Perris: Historian captures Perris Valley’s past in new book

PERRIS – The well-driller who saved March Air Force Base, radio personality Don Imus and the legendary Wyatt Earp are all featured in a new picture book, “Images of America: Perris Valley,” revealing little-known facets of the area.

Perris native and historian Katie Keyes said she took up the project as a learning exercise and was pleasantly surprised.

“I found some new things about this area,” Keyes said. “It was fun to learn about the history I didn’t know.”

The author said her motivation was to compose a book that would make “history alive” for readers, who can purchase a copy of “Images of America: Perris Valley” for $23.50.

The book pays homage to Fred T. Perris, for whom the city is named. The longtime chief engineer for the California Southern Railroad surveyed the town near the turn of the 20th century. Keyes found photographs, included in the book, of the founder with Wyatt Earp and his brother, Morgan Earp, many years after their famed “Gunfight at the OK Corral” in Tombstone, Arizona.

Keyes’ research also unexpectedly turned up material regarding how March Air Force Base – now March Air Reserve Base, located just north of Perris – was nearly deactivated and abandoned shortly after World War I when military officials ran into difficulties finding reliable water sources for the base.

According to Keyes, Perris Valley farmer Frank Beatty offered his services, drilling wells that provided fresh and plentiful water for decades.

Keyes spotlights some of the big names who hail from the area, including nationally syndicated talk show Don Imus. There are photos of him from 1949, performing with the Perris Elementary Trumpet and Drum Corps.

Actor Clarence Muse is another PV luminary featured in the book. A founding member of the Screen Actors Guild, Muse’s career spanned 50 years and included bit parts and supporting roles in 100 films, like “Car Wash” and “The Black Stallion.” He inaugurated Perris’ “Christmas Hollow” tradition of giving gifts to children of all backgrounds.

“Our story now goes out to a wide audience,” said Perris Valley Historical and Museum Association member Midgie Parker. “It’s a story we’re proud of and a town we’re proud of.”

“Images of America: Perris Valley,” distributed by Arcadia Publishing, is available at the Depot Building, at C and Fourth streets in Perris, or via online book retailers.

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