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S.C.V. History
March 23
1886 - Film director Robert N. Bradbury born in Washington state; launched John Wayne's career in Placerita Canyon [watch]

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Thursday, Sep 17, 2015

darrylmanzer0215Yesterday I went to the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona. I had not been there since 1968 with the Hart High marching band. Things have changed a whole bunch.

Today was free for seniors. That means just like when I was in band at Hart, I didn’t pay admission. Something to remember, folks, since it might not be worth what I would have paid for it.

So it was the Antelope Valley Freeway to the Golden State then the Foothill; turn onto the Orange and east on the San Bernardino to Fairplex Drive. Since it was the middle of the week and middle of the day, the trip took a lot less time. Oh, in true California fashion, I don’t know the miles, but the time to drive it was around 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Back in that far distant past when all of us Hart band geeks would board the buses for the long trip to Pomona, we kind of dreaded the trip. It took a couple of hours. Had to take the Golden State to the San Bernardino and exit in some place in the middle of no place.

We didn’t wear our maroon and grey uniforms on the bus but changed once we got there. We hated those uniforms. Wool and heavy and designed for football season in Chicago, not SoCal. And back then, we had white buck suede shoes, which meant that wherever we marched in any parade, there were going to be horses in front of us. Even at the fair.

The bands on this day sounded great, and horses were replaced by horsepower. Most of the hotrods in the parade were our dream cars of the ‘60s. I think it is safe to say – using that wonderfully descriptive word of back then – “stoked.”

countyfair1941The outdoor or garden model railroad I loved. I’ve got a lot of engines and track, so maybe someday I, too, can get back into that fun hobby. Might be good at Heritage Junction.

I guess what I was most disappointed in was how food vendors have taken almost every space on every street. It used to be quite pleasant to sit under a tree with that humongous hot dog slathered in relish and mustard with an over-sized cola and French fries. Now they have set up shaded areas and clog the streets of the fair so a marching band can barely pass in a column of twos.

The food variety isn’t much, either. You have the typical fair choices of fried, grilled and fried, and dipped in corn batter and fried. What they call “Southern” is some barbecue sauce poured over the entree and everything else in sight.

I don’t drink, and it isn’t a big deal if someone wants to drink around me, but just how many open-air bars does one county fair need? Seems you can find a bar just about any place in the “Fairplex.” Yep – that is new to me, too. “Fairplex.” What was wrong with “Fairgrounds?”

There are a lot of great exhibits and even the usual livestock. I didn’t attend the cow- or goat-milking demonstration. Did that once in Chesapeake, Va., at the Chesapeake Jubilee. That was a kind of county fair. Anyway, I sat on the milking stool and had a challenge from a city councilman. He was still trying to get the cow to release the milk, and I was on my second cow. I wasn’t asked to demonstrate again.

I learned a lot at this fair. Things like: The parking trams are for folks parked at least a mile away from the gates. If you’re closer, you get walk … and walk … and walk.

The walk wasn’t so bad, but once inside the gate, it was getting past the food stands and the folks milling around them. The map provided doesn’t really describe what each exhibition hall has except for some sponsor’s name and logo. Sort of walk in and guess what is inside.

I never did find the large horses and such. Saw a lot of small cows and sheep and goats and chickens. I’ll bet a lot of folks attending found out for the first time where an egg comes from. One kid remarked that he won’t eat eggs again, since that is what a chicken poops. He might have a point there.

Would I go again? Yes, with some reservations. I would study the map of the “Fairplex” well before I go. It is online. I will also go on another senior day so I won’t have to pay.

I will rent one of the electric scooter-wheelchairs. On senior day, it is a good idea to have a good defensive weapon. No need to ride the bumper cars. You can rent them and drive on the streets.

I also learned we don’t really use the names of freeways anymore. It is just the numbers. Well, I’m a native of Southern California. I liked the names. They kept the tourists confused. I never knew, though, that the 57 has been called three names. Didn’t know it was the Orange or Artesia or California Freeway. Of course, it is just “the fifty-seven” for all of the new folks.

And you can tell the new folks. They think a turn signal light has some meaning. I’m still amazed that many cars have those things. Wow. The things you can learn by going to the Los Angeles County Fair.

I’m amazed.


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. Ron Kraus says:

    Hey, I was there yesterday and didn’t see you Darryl. Of course there were a few other people there too–free senior admission day really brings out the old folks. I’ve been going to the fair just about every year for the past 50 years and still love it. Re: the food, there’s some real good stuff there if you look–Shrimp po’ boys from Harold & Belles, margarita pizza from Cucina Italiana, award winning wine in the flower & garden building. A true Southern California tradition!

  2. Susie Evans says:

    I always love reading your stories. And I am dating myself, but I remember the names of the freeways and “stoked”. Thank you!

  3. C. Harris says:

    Those white-buck shoe looked so ugly after walking behind the horses
    in the parades. Bob Downs, William S. Hart band director would walk with the drum section and tell us to “step-left, step-right” to miss the “piles” left by the horses fresh off the farm. We had those little bags of chalk to “dust” them keeping them white. Ahhh the wool uniforms, when we finally got new uniforms we passed them on the Alemany High School. It was amazing that we could play and march at the same time. In class Bob used to throw erasers at our drum line as we were NEVER in his time.
    8 to 5 on the football field remember that?

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