Photographer and Professor Jeremiah Gilbert is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. From his project Pioneertown: A Live-in Old West Motion-picture Set. To see Jeremiah’s body of work click on any image.
Pioneertown is an unincorporated community in the Morongo Basin region of southern California. The town started as a live-in Old West motion-picture set, built in the 1940s. The set was designed to provide a place for actors to live while using their homes as part of the set. A number of Westerns and early television shows were filmed here, including The Cisco Kid and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. Gene Autry frequently taped his show at the Pioneer Bowl bowling alley, where school-age children were hired as pinsetters.
Today it provides a surreal experience. It is clearly a recreation yet somehow familiar to those who have seen some of the Westerns filmed here. There is also a quietness to the town, which is really just four blocks along a dirt road with a few brightly colored tourists and locals hanging about. The jail seems a popular place to have one’s photo taken in. One can also pose beside one of the realistic dummies slouched in rocking chairs on porches or behind a cart of “dynamite” along the side of the road. A few of the stores are still open, selling souvenirs and locally made products.
If you wander further from the parking area, there is a functioning Post Office still used by locals, each seeming to drive to the location, kicking up dust as they come and go. There is also a small open area with an art installation, behind which one comes across a water tower, teepee, and travel trailer, all adding to the ambience.
By Jeremiah Gilbert