PIONEERTOWN –– Pioneertown has a romantic history as the home of many classic Western movies. Now that it has become a tourist destination for people all over the world, the story of its founding and of its transformation throughout time differs immensely based on who is telling it.
Kenneth Gentry noticed this when he first began volunteering in Pioneertown four years ago. A self-proclaimed aspiring history buff, Gentry has always had a fascination with history and searching for the truth. Now a Yucca Valley resident and an employee at the Mercantile shop in Pioneertown, Gentry is often the first face you see when walking down Mane Street.
“I started working there and I developed a small speech that I repeated over and over about the history of the town, but a lot of it seemed really inconsistent,” Gentry said.
He had the opportunity to build a historical pamphlet for visitors to the Mercantile, and as he worked on it, he became increasingly frustrated with the rumors and inconsistencies that surrounded the history of Pioneertown.
“Everyone would say Gene Autry’s name first when discussing the founding of Pioneertown and it should be Dick Curtis. He is absolutely the one who founded Pioneertown,” Gantry said.
A member of the Morongo Basin Historical Society, Gentry decided to take action and started a year-and-a-half-long project to create the definitive history of Pioneertown.
“Everywhere I went to research only had a small slice of the whole pie of information,” said Gentry, who sought out information from old newspapers, university libraries and more reaching all the back to 1940s publications.
From this, Gentry’s book “Pioneertown, USA” was born. This 300-page self-published work is filled with stories of the land Pioneertown was founded on, its transformations throughout history, photographs of its many visitors through the decades and poems and art that is centered around the community.
“People come from all over the world to buy our necklaces and to buy art and they take those back to every continent in the world,” said Gentry. “The last thing we want to do is tell them something wrong about our history.”
“Pioneertown, USA” is in its first round of printing and will be available to the public soon at Pioneertown stores, other Morongo Basin businesses and online.
“A lot of people have reported about Pioneertown but they haven’t been able to really report all of the facts,” Gantry said. “We have such a rich history here and I just wanted to get that story out to the people.”