Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Give Mom an Extra Hug Today
Published in The Signal, 5-14-2006.

Darryl Manzer, 2004     She was born in 1919 and grew up on a farm near Plainview, Neb. She never told me much about her early life, but by the time she was 12, the whole country was in the grips of the Great Depression.
    "We didn't have much money, but thanks to the farm, we always ate," she said about those years.
    Those little things she passed down to me are what I remember most. Her story of her brothers getting some roosters drunk and watching what they did in the chicken yard ... alcohol has the same effect on roosters as it does on human males.
    Those were hard times for her, and she moved west to California: first to Sacramento and then to Long Beach, because that is where my father was stationed in the Navy.
    Times continued to be difficult. There wasn't much money after my folks were married, and barely a year had passed when Pearl Harbor was attacked. She told us kids of the studio apartment they rented, and how the roof leaked and you could reach from the bed to the kitchen. Both of my sisters were born in Long Beach.
    My folks moved to Gorman in the late 1940s. Once again, money was short and work was hard. If you go north on Interstate 5, you go right over where our house used to be. Thanks to a snow storm in Gorman and my mother slipping on some ice just before I was born, they went to Buena Park where my grandparents lived, and a few days later I was born in Fullerton — a month early. No wonder I don't like snow to this day.
    Eventually we moved to Castaic about 1953. Things were looking up, financially. My folks had bought 1.25 acres with houses on Church Street.
    The payments were about $100 a month. Huge money! We did have room for a large garden, a chicken yard and a place where my mother could have some flowers to plant. It still wasn't an easy life for her, but she worked day and night to make sure we had good food to eat, clean clothes and plenty of hugs when we needed them.
    The "modern home appliances" she had when we lived in Castaic were the usual stove with oven, electric hand mixer, steam iron, electric refrigerator with small freezer compartment, electric toaster and wringer washer. There were no "Perma-press" clothes. Everything was ironed except jeans. Jeans were stretched over some expandable metal frames and hung out to dry with the rest of the clothes. Everyone had a "solar dryer" in Castaic.
    We also had an incinerator where, about every other day, all the dry trash was burned. Coffee grounds were dumped in the flower beds, and other wet garbage was plowed into the garden.
    My mother would can the vegetables we grew, and we would eat them most of the year. She also made most of our jams and jellies, baked bread when we couldn't afford store-bought, and she made the best pies ever created.
    She worked hard every day, and vacation was something she only thought about. Then we moved to Pico Canyon.
    To use those modern appliances, she had to start the generator. We had gas lights and farm animals such as cows, pigs and chickens. It was more work for her, what with making butter and milking cows and ... the list is endless.
    She was diagnosed with colon cancer, and as there was no chemotherapy, the operation was considered a success. It gave her almost another six years of life.
    My father could see her health deteriorating. He transferred jobs and we moved to Carpinteria. It was there that she had all kinds of new, modern conveniences that we all take for granted today: automatic washer and dryer, garbage disposal, central heating, three full bathrooms, built-in stove and oven — all on a small lot (considered large today) so she could concentrate on her flowers and other gardening skills.
    For the first time in her life, her work load was reduced to maybe 25 percent of what it had been in Pico Canyon or at any other time.
    It was not to last. My father was killed in a helicopter crash in November 1966. My mother and I returned to the Santa Clarita Valley — to Saugus. The new house was just as modern as the one in Carpinteria, but she was never happy with it or with life after that.
    I know she died of cancer, but it was really from a broken heart, just nine months after my dad.
    So today is Mother's Day. For those of you who can, make sure you do something great today for your mother. It matters little what you do, as long as she is the center of attention. Breakfast in bed, flowers, dinner out, sitting quietly in church, cards and waiting on her hand and foot — you know, do everything you should do every day of the year. I think she would want me to pass on that little bit of advice to all of you.
    One more thing — I can't hug my mom today. Could you give your mother an extra hug for me instead?

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

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