High Desert Hangar Stories: A memory of old Lancaster – the Boys and Girls of the Boulevard

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The monument in all its glory that stood guard over Lancaster Boulevard for generations. (Courtesy photograph)
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For generations it has stood at the corner of Lancaster Boulevard and Cedar Street. It was built years ago at what was then considered the heart of the community, Lancaster’s civic center.

Today it’s just a monolith, covered in Bouquet Canyon river rock, with a simple plaque. But back in the mid to late 1940s it looked a lot different.

There was never such a monument as this in the Valley, paying tribute to the Antelope Valley citizen soldiers who fought and died in World War II.

After the war, local families and friends felt they wanted to honor young residents who called the Antelope Valley home, were raised here and answered the call of service to our nation. So the community rallied and built the white monument that had the names of every boy and girl, man or women, survivor and deceased, who served, and called the Antelope Valley home. More than 700 names were submitted and yes, more than likely some soldiers were probably overlooked and not included — but that was not on purpose, it was just because it was up to families to submit the names.

One of the last gatherings at the replica at Lancaster Cemetery in the Veterans court of honor. The Greatest Generation from the Antelope Valley. (Courtesy photograph)

For years the monument stood proudly and was the backdrop to everyday life down on the Boulevard. The list of names on parchment paper under glass, with an eternal flame made of steel on top, watched over the memories of those who became known as the Boys and Girls of the Boulevard. With time the monument fell into disrepair and the passion of people softened. It was deemed best to remove all the names and cover the surface with stone and a simple plaque, and so it became what you see today.

A few years back, as the World War II generation was getting a second look in popular culture, local folks decided that it was time to revisit that list of local heroes and the community that felt that history should live on. So, with a lot of work by current people of passion and school children, a replica of the original monument now stands in the Veterans Court of Honor at Lancaster Cemetery, complete with all the names now etched in granite.

At the end of 2019, we heard of the passing of long-time Antelope Valley resident Charlie Rader, who was one of those names on the monument and a “Boy of the Boulevard.” Many of us feel he may have been the very last of those names that was still with us. With time, we lose focus on what is important and meaningful to those of us who have called the Antelope Valley home for decades. To many, it’s a bit painful when we recall those things that are no longer there that represented the heart and soul of our community for generations. It’s just a big rock monument that some might call ugly and out of place, but to those whose names were on it and understood what it represented, it was the greatest and most beautiful gift a community could have ever given in memory of those who served and died — and now, as you pass it by, you can say I know “the rest of the story.” Photo is of the original on the Boulevard.

Peace my friends, and until next time, Bob out …
 

Charles “Charlie” Raider is honored at a Lancaster, Calif., skilled nursing facility by Brig. Gen. E. John “Dragon” Teichert, then-commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Raider passed away in late 2019, and was a member of the “Greatest Generation” that were honored with a monument on Lancaster Boulevard. (Photograph by Dennis Anderson)

 
 
 

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