In 1954, Hesperia's farming community years were at an end, and its future as a real estate boomtown was about to begin.

To Azusa-based developer M. Penn Phillips, the community at the top of the Cajon Pass looked like an opportunity.

"He was responsible for developments in San Francisco, California City, some parts of Arizona," said local historian Gary "Griz" Drylie. "Prior to Phillips, they estimate 158 people [lived] in Hesperia."

Phillips began to advertise Hesperia as a vacation resort and he and other, smaller, developers of the era began to build the amenities to match. The Hesperia Inn (now Hesperia Senior Living), the Old Town Hesperia building, Hesperia Airport, Hesperia Golf & Country Club, Timberlane Park and Lake Rotobo (now Hesperia Lake) all date from that era.

Phillips was also a friend and a sometime business partner of former boxer Jack Dempsey, and Hesperia was the home to the Jack Dempsey Museum for a time.

The city's first street lamps -- a few of which can still be seen in the neighborhood surrounding Hesperia Senior Living -- were installed at that time.

The marketing efforts -- including a plug for Hesperia on the nationally televised Arthur Godfrey show by a young crooner-cum-real estate broker named F. X. McDonald -- paid off.

"The brochures Phillips was putting out in '58 boasted they had 4,000" residents, Drylie said.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is part of a series running up to the city of Hesperia's 20th anniversary looking at the history of the community.