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Tots and a Shake
Now & Then in the SCV


Gorman. Saugus. Castaic. Newhall-Pico Canyon-Mentryville. Saugus (again). Newhall (again) and Valencia. Plus a little time in Acton. These are all the places I've lived in the SCV.

At one point in my life, I lived at the corner of Los Rogues and San Francisquito Canyon Road. That is an intersection that no longer exists due to street name changes. The house is still there. Most of you know the new street name as Seco Canyon.

I also lived on Drayton in Saugus. My house was a short block from the train station. House is gone. Station moved to Newhall.

In Castaic the house is on Church Street. Still a dirt road. In those days, the house number was 220 and the phone was 8753M3. You had to tell the operator what number you wanted. No buttons. No dial.

To get to Palmdale or Lancaster, we usually drove east on Soledad Canyon Road to Route 6 and turned left. During that whole drive to Solemint Junction, you would be in Saugus.

Going to Bakersfield? Go north on Highway 99. We would stop for an early breakfast at Tip's at Castaic Junction and get gasoline at the Standard Oil station for $0.19 a gallon or less ... if there was a gas war. Checking the air in the tires and plenty of water in the radiator, we'd head up the hill. We might need gas in Gorman and maybe a snack at the Caravan.

A good portion of the original Lake Hughes Road is under Castaic Lake. I like the new portion because the views are fantastic. Used to be a half-day horse ride to where the road is now. Somehow I miss that.

Going to that lesser valley to our south was, for many, a task we tried to avoid unless we really had to go there. Weekdays were good, as were Saturdays. Little if any traffic. Taking the Newhall Pass or over Weldon Canyon on Highway 99, our trusty 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air sped us south at 55 mph. That was the speed limit in all of California. It was also about as fast you would want to drive on tires that would last 15,000 miles in cars that seldom made it past 70,000 total.

Once in that lesser valley, we would pass by orange groves, dairy farms and housing tracts. My grandmother lived in Sylmar on Aztec Street, so that meant if we were going to take her to the airport or the cruise terminal (she like to take the Matson ocean liner to Hawaii), we would pick her up and take San Fernando Road to Lankershim and work our way over to Sepulveda and off to the planes or the ship.

Imagine. Few freeways. The San Diego was starting, as was the Golden State. There was the San Bernardino and maybe the Harbor. Oh, we could have made the trip on Pacific Electric street cars. I really think the movie, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," was a documentary.

Most airlines still had propeller-driven aircraft. The DC-6 and huge Constellation. One got dressed up to fly or get on an ocean liner. We had to put on our best clothes just to drop off grandma at the terminal.

So, do I miss the "good old days?" Not really. I don't miss milking cows in Pico or the gas lighting at night. I prefer the freeways over the stoplights of Sepulveda any day. I like car tires that can last 70,000 miles and cars that get over 20 mpg. I sure don't miss the smog that went along with leaded gasoline. And I don't miss all of the billboards.

I'm sitting in my ex-wife's home in Kentucky where she is under the care of hospice folks who have been wonderful. As the cancer is taking over her brain, her life is now all about pain control and mumbled words. I was thinking of the changes she has seen in her life. She was a "Valley girl" from Granada Hills and later Woodland Hills. She knows about driving down Balboa to Ventura and going to Woodland Hills that way.

She saw all of these changes, too. She saw the SFV and the SCV make vast changes, growing into some pretty special places to live. She would agree that today, things are different and better. When she was still able to have a complete conversation, we would talk about how dark it gets here in Kentucky at night. Farm country with few street lights. We finally realized and laughed that it was just like our valleys in California. Places where you could actually see the stars at night.

So I sit here thinking of the changes. I've got to admit, I like what has happened. It would get pretty boring without them.

Now if only we could get a Sonic drive-in. Even in this small town in Kentucky there is a Sonic ... and a Cracker Barrel. That is some growth the SCV could have used a long time ago.

I think I'll drive over and get some tots and a chocolate shake.

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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