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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Tuesday, Dec 3, 2013
Darryl Manzer

Darryl Manzer

Nov. 7, 1966, I got up and got ready for school.

We had moved from Pico to Carpinteria because my father had transferred to work on the off-shore platforms of Standard Oil Co. of California.

We also moved there because – my sisters and I now think – my father also wanted to get my mother a home that had all the modern conveniences in it. Things like a dishwasher and automatic washer and dryer. There was also the garbage disposal. That was a big deal for a family that had seen the Pico Cottage move into the 20th Century with electricity instead of gas lights just two years earlier.

He wanted her to have a modern home because, we think, her cancer had returned and it was going to end her life in a short time. Maybe a year, or at the most two, but we are only guessing about this because he never said anything.

He couldn’t say anything after Nov. 7, 1966, because that was the day he died in a helicopter crash at sea between the oil platforms and land.

I was at school. Carpinteria High School. Back then is was located in the building that is now the Middle School for that town.

Our family came to Carpinteria from all over the country. We stood on the bluffs looking out to sea as they searched for the four men who were on the aircraft that day. It quickly turned from a rescue to a recovery effort.

Alton and Pat Manzer, the writer's parents.

Alton and Pat Manzer, the writer’s parents. Click image for more family photos.

Nearly a week after the crash, they found part of the leg of a man. It was in a boot. The Santa Barbara television stations broadcast that before any of the families had been told anything about it. My mother saw that broadcast and fainted.

The next day they recovered the rest of the body of my father. That was followed by his funeral at Newhall Presbyterian Church, and he was laid to rest in Eternal Valley.

My mother and I returned to the SCV and lived in Saugus. Her cancer had indeed returned, and she died nine months after my father. She, too, is buried in Eternal Valley next to the man she loved, her high school sweetheart.

This past weekend, two men were killed in another tragic and horrific accident. Movie star Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas. They were speeding in a car, and the impact was so hard that the car burst into flames.

There were immediate pictures of blood stains and burn marks. Flowers and candles started to appear at the crash site. Fans turned out to see the site of the crash.

Two families mourn. They may not have known about the deaths before we in the public knew. It was all over the broadcast news and shortly afterward in print, too. I would think it is all over the Internet and soon the magazines you see in the local supermarket checkout lines.

Some dignity those men were not allowed. Same for the folks they’ve left behind. Not a very dignified way to broadcast the news. I look at it the same way as when we first heard, “A portion of a man’s leg was found still inside his boot…” Same tragic consequences for the uninformed families as what happened at that weekend crash.

Maybe I’d just like to see something more dignified as a life ends. The ghoulish news reports and pictures. We had the right to know and see even before those closest to the dead knew? We got to see the graphic details and pictures. We got to lay flowers and candles and stuffed animals at the scene of the accident.

Walker-Rodas crash scene.

Walker-Rodas crash scene.

Maybe all of that money spent on those items could have been spent on a child who might not otherwise get a gift for Christmas. Maybe something could have been done with a lot more dignity.

Maybe people are really shocked at how they died. I’m not. They had a fast car and liked to go fast. Two lives lost because they were being, frankly speaking, just a little stupid. No matter how famous and how many movies you’ve been in, stupid usually trumps common sense.

There was and is no outpouring of public grief when four men who had no fame or fortune died in the waters off of Carpinteria in 1966. Or the hundreds who have been killed on the Ridge Route, old Highway 99 and Interstate 5 in the last 100 years. They at least had a more dignified memory. Most had families were notified before the public knew. Flowers and candles and teddy bears don’t cover the sites of those accidents.

I guess that is the price of fame. It is a price I am not willing to pay. I want my dignity and that of my family maintained.

Sometimes I’m really shocked at how some actor or celebrity gains final fame by being stupid, crazy, drunk or on other drugs. For that, we forgive them and use them as examples of folks we should emulate. Look at James Dean, for example. And now Paul Walker. You know we’ll remember that name.

Will we remember the names of those killed in that helicopter in 1966? I only remember one, Alton Manzer, my father. None of the four got flowers on the beach or anything like that. They were just doing their job.

Somehow we still remember James Dean, and I’m sure the same will be true of Paul Walker. Long remembered for being in a fast car at the wrong time and place. Will someone tell me why?

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 Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

 

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3 Comments

  1. jack murphy says:

    that was absolutely terrific! One of the best reads I have had in a while D!

  2. Dennis O' says:

    Great read, Darryl. I still have a lot to learn – about YOU! No one speculates that these guys could just as easily have hit a station wagon full of kids going the other way instead of a tree because someone so famous would never do anything that callous, eh? The N.Y. train crash also illustrates the fact that mechanical systems, cars, trains, planes and submarines, have to obey certain physical limitations or disaster follows. Going 80MPH into a curve designed for 30MPH (with a possible safety factor of 2) equals death & destruction every time. No one has yet considered that these guys had to be flying, in a residential area, to accomplish the complete annihilation of the Porsche and the fact that their bodies were too badly mangled to identify at first. “You can’t fix stupid.”

  3. Me Jayne says:

    Mr. Walker was a passenger and not responsible ultimately for the tragedy. That being said, they were young, lacking in common sense, and in a neighborhood full of families commuting to and from activities. I am thankful they didn’t kill anyone else. However, I do mourn their loss, as the loss of one diminishes us all. Darryl, your father was a hero supporting his family. The men in that car were merely famous.

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