Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

'We' and 'They' and Lyons Avenue Economics
Published in The Signal, 11-6-2005.

Darryl Manzer, 2005     
    "All good people agree,
    And all good people say,
    All nice people like Us are We,
    And everyone else is They.
    ... If you cross over the sea,
    Instead of over the way,
    You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
    As only a sort of They."

— Rudyard Kipling

    You can't write a weekly column and not read a lot. It may not seem like it, as you read these columns of mine, but I do a lot of research. At times, as I read old newspaper clippings and articles from the news today, I'm "near struck dumb" by how the same issues and problems keep getting reported over and over, ad nauseam.
    Besides the usual wars, pestilences and famines, there are all too often reports of how "they" want to move "their" homes, stores, schools and whatever near "us" — and "we" don't think "they" should be here. "They" is always a race other than "us," and "they" just might cause a problem here.
    In 1964, at the time of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, I had to ask my teachers just what segregation was and why it was going on in the South. I was told it was happening right in the SCV in a place called Val Verde. "They" were kept in "their" place.
    Imagine my lack of surprise upon reading about how Vallarta Supermarkets want to locate a Latino market in the Old Orchard Shopping Center where Albertsons once was, and how some local residents want the city to stop "them."
    Just another story of the same ol' "them" and "us" repeated once again.
    I'll bet those folks who did the complaining don't consider themselves racists. That is just exactly what those complainers showed themselves to be during a recent Santa Clarita City Council meeting. Nothing more. Nothing less. "Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."
    Just what did the "complainers" expect the city of Santa Clarita to do about the "problem"? Violate the U.S. Constitution? Maybe they wanted police dogs and fire hoses to keep "them" from entering the shopping center. I've seen that news story before, too, as it was in all the papers of the late 1950s and early '60s.
    Strong words, you say? You bet. What else can I call it?
    But to call it or make it merely a "race issue" is to miss the whole point of the problem.
    The real problem is economic. Lyons Avenue is in need of a major redevelopment effort. Last time in town, I saw all the empty storefronts. (Of course I remember the day, way back when, you could count all the stores on Lyons without taking off your shoes.)
    What can be done, you ask? The simple answer and a perfect, short-term solution is to let Vallarta Supermarkets open the store. If the demographics are right, a once-empty building will provide jobs and money to the local economy, along with tax revenue to the city and state. If the demographics are wrong, it won't be long and it will go out of business.
    Then there is the long-term solution. When the Old Orchard Shopping Center was opened, business — and thus, money — started moving off of San Fernando Road toward Lyons Avenue. Since then, with the growth of the SCV, new shopping centers have drained Lyons Avenue dry. But there is still a need for a viable shopping district in the Lyons Avenue area. Folks don't want to travel far for groceries and such.
    So it is time to get out of the "we" and "they" mode. Race is only an issue if you want it to be. The real issue is getting stores and shoppers back to Lyons Avenue. The real issue is "us" — all of us. We're all in the same boat.
    It sure would help if we could row in the same direction — at least, most of the time. Rowing in circles makes me sick.

    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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