On the Drive From Newhall to Honolulu

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, July 2, 2006

bout 400 years ago, some folks in England were gathering men, ships and supplies together to sail to the New World and start a colony in what came to be known as Virginia.
    You might have been taught that these colonists were mostly gold-seeking gentlemen and cared little for the hard work required to build a colony. Recent archeological evidence has shown this to be not quite true. All of the residents had to work hard and long in order to survive.
    Not many did survive, but enough did so that by 1619, they started the first representative assembly in North America. Yep — American politics was born, and we're better for it today. Well, at least a little bit.
    Incidentally, 1619 was also the first year a Thanksgiving feast was celebrated. No, it wasn't up north in Plymouth, Mass., for they were just getting on the Mayflower when Virginians were having a Thanksgiving Day celebration.
    It was also the year that the first Africans were brought to the mainland of North America as indentured workers. They served an average of seven years "indenture" to gain their freedom. Many European colonists were indentured, too. In fact, it wasn't until the 1680s that the institution and cruelty of slavery was made legal in Virginia. It existed before that time, but until then, it was a private matter and not controlled by the government.
    This idea of self-government by and of the local folks was born out of necessity. Many legal matters concerning land, trade and civil protection could not await an answer from England. Those answers often took four to six months to come back to the colony after the question was asked.
    It was somewhat like asking the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors a question about the SCV today. You have to wait.
    And they didn't like the answers they were getting, because those in England didn't have a clue about conditions in the colony. (Again, just like Los Angeles County today.)
    It was out of necessity that the city of Santa Clarita was born, and that same necessity will either cause other parts of the SCV to join with Santa Clarita or start separate cities.
    I should think it best to the join the existing city, since it would be much easier and faster for all concerned.
    One of the reasons Los Angeles County didn't do much for the SCV "way back when" was that the SCV was so hard to travel to at times — even in the best of times. Ever-improving roads have helped, but now, even those eight- to 10-lane monsters are too small.
    It was also, and often still is, difficult to travel around the SCV. Indian trails became cow paths that became streets that are becoming ever more congested. And would y'all please stop changing the name of a street just because it leaves the city limits of Santa Clarita?
    'Long about 50 years ago, President Eisenhower had a great idea: to build major highways all over the place. The interstate system was born, and it just had its 50th birthday last Wednesday.
    (A side note: The "Interstate highways" on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii are numbered H-1, 2 and 3, and yes, they even have signs that say they are part of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. So on your next drive from Newhall to Honolulu, watch for those signs.)
    As Interstate 5 replaced US Highway 99 through the valley, many old landmarks were bypassed or bulldozed. We lost such great things as Tip's restaurant and a good swimming hole near the Santa Clara River that served as an irrigation pond for Newhall Land. In fact, I-5 runs right over the top of where I lived in Gorman. Now, that deserves a California State Landmark sign, if anything does.
    What the new highways really brought were people — lots of people who wanted out of the inner city and a chance at a better place to live and raise a family. Many found that opportunity in the SCV.
    While they didn't want "big city" government, they found they weren't happy with "big county" government, either. They want local control of local issues. Would that all sides in the issue learn the art of compromise.
    As for me, since I still can't afford to move back to the SCV, I will remain here in Virginia at least until my book is a best seller. And when sales hit 1 million, I know exactly what interstate highways I've got to take to get back home. (It beats following the marbles I lost getting here.)
    You can use those same highways to get here next year and help us celebrate the 400th birthday of Jamestown and Virginia. Y'all are welcome to come sit a spell. We'd love to see all y'all.
    I came across a little verse about Virginia that I've adapted for the SCV:

    To be a Californian, from the Santa Clarita Valley,
    Either by birth, marriage or even one's mother's side
    Is an introduction to any state in the Union,
    A passport to any foreign country,
    And a benediction from the Almighty God.

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].