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Bob Nolan's Cabin


Big Bear Lake, California



            During the 1939 filming of "Outpost of the Mounties" on Big Bear Lake, Bob searched for and found a cabin there for himself, a retreat from the pressures of his working life.  He spent as much time as he could up there in the mountains in comparative isolation, living as close to nature as he could. In that peaceful environment he "recharged his batteries" and composed a number of his songs.

                The cabin was roughly 12 x 18 feet with no amenities, although Bob eventually had electricity brought in. It appealed to him that the cabin had been built by a lad of 17 in 1925 - his own age. It was small but solid with everything he needed. It was also hard to get to and he liked that. (Listen to Bob describe his cabin.)                  

                He and his wife spent four months of the year in his cabin during the first few years after he retired. But, as P-Nuts grew older, she found the effort too great and Bob went alone. He didn't mind that. He enjoyed being alone. In fact, he would never give directions to his cabin because he did not want visitors, even if they considered themselves close friends as did Stuart Hamblen. The few visitors he did allow were treated well.

            After the noisy Big City noise of his Studio City home, the birdsong of the forest was balm to his soul.



Bob Nolan's original cabin at Big Bear Lake, California

Judy Finch photos, 1979



Map courtesy of Dick Goodman


            "Bob Nolan's original cabin was located on the north side of Big Bear Lake just east of the dam. Back in the '70's, the spot was located just a hundred feet or so from the main road up on the side of the hill and was fairly well hidden amongst the pines. As I recall, there was just a little parking area off the main paved road. Last time I visited the area a few years ago, there was a dirt road with a sign saying "Bob Nolan Trail."

            "Gray's Landing is also marked. That's where we parked our motorhome at the water's edge with a beautiful view of the lake. Bob made it a habit of coming down to Gray's landing just before sundown in the afternoon to fish off the dock until he'd caught his "evening meal". This was a daily ritual of his." (Dick Goodman)


One of the figures on the dock is Bob Nolan

(Goodman photo)


        "This is also the location where he and the tour boat captain pulled off the stunt of Bob and his dog, Tumbleweed, taking their daily swim across the lake years ago. Even though it is a narrow part of the lake, the distance is much further then you might think from looking at the map. Big Bear Lake is a huge lake." (Dick Goodman)




            Dick Goodman was one of the few who visited with him there and they became friends over the years. (For more insight into the legendary Bob Nolan, read Dick's Recollections of Bob Nolan.)


Bob Nolan and Dixie Goodman, 1976

(Goodman photo)



             Bob, with his inimical sense of humour, let Dick in on some amusing incidents. 


            “Dick, you know, I’ve always been a very good swimmer but let me tell you about a little prank we use to pull on the general public when I first moved up here after I left the Pioneers. At that time there was a tour boat that took off from the east end of the lake and it would come all the way up the shoreline to the dam and then circle back down the other side of the lake. The captain would give a little narration along the way. Well, I became friends with him and we cooked up this little stunt.
            “The tour boat would come by on the north side of the lake past Gray’s Landing and I’d be standing down there at the water’s edge in my trunks with my dog, Tumbleweed. Now you have to remember this was right after I retired from the Pioneers so my name and face were still fairly prominent and my songs were still well known and all that. So the general public still knew who I was. Well, the tour boat captain would say something like, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, if you look over on the north side of the lake, you’ll see the famous Bob Nolan of the Sons of the Pioneers and his dog, Tumbleweed, getting ready to take their daily swim across to the other side of the lake and back!’
            “Then I’d jump in, the dog would jump in, and we’d start swimming out. As the tour boat proceeded around the bend out of sight, we had a fellow with a little outboard who would help me and my dog into his boat. Then he’d take us over to the other side of the lake and let us off where we’d do the same thing all over again when the boat came down the far shoreline on its return trip.
            “Dick, good swimmer or not, there was no way in the world that I could ever swim across that lake and back. For one thing, people don’t realize how cold it is. No matter how good a swimmer you are, that lake is pretty deep and the water is ice cold at this altitude. A lot of people have died of hypothermia in that water. There’s no way that the best swimmer in the world could make it across the lake and back unless he was wearing some kind of wet suit or something. But we sure had those tourists fooled.”


“When I first came up to Big Bear and after I got settled here, this Women’s Club on the other side of the lake would ask me to come over and give a little talk about once a year. One time my subject was the overpopulation of the world and my concerns about it.”  Then he chuckled, “I guess I made a wrong choice of words that day when I referred to mankind as someday ending up like a bunch of maggots moving around in the bottom of a barrel, and you know,” he laughed, “they never asked me back again!” 





These two photos of Bob Nolan were taken by Jean Finch at his Big Bear Lake cabin in 1979.




            Calin Coburn recalls his grandfather's cabin: "I remember going up to the old cabin once with my Mom to clear the area around the cabin of leaves and stuff.  It had a wood burning stove and two beds. Nothing else. No electricity or plumbing. Outhouse was back behind and very cold. Kind of hard to see, but that big tree in front of the old cabin is still there. Milo, Mom and the carpenter built the new cabin and cut up the old cabin for firewood. They built a big deck around the tree."





            Wayne Perryman recalls his visits, too. "I remember we would go up to Big Bear to visit Bob and Peanuts.  It was always great fun.  Bob had a spot where he liked to sit and meditate. I don't think that he called it that.  Anyway, he liked to just sit there peacefully with his eyes shut.  I took this shot."


Wayne Perryman photo