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Placerita Gold: Evelyn Adams
Tucked away in the middle of meandering Placerita Canyon are a little red house and carport, fronted by a white stock loader, and a large piece of land. This little humble abode filled with family and nurtured by deep roots has been home to Evelyn Adams since 1957. Once this wonderful lady starts talking, you will be captivated by her life experiences and memories, so join me for the adventure.
Originally from Wellsville, Kansas, at the age of 13, Evelyn moved with her family to the greater Los Angeles area in 1938. She attended Bret Harte Jr. High School and George Washington High School. Her husband James hailed from Texas and was actively involved with the 4-H. When it was time for his family to move to California, at the age of nine he was invited by a family to stay in Texas, something she is glad that he didn't do and came west. Evelyn's first job was at the dime store, and James worked at a feed store. They met and later married on New Years Eve in 1944.
In the early years, they lived in a house trailer and traveled throughout California following James' work in the oil industry. She fondly recalls they moved from place to place and that was a fun time in her life. They set up camp in Bakersfield, Ventura, Oxnard, Mendota, Coalinga, and Kettleman Hills. Evelyn said "when you're young and in love, anything is fun, and that was fun."
Eventually the trailer ended up on the lot next to her current home in 1950. When the little red house came up for sale in 1957, they made an offer and moved next door where they have remained ever since.
Life on the Farm
Originally built in the 1940's, the little red house served as a "summer home" for the previous owners. When the Adams moved in, they immediately removed the "choking" choke cherry trees and filled the property with livestock. The farm then was home to horses, 21 head of cattle, pigs, goats, chickens, ducks and pheasants.
The cattle grazed on Gene Autry's adjacent property for years. Evelyn recalls that when Autry bought the baseball team (the Angels), all the land came up for sale, eventually including Melody Ranch. The cattle were then moved to a hill pasture behind Eternal Valley where they remained until James decided to move them back. Ironically, he moved the cattle back on a Saturday, and sadly passed away on a Tuesday in 1974. She feels he had a premonition about what was to come. Still in existence today is the stock loader; however the barn is no longer there. In addition, after James' passing, Evelyn donated the pheasants to Hart Park for their program. Eventually all the livestock went their own ways.
Life in the Canyon
Evelyn says that life used to be "neat" when they first moved in. She called the canyon "vacant" and could always see deer and coyote walk up and down the road. As building increased, these sightings started to disappear. Interestingly, she also remembers a wild animal compound which raised lions, tigers, and other different creatures of the wild, housed in a red barn the other side of the wash (Placerita Creek). However because people were afraid of the animals, the compound eventually moved to San Diego. She says the barn is still there, located on Golden Oak Road.
She remembers that behind her house was the "Happy Jack" camp which brought children over from the city for the weekends to play in the country. A little teardrop trailer was up the hill for the caretaker. She never did meet this generous fella named Happy Jack but knew he existed. This camp extended over to where Pepperidge Road is now.
When she moved in, there was no Master's College, only an old building, but then of course it started to build out. Before Master's Gymnasium was built, she remembers Mr. Pettinger (as did previous Placerita Gold's Shirlemae Beverly) and his interest in wanting to build a senior housing facility. However the canyon residents resisted this proposal due to potential for too much traffic, not unusual behavior for our neck of the woods.
Directly across the road from her place is the Placerita Canyon Trailer Park. Previously known as the "Pink Pony", the park was owned by the Williams family. He was a cowboy. She mentioned that the grandson Larry now owns the park and that his mother, "the cute little thing that she was", married a magician and used to be part of an act where she came out of a light bulb.
She has fond memories of Saxonia Park over on Cleardale, and all the parties that were held there in the 1950's and 1960's. The park was a special place to go after the celebratory Newhall Parade. Ultimately the park was sold by the County during bleak financial times to what is now Haven House Church.
Lastly, she admired Dorothy Reilly very much, a local canyon pioneer dedicated to preserving Placerita Canyon and the Oak Trees. She also admired the Juarequi family who ranched on what is now the other side of the 14. She counted Andy and Camille as among her friends. The Traffic on Placerita
Until it was eventually closed as a public road, Placerita Canyon was very busy. Evelyn says it usually took more than five minutes of waiting before she could cross the road to get to her mailbox. The post office refused to place a mailbox on her side of the street due to the speeders, which still exist today but not in such great numbers.
Although she says life in Placerita is good, she feels that people don't realize that though it might not look as country as it used to, it still is country. She used to be able to stop and talk while driving by, but today people are in such a hurry to something, and always going to fast. In addition, she sees the kids crowded in golf carts, hanging out the sides, as well as the kids standing up on their motorcycles "jumping the bumps." She's just worried that they are going to get hurt out there.
The World of Green Thumb
Evelyn has always loved to work. When she told me she used to work for Tips, I did a double take and we laughed. But seriously, she did work at Tips Restaurant over in Castaic Junction, and then when it was closed, the staff was moved over to the Tips on Lyons for a couple of years. She then worked two jobs for a while, at Newhall School District in the cafeteria, as well as at K-Mart on Bouquet Canyon. A Placerita neighbor, Betty Heilase, who worked at Green Thumb, told her about a job opening. When Evelyn went to interview, she remembers being hired on the spot, and she has been there ever since.
This year she will be celebrating her 22 years with Green Thumb, primarily as a Cashier, but she as well as the other devoted employees do whatever is needed of them. Green Thumb is a "fun place" for Evelyn, with many very special customers. She truly enjoys her days spent there and thinks of Green Thumb as part of her family, sharing their lives together.
She and James had three children. Sadly her youngest son David passed away from a heart attack at the age of 28 in 1992 She remembers him hanging out with Shirlemae Beverly's sons as they went to school together.
She happily shares her home with her two other children, Kevin and Adria, Kevin's son (her grandson) Jimmy, Adria's daughter (her granddaughter) Wendy and Wendy's two young children Nicholas and Colin. In other words, Evelyn is a great grandmother and speaks with such pride of her two young great grandchildren which she actively cares for.
Evelyn says "the house isn't big enough but everyone lives here cozily." Note that this little three bedroom house has virtually remained the same over the years only now is filled with toys for the little boys.
Parked out front under the carport is a faded green 1968 Ford Galaxy that she fondly remembers driving off the showroom floor in downtown Newhall with three miles on it in 1968. At 500.000 miles, she changed motors on it due to blowing smoke, but the engine is again losing compression, so it's time to get it fixed. In the meantime, she is driving a new blue Ford Taurus.
Having almost two acres of land, Evelyn loves the space and doesn't want to live anywhere else. Her very deep family roots are embedded here. She's seen the changes, and feels the canyon has changed enough. However, she wants to be sure that the Fire Department always continues to have its ability to use the land at the front of the canyon for water pickup which is very important, and she hopes any development includes baseball diamonds.
So the next time you drive down Placerita Canyon Road, take a second look at the little red house, and journey back in time to a simpler life, when cattle freely grazed in the hills behind with farm animals wandering around. And if you're ever over at Green Thumb, do say hello to Evelyn. She'll be the lady with the permanent smile at the cash register, just waiting to say hello and wish you to have a wonderful day. But don't visit her on Wednesday and Thursday as those are her days off, and she loves to cook for her family. She's not much for television...
Evelyn is truly our Placerita Gold. Thank you for enriching our lives and reminiscing about life in Placerita Canyon. And this writer, for five years now, having wondered about the little red house and white stock loader, has come to learn that they represent over 50 years of cherished memories and a life filled with love and simple work.
Evelyn Adams died January 25, 2019.