Leon Worden

King Richard of Stevenson, etc.

Leon Worden · December 18, 1996

There is a subtle irony in the timing of the county supervisors' decision to rename Stevenson Ranch Parkway. Coming within a few days of Santa Clarita's birthday, one harkens back to 1987, when The Signal printed letter after letter from readers who feared, justifiably, that cityhood could spell homogeneity, a loss of individual community identity, and with it, San Fernando-ization.

Cityhood supporters were quick to point out that it was the unique traits of our separate communities that made this valley -- would make our future city -- greater than the sum of its parts. City formation leaders vowed to take careful steps to prevent that individuality from devolving into a sea of sameness.

Like their brethren inside city limits, the folks west of the freeway have demonstrated nothing but pride in their community. If they're compelled to change the name of their main street in a quest for identity, then more power to them.

I bumped into my old friend Emory Holmes at a gathering for Randy Wicks some time ago. Emory is one of the finest news reporters this paper ever had. It seems we see each other only when there's a death in the Signal family.

Emory says he has never worked in a place where people's lives revolve around their children and their community quite the way they do in Santa Clarita. Coming here, he said, was "culture shock."

Having grown up here, I guess I wouldn't understand what life is like in the streets of Los Angeles, where Emory now plies his trade as a freelance writer. But I am convinced we're far better off living with neighbors who care deeply about their own back yards -- whether they're the people who want to rebuild Old Newhall, or bring economic vitality to Canyon Country, or carve out an identity for Stevenson Ranch.

If there's one thing I've learned in the nine years since cityhood, it's that you don't mess around with other people's back yards, especially where roads are concerned. If you do, you will lose. Every time.

Now, if only we could change a particular stretch of San Fernando Road back to "Spruce Street" and do something about those nasty five-digit house numbers that the county forced on us several decades ago. ...

* * *

I missed the Historical Society's 21st birthday party on Sunday because it was my turn to do a tour of duty in the pioneer oil town of Mentryville. Not that it's an unpleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon, mind you.

Located at the end of Pico Road, just beyond the southern frontier of the Holy Protectorate of Stevenson Ranch, Mentryville is open from 12 noon to 4 pm on the first and third Sundays of each month.

Visitors were sparse on this next-to-last holiday shopping weekend, so I traipsed through the hills with caretaker Jack Beitzel and docents Eileen Gates and Sandy Ramirez while Pat Doran and Jack's wife, Joan, were unceremoniously left to mind the town.

Jack and Joan moved in as caretakers when the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy acquired the Pico property late last year. They have been doing a commendable job of tracking down forgotten pieces of the town's history. They recently discovered the grave markers of driller Alex Mentry (1847-1900) and his family at a cemetery in Boyle Heights.

Here's why I mention it: If you have information about Alex Mentry's interests in the Boyle Heights area, or if you know any descendants, please contact the Friends of Mentryville at 254-5272.

* * *

Speaking of things west of Interstate 5, King Richard of Stevenson -- "Doc Rioux" to Signal readers -- has a new book out, and it makes the perfect last-minute gift.

"Images: Sunrises, Sunsets and In Between" is a fabulous coffee table book celebrating the natural beauty of the Santa Clarita Valley. You will be amazed at how spectacular our valley looks through the lens of Richard's camera.

The accompanying poetry, written largely by local second-through-seventh graders, embellishes the imagery with a childlike innocence that will make you proud to call the Santa Clarita Valley home -- whether you live in Stevenson Ranch, Valencia or beyond.

"Images" sells for $24.95 at Hughes Markets, One for the Books, Flower Barn, All Through the House, Gallions Castaic Corner, Lee's Hallmark, Trader Joe's, Sunrise Spirits, the Victoria Plaza and other locations around town. Profits go to charity.

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Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.

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