By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Almost anyone who has traveled the I-15 route between Los Angeles to Las Vegas has passed by the mysterious Zzyzx (Zye-zix) Road. Some tourists stop for the obligatory snapshots, but most whiz by without learning more about this unique First District landmark.
But what exactly is Zzyzx and what does it represent? Its story is as interesting as its name.
Although during the 1860s Soda Springs served as a US Army outpost, this vast, isolated area was virtually untouched until 1944, Curtis “Doc” Springer and his wife Mary Louise Berkebile opened a sanitarium here called Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa.
The resort, named by Springer to be the last word in the English language, was the couple’s second stab at a health resort. Their “Haven of Rest” in Deer Valley, Pa., closed down in 1937 after the couple failed to pay their taxes.
Hoping for a fresh start at Soda Springs, Springer built — with the help of some drunks and drifters from San Pedro — an elaborate complex that included a church, radio station, private “Zyport” airstrip and 60 cabins, along with a health spa with mineral baths. The resort even boasted a mechanical exercise horse once owned by President Calvin Coolidge.
Springer, who gave himself the title of doctor and minister though he was neither, extolled the virtues of his health foods via his evangelist radio station, drumming up brisk business among ail- ing seniors throughout the West. Among his remedies were “Hollywood Pep Tonic” and “Antediluvian Desert Herb Tea.”
The American Medical Association came to learn of Springer through his radio show, quickly dubbing him the “King of Quacks.”
Springer’s enterprise drew to a close in 1974, when the government shut him down for food and drug law violations as well as unauthorized use of federal land. He was jailed for a few months and then retired to Las Vegas, where he died in 1986.
Today, Zzyzx Springs is home to California State University’s Desert Studies Center, run by Professor Rob Fulton of Cal State Fullerton. (The campus remains off limits to visitors without prior reservations.)