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Today in
S.C.V. History
June 24
1980 - Saugus Train Station relocated to Heritage Junction [story]

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Monday, Dec 8, 2014

darrylmanzer_blacktieSeventy-three years ago today, our country was reeling from the sneak attack by the Empire of Japan on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Actually the Japanese struck just about every military installation on the Island of Oahu. The folks in Newhall and Saugus knew something was different. Aviators at the little airport just north of Newhall were told no flights were to depart or land except in an emergency.

It was a beautiful late-Fall day in our little valley with some broken white clouds against a very blue sky. The air temperature was about 68 degrees. Yes, a beautiful day.

I was told folks were sitting around their radio sets waiting on word from Hawaii and from Washington, D.C. A lot of young men headed to recruiting offices in Los Angeles to join any branch of the service that would take them.

The attack on Hawaii brought America together. We knew the enemy, and it was Japan. Three days later, Germany declared war on the United States, and we quickly returned the favor. Most of us know how that war ended. If you don’t, here is the result: We won.

The local oil fields were told to increase production, and the oil companies got busy. There was little in the way of military along the coast, but folks prepared. It was said that in many places, all that was around to repel an attack were the local police and civilians armed with any manner of weapons. I was told folks here in the SCV felt pretty safe because it was one place where people were still hunting, so there was no shortage of firearms.

Yesterday there were many reports on the attack and memorials being conducted around the country. There will be scant little today. Yet it was 73 years ago today that President Roosevelt gave yesterday a name: “a date which will live in infamy.” It was today that war was declared on Japan. It was this day, 73 years ago, that our nation awakened to the first day of World War II for us.

I, of course, was not around for that day. I was born shortly after the Korean War started. Then Vietnam and of course now another war that has been going on since Sept. 11, 2001.

Bermite Powder Co. had been increasing production for a few years, but I’m sure they knew they would have to increase their work force. Local farmers and ranchers also knew they would have to start raising more cattle, hogs and other livestock.

Did you know there were a lot of chicken farms in Acton at one time? Not far from where the Presbyterian Church is today. And there were hog and turkey farms in Bouquet Canyon, along with three dairies here in the SCV. The Newhall Land and Farming Co. had cattle and lots of other crops to feed the troops. During those years, the stockyard and feed lots located where Magic Mountain is today were growing and soon got a huge size increase.

If you go to the Veterans Memorial Plaza in Newhall, you can read names on the bricks in the walkway. I don’t have a count, but I know there are a few that identify men who were killed during the war.

My folks hadn’t been married that long and were living in Long Beach. They told stories about the wild anti-aircraft fire when someone thought Japan was attacking the Long Beach Naval Base. Mom had just gotten a new Singer sewing machine and was worried some of the shell fragments would land on their apartment and damage her machine. They laughed at that and said maybe that would finally get the landlord to fix the leaky roof.

My father had served in the Navy from 1936 to 1940 and was discharged a year before the attack. He tried to enlist, but since he worked at Douglas Aircraft and was married, the military said no. He tried again, and by then my oldest sister had been born, and he worked in the war industry. In late 1944 he tried again, but my younger sister was a baby, so they wouldn’t take him. My mother was a mom with two small girls.

A good friend’s parents met in Santa Monica after the war started and got married in 1944 just before he shipped out to England and D-Day. He went from Omaha Beach all the way through Germany without a scratch. He did seem to get into all of the rotten battles and even got a couple pictures to prove it. His daughter can’t figure out where he got the camera and got the film developed. But the pictures show him trudging from France to Germany.

Her parents were not together on this day in 1941. But later events really cemented a wonderful marriage that lasted until both were in their 90s. They have both passed now and are buried not far from Santa Monica where they met.

But today is the day America got into gear and started to win the war. Pick any small town in America on this day in 1941. Just like Newhall, Saugus and Castaic, those folks got going down the road to victory. Folks in Acton and Agua Dulce were working for it, too.

Maybe today is a day to remember as much as we remember the day before. Dec. 7, 1941, was a military defeat. Dec. 8, 1941, was the first day of victory. A small part of the victory started right here in the SCV. A day that looked much like today. Cool temps and broken clouds with a bright blue sky.

We’ve got to thank each and every one of those folks before it is too late. The Greatest Generation will soon be gone. Thank them and hold them close. They paid for our very lives in so many ways. It really started today, 73 years ago.


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. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].


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  1. God bless each and every man and woman who served during those trying times. I know my dad was traumatized for the rest of his life but was forever grateful that he came back alive. Thank you all for your sacrifice!

  2. God bless each and every man and woman who served during those trying times. I know my dad was traumatized for the rest of his life but was forever grateful that he came back alive. Thank you all for your sacrifice!

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