Mary Warmuth Sathre recalls her early days in Solemint — the area surrounding the junction of Soledad Canyon and Mint Canyon roads in today's Canyon Country.
Born in 1925, Sathre lived in a neighborhood that included Rudd and May Weatherwax of Lassie fame, Bill Hickey, Remi Nadeau, Cliffie Stone, Paul Palmer, Leona Cox, Clem and Paula Cox, Tall Bello and his brother, Mike Bello — who had a reservoir up the canyon at the end of Iron Canyon — and Melba Walker Starbuck Fisher and the rest of the Walker family.
Sathre's family settled in Sand Canyon early in the 1900s. Her parents were Marge and Joseph Warmuth. She remembers those poor, early days in Sand Canyon.
Kids today really don't know how easy they have it, she said. They don't understand how difficult things used to be. Not only did Sathre and her siblings have to cross the Sand Canyon River to get home, but the driveway to their house would turn into its own rushing river when the water was up. When it rose too high to cross — it rose as much as five feet — the kids would pole-vault over it with a pole they kept under some bushes at the head of the driveway, near the road.
Shivering as she recalled the flood of March 1938, Sathre said she and her brothers and sister had to cling to bob-wire in rushing water to get across the river on their way home from school.
Sathre remembers Rudd and May Weatherwax. They were the owners and trainers of Lassie. Rudd and May owned 80 acres in the canyon. Near their home, against the hill, was Bill Hickey's house. Weatherwax's son rented the old Warmuth ranch house for a time. The Warmuth house is located at the intersection of Warmuth and Sand Canyon roads, on the east side. Actor James Garner lived there for a while, too. Sathre remembers that Melba and her then-husband George Starbuck would get up and hike through the canyon at 4 a.m. They used to come pick up Sathre's sister Josie to join them.
Ace Cain in his motion picture days.
At Sultus Street and Sand Canyon Road lived a man named Ace Cain. He had a resort with a swimming pool. Cain was quite a character, Sathre said. He walked around with a fake bird on his shoulder. Ace's brother had only one arm. The 1938 flood washed out all of the bridges and raised Cain's swimming pool as if to fit Noah's Ark. Sathre remarked that Cain was a wonderful man. When she was taking care of her elderly mother, Cain offered her water when their ranch pump went dry.
Historian John Boston has said, "(Cain) used to dress up like the Kentucky (Fried Chicken) colonel, in these fetching white three-piece suits. I never heard anything about him carting a parrot around, but he did have a fancy walking stick with a sword inside. Word was, he ran a whorehouse where the old VFW place used to be." Sathre laughs when she remembers him in his "chicken" outfit, but also disdains "the notion that Cain ever ran a whorehouse." He had a bar and pool hall which local residents enjoyed. "He was one of the nicest people you would ever know." Said Sathre.
To think they called it a resort.
Battling the Sand Canyon River was commonplace. The river spread out at Warmuth Road. Sathre remembered the fun they would have they would drive a large flatbed wagon to get to school from across the river. The rain water would rise to the level of the road. They used a horse to pull the cart, and all of the kids crowded in and down to get across safely. The wagon was parked at the school for the day while the horse grazed in the back of the Sulphur Springs school.
Sathre attended Sulphur Springs School. Florence Manning Mitchell was the teacher, and she was strict. She had to be; her 30 pupils in a single classroom spanned eight grades. Occasionally she'd hurl an eraser to arouse her sleeping charges. "Mitchell was a crack shot from the back of the room," Sathre said. Sathre had nothing but praise for Mitchell — who skipped her from grade 6 to 8 because she was doing the eighth-grade math work.
Minnie Helvey Mitchell recalls her teacher with similar affection. "Everything I learned that got me through my master's degree, I got in that one-room schoolhouse," she said. "She was a great teacher."
Ask Clem "Clemmie" Cox about Mitchell and you'll get a different perspective. "She was a mean woman," he said with a shiver.
Sathre attended San Fernando High School after graduating from Sulphur Springs. The school bus didn't come to the canyon for a long time, so the students had to get to Honby — about where Home Depot is today on Soledad Canyon Road — to be picked up for the bus to high school. Mary's brother, Joe Warmuth made a fuss because he had to go to the B & Wire Ranch to get to school. "Someone made a fuss and they finally began picking us up in the canyon," she said. Later on, we made more of a fuss and they the bus came all the way up to Placerita Canyon and turned around.
Today's fire station, just east of Solemint Junction, sits on land once owned by Remi Nadeau. He ran a nature farm that included deer and buffalo. "I used to wonder how he made a living with that farm," Sathre said. (Editor's note: "Our" Remi Nadeau was the grandson of the famous L.A. freighter of the same name.)
Sathre remembers Nadeau as a handsome, older man, slightly heavyset. He had a hernia and was constantly in pain. He was always nice to Sathre and to the neighbor kids; in 1931 he had a picnic and invited all of the Sand Canyon kids to his ranch. "Oh God, it was a treat!" Sathre sighed. It was her first taste of soda pop, something for which she will always remember Nadeau with fondness.
The Depression years were difficult for everyone. The Warmuths had a few rental homes in Los Angeles, but times were so tough that sometimes even the rental income didn't flow. How did they survive those lean years? "We sold fertilizer for gardens (and) rented out our oak trees to movie studios for backdrops," Sathre said.
Sathre was just five when Joseph Youngblood Sr. died. A close friend of Sathre's father, he was clerk of the Sulphur Springs Union School District board from the 1890s to 1902. He may have served earlier than that, but some district records are missing. Sathre attended his funeral at his house; she remembers most that all the kids were told they had to be quiet. It was a fairly small gathering.
Today Youngblood is remembered as a blacksmith and an artisan. Entries in school district records from 1890-1902 show reimbursements to him for materials he used to make repairs at the school.
Lifetime community resident Maxine Suraco once remarked that she thought it strange that Youngblood would be buried in the Mitchell-Dyer family cemetery in Sand Canyon, because the Youngbloods had their own cemetery on their homestead next to the Mitchells.
Youngblood's son, Joseph Jr., married Elaine Russell.
Sathre remembers Leroy Insley, brother of Glenn Insley Mitchell, who was married to Oscar Mitchell. "Leroy had a hairlip, but boy could he play baseball," Sathre said. He was a pretty good baseball player. Insley met his demise when he went rabbit hunting one day. In skinning the rabbit, he cut himself, and an infection set in. The blood-to-blood transmission gave him the disease Tulermia, according to Clem Cox. It was a long, slow and very painful death for Leroy Insley. Today the same infection would be cured with a simple antibiotic.
The B & Wire Ranch was located in the vicinity of Whites Canyon Road and stretched as far as Honby (Home Depot today).
Sathre graduated high school early in 1942. At age 16 she was the youngest worker ever to be hired by Hughes Aircraft. She married in 1946.