In 1944, Curtis Howe Springer
settled on three by eight miles by Soda Dry Lake in the middle of the
Mojave Desert. There he built a spa with nine mineral pools in the shape
of a cross, and he wanted to give it name with no vowels that sounded like
sleep, and so "Zzyzx" (pronounced Zee–zix or Zie–zix, whichever source you
read) was born.
The self-proclaimed Methodist
minister and physician (he was neither) broadcasted daily a folksy,
fundamentalist religious program from the radio station he built there
asking listeners to send donations for miraculous cures, which were a mix
of vegetable juices, shipped throughout the United States and abroad.
The spa flourished with the
elderly spending their life savings to spend time in the sparse rooms and
to relax in the mineral waters until 1974, when Springer was arrested for
alleged violations of food and drug laws and unauthorized use of federal
land. The spa was confiscated, Springer spent a few months in jail, and
now the spa is administered by the California State University at
Fullerton as the Desert Studies Center.
What had been a location with a
colorful history that is the stuff of legend, became a place where
education and protection of the desert flourish, and where everyone and
the desert environment benefits.