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May 20
1946 - Cher, great-granddaughter of Placerita Canyon homesteader Frank Walker and onetime Placerita property owner, born in El Centro, Calif. [story]
Cher and grandma


Guest Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Sunday, Nov 4, 2012

Darryl Manzer

Hello. For those of you who know me, I’m here to tell you I’m back home in the Santa Clarita Valley for good.

If you don’t know, me let me introduce myself: I am Darryl Manzer, and at one time I was the only kid in Mentryville. I’ve also written a few columns for The Signal newspaper, served in the United States Navy for a few years (36), and play a little banjo. I hope to write a little for SCVTV/SCVNews.com and share some of my thoughts about, and experiences in, our valley.

Hundreds of folks lived in Pico Canyon long before there was a Stevenson Ranch or Southern Oaks. They raised their kids and sent them to school – right in Pico Canyon – and earned a living, seldom leaving the place.

There were dances, picnics, celebrations and all sorts of events. The little community had a tree planting frenzy one year, and a couple of the local boys got paid to water those trees every day.

Houses were built and gardens planted. Some families kept chickens for eggs and meat.

So, it is obvious that I’m not writing of the Pico Canyon you all know. No, this is all about the little town that came to be called Mentryville – called that because Mr. Alec Mentry was the man who drilled the wells and was in charge of the operations of the oil field.

Oh, what an oil field! It produced oil that was refined down in Newhall, and the kerosene that was made burned far brighter than the oil used in lamps previously. It was cheap and available, too. It soon replaced most of the lamp oil that had been used.

It was so good that the gathering and manufacturing of that prior lamp oil was nearly stopped on the West Coast. “What oil was that?” you ask. Why, whale oil, of course. Yep, the little wells in Pico Canyon just may have had a hand in starting to save the whales.

Many of you hike in Towsley Canyon. Great trails there. Pico has great trails, too, and they are being expanded all the time.  Towsley had oil wells, too. The little refinery was very busy.

I hope to tell you stories of this valley that you may have never heard before. I also hope to correct some of the “urban myths” I’ve heard since my return. Myths like, “The haunted graveyard in Pico Canyon” and the “Haunted house.” Nope, never a graveyard, and in the years I lived in that house, we never saw a ghost.

There are hundreds of stories that have never been told about Pico and Mentryville. Maybe this can serve as a little history lesson and along the way, bring to light some laughs – and a few tears, too.

In that house, a boy grew up into a young man.  Pico Cottage was actually a mansion, and what a glorious home it was!  I was the boy.  My experiences in Pico Canyon formed in me a strong sense of duty to others – not to mention that we were “green” long before it was a popular notion.  Nothing went to waste.  Food was home-grown: milk from our own cows and eggs warm and fresh from hens.

After leaving Pico Canyon, I went on to serve my country for 36 years and, let me tell you, my life in what is now the Santa Clarita Valley was vastly impacted by the sense of community and family values that I learned right here.

Come visit Towsley and Pico canyons.  Take in the beauty.  You’ll never find a more quiet spot than Johnson Park.  The only thing to tell you that you are in the year 2012 is the sound of a jet flying high overhead.

Are there ghosts?  Is Pico Cottage haunted?  See for yourself.  But most likely, the only thing you may hear is the echo of my footsteps on the stairs from a year long gone.

 

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. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries, published on Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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1 Comment

  1. First welcome home! I cant wait to here more stories about the town. I have lived here from 1970. Amazing changes. My stories kick star some fun. And thank you for you service even if it was the Navy… Lol Mike USMC

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