Snakes, Prostitutes and Politicians

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, August 27, 2006

t is said that prostitution is the world's oldest profession — but politics followed closely afterward. Of that, I've little doubt, since both professions require you to pay for just about the same service.
    Of course, prostitutes usually remain anonymous and don't have parks, courthouses, buildings and streets named after them. Would that politicians could raise themselves to the same level of public concern and service.
    Just outside of Santa Clarita city limits is a street named "Smyth Drive," and of course in beautiful downtown Newhall there is the Jan Heidt Metrolink Station. I've been told there is a street named "Ferry" and of course there is a "Cameron Court" in the city, too. I haven't heard of a street named "Weste," "Kellar" or "McLean," but I'll bet it won't be long before those names show up someplace other than City Council chambers.
    Was all of this just the slip of a developer's pen when the streets were laid out on a map? And if the Santa Clarita City Council really were following form, they wouldn't have agreed to rename San Fernando Road in downtown Newhall "Main Street." The renaming hasn't taken effect, so stand by for another name change before it is over. I do seriously doubt it will be called "Antonovich Road" or such, but "Weste," "Kellar" or "McLean" Avenue has a certain ring to it.
    Oh, no! I've put an idea out for all to see. I hope they don't use it.
    The West Ranch Town Council got it right when they worked to have McBean Parkway renamed "Stevenson Ranch Parkway." They didn't stoop so low as to name it "Ash Drive" or "Bossert Road." They obviously have too much class to take such an action. Plus, there couldn't be another street named "Ash" in Santa Clarita, should the west side ever be annexed into the city. The city of Santa Clarita already has an "Ash Court." "Zimmerman Way" has a nice sound, too, but no — that Town Council for once didn't follow the lead of their hero, Mr. Antonovich. Good for them. And all this time, I thought they couldn't think for themselves. Sorry. I was wrong about them in this case.
    Just in case the City Council gets the really screwy idea that it should name a street "Manzer," I hope they don't. You see, my amateur genealogical research into my family name found some interesting twists and turns.
    A distant cousin, Bruce Manzer, and his wife were doing some family history searches and came across the term "Manzerer" in a description of the Spanish General, Don Juan of Austria, who was the bastard son of King Philip II of Spain.
    So they left Holland, where they found the description, and traveled to Madrid for additional research in the National Library there. They found two dictionaries, one in Spanish and one in Latin, that defined the term, "Manzerer."
    The definition was:
    "Manzerer — Archaic Hebrew word meaning "son of a public woman" or "bastard."
    It was the time of the Spanish inquisition, and Jewish women had three ways to stay in Spain. They could convert to Catholicism, become a "public woman" or be executed and buried in Spain. The only other option was leaving Spain. Many did. They went to the Netherlands, which Spain conquered soon thereafter. Then it was off to England, and the rest is history, as they say.
    I'm sure the West Ranch Town Council will love that definition of my family name. By the time the name and family came to the British Colony of New York in 1638, the extra "er" had been dropped. Ain't genealogy fun? No royalty in my line. Not a transported convict of the Crown, either. Just a common laborer who came to America. Bet he didn't know the original meaning of his last name.
    Way back when in the SCV — and even today, for most folks — we really tried to look out for our neighbors. I know I've been pretty hard on certain town councils, but it was and is in the spirit of the common good for the whole valley.
    Speaking of the common good: My sister had a rattlesnake show up on her street in Happy Valley. It is the time of year when rattlesnakes start creeping down from the hills in search of water and food. Be careful, folks. Those critters aren't to be messed with at all. Pico Canyon and Mentryville were famous for the rattlesnakes encountered there.
    So today I've written about three kinds of snakes: Rattlesnakes, prostitutes and politicians. The first kind can kill you quickly if you don't watch out. The last two kinds can make you feel good until you run out of money and then they get you.
    Come to think of it, I trust rattlesnakes more. You always know what they're up to, without a doubt.

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].