Agreeing to Disagree, With a Smile

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, August 6, 2006

ust two weeks ago I took a tour of Stratford Hall Plantation on the "Northern Neck" of Virginia. As the tour group formed, our guide asked everyone to say where they came from.
    Since Stratford Hall is the birthplace of Robert E. Lee and two signers of the Declaration of Independence, most folks answered Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina or Alabama. When some folks said they were from Pennsylvania, our guide good-naturedly inquired if that was south or north of the Mason-Dixon Line. They replied, "North."
    A Southerner in the group asked the guide if we should vote to allow them on the tour. Our guide replied, "We shall be gracious to our guests as befits our traditions here in Virginia."
    "We shall be gracious..." There's a lesson there.
    Gracious: Cordial, kind, pleasant, are just some of the ways to define the word. I like to think it is a way of agreeing to disagree and then doing so with a smile and the good manners we've all been taught. When disagreements are approached in a spirit and manner of graciousness, compromise and progress are possible.
    The act of being gracious is an old SCV tradition. When Gaspar de Portolá first visited the valley in 1769, the locals — the Tataviam Indians — welcomed him and his party with food, gifts and water. (A forgotten act by 1804 when the Tataviam were taken to Mission San Fernando and stripped of their lands and culture.)
    Later years saw additional acts of graciousness in the rescue of an immigrant party stuck in Death Valley. The folks from the local rancho rode to their relief.
    When I lived in Pico Canyon in Mentryville, way back when, we gave innumerable tours of the old town to folks who drove up and parked at the gate. Announced or not, we were gracious to every visitor.
    We complained about The Signal and what was printed in it. We seldom called it a "fish wrapper" or "evil" or "mean spirited." We wrote many letters to the editor, and most were printed.
    What the heck — they had to do something to fill the pages of the paper every week. There wasn't that much news to report.
    Everyone knew that Los Angeles County usually gave the SCV as little as it could get away with, and we were gracious in accepting what the county offered. We just knew, also, that what was given wasn't enough for what we paid in taxes. But we remained gracious in our relationship with Los Angeles County. We didn't like it, but we had little other choice.
    When we voted to create Canyon County, we accepted defeat with a certain degree of graciousness. We didn't like the outcome, but we saw that as a valley, we had gained our political voice. We also saw that the only way to go was as a city. That way, the folks in the lesser valley to the south couldn't vote against us.
    The original vision was for all parts of the SCV to be a city — the city of Santa Clarita. Once the county and its Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) finished with what we proposed, our city had shrunk in size. Castaic and the "west side" were taken away. (More than 66 percent of the folks in Castaic had voted to be part of the city.)
    At that time, I stopped voting in the SCV. Being in the military then, I had kept my "home of record" and voter registration in Newhall. When I married and owned a home in Vallejo, I moved my voter registration north.
    So I became an outsider looking into the SCV. I'll be gracious and just say that I'm never without a source of humor. We used to know the "big picture" and goals of the area; I'm sure today that many still see it, while others are looking at a fuzzy picture of reality and a very few and vocal folks are blind to any progress that could be made.
    I share many of my observations of the SCV with friends and folks here in Virginia. They, too, are amazed at how ungracious and stubborn some folks can be. When I describe to them how five elected representatives govern nearly 11 million people and an area 800 square miles larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, they are aghast. They just can't understand why anyone would want to remain under Los Angeles County control.
    Neither can I, dear friends. But I shall remain gracious and try to understand those folks. It's not an easy task, but being gracious is something I'm learning here in Virginia. No — re-learning, because I first was taught about it back home in the SCV.

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 His older commentaries are archived at; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].