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Tokiwa's

Anyone remember Tokiwa's? We sure do -- we remember seeing it as far back as the Sixties. Unfortunately, we know little about it. Here's our only picture, this 1984 photo courtesy of journal contributor Dale Hogg:

Tokiwa's was located on the west side of Highway 14 about three miles south of the Jawbone Canyon store on a curve where the road begins to trend to the northeast. Though passing by a gazillion times, we were inside there only once, maybe 30 years ago, and recall it then as a simple cheeseburger and beer joint, most likely frequented by the staff at nearby Cantil Ranch (which is also gone), though we have been informed that it was much more than that. At one point Tokiwa's had been renamed "Sprague's," but was changed back to "Tokiwa's" a few years before its demise. However, it's come to our attention that Tokiwa's had a history as rich as anything else we've talked about on this site, but we're still in the dark.

Tokiwa's existed back in the two-lane days of Highway 14. It burned down sometime in the 1990 - 1993 time frame. Had it not burned down, the four-lane expansion of Highway 14 would have necessitated its demolition in any case. One of your MojaveTreks.com staff worked as a Kern County fire dispatcher at that time and had come on duty just as the fire was put out. Unfortunately, we cannot recall the date of the fire. It was started, the firefighters told us, by a burning car that had pulled in near the gas pumps, and too close to the structure.

Journal contributor Dale Hogg has provided us his memories of Tokiwa's:

"Tokiwa's had become mecca for the dirt bike crowd over the years and was a little shrine to the who’s who of the day. Not sure if you remember but the inside walls of the place were papered with dollar bills. All signed by whoever tacked one up there. A lot of big name racers passed through there in the 60’s and 70’s. A shame all that is lost. I still remember my friend Billy’s dollar right behind the bar that he put there in 1968. The Prospectors and Shamrocks motorcycle clubs were a common fixture there.

"I remember that place burning down like yesterday. It was in the spring of 1990 because I had just started working here on base [Edwards AFB] with the A-7 guys. I got a call from my wife that Tokiwa's was burning and prospects were bad to save it as it was built with so many old railroad ties. You know how those things burn once they get going. Toni (actually Tokiwa herself, everyone called her Toni) said that a fella in a Volkswagen bus pulled in to use the pay phone as he was having car trouble. Apparently the bus burst into flames and quickly jumped to the building. The rest is history. I owe by first job here on base to Tokiwa's because the gal that worked bar there at the time was married to the lead man on the A-7 crew. Got talking about airplanes and turned out they were looking for a mechanic and soon thereafter I was hired. They lived in Cantil and every so often Al and I would ride his horses to Tokiwa's from their spread. We would tie the horses to that white hitching post you can see in the picture beside the blue Datsun. Sure do miss that place."

Thank you, Dale.

Journal contributor Tom Marshall shared his memories with us:

"From 1960 until August, 1990, Cinco Station was our spot in the desert, a place that the Prospectors M/C could call home.  This historical landmark was located on California Highway 14 a distance of 17 miles northeast of the town of Mojave and 3 miles before you reached Jawbone Canyon Store.  This was near the southeastern foothills of Barren Ridge, and all AMA District 37 desert racers and their families were always welcome. We held our annual Gold Rush Enduro there a total of eleven times, in the years 1964 thru 1967, plus 1970, and 1984 thru 1989.  The Shamrocks MC also hosted their enduro there at least once in the 1960’s.  As for other types of races, we staged an actual Six Days Qualifier there twice in the early 1970’s, plus a Dual European Scrambles in 1983.
 
"The property always had the name ‘Cinco Station’, and the restaurant was ‘Tokiwa’s’, but the accepted practice was that you could use the two names interchangeably because for the purposes of simple conversation they meant the same thing.  Cinco Station was a large multi-acre compound that extended all the way back to the power line road, and it served many functions.
 
"Cinco Station was a place to camp, to ride from, and get gas.  And it was a place to eat, drink, and be merry!  This was a spot in the desert that had soul, and our connection there as offroaders, with the surroundings and also each other, was deep beyond words.
 
"What is the history of Cinco Station and what made it a historical landmark?  First established in 1918, this was Camp #5 for the crews that were building the California Aqueduct.  The camp was initially located one-half mile to the north, but that would change in the 1920’s.  It was then that Cinco Station as we knew it was built by none other than Cinco Bill.  By the 1950’s, the property had been defined and purchased and the owner was a man known as ‘Mr. Sully’.
 
"Enter the Van de Voorde family.  Warren Van de Voorde was a Dutch American who worked for Pan Am Airlines on Wake Island in the South Pacific in the early 1950’s.  He met his future wife, Tokiwa, on a blind date, and she is Japanese.  They were married, and shortly after had a son on the way. 
 
"Warren and Tokiwa moved to California and in 1954 their son Charlie was born.  In a letter dated February, 2009, Charlie tells us that he has “Made in Japan” stamped on his butt - too funny.  In 1960 they purchased Cinco Station from Mr. Sully and began to build their roadside business.  Investment capital was in short supply and at first just paying for a load of gas was a struggle, but they persevered and eventually were successful.  
 
"Was this an oasis in the desert?  A welcome sight to the weary traveler?  Absolutely.  Cell phones did not yet exist, and the pay phone out front near the gas pumps was considered a valuable asset all by itself.  Another feature that gave Cinco Station personality was the large rectangular corral out back, an area for VIP parking as it were.  When we staged an event there, Prospectors camped inside the corral and everybody else parked outside.  This was good for everyone in terms of defining the sign-up area and where riders could find tech inspection, etc.
 
"And now we go inside the restaurant!  Was Tokiwa’s a simple cheeseburger and beer joint?  Hardly.  Authentic Japanese cuisine was also offered, and the formal dining room was located in the back of the restaurant.  There was a book published in the late 1960’s and it featured the 10 best restaurants in the United States that were in ‘out of the way’ places, and yes, Tokiwa’s was one of the 10.  Best darn Teriyaki Steak you ever sank your teeth into - a real treat after a long day in the saddle.
 
"As a club, it did not take us long to discover Cinco Station, become friends with the Van de Voorde family, and lay the foundation for 30 years of incredible experiences and good times.  We made Warren an honorary Prospector, and he could also be seen at some of the desert races.  Charlie began racing about 1970, worked his way up, became an Active Prospector, and was a top expert.  Sadly, Warren had diabetes and passed on in the late 1980’s.
 
"Tokiwa’s restaurant was nicely appointed and just walking in there was an experience all by itself.  The vast number of signed dollar bills on the inside walls?  In the spring of 1990 I spent half a day studying them, and one of those dollar bills was signed by none other than General Chuck Yeager himself.  This came as no surprise because Chuck was no stranger to Tokiwa’s, and he was also the first person in history to successfully break the sound barrier.
 
"Then came that fateful afternoon in late August of 1990.  It was just prior to Labor Day weekend and a Volkswagen bus was rolling down Hwy 14 South when it caught fire.  The driver could see Cinco Station up ahead so he mindlessly parked the burning bus next to Tokiwa’s and hopped-out to use the pay phone to call the fire department.  The structure became engulfed in flames and by sundown, with respect to Tokiwa’s restaurant, there was nothing left to save.  Imagine my surprise when I drove my new girlfriend there to show her this great place that very weekend, only to be greeted by ashes still smoldering.
 
"The state of California used this opportunity to make the road wider, and southbound Hwy 14 now rolls right thru the formal dining area.  Tokiwa, who goes by the name Toni, still lives there.  She had a new home built back where the corral used to be, and it is fenced and landscaped.  As for Charlie, who is known as ‘Charlie Cinco’, he has lived in Bishop for a number of years now.  

"Yes, the history of Cinco Station and Tokiwa’s is a rich history indeed."

Thank you, Tom.

Journal contributor "Mac" McGinnis provided us this memory:

"I was stationed at China Lake Naval Weapons Center in 1971 and 1972. A few of us had Japanese wives and they always enjoyed going to Tokiwa's for a good Japanese dinner. It was the girl's night out and an unexpected pleasure for those Japanese wives who were going through the culture shock of living in the American desert. We remember the owners as really nice folks."

Thank you, Mac.

If you know anything at all about Tokiwa's or nearby Cantil Ranch, and have stories to tell or pictures to share, please contact us.

 

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