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March 7, 2009

Ancient Valerie Jean's Dates Found!

Valerie Jean's was a famous date store located at the intersection of Avenue 66 and old highway 86 in Thermal. Opened before WWII, it was an immensely popular attraction. Valerie Jean's invented the methods of packaging and shipping dates directly to consumers that are still used today. In fact, they evented every date-thing you've ever eaten. They are now out of business. Today I received this surprising message from AJ Wilson:

Hi Ron,

Huricane Ike blew through Houston last September and left over 2,000,000 homes without Power for 14 days. When we were cleaning out our freezer we came upon a 3 lb. box of Valerie Jean Medjhool dates. My best guess is that we put them in there about 1985 and forgot about them. The box was encased in ice where the freezer had refrozen. When I finally got it dried out the box had a very warm cheerful picture showing the shop at night all lit up with stars and a new moon above. The name had never registered in my mind before so I went online and came across your Valerie Jean site. After perusing the box more carefully I realized it was a painting signed by Orpha Klinker, who I had never heard of either. I found that she had been quite famous in California and one of her projects was painting famous California places and buildings. I found a gallery of many of her paintings but not the Valerie Jean one. I have scanned the box painting and am attaching it hereto. But my scan doesn't do the painting justice, on the box it's beautiful. Incidently, I was determined not to waste the dates. They were laced with sugar cristals, but tasted just fine in our oatmeal. I have just about used them all. I began to wonder about the seeds and if they might sprout. National Geographic recently had a short article about date seeds found in an Egyptian tomb and they got one to sprout but didn't know if it was male or female. Anyway I saw on Brown's date webb site that they mow seed sprouts down like weeds and only propagate with sprouts from their existing tree roots.

I couldn't quickly figure out how to post this on your VJ site so here it is.

Cheers. AJ

Valerie Jean Date Shop

Filed under Coachella Valley,Food and Drink | permalink | March 7, 2009 at 09:01 PM



Russell Nicoll was my great-grandfather and Valerie was my grandmother. I've always been fascinated by the story of the Valerie Jean Date Shop and remember visiting once when I was very young. I love reading stories from everyone sharing their connection to the shop!

I've been spending a lot of time recently, researching the Nicoll line of my family tree. I know that this conversation thread is quite old, but I would be happy to hear from anyone who has anything to share. I would really enjoy talking with Robert Jacobson, who posted back in 2015. Possibly due to the fact that my great-grandfather was orphaned, not much of the family history was passed on to my grandmother and her descendants. I have found a rather considerable amount through online research, but any family records or stories would be very much appreciated!

- Emily Gilchrist
(granddaughter of Valerie Jean Nicoll)

Posted by: Emily Gilchrist at Jul 9, 2020 1:42:05 PM

My grandmother, Della Nicoll
raised Russell after he and his sister orphaned.

Della sent Russell to agricultural school to learn a trade.
Russell went to work on a farm Valarie Jean date farm.

The owner couldn't pay him wages so he gave him land in exchange. Russell and his 1st. wife Mary lived in a chicken coop. They wrapped in damped sheets to stay cool.
Russell worked hard and bought land to farm. He imported the 1st date palm to pollinate his trees. While his trees matured he
was the 1st, to row crop between his trees such as veggies. He opened his stand
to sell his dates and veggies.(huge grapefruit)
The military bought his dates for shakes,etc.This is when he started making money.
His 1st wife Mary moved to San Francisco for cooler weather.
Valarie Jean their daughter married a naval officer she
meant locally. She moved on
with her husband.
Mary divorced Russell in later years.
Russell worked hard and always remembered Della for
her kindness and mothering.
Russell often came to see my
mother Mary Nicoll with fresh fruits and dates.

He was one of the first to build an adobe house.

Russell was a kind man and a hard worker.
Robert Jacobson

Posted by: Robert Jacobson at Mar 31, 2015 11:47:36 AM

Hi! I wanted to share a story about this date shop. My mom is actually named after this place. First name being Valerie and middle being jean. My grandfather as a child would ride from Arizona (I believe) to so.cal. Every summer. He told me he always stopped here as part of the bus route, and this was something he looked forward to every year. He said if he ever had a daughter he would name her Valerie Jean...we'll he had 4 daughters and my mom is Valerie Jean, true to his word! I just wanted to share that, thanx!

Posted by: My mom... at Dec 4, 2014 2:57:37 AM

I purchased a water color that is signed Valerie Jean which has several "slivi" written in the painting..it's framed, circular which looks like the moon...it is colored with black, grey and blue..can I find the name of painting? thank you

Posted by: vivian gwyn at Jul 27, 2014 9:34:14 AM

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