Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Time, Distance and SCV Make-out Spots
Published in The Signal, 4-10-2005.

Darryl Manzer, 2004     As I researched the history and genealogy of my family, I found that the first Manzer came to New York in 1638 from England or Holland, via Barbados. During the American Revolution, at least four members of the family joined a Loyalist regiment from the colony of New York, and following England's defeat, migrated to Canada.
    No records exist of when they returned to the United States, but I do know that by 1804, they lived in a town called Middlefield near Cooperstown, N.Y. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of Loyalists returned that way. They became undocumented — and thus illegal — aliens. Since they were white and were practicing a much needed trade, they were accepted back without any problem.
    In the 1860s, my forefathers and mothers moved West as part of the great migration to settle lands taken from the American Indians. It could be argued that they were still "illegal aliens" because they were in a land where the natives didn't want them.

* * *
    Now living in Virginia, part of the "Old Confederacy," I am well aware of racism. One can't live here and not be confronted with the results of it every day.
    Sunday mornings remain the most segregated day of the week as folks attend "white" churches and "black" churches. I would tell my neighbors that I didn't understand segregation any time, and being from Southern California we just didn't have racism there.
    I was and am wrong. We've had, and still have, lots of racism in the Santa Clarita Valley and Southern California. Sure we call "them" illegal aliens because "they" are undocumented. And legally, "they" are illegal. But how legal were your ancestors? I surely can't throw rocks in the glass house I'm standing in right now.
    "They" are the Mexicans and other Latin Americans who have come north for work and a chance at the American dream. That's what my family wanted — a chance at the American dream.
    Did you know it was illegal to import slaves into the United States years before the Civil War? (Correction, I'm in Virginia where it is referred to as the "War of Northern Invasion.") That didn't stop the slave trade, but it created a more complicated type of illegal alien.
    Many white American families and most black American families can trace their roots and find that their ancestors were sent here as convicts or slaves. In fact, Australia was settled by transported English convicts when the former American colonies of England became the United States.
    Of course, many came here on their own. They wanted a better life. Today we use the term "refugee." They were escaping broken lands, governments and churches. They were escaping hunger and abject poverty. "They" wanted the dream.
    "They" often found that those who came before them considered them inferior, unworthy, unsuitable, unwanted. "They" were good enough for unskilled labor jobs, no matter how educated they were. But "they" stuck it out and reached for the dream, no matter the hardships and adversity.
    If it weren't for that desire to achieve that dream, Val Verde wouldn't exist. The Val Verde community was a place to escape from the racism of Los Angeles.
    Yes, it was segregated, but was it a haven or a ghetto. It depends on your point of view. The same could be said of many ethnic communities across the country — today, even Old Town Newhall.
    On my recent visit, I heard downtown Newhall called "Mexican Town." Does the SCV also have a Chinatown, Little Tokyo or Little Saigon? I'll bet it does, except that the "theys" are spread out among "us" and "we" can't see "them."
    I could open a whole can of worms concerning folks from the Middle East. I won't, because it just adds fuel to a fire already too hot.
* * *
    In 1963 at Placerita Junior High, I had to ask a teacher what segregation was. The federal government had declared it illegal in schools and public facilities, including any business.
    I really didn't know what it was. Segregation wasn't a law in California in 1963. Racism hasn't been a "law" since then, either. It was in other states, including the one where I now live.
    Racism and segregation still exist today. We can end them any time we want. We only have to take to heart those words inscribed on the tablets on the Statue of Liberty. The United States of America is not an exclusive place. It took all races to make it what it was, is and will be. Our Constitution doesn't say, "We, the white people of pure British and northern European ancestry." It says simply, "We the People." That means all of us forming a "more perfect union."
    America is inclusive. Period.
    Let's face it. Most of us came from the tired, poor and hungry wretched refuse. Where would we be — or would we be at all? — if our ancestors had been sent back to where and what they left?
    Think about that the next time you drive through Old Town Newhall and think "they" should all be sent back south.
    Please. Only you can prevent racism.

    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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