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2014 - "Become Ocean" by John Luther Adams (CalArts BFA 1973) named winner of 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music [story]
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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Sunday, Jan 6, 2013
Darryl Manzer

Darryl Manzer

Have you been to downtown Newhall lately? I, for one, think it is looking pretty spiffy of late. It has stores and theaters with real live actors. There are some great places to eat now, too – Egg Plantation, El Trocadero and the Way Station, to name some.

The new landscaping is cool, too … trees and benches to sit on, with clean sidewalks and even hitchin’ posts for your favorite horse.

To go with that favorite horse you might want to get your Western Wear at Bobbi Jean’s place, OutWest. Next door is Fresh, a great place for women to find that perfect outfit, as is One Savvy Girl across the street. J. Serraino joined the neighborhood recently, and Ma Maison is moving in next door to Fresh.

Is this starting to read like an campaign? I mean, if Newhall is so great, how come I want to write about it like it needs the free advertising?

Image: J. Serraino

Image: J. Serraino

Newhall is the “mother” of everything else in the Santa Clarita Valley. Without Newhall there wouldn’t be anyplace else. Newhall set the standard for our way of life. Only we don’t know or can’t remember how great it was and could be.

Sure, there may have been a building boom and tract homes rolling all over the surrounding hills, but the being and the character of the area came from the little township of Newhall. It was, for many years, the core of our valley. Our roots are in the attitudes and history of Newhall.

Bobbi Jean Bell (right) offers apparel, artwork and more at OutWest on Main Street.

Bobbi Jean Bell (right) offers apparel, artwork and more at OutWest on Main Street.

Oil workers from Mentryville came to Newhall for supplies and a few drinks, too. (Mentryville was a “dry” town.) Rumor has it that a few of those workers met and married girls who worked at the Derrick Saloon. If you lived in what is now called Canyon Country but then was called Saugus, you came to Newhall.

Four elementary school districts graduated kids to Placerita Junior High and on to William S. Hart High School. Even if you lived in the far northern reaches of Castaic, your high school diploma read, “William S. Hart High School, Newhall, California.”  It was the center of the valley.

Madison Schwartz takes care of your women's fashion needs at Fresh.

Madison Schwartz takes care of your women’s fashion needs at Fresh.

I’ve been able to watch the SCV grow from looking out the windows of many airplanes as they flew into Burbank. Like a slow-growing fungus that was creeping north from Newhall, the creature filled the place. Valencia was just a start. Stevenson Ranch and Westridge added to the growth. Why, some folks came to the SCV and said they lived in Valencia or Stevenson Ranch or even “Cas-TAY-ick.” (It’s pronounced “Cas-steak.”) They didn’t know – and some still don’t – that Newhall started it all.

Oh, the stories you hear during breakfast at the Egg Plantation on Walnut Street in Newhall! Patrons sitting there saying how they wouldn’t be caught dead in downtown Newhall. Hello? You were SITTING one block off Main Street with pieces of a great omelet dripping off your chin and you didn’t realize you were IN downtown Newhall? Did someone miss a geography lesson? Can’t read signs or a map?

Photo: Egg Plantation

Photo: Egg Plantation

Some of the same people who decry huge malls with chain stores and restaurants won’t or don’t go to Newhall even to look or shop. I wonder if they could find it since it isn’t right off the 5 or 14 Freeway.  These are the same people who say how bad Newhall is when they are having dinner at one of those chain places. They just don’t seem to get it.

Maybe they have never seen a small town. They might not know the friendly ways and attitudes of the store owners in one. Maybe they just want to complain and not do anything about it. I don’t know. But they do stay away in droves. (Remind me to check on how many folks are in a drove, OK?)

Along about 1964, some friends and I would have loved some hitchin’ posts in front of the hardware store. Some trees for the parade on the Fourth of July would have been great, too. But you couldn’t have had a Farmers Market or those wonderful Thursday night parties that close down Main Street. Then it was four-lanes-of-traffic busy. I miss that in a way.

I remember the day we picked up our cattle branding iron at Tom Frew’s blacksmith shop in Newhall. I still have it. Well made. Right in Newhall. Not much need for a blacksmith now – or is there?

Maybe all of you should come to visit the mother township of the SCV. Come home to Newhall. It was out in the sticks from day one. Still feels that way. No shopping mall flash. No chain restaurants, thank goodness.

You might step into the Egg Plantation, or Way Station or even the good old Vu bar and find your true love. Never know. Small towns have that effect on you, once you get to know them. And while the valley has grown, that small town remains surrounded. But it does remain.

Slightly changed, but only 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 Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

 

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3 Comments

  1. AND-in the Newhall neighborhood, you can still enjoy the sound of roosters crowing, as there is no pesky homeowners association.

  2. Cheryl Dellepiane says:

    I just love Old Town Newhall with all of its wonderful shops (especially OutWest), restaurants and wine bars (especially Pulchella), theaters, and special events. And, of course, the new library is magnificent. Just one complaint–my husband and I took some friends from Burbank to see “A White Christmas” (wonderful, by the way) at the Canyon Theatre Guild last month. We were mortified by all of the trash (cups and food wrappers, cigarette butts etc.) along the sidewalk and in the planted areas in front of the theater. I hadn’t recalled this being the usual case, so I was wondering what was up with that!

  3. Thank you, Darryl, for sharing your passion for Old Town Newhall, it’s history and current life. As business owners on Main St. we love to hear the stories from residents of their memories of shops and restaurants, favorite places whose doors closed long ago. We look forward to the return of SENSES, the third Thursday in March, as well as other events AND new businesses relocating or opening. We look forward to more postings, Darryl, as these events occur!

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