Times were very difficult for inhabitants of Inyo County during the Great Depression. Not surprisingly, there was a great deal of antagonism between the people of Inyo County and the City of Los Angeles over land purchases and water rights. Father John Crowley, the local Catholic priest, was concerned and wanted to try to make a difference in the lives of his parishioners and those living in his diocese regardless of their religion.
Father Crowley, also known as the “Desert Padre,” together with his friends Ralph Merritt, William McCarthy (a local engineer), and George Savage of The Inyo Independent raised $2,500 and formed the Inyo Associates, a local, independent group to repair relations with Los Angeles and to convince Los Angeles to help promote recreation in the area as a way to stimulate economic development through tourism. The Eastern Sierra offered hunting, fishing, skiing and some of the most spectacular scenic views in the nation
And so it was that Inyo Associates was founded in 1935, succeeding in it goal of winning the support of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to promote recreational opportunities in the area. It continues to do so today.
Ralph Merritt would later become the well-known administrator of the Manzanar Japanese-American Relocation Center during World War II. Sadly, Father Crowley was tragically killed in a car accident 23 miles north of Red Rock Canyon State Park in 1940. Merritt was later credited with the effort to have the Long Valley Reservoir in Mono County named in Father Crowley’s honor.
Seventy-eight years later, Inyo Associates remains the independent and ultimate network for those in Inyo County that wield economic, social, and political influence. It is an organization of “doers”. Often seen at the meetings are the County’s political leaders along with the heads of the various government departments and agencies, schools administrators, prominent business people, community volunteers, leaders, civic groups and any interested citizens, all of which is to say these are the people in Inyo County that “make things happen.”
On September 16, the Inyo Associates held their first fall monthly meeting at the American Legion Hall in Independence. The meetings begin with a social hour to allow those attending a chance to interact with each other, followed by a dinner, during which the meeting itself is conducted.
Annette Wood, the current president, and Mary Roper, the current vice-president, welcomed the five dozen diners who gathered to mingle and share information on county-wide events. She reminded those present of the organization’s one and hard fast rule: No politics are to be discussed! It’s a welcome restriction to those in attendance.
In an example of networking success, attendees were treated to a surprise wedding announcement of two associates who first met at Inyo Associates three years ago, Alisa Lynch, Chief of Interpretation at the Manzanar Historic Site, and Alan Broch, the Independence Postmaster. The couple plan to be wed on September 28. Father Crowley would have no doubt approved and applauded another Inyo Associates’ success.
The Inyo Associates meet every third Monday of each month except July and August, rotating between Bishop, Big Pine, Independence, Lone Pine and one meeting in Death Valley.
If you would like to attend the next Inyo Associates’ meeting on October 21, please contact Annette Wood at 760. 920.2538.