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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, Nov 25, 2012

Darryl Manzer

When my eldest son was about 5, he called what I live in today a “compartment.” Actually it is an apartment, and it has a lot of room.

If this were on one of the submarines I served on, it would be large enough for the galley, the crew’s mess (dining area), and berthing for about 40 sailors, maybe more. All of that would be in one part of one submarine compartment; I guess I know how he got that idea.

As on a submarine, I really don’t think before I turn on a light or get some water out of the faucet. The refrigerator is right in my kitchen, as is the dishwasher, stove, and a whole mess of small appliances. I have three types of coffee makers. There is even a garbage disposal.

The bathroom not only has hot and cold running water, a sink, tub and shower – you know, the usual stuff – but it also has an exhaust fan. My closets are fairly large, and I have a place for a full-size washer and dryer.

Here’s a thought:

I want you to turn off your cell phone and use only your home landline handset. You can only listen to AM radio stations. You can’t use the dishwasher, garbage disposal or garage door opener. You cannot use a remote device for your TV or audio system. (You must get up to change the channel.) Oh, and you can only watch channels 2, 4, 5, 9 and 11 – and 20. (I say “20” only to keep my boss happy.) Move your refrigerator to the back porch or patio.

No video games. No iPad. No Internet, except to read this article. The book you read has to be a hard copy with paper. No electronics.

Get the idea? Now, turn off your electricity every night a 8 p.m., and turn it back on after your mechanical alarm clock rings.

What I just described was life in Mentryville up until 1964. That was the year we got full-time electricity from SoCal Edison.

Yes, living in Pico Cottage was a great time and place to be. It did have a lot of advantages. Natural gas was free. We raised our own chickens for eggs and of course to eat. We also raised cattle and hogs for the same reason. There were milk cows that needed milking twice a day. Calf barns to clean out every day. Feeding the livestock. Stacking hay. Herding the cattle. What fun! What work.

The utilities in Mentryville were always a little on the “sparse” side. Plenty of natural gas for lighting, heating and cooking. Water was pumped from Newhall through a pipe that ran from the old Pioneer Oil Refinery to the tank just up canyon from the schoolhouse. At one time, the water was pumped from there to the top of the ridge above and west of that tank. It was a wooden tank that burned in the 1962 wildfire.

In the 1940s a large tank was put on top of PCO Hill near the old jackline plant. I’ll show y’all the location in a future article. That huge tank supplied all of our water needs at a very high pressure. It was nearly 800 feet above the house.

We had a generator for our electrical needs, and our refrigerator sat on the back porch for safety reasons. It used natural gas to make the cold.

Today, the electricity is supplied via Edison and the water comes up the canyon from the other developments such as Stevenson Ranch. Compared to pre-1964, it is getting to be really deluxe living.

It was simple living then, but very hard work. I loved every minute of it (not!) – getting up on a cold morning with a little layer of ice over the puddles near the barn, and milking the cows with cold hands. Feeding the chickens and hogs. Collecting eggs. (I hated that job.) Feeding the calves. Cleaning up for school, bath and all – and walking to the county road to catch the bus. Got to do all of those chores again when the bus dropped me off.

I often wax fondly nostalgic on those times past. They were great times. It was the best experience I could have had for growing up.

Now I find myself  growing angry when electricity goes off for 10 minutes or less. Or when the pilot light on the water heater blows out and I have to wait for hot water. That happens about once a year. Really makes me mad.

The other day, my television-Internet-phone provider was having some technical issues and many of the movie channels were off. I was going to call and vent some choice “sailor words” on that company.

Then there are the times when my cell phone drops a call. That causes the air around me to turn dark blue.

I didn’t get stressed when the phone went out in Mentryville, or when we turned off the generator at night. I learned that gas lights often needed to have new mantles, and the glass had to be cleaned at least once a week. Nothing to stress about.

Today we drive down the road or sit in a restaurant and make phone calls, check the news and weather forecast, text friends (and foes) – you get the idea. We are stressed to the max.

Maybe I should remember how simple it was at the Pico Cottage in 1964. As long as I don’t have to collect eggs or milk a cow, I could do it again.

Well, maybe I couldn’t, but it is a pretty nice thought.

 

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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1 Comment

  1. Lakemom says:

    Great article! Those were some simpler (and harder) times, weren’t they?

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