SCV Always Used to Lend a Hand
By DARRYL MANZER.
Published in The Signal, 10-30-2005.
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Fall is coming quickly here in Virginia. It already feels like winter in the SCV. Of course your fire season has been shortened by a few weeks with the early rain you've already had the good fortune of receiving. As for me, I'm torn between putting on a sweater while I sit here writing, or turning on the heat. Given the current natural gas prices, the sweater will be the choice until my fingers get too cold on my keyboard.
Living in Mentryville in the 1960s, we never had to concern ourselves with the price of natural gas. It came straight from the wells to the house. Between the stove and the fireplaces, the "Big House" stayed warm, even on the coldest days.
Given the soaring energy prices, I'm sure even in Southern California there are those who will have to decide between heating and eating this winter. Not a huge problem given the warmer climate you enjoy, but a problem for those who are sick, disabled, poor or otherwise unable to afford enough heat for wherever they live. Those same folks usually live in poorly insulated or non-insulated housing.
It is the time of year that, when on the phone with folks in the SCV, I hear things like, "Everyone out of the pool," or "It was down to 60 degrees last night." Hey I can see what the real temperatures in California are with a few keystrokes on the computer. I don't make those strokes because I like to think of those warm nights around the pool that seemed to last all year. That's the part of California I like to remember. Real? No. But a good "memory" always.
Californians, by earliest traditions, always welcome those who come to them. Right in the SCV, some early travelers to the West were rescued from Death Valley by folks from the SCV. In 1850, William Manly and John Rogers arrived at the Rancho San Francisco and got help for the Bennett-Arcan party.
Even earlier, the Tataviam Indians welcomed the Portolá party and gave them a place to rest and eat as they passed through the valley in 1769.
So now it is getting cold and the Castaic Area Town Council doesn't even want to help those who are homeless to find some small measure of warmth and maybe a small meal at a shelter that would be built in the parking lot of a prison. It sure isn't the community that was once located near Castaic.
I know various churches in this corner of Virginia have banded together to help the homeless all through the year. The few that slip through the religious community's grasp are left to be helped by the local governments. At least here, we don't insist that the homeless be housed near a prison.
So, Castaic, you elected them, your Town Council. I'm sure you felt really good about sending donations to the hurricane victims, and to victims of other disasters. Send a check, take a deduction, and be free of guilt. You can say you helped.
Big deal. Have you looked in your own back yard? Have you helped warm someone who needs a place to sleep or a meal to eat? Have you been a "real" Californian? I thought those of us in the East were supposed to be cold and callous when it came to the homeless. Guess I was wrong.
Sometime when you're cold and hungry and have no place to go, wouldn't you want someone to be there?
Last Sunday my son and daughter-in-law went to the San Francisco 49ers-Washington Redskins football game near Washington, D.C. After the game their car wouldn't start. A couple from the area let them use a cell phone and then took them to their home until I could drive to get them. They reached out to help folks they didn't know, and gave them shelter and food. They then stayed up with them until nearly 2 a.m. until I could get there.
It wasn't much, but it was everything to my kids that someone would reach out to total strangers in the dark of night and help.
Get what I'm saying, Castaic? Try it. You'll like it.
Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.