On a Sunday afternoon in downtown Newhall in 1965, one could have thrown rocks from Lyons Avenue south to Fifth Street and not hit a car or a person or much of anything else.
It had been that way for years. The sidewalks rolled up at about 5 p.m. when the Safeway store closed.
Sure, there were a couple of places that stayed open later on a Sunday. The Rendezvous bar was one of them. Well, that was about it.
Fast forward to last Sunday, the 27th of October 2013. I drove into town on Main Street, and parking was at a premium. Both theaters had shows going, and El Trocadero and Newhall Refinery were packed.
Besides the usual adult beverage stores being open, you could visit the Surf Shop and Luscious Soul and other such places in a downtown that is fast becoming a place to find the perfect outfit in the perfect little boutique found only in downtown (or “Old Town”) Newhall. I forgot to state that Ma Maison was also seeing folks.
So, have things changed? You betcha. All of that redevelopment money seems to be paying off. In a big way.
I think many folks are getting tired of the huge shopping malls with the usual chain stores and the seemingly endless parking lots with the same restaurants and not much unique about any of them. They could be designed and plopped down in any convenient vacant parcel of land, and folks would go there. Haven’t figured that out yet. You can also order stuff online from those stores. (Not that you can’t from the little stores in downtown Newhall. Out West does a huge share of its sales via the Internet.)
Up in Acton, there is a small boutique store named Skippy’s. Hope you ladies look into it, too. Personal service and what appears to be a great selection.
Which brings to mind some thoughts and questions I was asked during the tour I gave to members of the Santa Clarita Community Hiking Club up Pico Canyon in Mentryville.
Newhall and Mentryville are about the same age. What did the residents of Mentryville do for shopping? Well, except for baked goods, breads and cookies, they went to downtown Newhall. There were two stages per day, plus the wagons taking goods to the drillers up-canyon. Often, the citizens of Mentryville would order what they wanted from the store in Newhall (most likely Campton’s General Store). Mr. Campton would then order it from some source he knew, and days, weeks or months later, the order would be filled and taken to the customer in Mentryville.
Along came better roads and more stores and faster delivery systems. One could “call in” an order and the items would show up, along with the bill.
Now we can stare at a computer screen, order what we want and have it sent to us in the wrong color and the wrong size. Not really. But the money will be added to our credit card bill or deducted from our debit card.
I wonder what they did in 1876 when stuff that was ordered came in the wrong color and size?
So many questions, historical and new. Which brings me to another little item. Along Interstate 40 from Barstow to Wilmington, N.C., there are signs the read, “Visit Historical (fill in the blank) Oklahoma” or “New Mexico” or “Texas.” I’ve thought they should read, “Historic.” What is right? Was my Hart High education so poor that I’m thinking those signs are right? Or wrong?
If you can answer that, please fill in the blank using “historical” or “historic” as you see fit. Your official Wm. S. Hart Senior High School decoder ring may be used. Here goes: “Please shop in historic/historical (circle one) Downtown Newhall/Acton/Saugus/Castaic/Valencia/Canyon Country (circle all that are applicable), this holiday season.” Print your answer on the back of a new $20 bill and mail it to me at SCVTV. Trust me, I will tell you the correct answer – if I get enough submissions – from a beach in Costa Rica or Panama or … I’ll need plenty of your submissions to get there. Thanks.
There is no reward for the correct answer. I just want to know. And I want to get to that beach.
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 email@example.com and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].