving the appearance of their stores or strip malls. Check out the strip mall where Los Domingo’s restaurant used to be on Main Street in Hesperia. The owner has painted all the buildings and gone to desert landscaping in front, complete with palm trees. It looks a whole lot better. We need more of that.

We also need our cities to chip in. The city is repaving part of Main Street in Hesperia now. Wouldn’t it have been nice if the city would have created some medians in this project, filled with trees and desert landscaping? I think so. Anywhere there is a median in Hesperia should have trees and desert landscaping. Make an impression on visitors and residents. Show them you care.

I agree with the Mohahve Historical Society. You can’t change history, but you can change the future.

We can make our future better and improve the Victor Valley’s reputation at the same time.

All it takes is the want to.

Steve Hunt can be reached at 760-951-6270 or at SHunt@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevehunteditor.