Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Second-Worst Traffic in the Whole Country
Published in The Signal, 7-3-2005.

Darryl Manzer, 2004     Guess the place where traffic congestion is rated at the No. 2 spot in the whole country?
    Santa Clarita? Nope. Atlantic City? Not close. San Fernando Valley? Not even on the list.
    With the recent stoppage of traffic on Interstate 5 due to the tanker fire up the Grapevine, you'd think the SCV would at least get a mention on the "congested" list. It didn't even rate that.
    There have been bigger back-ups when the road was still called Highway 99. Way back when ... I caused one of those backups.
    It seems a motorcycle and a Cadillac don't mix well. April 5, 1966, I attempted to cross Highway 99 from Pico Canyon Road to Lyons Avenue. Didn't make it. Got over the two southbound lanes. Found the Caddie in the northbound lane. The traffic was stopped all the way to the top of the pass to that other valley south of the SCV. For about an hour. Got my name in The Signal. (Also got to spend the rest of the school year in a wheelchair.)
    Sometimes traffic would be stopped on one of the "major" SCV roads because a horse or cow got outside a fence. The bison at Hart Park tried to escape, too. They can really stop traffic. Fast.
    If it wasn't congested enough 39 years ago, imagine the year 1905. Just 100 years ago. The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph. If you had a bathtub in the house, you were among the 14 percent who had such things.
    There were only 4,000 cars in the whole country, with 144 miles of paved roads. (And Church Street in Castaic still isn't paved).
    California was the 21st most populous state with 1.4 million folks.
    A phone call from Denver to New York cost $11 for three minutes.
    The average hourly pay was 22 cents. (Hey! What happened to the "cents" key on my keyboard?)
    The population of Las Vegas was 30.
    Those of you who've lived in the SCV often gripe about the growth in the valley. But you've got to remember when it took almost two hours to get to downtown Los Angeles by car. A trip to the airport or train station was a major undertaking. (And you had to "dress up.")
    Marijuana, heroin and morphine were available over the counter at the local drugstore (even in Newhall), and it was claimed that heroin "clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."
    So much for 1905. Must have been a good year. My grandparents made it through.

* * *
    There is something new going on in Virginia. You Californians would be shocked. A developer is going to build the roads, streets, schools and other infrastructure for a new development in Norfolk. For once, the city isn't paying for the improvements. What a concept. The costs will be added to the price of the homes.
    In the SCV, isn't a developer paying $25 million to get the cross-valley connector completed? Of course. It seems pretty normal for you folks, but for Virginians, it is a whole new idea.
    As the birthplace of many of our founding fathers, Virginia has some strange ways. It's been that way for almost 400 years. I guess the real brains were working on getting the country started and left the state to run amok.
* * *
    Have you guessed the area with the second-worst traffic congestion in the whole country? Still haven't figured it out?
    It is a very simple answer. Visit Virginia in 2007 for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. You'll see the No. 2 spot. It is called the "Hampton Roads/Tidewater/Norfolk area," Virginia.
    And when you're sitting in traffic, remember, gasoline is cheaper in Virginia because the tax is so much less.
    A Virginia legislator has a simple solution to traffic problems. "If we don't build the roads, we don't have to increase taxes." Heaven forbid that government provides for the people. I mean, really, it might look just like California someday.
    Can't wait!

    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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