Forget the Twilight Years, This Top La Verne Scientist Lives in ‘The Twilight Zone’ Where All Things Are Possible

July 27, 2009
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Santa Claus, it turns out, isn’t the only man living at the North Pole. La Verne’s Dave Juergens lives there as well, at least in his imagination.

Willoughby, on the North Pole, and its Rod Serling-like creator Dave Juergens.

Willoughby, on the North Pole, and its Rod Serling-like creator Dave Juergens.

Opening narration from season one of “The Twilight Zone”
Narrator: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.



Juergens is an expansive thinker. For years, he was the project leader for the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) Instrument on the Cassini spacecraft exploring Saturn. The project continues its mission today identifying and measuring the chemical composition of Saturn’s surface, atmosphere and rings.

During much of that time in his La Verne garage, he was also building the fictional town of Willoughby based on an episode of “The Twilight Zone, which series writer and producer Rod Serling called his favorite from the first season in 1959. In a “Stop at Willoughby,” an overstressed advertising executive drifts off to sleep on his daily railroad commute to work at a high-pressure New York City ad agency. Before he wakes, he is transported to July 1888, to a sunny, peaceful place “where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure.”

“He would daydream about this town Willoughby where all the children were polite and nice and all the people were well behaved,” said Juergens, who sounds a little like a less imposing version of actor George C. Scott.

Juergens has placed his version of Willoughby on the North Pole, where as mayor, city manager and city planner and creator, he can pretty much situate the locations and buildings wherever he wants.will1

Fortunately, for the townspeople of Willoughby, population 5,280 and elevation of 1,089 feet, Juergens is a kindly landlord with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.

“My philosophy is everybody should be happy and creative, and that there’s room for everybody,” Juergens said.

There’s really never any reason to leave Willoughby because the town has everything — even more amenities than our lovely town of La Verne.

For one, the Willough River flows through town, with its pure, crystalline waters feeding the Willoughby Water Company. A cabin buttoned together with miniature logs whittled down from a 1 x 2 that Juergens first built in 1963 sits on a majestic bluff by a waterfall. Fishermen are holding prize trout plucked from the river. Scaling the bluff are mountain climbers with their ropes and pitons.

Willoughby’s skies are sunny and pollution-free despite the operation of the town’s arctic coal mine. However, with its slogan, “Production No. 1, Safety Second,” there may be some question as to the company’s safety record.

To the south (and everything looks south from the North Pole), there’s a Little White House on the Prairie that looks just like that other White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue where President Obama now resides. Only here at Willoughby, Santa Claus is the main occupant.

After listening to Juergens for only a few seconds, you realize Willoughby is like no place you’ve ever been. It’s not a static place, stuck in 1888, as in The Twilight Zone version. It’s dynamic and growing all the time because Juergens’ not so invisible hand continually moves things around to satisfy his wife, his grown children and his grandchildren. That’s why next to the St. Vitus Church or Monkey Wards (Montgomery Wards), you’ll find the Jonas Brothers Building or the ESPN Zone.will21

But in Willoughby, nothing is quite as it seems. As a Ford tri-motor plane flies overhead, Juergens quietly lets you in on the jokes – all designed to make you smile. One of the premier businesses in town is the Casualty Assurance Corporation of America, better known as CACA. The town’s newspaper is the Willoughby Bee as opposed to the Wanna Be. The telephone and telegraph company is known by the locals as the “Tell and Tell.”

Satisfy your hunger pangs at Lenten Fast Foods, whose motto is “Eat While You Fast.” If you take wine with your meal, Willoughby boasts its own local winery, “Fine Wine or Vinegar Works – Whichever Comes First.”

No one in town should ever feel they have to run to Vegas. There’s a Frederick’s of Willoughby in town and an establishment that rents rooms by the hour. An aerial view of town also shows a young boy escaping with a sunbather’s bra atop a building. Sunbathing at the North Pole? We told you this town was different and wonderful.

For residents’ listening pleasure, there is Walt’s (waltz) Music and a local concert hall playing Brahms and Beethoven. Although there is no beauty shop in town, an issue currently on the Willoughby City Council’s agenda, there is a fine jewelry store, although again, its slogan, “We stamp out fine jewels” is a bit disconcerting.

There is no lack of establishments providing life’s necessities. The plumbing establishment is called “Toilets R Us.” If you need a new car, there’s Miracle Ford, but buyer beware. The dealer’s slogan is “If you buy a good car from us, it’s a miracle.” There’s also a Professional Building, but it does raise a few eyebrows, seeing that “Professional” and “Building” are both misspelled. The local computer shop also teaches English to new learners, but again the quality of the lessons is suspect given the sign outside enticing new recruits, “English Teached Here.”

Everyone always smells sweet and fresh in Willoughby, thanks to the Hans Schmitt Chinese Laundry. Behind the counter is a little Chinaman Hans Schmitt.

“How in the world did you get that name?” asks a customer.

“When I was going to get my citizenship papers, I went and stood in line, and in front of me was this big German,” Hans says. “The official asks him, ‘What’s your name, and he says, ‘Hans Schmitt,’ and then he looks at me and says, ‘What’s your name?’ and I say, ‘Sam Ting.’ So that’s how I became Hans Schmitt.”

There’s a farm supply store to help neighbors grow everything from summer squash to bananas, again owing to the six months of continuous sunlight in Willoughby. By the way, the North Pole weather vane always points south, the only direction the wind can ever blow from the North Pole. “No matter which way the wind blows, it can only blow south,” said Juergens, sounding as if he just committed a Yogi Berra-ism.

Outside the courthouse are kids playing catch. The courthouse is named, “E Clampus Vitus,” after an organization to which Juergens has long belonged. Depending on which description you believe, E Clampus Vitus is either a “drunken historical society” or a “historical drunken society,” Juergens said. Its members are actually the ones who install those bronze roadside plaques commemorating significant moments in California history.

There are, of course, a church (you can see a newly married couple and pastor leaving it), and a university, which is the home of the flying bats and its infamous cheer, “Will U Go Bats, Will U Go Bats!”

Sprinkled throughout town are boulders, stones and pieces of bark collected by Kay, Dave’s wife, whom he met at a restaurant in Yakima, Washington. Working out in the field, covered in volcanic ash left from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, he was eating at St. Evie’s Restaurant, when Kay came in to show the restaurant’s owner some photographs. When Juergens overhead the owner say she didn’t have time to view the photos, he said he’d take a look.

“I don’t know why because I’ve never been this bold before,” he said, recalling that first encounter. “I had been up all night and I was just filthy with Mt. St. Helens ash.”

Of course, Willoughby would not be complete without a railroad, which loops around town and is always on time. Near the rail station is the “Nice Time Inn,” which boasts that it has a bathroom on every floor.

Loaded in one of the railcars is a fresh shipment of Viagra, again proving that this isolated town is not missing any of the pharmaceutical enhancements available to the wider civilized world.will3

Juegens could take visitors down every street of Willoughby and teach them something. As our tour concludes, we want to know what our own town of La Verne might be missing or lacking.

“I like La Verne very much,” said Willoughby’s creator. “La Verne ranks right at the top. What I like is when I come here to my home, I drive through all positive neighborhoods.”

If he were to add anything, it would be some light manufacturing, such as a software industry, he said. “I would like to see them get involved with our mission to Mars. I know there’s a lot of controversy now about whether we should have a space program, but if you look at our telephone or weather technology, they were created as the result of our space program.

“All of our computers, nearly all of that development as well, came from the space program, where they tried to put smarter and smarter things into tinier and tinier spots.

“And they made integrated circuits from our space program. That’s where all the PCs and mapping technology came from. If we didn’t have a space program, all of our current systems would be archaic. So our space programs lead to development.”

Approaching his 75th birthday on planet Earth, Juergens is still thinking about the future and in particular mankind’s survival.

“We’re making such a picklepuss place of the world that we probably need to go to Mars to start a new civilization, just in case we do something dumb here, or in case we get a disease that kills everyone.

“It’s like the development of America,” he added, pointing to an early historical precedent. “Before Columbus came to America, he had a hard time raising funds. Queen Isabella put up a few jewels, and look what evolved from a couple of necklace pieces — the whole United States. The same thing can happen if we colonize Mars.” Juergens said Martian elements, the most critical of which is water, lie just below the surface.

“You would have to build a greenhouse,” he explained. “After a while, that would generate oxygen to make life self-sustaining. It would take maybe 100 years. In terms of historical times, that’s a blink. “I think in 100 years, there will be Martians born and bred there.”

will41For Juergens’ version of the universe to unfold, it will take business, government and people working together to make it happen. When I grew up, the Bell Telephone Company would invest in 100-year technology,” Juergens said. “They would look at technology way, way in the future. We need to get some of that back. I don’t know why we have come to the point where we are not going to invest in anything unless it gives us something back next week.”

“I know I’m speaking in a lot of platitudes, but they’re true!”

Doing his own part to make the world a better place, he recently had new solar panels installed on his roof. From January through June, he had a negative electricity bill. “Maybe we should take up a collection to help the poor emirs” who will no longer be receiving that income,” Juergens said.

Juergens’ young, vibrant and frontier-minded thinking also includes helping those in his own neighborhood.willoughby51

He volunteers as the weekend starter at Marshall Canyon Golf Course, where he also plays 18 holes a couple times a week. As a member of the Marshall Canyon Men’s Club, he spearheaded a program to help young men from the LeRoy Haynes Center in La Verne learn the game of golf. The tees he sells (“/…neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left.” – Bible verse Deuteronomy 2:27) help fund lessons, snacks and rounds of golf that the boys enjoy. He’s also heavily involved in promoting the upcoming Leroy Haynes’ golf tournament at Red Hill Country Club on August 24, 2009 (future story to appear in

Come to think of it, Juergens’ Willoughby didn’t have a golf course. Perhaps, some things are best left unexplained in his Twilight Zone view of the world.


7 Responses to “Forget the Twilight Years, This Top La Verne Scientist Lives in ‘The Twilight Zone’ Where All Things Are Possible”

  1. What a wonderful article, so well written and the photo are great. It is a tribute to a very fine and talented man, my friend, Dave Juergens.

  2. My husband, Tom & I enjoyed your article. Willoughby’s creator Dave Juergens inspires us all!

  3. Enjoyed your article.Willoughby’s creator Dave Juergens inspires us all!

  4. That’s my dad!!! And just to let you know there is a golf course in Willoughby. (only 3 holes) But boy are they challenging. I’m soooo proud of you dad.

  5. Thank you for the Article. I am especislly glad that you added the Pictures.

  6. Pete: You haven’t lost your touch from the “old” days at the Times. Eloquent articles, keep up the great work!


  7. Dave is a good friend of mine. He is a tireless worker for the LeRoy Boys Home, also a hard working member of the Marshall Canyon Mens club. Every week-end you can find Dave on the Number 1 Tee Box at Marshall Canyon selling Golf Tees for LeRoy Boys Home and working toward our Member Guest Tournament for Donations. Congradulations Dave you deserve all the credit you can get. It is a great article.


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