For a civilian there are many interesting things about a town located near a large air field and troop training area. There are three roads leading to San Bernardino from Redlands, the scenery is never monotonous. Along one road there are orange groves on both sides, branches of the trees hang over the curbs. Right now the fruit is green and cannot be picked until Christmas-time. Another road takes us along a large olive grove but the drive down Orange Street to the point where the road is cut between two high banks, a sudden drop into the Santa Ana river bed, called “the wash”, is the most interesting. We have just left an orange grove behind us and now the broad expanse of the valley comes into view, before us lies a desert. The river bed at this time of the year is dry and the uneven ground is covered with what were wild flowers in the spring but now are clusters of dry sticks with dried blossoms still clinging to them. Cacti is plentiful, their fan-shaped prickly leaves punctuated with red cactus apples. Little lizards dart here and there among the rocks.
Looking up across the valley we see the foothills in the distance, orange groves on the hillsides, the even rows of trees seemingly cling to the side of the mountain, tall palms look small against the background of the towering mountain range which stretches as far as eye can see to the right and left.
Turning left we pass the San Bernardino Army Air Depot which stretches for miles along Third Street. Olive drab buildings now stand where only a year ago were dairy farms. Outside of one building is a line of soldiers waiting for the door of the mess hall to open. In a field we see a group of soldiers playing ball, a little farther are several going through drill practice or calisthenics. Alongside the road may be seen soldiers waiting for a ride, army buses, often driven by women, messengers on scooter-bikes, now and then a Wac in khaki or a Wave in a blue or white uniform and police women.
A sign posted near one gate states “CRASH TRUCKS ONLY.” A truck piled high with rumpled parts of planes enters to unload in the “boneyard”. From it parts will be reclaimed and put back into use. On a run-way is a plane warming up. a little farther we see a plane taxi into the wind and take off.
On Redlands’ streets boys clad in khaki are often seen as Camp Haan and March Field are less than 20 miles away. Part of the University of Redlands is now a training center for marines and sailors. Almost every Sunday there are one or more soldiers in our Protestant Reformed church led hither to worship with us from a neighboring camp or desert training center.
Some we recognize as boys from our Fuller Avenue congregation in Grand Rapids, Roosevelt Park and Creston congregations have been represented.
One Sabbath, not long ago, one of our boys from Holland, Michigan had compassion on a “buddy”, a homesick youth, barely nineteen years old. He was Irish and a Catholic.
Mike, for this is his nickname for Michael Patrick—immediately felt at ease in the environment of one of our Protestant Reformed homes. How the boys relish savory home-cooked meals, (like mother used to serve), a cozy living room, the happy chat of a family circle!
And oh, how our boys enjoy the family altar consisting of prayer, bible reading, a discourse concerning our soul life, a good old fashioned Psalter or hymn sing around the piano. It brings back a taste of their own “home, sweet home.”
However, Mike was not accustomed to this. Instead it was foreign to him. At length, he too, at first reluctantly and timidly, began to discuss spiritual things. Being a Catholic he argued, keeping Rome’s views and doctrines in mind. That evening he attended church and before leaving he said: “Now I have something to write home about, what will my mother say when I tell her I’ve been to church!” Now he is on the ocean bound for somewhere “over there”. The other received an honorable discharge: his path led him home to wife and tiny daughter.
Then there was the boy who contacted Rev. Vos as he was lonesome at camp. It was Christmas Day so the pastor went to the camp but was unsuccessful in locating him. Returning home he spoke of it to friends, they tried and were successful, took him to visit in Redlands for an hour or two as much of the day had been spent before finding him. But that was not the end—the “friends” who had called for him at camp had been two young ladies, a lasting friendship sprang up. That was over a year ago, now one of them is his wife.
Hospitality is not wanting here in this sun-soaked land. The climate is ideal and Sunday afternoons during the month of February we have enjoyed tea out of doors on the patio. Just two nights last winter the temperature dropped so low that it became necessary to light the smudge-pots to keep the oranges from freezing. It was a beautiful sight, smudge-pots all aglow in an even row— one beside each tree. The next morning however, a curtain of black smoke hung over the surrounding country. It was oily too and seeped into the houses even though windows were closed. It was noon before we saw the sun. Because there is very little wind in this valley it took a long time for the smoke to clear.
Besides being a land of sunshine California is a land of flowers. Roses bloom the year around. At Christmas-time we have poinsettias, they are to be found in almost every yard. At Easter the calla lilies bloom. There are many different kinds of trees, pepper trees, eucalyptus, acacia and sycamores are a few of them. But we miss the wide-spreading maple, the tall elm and sturdy oak trees of the East.
A grove of walnut trees is a pretty sight, persimmons are beginning to ripen, before the fruit is fully ripe all of the leaves fall from the tree leaving only the bright red-orange fruit hanging on a tree bare of leaves.
Fig trees do not blossom but pomegranates do. They have a pretty bell-shaped flower.
Looking at this beautiful creation we are reminded of how great God is and how weak and frail man is. Here we can lift up our eyes unto the hills from whence cometh our help. Our help is from God who made heaven and earth.