Leon Worden

Doc's dream is starting to come true

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, April 22, 1998

his "wish list" thing is actually working. In fact, it has worked so well for the SCV Senior Center that they want to kick it up a notch.

They want your car.

No kidding. You've probably heard radio ads where various groups will give you a tax write-off for your car. Well, the good folks at the Senior Center use a fleet of vehicles for their Meals on Wheels program, and often when they send out a driver, they fear he'll have to walk back.

For many frail and elderly Santa Claritans, the meal that the Senior Center delivers to their home is the only decent, well-balanced meal they get in a day. No car, no meal.

Whether you're a car dealer or a new car buyer who can't get a good price for your trade-in, donating a car will get you a nice write-off — not to mention the knowledge that you helped save lives. Please call Brad at 259-9444 today.

* * *

Next week it will be a year since the death of my friend, Richard "Doc" Rioux.

Richard was one of the finest men I have known. I often catch myself wondering what Richard would think about this or that. He touched a lot of lives. Tributes are still coming in to his Web site at www.scvleon.com/rioux.

When he wasn't busy being a husband and father he was saving alcoholics and drug addicts from themselves. Through his Sunday column, Signal readers kept up with the Stevenson Ranch Town Council, which he founded. His quest to make this valley a better place to live was matched by his skill in getting others to work toward common goals. Some of his goals have become lasting legacies.

It was five years ago that Richard launched the idea of Old Town Newhall, USA. Richard pictured Newhall as a Western-oriented theme park and tourist mecca that would combine our rich valley history with ultra-modern, high-tech innovations to bring commerce back to Newhall and create Something Wonderful in which all Santa Claritans could take pride.

Richard used his tremendous leadership skills to rally people from varied backgrounds and interests around the idea. He galvanized community and official city support for his vision, which developed a life of its own through a comprehensive revitalization strategy and, soon after his death, the adoption of a formal redevelopment plan.

Today, roads are being realigned to accommodate the Old Town shopping district of restaurants, theaters and boutiques that Richard envisioned. A new Metrolink station will bring crowds into the area. Valencia National Bank is offering low-interest loans for store owners to fix up their properties. The nearby Cowboy Poetry Festival is bolstering our Western identity. And Old Town Newhall has its own publication to keep you apprised of the myriad goings-on.

Soon you'll read of huge community events to raise money to turn the Hart and Newhall school auditoriums into venues for live productions, as in days of yore. Part and parcel will be the Canyon Theatre.

Downtown Newhall was the birthplace of the Canyon Theatre Guild some 27 years ago. It's time for the Guild to come home. City staffers and the Newhall Redevelopment Committee have been meeting with Guild personnel to iron out a proposal that could be a real shot in the arm for Old Town Newhall. Live theatre is vital to many Old Towns. Live theatre creates atmosphere and brings in shoppers.

The Guild wants to transform an earthquake-damaged building on San Fernando Road into a 299-seat theatre. With money in the bank and a loan in the works, the Guild needs Redevelopment Agency support to seal the move.

I am confident that the details can be worked out, and that Newhall and the Guild have a bright future together. Like Richard's dream of Old Town Newhall, some things are meant to be.

* * *

In the meantime you'll have to trek up Sierra Highway, 8 miles north of civilization, to catch the Guild's current production of The Wizard of Oz. It's well worth the drive.

Others have heralded the acting, but what intrigued me was the wonderful tapestry of components that make everything click. The costuming is spectacular. Musical director Lenn Roberts makes brilliant use of instrumental interludes to set just the right mood. Somehow, the creative lighting design of Brad Peach produces a sepia-toned, black-and-white effect for the beginning and end sequences.

The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2. It has been playing to sell-out crowds, so it's being held over to May 9. Reservations are a must. Call 298-0058.

    Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident.

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