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January 18
1899 - Martin & Richard Wood buy J.H. Tolfree's Saugus Eating House, rename it Saugus Cafe [story]


Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Wednesday, Sep 3, 2014

darrylmanzer_blacktieDo you remember your first time? That first time you drove from the SCV to the ocean? I think I was in the first grade at Castaic Elementary School. What were you thinking?

It was a typical, extremely hot summer day and we packed the car – a 1953 Chevy Bel Aire – and piled in. Like usual, I had to sit between my sisters in the back seat.

We stopped at Castaic Junction and filled the tank at the Standard station across the intersection from Tip’s Restaurant.

It was then on down Highway 126 to Ventura. It wasn’t a freeway in those days. Two lanes all the way with orange trees and great stands of eucalyptus trees. Many of them are still standing.

When we arrived, we got all of the stuff out of the car and carried it to the beach. Blankets and an ice chest full of cold drinks, plus sandwiches and chips and more.

We had regular towels. Not many people had “beach towels” then. But it didn’t matter. It was the beach.

My sister Alyce took me by the hand and we ran toward the surf. She jumped right in, but I more or less fell face-first into the cold water. I didn’t care. I was at the beach.

Alyce did a little body surfing, and our older sister was content to sit in the sand with our parents. I jumped up and down in the waves. Had to make sure I had lots of sand on me for the drive home.

We had many trips to that beach and to some beaches in Oxnard where we would go when the grunion were running. Millions of those little fish come ashore to spawn, and the regulations state you can’t use a net to gather them. I would stuff them into the pockets of a rather large, hooded sweatshirt. It was always fun. Stay up most the night and sleep in a sand-filled sleeping bag in the dunes.

There was camping at Carpinteria State Beach. There was the time all of the kids were swimming in Carpinteria Creek when the park ranger came by and said it wasn’t safe to swim there because it was possible it was contaminated with sewage. Needless to say, we ran from the creek.

Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria State Beach

Many years later, when my folks and I had moved from Mentryville to Carpinteria so my father could work on the offshore oil platforms, I found out that there was sewage in the creek for a short time. Failed septic tanks and all, in those days before a city sewer system.

Carpinteria Beach was still a favorite when we moved there. Friends from the SCV would come and visit since we lived close to the beach. It was 1966 and life was pretty good. My legs were nearly healed from when my motorcycle and I attempted to joust with a big Cadillac. I was off crutches and using a cane for support.

My father and I were working on an old, two-wheel-drive 1949 Jeep station wagon. Looked like a woody and would have been perfect for my first car. But it was not to be.

On Nov. 7, 1966, I got up, got ready and walked with some neighborhood kids to the high school. About two hours later, someone from the school administration came to my class and told me to follow her to the office.

In the office were two of the men who worked with my father. They took me home, and once there, they told me my dad had been in a helicopter crash between the platforms and shore. There were boats out searching for him and the three other men on the aircraft.

There were only four oil platforms off of Carpinteria in those days. Standard Oil had named them Heidi, Hazel, Helen and Hope. I can’t remember which one my father had been working on at the time. I don’t know if it is true, but I think I was told each name was from the wife of an employee who had been injured or killed working for the company. There hasn’t been any named Evelyn after my mother.

I was up in the mountains at a campground north of Santa Barbara and east of Solvang this past weekend. Driving there was the usual trip from Highway 126 to the 101. Mostly four lanes and freeway now. I was about two miles from the Santa Barbara County line, and traffic was moving at a snail’s pace when those four platforms came into view. Like usual, my eyes filled with tears. I’m sure it was the dust from the road construction.

Oil platforms off of Carpinteria

Oil platforms off of Carpinteria

It was seven days from the day the chopper crashed before they recovered my father’s body. Seven days of walking the bluffs above the beach, looking out at the rescue and recovery efforts. Seven nights of being on those same bluffs and seeing those platforms brightly lighted. My uncle, a retired chief petty officer, had come up to be with us, and he kept saying how much the platforms looked like the fleet anchored at Long Beach before World War II. I could see why he said that.

The funeral and moving back to Saugus with my mother are all a blur today. She died the following summer. It was during the last nine months of her life that we would drive to Carpinteria to visit friends, or I would attend some Carpinteria High event like the prom or a special dance. Each time she would ask me to walk out onto those bluffs above the beach so she could look out to sea.

She expected my dad somehow to come out of the sea, and we would all go home. Instead he was waiting for her.

Driving back yesterday, those platforms were still there. I like to think my folks are there, too. Maybe sitting in the sand, watching kids play in the surf. Maybe just looking out to sea together.

When I think that, I can smile through the tears. It takes a long time to heal from events like that. I can still look out and see “the fleet at anchor” and know all is well until we can all sit on the beach together again.

Still not easy to pass by there, but I can feel the love they gave me then – and now. That is how it should be.

 

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 are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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