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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

8 Responses

  1. Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking your feed even, Thanks.

  2. Hey! Thanks for the specifics ! I found it insightful with some research I’m doing right now. I’m going to bookmark this post and return. What other resources are there on the same subject? Keep posting!

    • Buy Along Route 66, a great read-aloud guide to the road and its architecture and Route 66: The Highway and its People, the definitive book on 66.

  3. I lived in Chambless from 1960 to 1976 then left at 15 years of age when we moved to Glendale, Ca. This market was my “downtown”—my childhood candy, soda, and source of our food necessities. At the time the Stephens family ran it and I attended Amboy and Needles Schools with their children. If you headed west on 66 for about 1 mile from this market and exited by turning right on Mac Tul Road then stopping at the first house on the right you would find yourself looking at my childhood home and all childhood memories. I went on to serve in the USAF Police and then CA Highway Patrol.

  4. I also grew up in Chambless, CA from 1964 to the early 80’s. We lived in a mobile home behind the store and I grew up working at the store. Steve & Lorraine Stephens were like my second parents and I will always be grateful to both of them. They have since passed away but I will never forget them. I also attended Amboy Elementary then went on to attend school in Needles when I started 5th grade. I graduated from Needles High School and left to attend college. I earned a bachelors degree and am very proud to say I grew up in the middle of nowhere. We did not have television for many years until my Dad and others put an Santa Fe boxcar on a hill just down the road from our home. We were able to get 1, very snowy, channel. I remember it was called KECC Channel 9, El Centro, California (I can’t believe I still remember that). Radio stations did not come in that great but we were able to get the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre almost every night. My parents and brothers would gather and we would listen to that show. It was a treat for us.

    Cadiz (Chambless) will always be my home. It was very peaceful and we didn’t have a lot of the bad influences around us.

  5. Wow! I lived in one of the cabins behind the store in 62-63. I was 2. My dad worked as a mechanic at the gas station and my grampa worked at the salt mine. You guys might have known my aunts, Mickie and Suzy Oliver. The lived behind us in another cabin or a small house I can’t remember.
    Geary Oliver

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