Now that he is hanging up his hat, Steve Iverson gets to do something he always wanted to do.
The Rancho Los Cerritos museum curator announced his retirement in December after 23 years on the job, but plans to continue volunteering at the historical adobe house as a “living history” docent to reenact scenes and characters from the site’s time period.
“As a staff member, I could train docents for the living history tours, but I couldn’t be one,” Iverson said. “But one of the things I will be is a member of the Bixby family.”
Iverson said he always was a history buff. He graduated with a degree in the subject from Occidental College, before venturing to southern Iowa to participate in area historic recreations in farm country.
In Iowa, Iverson lived on an old-fashioned farm several miles out of town to experience what rural life was like a century ago.
“I cut my own firewood and made things, such as a split rail fence,” Iverson said. “It had an outhouse and a wood-burning stove… I did enough to experience what life was like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”
It was his well-versed knowledge in American life during that time period that led him back to California in 1975 to earn his Master’s degree in public history and historic preservation at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
After volunteering at area historical sites, the position at the Rancho opened up.
“Finding this job was my life’s highlight,” Iverson added. “Its one of those jobs that I feel very suited for, and I only retired with great reluctance.”
During his 23 years at Rancho Los Cerritos, Iverson has been at the forefront of helping to develop many of the site’s most popular programs, including the living history and Christmas Candlelight tours.
“The visitor is escorted through the house by a volunteer docent playing a character role,” Iverson said of the living history tours. “They will hear different stories about what life was like during that time. It’s like journey back in time.”
He also oversaw museum collections, managed the research library and archive, developed new exhibits and used his keen woodworking skills to update the existing exhibits.
“Iverson was always seen as someone who wore many hats,” said Ellen Calomiris, executive director and historic sites officer at Rancho Los Cerritos. “Steve has impacted the Rancho because all of his dedication, knowledge and passion for history.”
Using his handy woodworking skills, Iverson also helped build the site’s blacksmith room, which had been remodeled as a bedroom in the 1930s.
Iverson said he and his colleagues believed the original use of the room was for blacksmithing, so he worked to carefully remodel it to include a fake chimney, a false dirt floor, anvil and woodworking bench — all without ruining the 1930s upgrades.
“We included all of those things that represent the way we’re sure the room was originally used for,” Iverson added. “All the changes had to be covered up without damaging anything.”
As he packed up his office and tied up loose ends this week, Iverson said that he plans to stay busy in his retired life, including restoring a vintage tractor and volunteering in the wheel working shop at a tractor museum in Vista — when he’s not portraying a member of the Bixby family for the rancho.