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Mentryville — Darryl Manzer, 12, lives with ghosts and loves it.
Darryl, his sister Alice, 17, and their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alton Manzer, are sole residents of a ghost town 35 miles from the Los Angeles Civic Center, 4 miles west of the Ridge Route, at the end of Pico Canyon.
They live in a well-preserved 16-room home that reeks with history, is lighted with gas lamps and was built in 1888.
No one else lives near the Manzers of Mentryville — not for miles.
Mentryville is the birthplace of the oil industry in California. The state's first producing commercial oil well was spudded in here early in 1876 by the California Star Oil Works.
The embryo oil camp boomed overnight as did the tumultuous fever-pitch excitement over the discovery.
California Star became Pacific Coast Oil Co. in 1879, and Standard Oil Co. of California in 1900.
At the turn of the century Mentryville had a population of more than 200.
Wooden oil derricks dotted canyon hills, crowned its crests. Homes lined the narrow canyon floor.
There were numerous other buildings — a bakery, dance hall, blacksmith shop, boarding houses, bunkhouses, mess hall and machine shop.
An elementary school built in 1888 [sic: 1885], and later named in honor of U.S. Sen. Charles N. Felton, still stands, boarded and unused for years.
Partial remains of homes, foundations of others, the fully equipped blacksmith shop are mute remainders of better days.
Rusted oil well equipment clutters the canyon. Rotting wooden derricks half stand or lie toppled. A cemetery with the dead of Mentryville is choked with weeds, hidden and forgotten.
Mentryville got its name from Alec Mentry. the oil camp's first superintendent.
CSO or Pico No. 4, the first [successful] well, was spudded in under the direction of Demetrius G. Scofield, founding president of Standard Oil of California.
Today, the canyon continues as a big producer for Standard. Modern pumpers are scattered among deteriorating derricks that now and then topple from age and exposure.
For Darryl Manzer, Mentryville is the biggest adventure of his young life. He and his family have lived in the ghost town for four years. His father is an oil company pumper and caretaker of the town. Darryl knows every inch of the area.
The boy is growing up with ghosts.
He's a walking encyclopedia on Mentryville. He spends hours poring over old records of the oil camp intact in its abandoned office and laboratory which also serves as Darryl's chemistry lab.
The ghost town is behind locked gates in the hidden valley. Indiscriminate exploring by youngsters and grownups could lead to accidents. Special permission, however, is granted at times to groups or individuals to visit the old oil camp.
Darryl serves as guide on such occasions.
He turns the valve on the original well and exclaims: "Still producing after all these years ... only about a barrel a week now, but look how rich the oil is."
This is the second in a series of articles describing life along the Southland's fames Ridge Route, vital pass on the state's busiest highway.
Tuesday — Wayside Honor Rancho, home for 2,306 wife beaters, murderers, drunks, burglars, hit-and-run drivers and narcotics addicts.