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Chambless Camp, Cadiz, California

Chambless Camp, 1932

Cadiz, California

James Albert Chambless and his children came west from Arkansas in the 1920s and settled near Amboy.  When they saw opportunity in the Cadiz valley, each family member, James, Melvane, and Pearl, took a desert homestead–160 acres–and improved it. They mined their land, and built a roadside business along the newly designated U.S. 66. When the highway moved to Cadiz in 1932, the family moved with it and built Chambless Camp. In the late 1930s James married Fannie Gould. She ran the place, turning the camp into an oasis, complete with rose garden and fish pond.

With few gas stations in the desert, places like Chambless Camp and Roy’s, on west at Amboy, grew into full service enterprises geared to helping naive travelers cross the Mojave.

Wreckers were the center of their businesses, with repair shops to fix cars, cafes to feed stranded motorists, and cabins to bed them down while they waited–sometimes for days, the press of business was so great.  Chambless Camp also provided a massive canopy–a trussed roof four bays wide and two deep, supported by seven columns set on stone bases. Inside the large, dim building Fannie presided over a cafe, a grocery, and a service station. She refused to sell beer, but during World War II, made gallons and gallons of lemonade for soldiers who chugged it down in a picnic area located under an oasis of acacia trees. Out back James Chambless lined up a series of small concrete block cabins with tin roofs.

Chambliss Camp, Chambliss, California