Looking back: 25 years in Santa Clarita
By Leon Worden
Wednesday, August 30, 1995
Parched, cracked earth. Thistles and tumbleweeds. Lizards crawling up the white stucco walls of our new house.
That house! It was scary. Look at it from the street. It was a sinister pumpkin head. The garage door was a gaping mouth. The two windows above it were hollow eyes. It came alive at night, in the shadows.
Why did we have to move to this big house in the middle of the desert? A million miles from my friends in the San Fernando Valley. A million miles from nowhere.
I was seven. It will be 25 years ago this coming Friday.
My dad had just been transferred from Burbank to Palmdale, to manage a flight testing department on Lockheed's new L-1011 program. Valencia was as close to Palmdale as my parents wanted to live.
My dad had worked on the first transistorized autopilot, back on the old 1649 Constellation. He would finish his career as the project manager of flight control systems on the F-117 Stealth Fighter.
Growing up, I didn't know much about what my dad did. Most of it was very secret and couldn't be discussed around the dinner table.
I am proud of him.
My disorientation in our new surroundings didn't last long. Two days, maybe. Tim Crescenti lived next door. Dee Dee Myers lived down the paseo. We were in the same grade together and became friends. We fought and made up and fought again.
In the spring, we played in the tall grasses and climbed the big oak tree and caught polliwogs in the little stream behind the Valencia Hills clubhouse. In the summer, we dug fortresses into the dirt and flew kites and played hide-and-seek and rode our bikes.
We rode our bikes everywhere. Before there was a second phase of Valencia Hills, there was a "baby" hill and a "mommy" hill and a "daddy" hill. Eventually, the day came when I made it down the "grandpa" hill on my red Schwinn 3-speed without busting my head. I had conquered the Valencia Hills.
In the fall of 1970, I stood on the playground of the new Old Orchard elementary school and watched flames engulf all the hills surrounding the Santa Clarita Valley. I just knew my house would burn down. It didn't.
Then, on December 19, it snowed. Talk about a change in weather! I don't know why I remember the date. Surely, I had seen snow before, when we visited the relatives in Minnesota. But now it was snowing at my house!
Everyone remembers February 9, 1971. The clocks stopped at 5:59 a.m. I was eight. My mom ran up the stairs and yanked me out of bed. Seconds later, a heavy bookcase landed on my pillow.
My parents told me not to be afraid. We wouldn't have another one for 20 years. It took 23 years. This time, the house was destroyed.
School boundaries shifted in 1971, too. Tim and Dee Dee and I were transferred to Wiley Canyon. Our principal was Gerry Morey. She never did beat the crap out of me, even when I deserved it. I admire her to this day. But she should have beaten the crap out of me.
One day I fell off the bars on the playground at Wiley and blacked out. I can still see Dee Dee's face looking down at me when I came to. She thought I died.
I think the school board changed its policy about kids doing dishes in the cafeteria after I went to the hospital in the "garbage disposal incident."
We were in the sixth grade when Richard Nixon beat George McGovern. I was happy. No kidding. Dee Dee was upset, if I remember right.
I liked to tease Dee Dee and call her by her real name. It's Margaret. She hated it. We grew apart in high school, though Tim and Dee Dee remain fast friends. Tim married Colleen Waters, his high school sweetheart. They live in Circle J. I hope they aren't reading this.
Dee Dee went off to college and turned into a liberal.
Dee Dee always thought I would be the one to make it to the big time. I guess the joke's on her.
I'm glad she made it. Truly. I understand the "first female White House press secretary" has her own TV show now.
Tim is pursuing his own field of dreams in the film industry. I'll have to tell you his story sometime.
Childhood impressions. Snapshots from the back of the mind. Funny, what we remember, isn't it?
©1995 LEON WORDEN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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