A ‘labor of love’

By Grace Harrison
Special to the Sun

Sunday, Oct. 22, a room full of history buffs gathered in the Kern Valley Museum’s Annex, some there to learn and others to relive and share their childhood memories. On October 22, 2017, local filmmaker Chuck Barbee held a public forum giving goers a sneak peek of the third installment of “Wild West Country,” Barbee’s series based off of local historian Bob Powers’ books about the valley’s history. The third episode will focus on the early 1900s all the way through to 1957. It will cover events such as the moving of “Old” Kernville and the establishment of “New” Kernville, the beginnings of the Borel Power Plant, and will end with the first celebration of Whiskey Flats Days. “The first show starts with Whiskey Flat Days contemporary times. Whiskey Flat Days, what the heck is it? Well, it’s about an old town. We go back and tell the stories. So, at the end, we’re all the way at the present again and the first Whiskey Flat Days. So, we start with a contemporary Whiskey Flat Days, and we jump back and go all the way up and end it. It’s like bookends,” explained Barbee.

Not only did Barbee hold this event to showcase his progress, he also held it in search of volunteers. “I’m looking for volunteers. People willing to, primarily, right now, research. There’s a lot of things that need to be researched,” said Barbee when asked how the community could help. More specifically, Barbee is looking for someone to go down to Bakersfield’s Hall of County Records to find the answers to questions he has regarding buildings and property records. Barbee is also on the lookout for video editors and people to carry around equipment when filming, as well as those willing to donate their time by looking through and deleting copies of thousands of pictures. “I’m also interested in people who know the history, who can fill me in on things that I don’t know, that’s not in Bob’s books and the questions I have,” he added. Barbee also explained that community events are helpful to him as a filmmaker because he is able to get in contact with people who will provide helpful information as well as those interested in volunteering.

Barbee is currently in the process of planning how the third episode will take place. In this case, Barbee is organizing Bob Powers’ books in a way that creates a fluid story. This means that he might have to write in sections that bridge different parts together as well as tie in original storytelling if a story surfaces that was not written about by Powers. When asked about what he wants people to know about the process of creating and filming the next episode, Barbee said this: “For me, it’s a labor of love. That’s what I want people to know. It’s not about money, it’s not about a commercial goal. Originally, I thought in those terms. But to do it commercially would get in the way of doing it in a pure way. I want to do it to honor Bob’s books and the history of the area.”

Throughout the entire process, Barbee has been working closely with the Kern Valley Museum and the Kern River Valley Historical Society. Dianna Anderson, Museum Curator, says that she has greatly enjoying working with Barbee. “They’re treasures. I mean you couldn’t ask for a better documentary. They’re treasures, period,” said Anderson of the documentaries. Anderson believes that the documentaries will help both the community and, more specifically, its future generations. “Anything that we can do to save our history makes an impact on future generations. I think having it on video is going to affect more people. Quite frankly, I don’t see young people coming here to the Annex, digging through papers and digging through photos. I think turning it into something that, first off, makes sense and is highly visual, is going to bring a lot more young people into the idea that we do have a history worth valuing,” she said.

Currently, Barbee’s goal is to “live long enough to finish it (Wild West Country).”

“I started this project in ‘05 and got really to work on it and working seriously on it, almost fulltime, in ‘06 when I retired. It took ‘06, ‘07, ‘08, and part of ‘09 to finish the first show and then I haven’t done anything since. So that was about three years to do the first one. I’m thinking this one might take a year or two,” he explained.

Barbee urges those interested to volunteer. Anyone wanting to preserve the Kern River Valley’s history and help is encouraged to contact Chuck Barbee through his email chuck@barbeefilm.com.

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