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1945 - Acton Hotel, est. 1890, burns down; arson is suspected [story]


Now and Then in the SCV: Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Sunday, Nov 11, 2012

Darryl Manzer

I’ve got mine. Did you get yours?

Being a member of the Auto Club, I was in that office on Valencia Boulevard and got the brand-new AAA map of the Santa Clarita Valley Area.

At one time, we all knew where everything was, and the whole map could have fit on a 3×5 card.

Of course, this new map will be out of date in about three weeks. So, get them while they are still accurate (or nearly so). My electronic navigation gadget has the same problem.

Today when someone says they’re going to the high school, you have to ask which one of the six. We used to have just one. Same with the junior high. Newhall was a “big deal” because it had two elementary schools: Newhall and the “new” Peachland. Saugus had one, as did Castaic and the little community of Sulphur Springs.

Schools have come and gone in this valley. You can go visit them. Well … the old Castaic Union is now a flat field, but at Heritage Junction in William S. Hart Park, you can see the tiny, one-room adobe school. And you can see Felton School in Mentryville at the end of Pico Canyon Road.

Felton School operated from 1885 to 1932. It was a one-room school that had an addition of the teacher’s office/coat room/library and separate outhouses for the boys and girls. Today it is painted red. That is not the proper color for any building in Mentryville.

The “little red schoolhouse” in Mentryville wasn’t really red.

I see red any time I’m told the historical paint expert said the buildings were painted red in Mentryville. Or green with yellow trim, or some other outlandish scheme. He could have solved the problem by simply asking those of us who lived there. But he wouldn’t have been paid as much.

California Star and Pacific Coast Oil companies became Standard Oil of California and then Chevron. Until the merger with Texaco, the company was headquartered in San Francisco. Now it is located in a place called Texas. It appears the merger caused the company to forget its roots.

Looking at the Chevron website, I see the entire history of Texaco and little of the California operations. Sad. West of the Mississippi River, commercial oil production started right here in Pico Canyon, in Mentryville.

Just to let you in on a company secret from back then: ALL buildings were painted “buff.” In the 1890s that meant gray, or as we may call it, battleship gray.  There is still paint that the Navy buys, plainly marked, “Buff Gray.” The trim for all the buildings was white.

I don’t know how the “expert” got his information. Maybe he gathered some of the local plants and used it as tobacco. Maybe he took a few too many samples of paint that contained lead. I don’t know. But I do know the buildings were not originally red in color.

When my folks and I lived in Mentryville in the 1960s, we got to meet some of the people who had lived there when Mr. Mentry was alive – like the guy who told us about watering the eucalyptus trees every day. He said he earned 25 cents a week for that job.

When it came to colors of the buildings, all of the folks from the 1890s said they looked about the same as they did when we were there. Same color and all. They said it brought back great memories.

Many of them talked about the cottage having different colors inside. One bedroom was the “yellow” room because the fireplace hearth sported yellow tile. The woodwork wasn’t painted. I don’t know when it was painted, but can you imagine all that paint removed so you could see the original hardwood trim around doors, windows and the stairs?

There aren’t many of us left who lived in Pico Cottage (called the “Big House” by some). A few more folks are still alive who lived in houses in Mentryville. How come we were never asked about such stuff?

Well, I’m back in the Santa Clarita Valley and they can ask me any time. I can also get the information from residents long ago, or those who followed us. All they have to do is ask.

We just may have the answers. You see, our map of the valley used to be quite small, so those times are easy for us to remember.

Getting from my current place in North Valencia to downtown Newhall is my challenge. So that new map is very handy.

By the way – watch for the opening of Felton School for tours soon. I’ve been told the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy says it is ready to put the furniture back.

Next time: The haunted house and ghost myths of Towsley and Pico.

Stay tuned. Don’t change the channel.

 

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. Phillis Brooks says:

    Love reading about the history of our Santa Clarita Valley.

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