The Big Oaks Lodge in Bouquet Canyon was a popular forest getaway, country store and dance hall as far back as the early 1930s, maybe even earlier.
County Assessor records show a construction date of 1934, but Assessor records are sketchy for the forest, where cabin and business owners generally lease their land from the federal government. The proprietors of the Big Oaks Store, as it was called, were already advertising music and dancing in The Newhall Signal and Saugus Enterprise in the summer of 1932. Unconfirmed reports give an opening date of 1926.
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The modern address is 33101 Bouquet Canyon Road. In the 1930s the location was Lot No. 127, Bouquet Canyon tract, Angeles National Forest. But it was popularly known as (Fire) Camp 2 in, variably, "Bouquet" or "Boquet" of "Bokay" Canyon. (The correct pronunciation is BOO-kay; the area was settled in the 1840s by a ship's captain who named his ranch after a Spanish word for "ship" — buque. Ship Ranch. It's not about flowers.)
The aforementioned cabin owners organized as the "Bouquet Canyon Cabin Owners Association" in 1938 and met at the Big Oaks. Fifty members attended the first meeting.
The earliest known owners of the Big Oaks Store were Fred and Mary Landsiedel (often spelled Landsidel), who extensively remodeled the place in 1939. The Signal reported January 27, 1939, that the owners were replacing a 7-foot retaining wall with a "new and artistic wall, extending for one hundred feet in front of the store and dance hall." They were also "building a most attractive hostess room, thirty feet by forty, which will accommodate the summer visitors and patrons of the camp."
Later that spring, on April 22, the Landsiedels held a grand (re)opening of their newly renamed Big Oaks Lodge, with a "deluxe dinner" from 7 p.m to 11 p.m. with opportunities to "dine, dance, romance, under the big oaks." Plus, "Joe Levine will be there to meet you and greet you and feed you." (If you know who that is, please clue us in.)
The following week's Signal termed the remodeled lodge "one of the most modern and interesting rustic taverns anywhere to be found" and said the grand-opening crowd "danced to very peppy music and acclaimed the evening a perfect one."
The following summer, August 1940, Fred Landsiedel reported that more than 5,000 trout from the state fish hatcheries, each measuring 5 to 8 inches long, had been released into Bouquet Creek near his lodge and were sure to "spread clear up and down the brook in a few days."
In 1946, when the Landsiedels sold their establishment, it consisted of a cabin court, restaurant, service station and grocery business. The new owners were Bessie and John S. Dallenbach, who filed for a permit to conduct public dancing at their "cafe." Escrow closed and the license took effect the same day, April 10.
It was not to last.
John Dallenbach and his assistant, Donald G. Nelson, were arrested November 3, 1946, for selling alcohol to minors.
"Capt. Ambrose Stewart and investigator Roy Chandler of Newhall Sheriff Station headed a raiding party made up of five officers from the Sheriff's crime prevention bureau and three more from the vice squad," The Signal reported November 7.
"The officers found about 75 people of both sexes regaling themselves with malt fluid, and a check-up disclosed that 21 of them were under age, some of the latter being only 15 and 16 years old."
The 21 minors, "all of whom came from Los Angeles or points south thereof, were also detained."
"Captain Stewart stated that the place had been under surveillance for some time, and that the owner had twice been warned against dispensing beer to minors."
The liquor license and dance permit were expected to be revoked.
Come February, ads in The Signal declared the lodge to be under new management. Open seven days a week, it promised "good steaks, sandwiches, turkey" — and dancing on Saturday nights. Private parties welcome.