Randsburg: A Real Old West Mining Town

By Tom O’Donnell

The lawmen of the Old West Days keep the streets of Randsburg safe from roving gangs of horse riding bandits and other sort of riffraff. PHOTO BY MICHAEL SMIT/REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF DAILY INDEPENDENT

 

Located one mile from Highway 395, Randsburg sits quietly in the bottom of a valley in the Rand Mountains. Work began here in 1895 at the Yellow Aster Mine which can still be seen behind the General Store. World War II saw the stoppage of gold mining because the government wanted all efforts placed into the mining of copper and iron ore, which was necessary for the war effort. After the war, limited mining was done here but not enough to bring Randsburg back into its glory days. About 100 years after the original discovery of the Yellow Aster, mining began again in earnest. In 1989, a team was assembled to reopen the Yellow Aster, and in 1990 a leach pad and mill were built to handle ore from the mine. During that construction phase pickup trucks lined the street and workers stood three deep at the bar in The Joint and The White House Saloon every night. And in keeping with the tradition of mining camps another saloon, The Hill, was opened. Randsburg had become a boom town again.

 

A scene from the 2016 Old West Day in Randsburg. PHOTO BY JACK BARNWELL/REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF THE DAILY INDEPENDENT

 

Olga at the Joint ran a tight ship. Not quite 5 feet tall, she could calm the largest miner with just a flick of her finger and the warning about getting “86’d.” Jim, across the street at The White House, covered the floor of his bar in peanut shells and invited everyone in. He also furnished a great lunch and was always full at noon. The General Store was filled every day for breakfast and lunch as well. We had more bars than churches, which suited the miners just fine. Work continued at the Yellow Aster until 2010 when they ran out of ore and finished the closure.

Why should you visit Randsburg? It’s one of the last gold camps left in California. It sports a General Store with a 112-year-old soda fountain.They still serve the best ice cream sundaes on this side of the Sierras. The cherry phosphates are to die for, and the people there are so friendly you just want to take them home with you. The Store (as it’s called) is flanked by a T-shirt shop called Mad Ink Designs and a motorcycle shop that provides bike parts and surf boards. Across the street are The White House Saloon and the White Butterfly Shop. We have three hotels, and guests are always welcome. The Joint cannot be missed as it occupies the most prominent space next to the County Park. And the soup of the day is always whiskey. Our Randsburg Desert Museum is next to the park, and its black light mineral viewing area rivals any to be seen elsewhere in the Mojave Desert. YoHo’s Candy and Smoke Shop has sundry items that beg to be looked at. And the barbershop next door hasn’t been open since the invention of Hippies. Just up the street from the main business district lies Randsburg Heights. There is located the Randsburg Rod Shop, Wind Chime Shop, Black Horse Tavern, Fire House, antique shop, hotel, Opera House, and Post Office. The Rod Shop has classic cars and hot rods as well as souvenirs of Randsburg, The Wind Chime Shop features handmade chimes and Erma, the world renowned “Jackass Artist.”

There are many things to see in Randsburg, so please stop by for a visit, sign the guestbook in the museum, and brag to your friends you saw a real “Living Ghost Town.”