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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
| Tuesday, May 6, 2014

darrylmanzer021014The Marines were poised for attack at the bottom of the hill. Recent rains had made the hillside as slippery as a ski slope. A group of four started up firing rifles and lobbing grenades at the enemy. They had to take that castle on the hill.

Dodging through the tall brush, each Marine pushed ever upwards until they overcame all the resistance of the enemy. Muddy and tired, they rested at the peak and waited for a counter attack that would come from below them.

Oh, another day for some 10-year-old boys at Hart Park. Funny how we never played cowboys and Indians there. We always had battles from World War II. Sometimes our “enemy” was Germany and other times Japan.

The charge down the hill was even more fun. We would pull the tall grass from parts of the hill and throw it down as make believe hand grenades. We got very muddy and very tired. We had fun.

None of us grew up to be serial killers or mass murderers in a school or theater. We had toy guns that looked very real and surplus helmet liners, web belts and canteens. Funny, not a one of us became Marines either. Guess we got tired of mud.

We knew what real guns could do because we had been shooting real guns and BB guns for many years by that time. We had some simple rules that were taught to us by our parents. Those rules are:

  1. Consider every gun loaded until you make sure it is empty of any ammunition.
  2. Don’t point a gun at a person EVER. (Even when you know it is not loaded).
  3. Guns are not playthings. They are not at all dangerous until someone picks them up and holds them.
  4. Once in human hands even an empty gun is dangerous.

We hunted and shot at targets. We became pretty good shots with just about any weapon we fired. We were not dangerous because we followed those simple rules.

I saw a Hart High Yearbook for the 1950s that showed the ROTC Cadets in a Hart High classroom learning about a real .30 caliber machine gun. Yes. Right in a classroom.

I remember a couple of plays where real guns were used as props. I think the musical “Oklahoma” was one such production again at Hart High. No bullets in the guns but there they were.

Nobody panicked when we made our hand to look like a gun and said, “Bang.”A drawing of a gun wasn’t a big deal unless you got some details wrong.

There were gun safety classes taught by local members of the National Rifle Association that many of us attended. We learned a lot in those classes. Now we can’t even get a member of the NRA on a campus because we fear guns.

I think that fear is misplaced. I don’t fear guns, I fear those idiots that are not qualified in any way, shape or form to be anywhere near a firearm. If we want to regulate something, let us regulate the crazy folks that may get a gun.

I’ve worn a pistol on my hip in downtown Newhall many times. I was on a horse at the same time. Nobody called the deputies to come get me. Heck, I had just left Newhall Hardware after getting some ammunition. I once had a deputy ask to look at my pistol. He told me it needed cleaning as soon as I got home. I was in my early teens at the time.

I’m not advocating removing all measures to control guns. And a criminal will just shoot you when you tell him that it is illegal for him to have that gun. Point the law book at the person pointing the gun at you. See how effective that is in protecting yourself?

Outside of the great Castaic Range war and that terrible day when four California Highway Patrolmen died, we had very little gun violence. We had some people shot with guns by accident. Our little valley was prone to use knives and fists and automobiles as instruments of death.

Times have changed. Lack of education has made a gun a somewhat sick fantasy for youth that don’t really know the power and danger of a gun. The first time they see one is when another gang member shows it to them or maybe when a friend’s father left the gun safe open.

Lack of education and knowledge spreads fear but gives a gun the form of a tangible and terrible myth. That, when in the wrong hands, creates a danger we don’t need. We don’t need more laws or the stripping of our rights as Americans.

The fact remains that when the government starts to control guns and take guns, it takes away the right of the people to protect them from that very government. If any of us can remember our history lessons we have to remember that the British troops were headed to Lexington and Concord to get the weapons stored in those villages.

You may argue that we have no defense from our super well-trained and equipped military should we have to protect ourselves from the government. I’m not worried about the Army or Marines coming to get my guns. Our sons and daughters wouldn’t do that. I am concerned about those agencies that seem to have agents, officers, rangers and other officials that have the arms and armor to try and do it.

But still I fondly remember the days when we had our shotguns, rifles or pistols in the trunk of our cars in the parking lot at Hart High. It was hunting season. That would make us criminals today.

Times have not changed for the better.

 

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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