This is Putty Henck apple, named after J. Putnam Henck who was known by those who loved him as “Putty”. He was a fixture in the San Bernardino Mountains since the 1920’s, most known as the man who built and later ran Santa’s Village amusement park. He also built many commercial buildings in Riverside, along with Highland Elementary School.
In 2006 he found out that my wife and I were looking for old apple trees and varieties in the mountains, and graciously loaded us up in the back of his Jeep for a tour. He was in his mid-80s by then and could barely walk, but still drove like a bootlegger down the windy, foggy mountain roads he’d been driving his whole life. He introduced us to a lot of people and took us all over to see apple trees from the 1890’s, but the most interesting tree we found was one right in his back yard. It was a volunteer seedling that came up next to the 1924 cider press some time in the 1970’s, visible in the photo above to the left of the press.
That’s his son Dave feeding the shredder powered by an old hit-miss motor turning a wide leather belt. This was the last community cider pressing and potluck Putty would have at his house. I’m glad we were able to do this and meet his two sons, Pete and Dave, along with a good sampling of the Skyforest community. I understand this used to be an annual event, but sort of petered out as Putty aged. It was nice to see it revive one more time, and everyone had a wonderful time, including Putty. The food was really good and we made a ton of cider.
Putty told us the tree was a seedling and gave good apples, so I took some cuttings and grafted them down here in Riverside. It ripened the middle of November up in the mountains, and even later down here. It remained crisp, juicy, and very sweet/tart and improved in storage, and is excellent when grown in our climate. I decided to make it a named variety in our nursery, and as is proper protocol dictated by the American Pomological Society, I asked Putty for permission to name it “Putty Henck”. He graciously agreed, and one of the first places I planted a grafted tree was Highland Elementary for their 50th anniversary, to which Putty video taped a greeting that I also gave to them.
Putty passed on early this year, and will be sorely missed. I’ll be planting one of the trees at the Rim of the World Historical Society’s new museum in Lake Arrowhead, so every one else will be able to taste a legacy of Putty Henck.