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Cacti, Succulents, & Desert Plant Emporium
Newspaper clippings from the Desert Sun and The San Bernardino Sun relating to the old history of Cactus Mart
Newspaper clippings from the Desert Sun and The San Bernardino Sun relating to the old history of Cactus Mart

History of Cactus Mart

We love to imagine that most of our patrons picture Cactus Mart as both a tranquil desert experience combined with a touch of color and whimsy. We're discovering that the more we learn about the location that serves as the site of Cactus Mart that we're finding out that much has changed, but the dream of a unique roadside destination has persisted since the beginning. With help mostly from the Morongo Basin Historical Society and a few old newspaper articles, we were able to piece together the historical significance the Cactus Mart location served for the region.

Let us travel back to the 1940's. It is post war America and the desert region of Southern California has experienced economic growth in the form of mining and travel. Roadside attractions were popping up all along the newly built freeways spanning the country. A man by the name of Anton Terp is working for Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. Anton is a Danish immigrant that came to America at a young age. A close friend by the name of Harry Hess discusses with Anton the magic of Morongo Valley (local residents may be familiar with Hess Boulevard). After visiting the area, Anton decides to purchase land in the surrounding Morongo Basin area including in Morongo Valley and Whitewater. Anton begins building his home along the highway in Morongo Valley by the late 1940's.

Anton has much bigger plans for the area than just a place to live out his days. Along with building his home, Anton begins construction on a roadside bar called Terp's Hitching Post or simply the Hitching Post. The place even includes an actual horse-hitch post so that rugged travelers can tie down their trusted steed and mellow out with a glass of the finest selection of wine or beer. This attracts many travelers looking for a unique experience. Many can't pass up the novelty of indulging in drink and not getting pulled over because they travelled by horse.

Terp's Hitching Post before it was Cactus Mart
Terp's Hitching Post

By 1950, Anton had decided to travel to Germany to a second home he had closely bordering his home Danish country. There he met his longtime friend Rosa Bower. Anton invited Rosa to come to California and visit the Morongo Valley area. Rosa accepted the invitation and within a brief moment in time found herself exploring a little slice of heaven. Within a year's time, the couple made their way to Las Vegas to get hitched. Rosa Bower was now Rosa Terp and helping operate the day-to-day at the Hitching Post.

Rosa is a Swedish immigrant born in Stockholm. Her father worked for the Swedish government's mint as a lithographer and engraver. Rosa's mother was a musician and singer with a beautiful singing voice. Her family moved to Germany where Rosa worked at the post office. Rosa learned to sing as well as play the piano. Some have compared her singing style to that of Madam Schumann-Heink. Although she was raised in a cultured lifestyle, she was a strong and determined individual that loved adventure. The few years following their marriage included the theft of the actual hitching post the establishment was named after.

Madam Ernestine Schumann-Heink - Millocker

By 1954, Anton had come down with pneumonia and subsequently died leaving the Hitching Post bar in the hands of Rosa Terp. Rosa did not have any experience operating a business by herself, but knew she needed to keep things going in order to survive. For starters, she moved in a piano into the establishment to help entertain travelers. She also became well known for her Danish sandwiches that helped feed those passing by and the local geologists trying to strike it rich.

Obituary for Anton Terp in The San Bernardino Sun
Obituary for Anton Terp in The San Bernardino Sun

During the 1950's, the Hitching Post was pretty much the only place one could find food or drink in the area. A somewhat recent event in the world had the area crawling with rock hounds, geologists, regular folks, and scientists alike. The Morongo Basin and surrounding area was rich in Uranium and the area was covered in clicking Geiger counters in hopes to stake a claim and make a living. The Hitching Post offered these individuals an escape from the harsh climate and a gathering spot to enjoy sandwiches over a rich discussion of ideas. By this time, Rosa had officially become a United States citizen.

Elton Britt - Uranium Fever

In 1955, Rosa Terp went back to Denmark for at least a year to visit her mother and sightsee in Europe. In October that year, Terp's Hitching Post was leased to the Cubit family, and since the 1960's, Rosa had officially sold the bar and opted for a life in social service, something she had dreamt of for a long time. A 1982 article in The San Bernardino Sun quoted Rosa, who was the information and outreach worker for the Senior Information and Referral Service in Morongo Valley, "I love this work and I'm really grateful to the Lord I'm able to do this, because it is a blessing to have the opportunity to help people." She received commendation in the 1980's for her work from the county of San Bernardino. With the help of friend Dee Rawson, Rosa operated the Golden Age Club, an organization established to help those struggling after the county cut funds for nutrition. She continued her musical talents well into her later years. She was part of a musical group called The Goldenaires who made their own instruments. Sadly, in 1992, Rosa passed away at the age of 89.

"When I get up in the morning, I say maybe I'll lie down and stay in bed, but I give myself a pep talk, get up and think positive." - Rosa Terp

This post was co-written and co-researched by Sean Burford.

By cactus mart

May 18, 2018

Cactus Mart is a Cacti, Succulents, and Plant Emporium located in Morongo Valley, California.