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Join the Hi-Desert Nature Museum on Wednesday, September 28 at 5:30 p.m. for “Curator Talk,” a special presentation by Warner Graves III and Steve Lech, co-authors of the book “Postcards from Mecca“.
PLEASE NOTE: Admission is $5 per person at the door/ Free for Museum Sponsors. Tickets are not sold online; space will be limited.
The exhibit adaptation of the book “Postcards from Mecca: The California Desert Photographs of Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves” will be on display at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum September 14 – October 29, 2022. For more information about the exhibit click here.
Graves and Lech’s presentation will introduce visitors to a mysterious outback and its chroniclers, with the aim of restoring Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves to their deserved place in California history. Just as travelers think of Georgia O’Keeffe when they see the New Mexico mesas, the hope is that the names Susie and Lula will one day come to mind when travelers encounter the uninhabited Colorado Desert lands east of Mecca in Southern California
Warner V. Graves III is not only the a co-author and co-editor of “Postcards From Mecca,” but he is also an artist and grandson of photographer Lula Mae Graves.
Steve Lech is a native Riversider who has been interested in the local history of Riverside County for more than 40 years. He has written or co-written 13 books on various subjects of Riverside County history, is the past chair of the Riverside County Historical Commission, and co-authors the weekly “Back in the Day” column for the Press-Enterprise newspaper.
A summary of the book and exhibit
“A small town on the north edge of the Salton Sea, Mecca claims the lowest-elevation post office in the United States. Susie Keef Smith took a job as postmaster here in the 1920s. Living at 180 feet below sea level on the fringe of the unexplored desert, she and her cousin Lula Mae Graves roamed the strange, vast, desert from Mecca to Blythe taking photographs to sell as postcards on the post office spinner rack.
Susie (wearing a full leg brace due to childhood polio) along with Lula Mae traveled on foot, burro, and Ford through sandy washes and roadless canyons with a large format camera and a .38 revolver by their side. They photographed legendary prospectors, burro teams, the Bradshaw Road, and the newborn Salton Sea. In addition, the Orocopia, Chocolate, Cottonwood and Chuckwalla Mountains were photographed as well as the workers and surveyors on the All-American Canal and the Colorado River Aqueduct projects.
The photographers found transformation in a wilderness so formidable that it discourages seasoned explorers even today. Along the way, they wound up creating the most comprehensive portrait existing of this littleknown wedge of desert.”