Historic Pico Oil Town Needs Immediate Help

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, April 16, 2006

uess what? The rain let up as I boarded the plane back to Virginia this past week, thus precluding any mudslides for the moment. But mudslinging and muck-raking are still possibilities.
    I accomplished much on this trip, such as some much-needed home repairs for members of my family; attending the dedication of the new Santa Clarita Transit Maintenance Facility; giving a guided tour of Mentryville; watching it rain most of the days I was in town; and interviewing a hero of World War II.
    I didn't leave the SCV on a happy note. The tour of Mentryville saddened me. Y'all have spent a lot of money on the restoration of the buildings in the old town. Those repairs are going to be wasted because of a lack of additional funds to complete the repairs and restorations. The roads are slowly being fixed, but you still have to walk into the old town from the end of the L.A. County-maintained road.
    That isn't all I saw in Pico Canyon during the tour.
    Walking up the road toward the Big House, the first building that comes into view is the barn. Parts of the feed chute have fallen. That tin shed next to the barn at the gate? Tear it down. My dad and I built that in 1965. The only "historical" thing about it is that the tin and timbers came from the old machine shop that was located up the canyon by the wells.
    And while you're at it — replace the fence for the corral with wood fencing. The pipe-and-sucker-rod fence might be strong, but it isn't historically accurate.
    The next problem is the mobile home sitting in the garden area of the Big House.
    Now I live in the South. It might not seem like it, but even in this part of the country, we have standards about the amount of trash and garbage that can be stacked around a trailer.
    Really. The place looks like the streets of New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina went through and the floodwaters receded. Move the trailer to the parking lot across the creek and restore the garden, folks. Dump the trash.
    The chicken house is OK for now, but the garage needs immediate repairs. The tin is curled up and about ready to blow away in the next Santa Ana wind storm. Right now, the whole structure is just dangerous to be near.
    The Big House is really in a sad state. Broken windows, falling plaster, floor boards on the porch buckled — and they are new — along with junk left by the movie companies that have rented the house, sitting all over the place.
    Another thing: What is with the red paint on the windows? Having painted them at least twice, I don't remember removing any red paint when I prepared them for a fresh coat. I hear tell that just prior to the 1994 earthquake, "Frenchy" Lagasse was painting them again, and he was using red paint as a primer. Get the red out, people.
    Felton School is filled with bees again. Had that problem many times in the past. Maybe some bee keeper in the SCV would like to get them out?
    I walked only as far as the picnic grounds, aka Johnson Park. The replica oil derrick needs repairs, too, as do some of the tables. No big deal there.
    Now for the good parts. Trees. Lots of trees have been planted along the road in Mentryville. Some may even live. They're going to look great in a few years.
    The problem with continued repairs to the buildings is the usual thing — money. The funds they had originally wanted to use for repairs had to be used for some unplanned fixes. Something about a mudslide, fire, washed-out roads and such are stopping any new progress on the buildings.
    So now, maybe it is time to do the unthinkable. No, not federal funds. They're broke, too. How about some corporate sponsorship? The Home Depot, Lowe's, Wal-Mart, whatever. Maybe even Chevron-Texaco could spend a little on what they used to own, what with the record profits they've made the past couple of years. Is $2 million too much to ask?
    So how 'bout it, folks? Any ideas are welcome. Just write them on the back of a $20 bill and send them to me at The Signal. I'm sure each idea will be considered. Please, only one idea on each bill.
    But, seriously. I would like to hear what you'd like to see done at Mentryville. It needs your help.

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley and eventually relocated to Boulder City, Nev. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].