Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Time, Distance and SCV Make-out Spots
Published in The Signal, 4-3-2005.

Darryl Manzer, 2004     I remember being taught in elementary school — Castaic Union and Peachland Avenue — that the California missions were situated a distance of a one day's ride from one another.
    I don't know the truth of this, but I think it was the beginning of how Californians measure distance by time — and not miles.
    Talking to a former co-worker here in Virginia, I was trying to explain the distance between the SCV and various parts of California. I would say it took about four hours to drive to San Diego, or two hours to get to Disneyland. He asked me how many miles it is from the SCV to those places. I had to admit, I didn't know. I still don't.
    Even the modern traffic reports on L.A. radio and TV give the time between the latest problem and some distant point.
    "It will take you 25 minutes to get from the 118 freeway to Santa Clarita at the present rate of speed." (I took The Old Road via Balboa and made it much faster.)
    I remember it was almost a 30-minute drive from Newhall to get to where we would cruise Sepulveda Boulevard to Ventura, then circle through the Bob's Big Boy parking lot. It also took about $3 in gas for a full night of cruising. That was equal to my pay for one hour at Newhall Auto Parts.
    I was well paid in 1968. I think my '66 El Camino got about 18 miles per gallon. Wow! To cruise like that now, I might have to take out a second mortgage on my home.
    We also cruised San Fernando Road in Newhall from Lyons Avenue to the A&W that was just south of the railroad tracks. We might even stop for a root beer in a frosted glass. Anyone remember the price of the root beer? It escapes my remaining brain cells at the moment.
    Cruising was done on State Street in Santa Barbara when I lived in Carpinteria. I don't know why we did so much cruising then. Wrong. I do know. It was to meet girls. I'm not sure how we hoped to meet them, though, as we were in separate cars.

* * *
    If we ever got a girl in the same car, we were sure that if we could talk her into a drive to a secluded parking spot — as long as we had the Johnny Mathis tape in the 8-track player and a clear, moonlit sky — it was as near to a "sure thing" as our young lives were going to experience.
    There were quite a few secluded parking spots in those days, too: Pico Canyon Road, just before the end of the county maintained road; the top of Agramonte Drive before it was all houses. Various oil field roads that didn't have gates were also good spots. Any place within a 10-minute drive of downtown Newhall was considered secluded. I almost forgot the fields and dirt roads behind Hart High School that stretched from Lyons Avenue to what is now McBean Parkway. It was a great place to see the stars.
    With all the malls, and considering the current gas prices, cruising isn't as popular today. The police don't like it, either. Don't blame them for that. Combine alcohol and other drugs, cars and teenagers, and you have a lethal combination.
    Yes, we had those things "back in the day," but it wasn't as open — and definitely not as widely accepted in the teenage culture. Sneaking a cigarette and maybe a can of beer was considered pretty "far out." What if friends of your parents saw you with a cigarette? You could be grounded forever. (Forever was about one week.)
    But wherever we went and whatever we did, the distance was measured in the amount of time it took to get there. We never measured it in miles.
    With the traffic jams we have today, is it a longer distance to Acton than it used to be? And how many miles is it? I still don't know.
    But I do know that as long as I can play "Chances Are" by Johnny Mathis on the CD player in the car, my lady will still look at me with those loving eyes when we drive to that most expensive venue in town — the local gas station.

    Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.

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