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Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
June 7
1861 - Fort Tejon commander ordered to abandon fort (est. 1854) & transfer garrison to Los Angeles [story]
Fort Tejon

Think you’re old school? Think again. I usually get a chuckle when I read a Facebook page about “Old School SCV.” It is like a couple of younger generations are just discovering the old places and parts of the Santa Clarita Valley. What they look at as strange or unusual is really some old part of a building or maybe a road that seems to have no beginning and suddenly ends as if it was never there. I thought I was “old school,” too.

Whatever they discover, it always seems to be a creepy or haunted place of some mystery. I’ve got to admit, I did the same when I lived in Castaic and later after the family moved to Pico Canyon, aka Mentryville. The old buildings and dark canyon walls were fascinating but always a little scary.

Having come from an era of black-and-white TV, I knew the gunfights only wounded – or at least, we never saw any blood. Gene Autry and Roy Rogers’ TV shows never showed blood. Neither did other Western movies and shows, unless the person shot was just wounded and was one of the good guys. “Doc” would patch them up with their arm in a sling, and they would get the bad guy using the other hand to draw the gun and shoot.

This was my “old school” experience, and I knew it was true.

When I read of someone 30 years younger than me telling about how long they’ve been going to the Saugus Café, I realize I’ve been eating at that café since I was a little over a year old. Just to let you know, I celebrated my 70th birthday in January. The Saugus Café was very “old school” by the time I had my first meal there.

“Gunsmoke” was supposed to be set in Dodge City, Kansas, in the 1870s, but Dennis Weaver and James Arness are walking the streets of Melody Ranch in clothes and gun belts that didn’t come along until the 1920s.

The “Wild West” that I know of was from movies and TV. I could watch many of them being filmed right over at Melody Ranch in Placerita Canyon. I was certain Matt Dillon, Rowdy Yates, Hoss and Little Joe represented what the Old West looked like. The guns, horses, saddles and entire costumes showed just what it was like in authentic “old school” times.

Years passed, and I was in the Navy and got married, too. Had two sons who have been married for may years and blessed me with four grandchildren. I thought I knew all about the West. Heck, I could ride a horse pretty well, and I had a cowboy hat and a pair of cowboy boots.

I loved the illusion I learned at a very early age.

Then I moved to Tombstone, Arizona. I found out my “old school” was actually not.

My idea of how folks dressed and how their guns were carried was all wrong. It would have been great around 1920 or so, but in Tombstone, everything is in the 1880s.

You know the low-slung gunbelts and holsters. They are called a “buscadero rig.” Came along about 1920 as a way for Western lawmen to carry guns. Of course, Hollywood thought it looked good, so from that time on, all cowboys had buscadero belts and holsters. Even “Two Gun Bill” Hart wore a low-slung or buscadero rig.

Look at those old movies and TV shows. Not only did they have a “modern” gunbelt; they also had pants that had belt loops and a belt. Yes, another 1920 invention that isn’t really old school. I should mention they often showed what looked like zippers in the front of the pants. They didn’t come along until at least 1891. Buttons were the preferred method of closure until, wait for it … the 1920s.

Looking at the much older or pre-1920 flicks, we see the proper belts and dress most times. It appears that as movies became more popular, modern dress was adopted. I thought Levi Strauss pants had zippers and belt loops. So much for my “old school” education.

The writer and a fellow Tombstone gadabout are dressed in authentic, 1880s-style duds.

I had to go back in time.

I set out getting an authentic 1880s outfit. Black Western boots, pants with a button fly, and no exterior pockets. Suspenders to keep them from falling off. There is a shirt without a full collar. I have a detached collar that uses a stud to keep it on. On top of that, I can put on a tie or cravat. A rather heavy vest and a long frock coat complete my dress.

My hat is one that looks like what you see the Earp brothers wear in the 1993 film, “Tombstone.” I have a gun belt that keeps my gun at my waist and it is what is called a cross-draw type. My weapon of choice is a .45 caliber or long Colt, reproduction Regulator. It was made popular in the 1870s. Yes, it is real. I like how it shoots. Yes, I carry it on the street. I am in Arizona.

I also carry a walking stick when I’m out on the street entertaining the tourists. Lots of fun. Oh, I also wear a reproduction Tombstone Marshal badge.

So, I wasn’t as “old school” as I thought. I had to learn and adapt to “real” old school. At least the heavy vest and frock coat have pockets. Well, the pants do, too, but they are well hidden. That means I have a place to carry my “old school” personal telegraph – my cell phone.

The younger generations are learning like I did. Hope they never stop.


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 for a spell. Darryl has traveled far and finally landed near the town “too tough to die,” Tombstone, Arizona, calling it home for the past two years with the exception of summers camp-hosting at Refugio State Beach near Goleta. 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 Comment

  1. jim says:

    Hey Darryl!,

    Long time no see since you sifted off to the southeast of here. I miss the meets at Crazy Otto’s off Santiago Rd.

    That outfit looks good on you in the pics. I don’t remember if you’re a righty or a lefty, but I sure hope that cane in your picture has at least a one-shot capacity…

    It’s good to know that you are well and enjoying life in the deep southwest.

    Jim Van Sickle

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