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About Linda Pedersen

  • Member Since: March 17, 2016

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Linda Pedersen is a 50-year resident of the Santa Clarita Valley. She has alternated being a columnist and feature writer with volunteering in the community.

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Now and Then – A Holiday Message

| Community | December 14, 2017

In the early 1950s, a children’s Christmas record entitled “Why the Chimes Rang” was sold in some department stores. It told the story of a fictional kingdom whose grand cathedral boasted chimes so glorious they would make the angels weep. Sadly, the chimes had been silent for hundreds of years. The community began gathering at midnight each Christmas Eve to place offerings at the church altar in hopes they would awaken the bells — but no matter how grand the gift, the chimes remained silent.

One momentous Christmas Eve, two peasant boys trudged through the snow towards the cathedral. The older brother clasped a small piece of silver dug from the fields near the family home. The nugget was to be his birthday gift for the baby Jesus at the midnight service. Their journey was interrupted when a dark shadow fell across their path. An old woman had collapsed near a snow bank, too weak and cold to make her way home. The older boy knelt by the woman giving her bread from his knapsack and rubbing her hands for warmth.

The boy knew he must stay with the old woman and comfort her while his brother went for help. Fighting back tears of disappointment that he wouldn’t be able to give Jesus his gift, he urged his little brother to continue the journey and place the silver on the altar for him.

Meanwhile, a long line of worshippers had gathered at the church — merchants, knights, and noblemen, all waiting to place their most prized possessions on the altar. As the evening wore on, the gifts became more and more precious, yet still the chimes remained silent. At last, the king marched forward, took the crown from his head, and placed it on the altar. The villagers held their breaths, surely this majestic gift would, at last, make the bells ring. But only the wind could be heard whistling through the tower. The disappointed crowd turned and shuffled towards the door.

Suddenly the tower began to resonate with peal after peal of melodious harmonies. The people pivoted toward the altar and saw that a small boy was kneeling in prayer beside a small piece of silver he had placed near the king’s crown. Wide-eyed they watched as an angel appeared and spoke to them. She explained that although the Christ Child was honored by the magnificent gifts brought to him each year on his birthday, the only gift worthy of unleashing the joyous pealing of the bells had been given that night far from the cathedral — it was the unselfish, compassionate act of a young boy.

In a season filled with symbols, the story is a reminder of what many believe is the real meaning behind the brightly colored lights, the eggnog, and the festive December parties. And while the story is decidedly Christian, the sentiment is not exclusive to Christianity, it can be found in most religions and philosophies.

That philosophy of unselfish compassion can be found, not just at Christmas, but all year round at the SCV Food Pantry on Railroad Avenue. The volunteer-based organization, officially established in 1986 through the efforts of the St. Stephen’s Episcopal and Santa Clarita United Methodist churches, had one mission: to help feed the growing number of poverty-level families in the Santa Clarita Valley.

St. Stephens donated space for the first food distributions, but as the number of needy residents grew, the demand for larger facilities prompted the move to Railroad Avenue in 1992.

The SCV Rotary Club has donated turkeys for Thanksgiving dinners to the SCV Food Pantry for over 30 years. This year, 220 turkeys were handed out on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

In recent years the Pantry has added a Senior Outreach program, which delivers food to low-income senior citizens living in apartment complexes located around the valley.

Food distribution is on a short-term, supplemental, need basis. To qualify for assistance, individuals and families must be current residents of the SCV, earn no more than 150 percent of the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program’s poverty level standards, and be actively searching for employment if not disabled or retired.

Suggested food donations include peanut butter, healthy snacks and cereals, canned meats, vegetables and soups, and macaroni and cheese. Suggested non-food items are shampoo, deodorant, disposable diapers, baby wipes, bar soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Donations may be taken to 24133 Railroad Avenue in Newhall. For operating hours and more information, call 661-255-9078.

Now and Then – ‘Tis the Season

| Community | December 7, 2017

When the winter Santa Anas begin to blow, flames, whether from natural or manmade sources, usually aren’t far behind, creating a fire season as well as a holiday season in Southern California. So, while we should be stringing outdoor lights and decorating trees during this first official week of December celebrations, we are instead watching the skies and our televisions to monitor the fires burning around our valley.

A little distraction seems in order with a look back at Decembers past and a few events warmed by camaraderie, eggnog, and good will rather than fire.

Unlike SCV’s annual Fourth of July Parade, local Christmas parades have had a sporadic past. The winter tradition flourished for a while in the 1970s, and one memorable parade in the heart of Old Town Newhall featured a candy-tossing Santa (played by Downtown business owner, Dr. Mac Shaughnessy) and a surprise visit from Mickey Mouse. The children squealed with delight as the life-sized mouse blew kisses and shook hands while making his way down the parade route. Special thanks went to CalArts executive Jack Clark for arranging Mickey’s appearance.

A popular ‘70s celebration, and one of the biggest annual holiday parties, was hosted by Art and Betty Evans (Art was a longtime community leader as well as the former owner of a short-lived rival publication of The Signal). If there was someone you’d been trying to hook up with for weeks, but never made the connection, you were sure to find him or her crowded under the mistletoe at the Evans’ hilltop home in Saugus.

No one blinked an eye when a state official like Assemblyman Bob Cline squeezed through the people-packed rooms to munch on hors d’oeuvres with L.A. District Attorney John Van de Kamp, Newhall Court Judge Jack Clark (how often does a community have two respected leaders with the same name?), and the two captains of our law enforcement establishments: the Sheriff’s Bill Fairchild and his wife Flora, and Highway Patrol’s Ken Forster and wife Francine.

Our own local celebrity, artist and historian Lloyd Houghton, could be spotted talking jazz with Ted Lamkin and Scott and Ruth Newhall while Miriam Canty, Harriett Lindeman, the Chris Uphams, and the John Relics joined a long line of guests dishing up a variety of main dishes topped off by Art’s famous coleslaw.

Canyon Country was ably represented by attorneys Sam Thompson, Kevin Lynch, and Dan Hon, as well as CC Chamber supporters Marj Akehurst, Bob and Rose Ohler, Bill and Vickie Oren, Ken and Anne Lynch, Gerry and Moana Steinberg, and George and Maggie Wells.

With such an outstanding opportunity to catch up on every aspect of Santa Clarita Valley life, it was hard to leave the party — the next person walking through the front door may be a U.S. senator, your Little League coach, the superintendent of your school district, your lawyer, your hairstylist, or your cable TV man. What more could any party-goer ask for?

The Newhall-Saugus-Valencia Chamber of Commerce (whose name lost its hyphenation when the membership opted for the title “Santa Clarita Valley”) celebrated the holidays with a social that singled out hard-working members, presented honorary lifetime awards, and gave its guests a musical respite before sending them back to their busy offices and hectic shopping chores.

Held in the Fiesta Room at the Ranch House Inn (sadly torn down to make room for more motel rooms), the 1974 event honored future Sand Canyon resident (and frequent entertainer at local events) Stuart Hamblen with a lifetime membership. Hamblen, who was best known as a songwriter and the founder of the Cowboy Church of the Air, accepted the award from then chamber president Art Briner.

During his acceptance speech, Stuart told the crowd that his philosophy of life was “any man that don’t like hound dogs, fast horses, and pretty women, ain’t worth killing.” With his number one pretty woman, wife Suzy, by his side, Hamblen entertained the gathering with the couple’s humorous “homesteading” experiences on Mulholland Drive in Hollywood. His city slicker neighbors didn’t take kindly to their rooster, hound dogs, and horses, but once he and Suzy ate the rooster and fenced in their property, things quieted down. He felt certain that the Hamblen lifestyle would be a more perfect fit in Sand Canyon.

The evening ended with Stuart singing his latest song, “Leave This House One More Time, and I’m Gonna Clobber You, Little Darlin’.”

The audience found themselves humming the catchy melody as they headed to their cars at the end of the evening. Hamblen’s tongue-in-cheek, down-home humor was greeted with laughs in the ‘70s, but today’s politically correct audiences might not embrace it quite as warmly. Just one more reminder how things have changed in our PC world where “Merry Christmas” is often frowned on as a cheerful seasonal greeting.

Now and Then – The Honorary Mayor Contests

| Community | November 30, 2017

The SCV may not have had an official mayor until December of 1987, but thanks to the Elks Lodge, it did have a number of Honorary Mayors pre-cityhood. In February 1970, the Elks inaugurated its Honorary Mayor Contest – a month-long campaign of fundraisers hosted by social, charitable, political, and service organizations with one goal in mind, to separate the “voter” from his money. The organization that amassed the largest campaign chest at the end of the four-week race earned its candidate the right to wear the badge of Honorary Mayor for one year.

The contest started each February with a Kick-Off Dance at the Elks Lodge. Candidates assembled with their respective backers to sell campaign buttons, tickets, kisses, and most anything else that was legal – each 10 cents donated to a campaign was counted as one vote.

Harold Shands manned the “pace car” for the YoYos and Gumdrops fundraiser organized by Jo Kehiayan.

The Kick-Off was followed by four weekends of eclectic events that included everything from car washes to auctions, golf tournaments to theater parties, and raffles to fashion shows. Over the years, an impressive slate of candidates paraded before the public, sporting campaign buttons like “Let George Do It” (not Pederson, who would later use the slogan to run for City Council, but Rotarian George Wells, former Straw Hat Pizza owner and longtime supporter of the Boys and Girls Club and Henry Mayo Memorial Hospital); and “Fee for Me,” (G.W. Fee, the Moose Lodge’s good-natured “elder statesman” who stood out in every crowd because he wore railroad overalls to every event – right up until the inauguration banquet when he shocked his followers by donning a tuxedo).

Fee’s family had settled in Newhall in the 1920s. His mother and stepfather, Dora and John Taylor, opened Taylor’s Place on San Fernando Road (now Main Street) shortly after moving to the valley. Their malt shop was next to Newhall Community Hospital. The family also sold chicken pot pies to the men who were working on the “Newhall Grade” tunnel in the early ‘30s. G.W. had worked for the State of California, Newhall Land, Bermite, and Southern California Edison before retiring in 1970.
Fee, who ended up winning the 1978 Honorary Mayor title, would spend the next year alternating ceremonial duties with part-time jobs at Dillenbeck’s Market and the Feed Bin on Sierra Highway, as well as his farming chores.

The list of candidates represented a “who’s who” on the social and charitable scene, featuring hard-working volunteers like social mavens Claire Rider, Janet Hughes, and Joyce Armstrong (later Whiteside-Bell); country-western entertainers Tex Williams, Cliffie Stone, and Carl Cribbs; popular emcee and character actor George Keegan; featured singer and keyboard artist Cindy Kress from the popular family band Cindy and Co.; and Newhall Bowl co-owner, Lee Turner.

The popularity of the Honorary Mayor candidates was rivaled only by the ingenious fundraisers planned by the competing organizations. In 1974, campaign manager Jo Kehiayan hosted a Yo-Yos and Gumdrops party for Republican Women’s Club candidate Estelle Dowdy. The event offered party-goers a chance at a second childhood with activities like yo-yo contests and tricycle and roller skating races – and all the contestants seemed quite comfortable in their new roles. Ed and Sue Barnhill, Carol and Harris Howard, Pat Willett, Beulah Cannon, Prudy Thatcher, Judy Anderson, and Olive Ruby were just a few of those enjoying the evening’s antics.

Highlight was the tricycle race around the backyard pool (a precursor to the Rocking Horse Derby in the ‘80s and the more recent Child & Family Trike Derby). Conscientious pit and ambulance crews were on hand to reattach loose wheels, spokes, and handlebars along the circuitous course. Anyone falling in the pool was an automatic winner, but since the evening temperature was about 50 degrees, no one took that route.

At another event hosted by the political group, Maureen Reagan, daughter of the California governor at the time, dropped by to share campaign stories and anecdotes.

Some of the most popular events featured music performed by the Country-Western candidates themselves. Not surprisingly, they were often joined on stage by many of their fellow stars. And

Country-Western entertainers Tex Williams and Don Lee not only performed for Tex’s campaign, but events for other Honorary Mayor candidates as well. Original Photo by Don Atkinson

thanks to Elks Lodge members Russ and Susie Bisset, Dixieland fans were treated to jam sessions with legendary musicians like Pete Daily, Nappy Lamare, Bill Campbell, Al Jenkins, Hugh Allison, Jack Wadsworth, Abe Lincoln, and Wayne Songer.

With anywhere from three to five events going on each weekend, little wonder that the sponsoring organizations, their supporters, and their flattened wallets were happy to see the March Inaugural banquet arrive. The dinner-dance was a suspenseful one for the candidates as they waited to see who would emerge victorious. But at the end, the consensus was that the real winners were the respective charities, which would benefit from the good-natured competitions.

And unlike many conventional mayors, who tend to fade into the background once their tenures are over, the past winners returned year after year to support the race – as 1975 Honorary Mayor Janet Hughes quipped, “Old mayors never die, we just sell someone else’s raffle tickets.”

Now and Then: Elk’s Lodge Celebrates 50th Anniversary

| Community | November 23, 2017

Even though Christmas decorations began popping up in retail shopping centers before Halloween was over, service and charitable organizations have not overlooked the special November holiday dedicated to giving thanks. Turkey, chicken, and canned food donations to the SCV Food Pantry, and special meals for seniors and the homeless have highlighted the month and will continue to be the focus of many local charities.

It might have been coincidental that the founding fathers of the Newhall-Saugus Elks Lodge signed their charter during this holiday season, however, that act gave their members one more thing to be grateful for – and each November, they have marked the formation with a special celebration.

The anniversary festivities have become a Thanksgiving tradition falling either on the weekend before or the weekend after the momentous day. This year marked a landmark — the 50th anniversary of the founding — and organizers went all out for the occasion. Special thanks to past-exalted ruler Cheryl Laymon for providing some of the program highlights.
About 150 members and friends gazed in wonder at the sea of glittering gold and purple decorations that illuminated the main ballroom of the Sierra Highway lodge last Saturday night. It took four hours of inspired creativity to achieve the effect and those contributing to the artistry were Larry and Dwanna Lousberg, Paul and Gale Gleim, John Rivetti, Skip and Karen Henke, and Roseanne Dalton.

Dwanna provided the floral centerpieces, Roseanne the golden chair covers, and John the matching tablecloths. Commemorative shot glasses were from Rfocus Company.

Brian and Leslie from NECA Catering were in charge of the evening’s buffet, which featured fettuccini Alfredo, London broil, and chicken pesto entrees.

The evening began with a prayer offered by lodge chaplain Paul Gleim followed by the Young Marines of Santa Clarita Color Guard, and flag salute led by lodge esquire Richard Snyder.

The main program of the evening was the Rededication of the lodge led by California-Hawaii Elks Association past president and district leader Skip Henke.

After dinner State Senator Scott Wilk, Assemblyman Dante Acosta, and Elks member and City Councilman Bob Kellar presented government proclamations and commendations. City of Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste, who is also an Elks member, followed with praise for the group’s accomplishments over the years. Assistant field director Nicole Vartanian presented commendations from 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

A special gift to the Lodge, a Commemorative 50th Anniversary Clock, was unveiled by longtime volunteer Judith Farkas.

The formalities came to an eye-popping end when the lights were dimmed and master baker and Lodge bingo volunteer Jo Alpern rolled out a colossal sheet cake flickering with the golden bursts of 50 giant sparklers.

Now and Then – Mother was a Fullback

| Community | November 9, 2017

The Greek philosopher Plato believed that there were two worlds – an unseen world of forms that was the ideal, and the apparent world, which patterns itself after the ideal, but is constantly changing. Thus, there is the “perfect chair” somewhere above us in the firmament, while there are myriads of varieties of chairs here in the physical world.

If modern soccer were around in Plato’s time, he most likely would have envisioned his prototype of the ideal soccer player. Now there are millions of soccer players, all with their own shapes and forms. In 1977, some of those took the form of women who made up a team called “The Santa Clarita Valley Spurs.” They were a mixture of heights, weights, and ages – one, barely out of her teens, but the majority were mothers, whose closest link to a soccer ball up to that time had been standing on the sidelines cheering for their sons and daughters.

A few of them eventually ventured on to the field to help their husbands coach a sport that was relatively new to the American psyche. From this nucleus, a fledgling team began to emerge, inspired by one of their ranks whose husband was a soccer whiz.

Ernie Mendez, a coach and member of a recreational men’s soccer team, could maneuver around frustrated defenders like a spinning sprite, conjuring up magical feats of ball “handling” with his feet. His wife Eugenia encouraged Ernie to use his skills to teach a group of enthusiastic matrons the difference between a goal kick and a corner kick; and to resist the urge to catch the ball with their hands whenever it bounced their way. Not an easy undertaking for some whose gut reaction while running down the field to intercept a pass was to stick out an arm, rather than a leg.

Luckily for Ernie, there were a few who had spent a semester or two in school learning some of the basics of the game. There were also some who excelled in other sports and used their athletic abilities to make up for their often awkward attempts to tame the black and white sphere with their feet. After a few months of Saturday afternoon teaching and work-out sessions, a fairly cohesive team emerged that was eager to test newly acquired skills against teams from other areas.

The author is on the bottom right

In 1979, the team began burning up the San Fernando Valley soccer fields in the B Division of the Tri Valley Women’s Soccer League – a division that included women in roughly the same age group. (While none of the players came close to being classified as “over the hill,” when one of them mentioned “36,” she most likely was talking about her age, not her measurements).

The season ended with an impressive second place in the division following a narrow defeat by the San Fernando Valley Charlie Browns. On a frosty February evening in 1980, the Spurs joined other soccer teams at a Tri-Valley awards banquet held at the Knollwood Country Club.

Goalie Lori Soper, the “kid” on the team, was the evening’s big winner, receiving a certificate for having the lowest number of goals scored against her in league play. Lori was helped in this impressive feat by a solid line of defenders which included Diane Martin, Doris Armstrong, Joan Hofferber, and Barbara Lawless (and yes, even this columnist. (My sons used to joke, “How often can a guy say his mother was a fullback?!”)

The halfbacks who helped keep the ball from slipping beyond midfield included Peggy Stratton, Carla Morning, Fran Bodman, Lynn Gabrielson, Carol Garcia, and Linda Roth.

Scoring attacks for the Spurs were led by Lorraine Bowman, Susie Hermann, Wendy Schroeder, Anita Affa, Dana Barnett, and Eugenia Mendez.

All the players received trophies from Coach Mendez before taking to the dance floor to perform some other fancy footwork. When the team members weren’t dancing or talking about league play, they were discussing a two-week trip that a few had signed up for at the end of the season. The trip included an international soccer adventure in New Zealand the following month – an encouraging sign that not all athletic opportunities are reserved for youngsters.

Following their success in the ‘70s, the team moved into the ‘80s, honoring their coach by adopting the name of “Ernie’s Angels.” The women and significant others also maintained close friendships off the soccer field long after competitions were over. They planned private get-togethers and field trips, and participated in fundraisers for the youth soccer programs – the catalyst that had brought them together.

Soccer, and women’s soccer in particular, has come a long way in the United States since those early days. Now posters of pony-tailed stars often adorn teens’ walls alongside those of rock bands. The stars of today may well be the epitome of Plato’s ideal, but for a while, there was a variety of players from Plato’s “apparent world” right here in the Santa Clarita Valley who still have little gold soccer trophies gathering dust in their closets.

 

Now and Then: ‘Politricks’ and Treats

| Community | November 3, 2017

Halloween: masks, candy, homemade ghostly decorations – and revelers, young and old, choosing their favorite fantasies and living behind new personae for a few hours during October’s “witching hours.”

Well, that’s how it used to be. Granted, the candy is still here, but so many other dynamics have come into play over the years! One of the more dramatic changes has involved home decorations – they have taken on a whole new dimension, becoming more and more elaborate. Back in the 1960s, it was unique to see a house with little more than a few grinning jack-o-lanterns adorning the front porch.

(I do recall one ingenious family that rigged a giant homemade spider in the tree above their front porch. The teenagers inside took great pleasure lowering the fuzzy creature over the heads of the unsuspecting trick-or-treaters hustling up the sidewalk to ring the doorbell. Squeals, then giggles of relief from the costumed characters rewarded the teens’ trickery. The “victims” were then treated (revived?) with large chocolate bars for “surviving” the arachnid ambush. (Those ingenious teens might be subjected to a lawsuit in today’s litigious society.)

The jack-o-lantern is still the decoration of choice, however, there are now myriads of orange, purple, and black twinkle lights being sold in bulk at stores, along with life-size witches, ghouls, skeletons and Frankensteins – many complete with moveable arms and cackling sound effects. (Where do homeowners find the space to store these decorations when the holiday is over? Most of us barely have room for the Christmas trimmings.)

And what about masks and costumes? Forget the uproar over political masks – this year, the

PC police widened the ban on costume choices. One politically correct commentator issued shame warnings to anyone who would choose to dress up like a Tyrolean mountain climber, a Flamenco dancer, a Geisha, or a fearless Cossack, condemning the use of any and all cultural representations. She didn’t mention the region of Transylvania, so the verdict must still be out on whether celebrants should be considered racist for wearing vampire attire.

Then there’s the subject of trick or treating – it’s not surprising that many neighborhoods have seen the decline of the holiday’s traditional door-to-door visits. Criminal activities in the past, some very real, some urban legend, have prompted parents to ban the practice in favor of group parties at clubhouses and community “spook fests.” Also popular are “trunk-or-treat” get-togethers featuring line-ups of spookily decorated car trunks containing all kinds of sweet treats and plenty of adult supervision.

Decorations, costumes, and political correctness aside, the Canyon Theatre Guild added a bit of ghoulish entertainment to the season with its October production of “The Addams Family,” a musical romp featuring many of the favorite cartoon characters penned by Charles Addams in 1938.

Executive artistic director TimBen Boydston reported that the show, directed by his wife Ingrid with assistance from Musette Caing, broke attendance records for the Main Street theatre venue. Little wonder, since the Broadway comedy appeals to adults and children alike (even though many of the double entendres escape the youngsters in the audiences).

Once again, the quality of singing and acting emanating from the stage was amazing. The play, featuring headliners Bryan McCravy (Gomez), Savannah Marie (Morticia), and Skylar Cutchall (Wednesday), combined the many diverse human emotions espoused in the musical number “Happy Sad,” not only in the song’s lyrics, but in the presentation’s dramatic family interactions as well. Tying the action together and moving the scenes along with humorous antics that had the children and adults in the audience laughing out loud was Eduardo Arteaga as Uncle Fester.

The production was sparked with unique artistic touches delivered by the entire ensemble – all adding to enthusiastic applause from the audience. Since the play proved popular enough to warrant an extra Sunday afternoon performance, it might also have inspired a myriad of Addams family costumes the following Tuesday night. While gloomy black attire, long, drab overcoats, and blinking light bulbs might raise the hackles of the fashion police, surely they are innocent enough to fall under the radar of the PC police!

In any case, it will be interesting to see what the country’s political and cultural climate will have in store for us next October!

Now and Then – Changing Landscape in Downtown Newhall

| Community | October 26, 2017

In the winter of 2004 and the spring of 2005, a new word was introduced into SCV vocabularies. The word was charrette (sometimes written charette or charet). Charrettes were part of a months-long process introduced by the architects and urbanists of Moule & Polyzoides, who were hired to develop a unifying, specific plan for the Downtown Newhall area.

Those outside the process eventually learned that charrette was a French word for what the average citizen would most likely call a study session or committee planning meeting – and there were plenty of those scheduled to include the ideas and dreams of our local leaders and community members into Moule & Polyzoides’ final product.

If you’ve ever wondered about the impetus for the many improvements that have taken place in the downtown area over the years, look no further than the weighty document released in February of 2005. The Specific Plan incorporated input from studies of other “revived” downtown areas to compare and note their best characteristics. The process also included two 3-day interactive town hall meetings, and 12 days of public comment. The results were posted on the city website and were also available in printed form.

Undaunted readers found that the plan covered the general as well as the specific, outlining costs and timetables for each component in the transformation procedure. The Planning Commission continued the process, dissecting the document for presentation at a series of hearings designed to give the public a chance to comment and critique.

For veterans of the Downtown Newhall revitalization movement the Specific Plan was the latest in a series of actions begun in 1989 when the City of Santa Clarita created The Newhall Redevelopment Agency. The Agency’s goal was to “undertake redevelopment activities that remove physically and economically blighted conditions that inhibit and continue to plague economic growth in the city.”

The Agency’s redevelopment project area, established by the City Council in 1997, included the retail, industrial, public, and residential properties generally situated along the Lyons Avenue and then San Fernando Road corridors. Goals set by the Agency included “the creation of an attractive, memorable image that expresses Newhall’s history and character and enhances the role of Newhall as a community center.”

Before securing the services of Moule & Polyzoides, the Newhall Redevelopment Committee had reviewed other cities’ revitalization projects, conferred with development consultants, listened to concerns of the Old Town Newhall Association, and exchanged feelings and ideas on their visions for the area. Some of the resulting recommendations included façade beautification, street lighting improvements, and additional parking.

The Specific Plan took those goals into consideration and produced a visualization of a revamped Downtown Newhall and the steps necessary to turn the vision into reality – right down to underground utilities and designated street trees. The plan sought to transform the Downtown strip into an attractive, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented, economically vital center.

One of the most visual aspects of the plan stands where Main Street dead-ends at Lyons –the large, state-of-the-art public library. In 1997, the planners felt that the building should be balanced on the south end of Main Street by a museum that would help unite historic and civic value to the area – a children’s museum was one of the suggested ideas.

While the museum may remain a pipe dream, groundbreaking has already taken place and steel is in the ground for a 42-room hotel located near the entrance to Downtown Newhall on Railroad Ave. (next to Roger Dunn Golf and across the street from Newhall Ice Company). Internet and newspaper stories have reported that the Hotel Luxen will have two main stories and a penthouse.

It was inevitable that not all of the Specific Plan recommendations would be followed – times and people’s needs change. That seems to pertain to the plan’s provision to augment the limited parking areas with two strategically located “park-once” garages on the east side of Main Street. The garages have not materialized and ample parking for downtown shoppers and diners remains an issue. However, there will be a parking garage included as part of the Laemmle Theatre complex – a mixed-use development near the library.

The Laemmle addition to the Downtown Newhall vista is just one example of the evolving process that has resulted from the hours, days, months, and years of work put in by the Redevelopment Committee members (the Agency was dissolved in 2012 and the city became the Successor Agency), the Planning Commission, and the city officials since the launch of the Specific Plan 12 years ago. The success of their efforts can be measured in the new restaurants, landscaping, and boutiques that have sprung up on Main Street. If the excitement created by these improvements is any indication, more unplanned and unique surprises, such as the Rotary Clock near the Canyon Theatre, will continue to add to the character and visual landscape greeting motorists as they enter the downtown area.

Now and Then – A Legal Time-Out

| Community | October 12, 2017

With all the national strife taking place over gun control and border security, a little breather might be in order – a brief time-out to look at some of the less complex kinds of crime taking place in the little town of Newhall at the turn of the century – the 20th Century that is.

At a Bosses Night hosted by the SCV Legal Secretaries Association in 1980, lawyers, judges, office workers, and local residents listened as Judge Adrian Adams took them back in time with a short list of Newhall Municipal Court cases dating from 1898.

By exploring the dockets, the judge found that the most common crime of the era was evading railroad fares or “riding the rails.” Penalty was $5 if caught. Another prevalent crime was picking yuccas, which cost the budding botanists $5.

Prohibition had a marked influence on the arrests in Newhall. During those honky-tonk days, one judge fined a man $23 or 180 days in jail for possessing a still. The same judge threw the book at another man named Sam Gish for being caught in a “disorderly house.” Gish was given 60 days – a sentence that was later enigmatically suspended. The reason for the suspension wasn’t recorded.

Judge Adams pointed out one interesting fact to all those in the audience who insisted on a Wild West characterization for a town that was actually born as a railroad stop – there were no horse stealing felonies in the Newhall dockets.

The SCV Legal Secretaries Association was very active in the 80s with installations and special events that showcased its members’ creative and humorous sides. Judge Adams’ remarks were preceded by a tongue-in-cheek monologue delivered by chair Louisa de Tolentino.

Parodying the opening lines from the “Superman” TV series (faster than a speeding bullet, etc., etc.) Louisa painted a comical picture of the power structure at a law office. “The senior partner leaps buildings in a single bound; the junior partner leaps small buildings with a running start; the junior associate runs into buildings and recognizes them as buildings two out of three times.”

Her satirical analogy continued with: “The paralegal makes high marks on walls while trying to leap over buildings; the law clerk falls over doorsteps when trying to enter buildings; the legal secretary simply lifts the buildings and walks under them.”

And lest anyone forget the marked differences between the legal office occupants, Louisa’s monologue ended with this local “truism”: while the “senior partner talks to God, the junior partner makes an appointment and a paralegal waits in line to talk to God – the legal secretary IS God!”

The evening also included a “Best Boss” essay contest, which awarded special prizes to writer Maureen Ryon and her boss, Lawrence Grassini; and a skit about a typical day in “the law firm of Hon, Lowder, Patterson, Wolfe, Baxter, Grassini, Olsen, etc., etc.”

The authors of the skit, Jackie Adair and Teresia Haase, took some good-natured jabs at the valley’s lawyers, along with a few digs at the legal profession as well (“Rick Patterson phoned in to say he was detained in Hawaii; and Mr. Grassini was at Memorial Hospital having his usual morning coffee with the patients in the emergency room”).

The evening ended with a “Mediocre Medley” written by Jackie and Norma Jean Fish. Using melodies from popular “oldies,” Pat Bernard, Louisa de Tolentino, Teresia Haas, Carol Lawrence, and Marge Lowder joined Jackie and Norma Jean in songs like “Home, Home at the Law Firm, where seldom is heard, from a client, a word;” and “Opposing Council, Give me Your Answer Do, I’m half crazy waiting to hear from you.”

The songs and skit proved that the ladies didn’t have to be secretaries to make a living, a whole world of show biz was out there just waiting for their talents – talents which, incidentally, could well serve our legislators in Washington. Imagine how much harmony might be achieved if Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan dropped some of their posturing and took to the stage to poke fun at themselves and their bickering!

Now and Then – ‘Age is Inevitable, Aging Isn’t’ Marv Levy, former football coach and motivational speaker

| Community | October 5, 2017

by Linda Pedersen

In many cases, negative realities of aging minds and bodies clash with the well-meaning platitudes of motivational speakers like Marv Levy. A contrasting view is accredited to actress Bette Davis: “Getting old is not for sissies.” Both sentiments have a home at the SCV Senior Center. Whether the aging experience is positive or challenging, there are programs and resources at the Center for each, beginning with an active social calendar.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”
George Bernard Shaw

The Center’s social scene unfolds each weekday at 8 a.m. when seniors begin arriving at the Market Street building in Newhall by foot (a senior housing complex is next door), by car, or city bus. Weather permitting, many take a seat outside the entry, waiting to greet friends and catch up on the latest gossip.

Chess enthusiasts, card players, pool sharks, and budding artists migrate inside where there is a designated area for each hobby. On certain days, lines form outside for buses that will take the more adventurous on day trips to outside attractions like casinos, vineyards, or libraries.

The non-stop activities pause at noon each day when live music begins emanating from the community room. It’s there that seniors enjoy a nutritious lunch, then tap their toes or grab a partner to dance to the infectious tunes being played.

This scenario had its start in the ‘70s, before the Market Place building was available to seniors. At that time, the Oak of the Golden Dream Senior Citizen Club organized monthly lunches at the Elks Lodge. Created by SCV resident Kay Coleman as a way to provide a social outlet for her aging parents, the club designated a theme for each month’s get-together. During the summer, seniors would dress up in colorful luau costumes, which would only be outdone by the spooky outfits they would wear at October’s Halloween luncheon.

Whether the theme was Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or Thanksgiving, the scene was the same — energetic seniors sipping soft drinks or wine, laughing over their lunch entrees, and then dancing to the tunes played on the piano by retired schoolteacher Ruth Jones. Community activist and future SCV Man of the Year Frank Lorelli made sure there were no wallflowers at the dance. With wife Gussie’s blessing, he would twirl a number of partners round the dance floor.

The participants who populated the luncheons and events promoted by the Oak of the Golden Dream Senior Citizens Club blended into the new milieu created when the SCV Committee on Aging secured the county-owned building on Market Street in 1983 and began offering its daily calendar of activities.

The SCVCOA also had its beginnings in 1972 with the same goal of providing activities and services for senior citizens. It reached official status when it was incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) in 1976. With its new designation, the committee was able to pursue official support and funding for specially allocated senior citizen programs from Los Angeles County and, in turn, the Federal Government’s Older Americans Act. The early years of negotiating and organizing by the grassroots organization led to the donation of the county building.

While the social aspect of the Senior Center is the most visible, the organization has other far-reaching benefits for our valley’s aging population. In addition to special exercise, dance, and music classes, the Center also sponsors educational lectures and counseling sessions for seniors, their family members and caregivers.

“If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”
Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees Slugger

A health and wellness component at the Center addresses the unique physical and mental challenges facing the aging population. In addition to classes for attaining and maintaining general health, the Center’s outreach also includes information and resources for those with age-related diseases. Health clinics, care management counseling, and a weekly caregiver support group are a few of the services offered. An In-Home Care Program provides supervision for things like personal care, meal and medication management, as well as light housekeeping. Adult Day Care is also available for those with conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia, post-stroke, and Parkinson’s disease.

Home delivered lunches are prepared according to state nutritional requirements for certain homebound seniors depending on medical condition, recent illness, recent discharges from the hospital, and mental or emotional dysfunction.

“It’s important to have a twinkle in your wrinkle.”
Author Unknown

According to the website, over 200 volunteers, many independent seniors themselves, provide a support system for executive director Kevin MacDonald and the Center staff. With 19 different programs and services offered, the volunteers are a valuable resource. And when the Baby Boomers began expanding the aging population, the Center’s volunteer board (SCVCOA) took up the challenge of providing for that expansion with its $11 million building campaign.

“The Market Street center has served our valley well,” says board president Peggy Rasmussen, “but it has its own aging problems. Its size and infrastructure are being sorely stressed by our burgeoning number of clients.”

The board’s campaign to provide SCV seniors with a larger, state-of-the-art building is within $1 million of its goal, prompting a ground-breaking ceremony this month near the intersection of Golden Valley Parkway and Newhall Ranch Road. The new facility will not only provide a home for seniors, but a valuable resource for other community organizations as well. To donate or learn more about the Center’s services and its building campaign, one may visit newseniorcenter.com or call (661) 259-9444.

“The Boomers will eventually have to accept that it is not possible to stay forever young or to stop aging. But it is possible, by committing to show up for others in community after community, to earn a measure of immortality.”

-Eric Liu, Deputy Assistant for Domestic Policy to President Clinton

Now and Then – Kevin MacDonald, SCV Senior Center CEO

| Community | September 21, 2017

Mountain Lakes is a small town in New Jersey with plenty of trails and lakes for outdoor activities. And as a youngster growing up in the ‘60s, Kevin MacDonald spent a good deal of his leisure time hiking and camping with family and friends. But it was the hours spent closer to home, in his own neighborhood, that had the biggest impact on Kevin’s life. That was because one of his neighbors, a young boy named Jimmy, had Down Syndrome. Since Kevin’s parents were involved with services for the disabled, Kevin learned how to interact with Jimmy as a helpmate as well as a playmate.

Kevin’s friendship with Jimmy, coupled with his parents’ charitable activities, led to a passion for helping the disabled, motivating him to organize an extracurricular club in high school that he called the Social Action Committee. The group’s activities took many different forms, from volunteering at nursing homes to fundraising for a variety of charities.

His dedication to social work continued into Kevin’s college years at the University of Dayton in Ohio. He supplemented the courses required for a Bachelor of Science degree in Business with a number of classes dedicated to the social sciences.

“A business background was invaluable, but social work was where my heart was at,” Kevin says.

The passion for helping others prompted Kevin to apply for a job with The Arc when he returned home following graduation. The Arc, a service organization that he first became acquainted with as a high school volunteer, “promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through a number of services.”

SCV Senior Center Executive Director Kevin MacDonald holds the music for pianist Richard Roelofs during one of the daily luncheons held at the Center on Market Street.

Kevin’s responsibilities with the Morris County chapter of The Arc included finding homes for people with disabilities. His three years at the job solidified a determination to seek further education so he could one day serve as an executive director of the organization. “The more positive interactions I had with volunteers, staff, and clients, the more interested I became in finding innovative ways of managing those interactions,” says Kevin. That interest led to two years at the University of California, Berkeley pursuing a master’s degree in business administration.

Shortly after earning his degree, Kevin became a lobbyist for The Arc in Sacramento. The chance to learn the inner workings of the California disability system well compensated for the low pay, and helped him to secure a permanent position as executive director at The Arc in Downey, California.

MacDonald’s next 23 years fine-tuned his expertise in developing programming, leading fundraising projects, and integrating community and business services for the disabled. It also prepared him for a new challenge in a new town when a recruiter approached him a little over a year ago about an executive director position with the SCV Senior Center. One of the deciding factors in accepting the offer was the chance to participate in the building campaign for a new center scheduled to be built at the corner of Newhall Ranch and Golden Valley roads.

“I looked forward to leading a capital campaign because it would take my fundraising skills up a notch,” explains Kevin, “but my first priority when I took over in July 2016, was to listen to the needs expressed by the Center board, the staff, the volunteers, and the seniors themselves. I found that there was a collective desire to spruce up the county building on Market Street, which has served as the Center’s home for 40 years, and to improve and enhance the Center’s many diverse services.”

As Kevin has become better acquainted with the Santa Clarita Valley, the Center’s board (better known as the Santa Clarita Committee on Aging) its volunteers and clientele, he has been able to tick off many tasks on his “to do” list. At the same time, he credits the tireless efforts of the individual board members and the overwhelmingly positive support from the community with getting the $11 million capital campaign within 1.3 million of its goal.

“The growth of the Santa Clarita Valley and the corresponding growth of the senior citizen population has made a new, larger facility a necessity,” says Kevin. “Many residents are unaware of the administrative demands for space to house the Center’s counseling and support services in addition to its diverse recreational activities. As one example, an innovative state-of-the-art kitchen will facilitate the daily preparation of the 500 lunches which we now serve — not just to those who come to the Center, but at Friendly Valley, the Vintage Bouquet complex, and to homebound seniors as well.”

When not immersed in the whirlwind of activities at the Center, MacDonald keeps pace with his two sons’ activities: Conner has a digital marketing business in Venice, California, and Reed is finishing up his final year at UCLA. MacDonald is also transferring his 20-year association with the Downey Rotary Club to the SCV noon club.

“Rotary has been an obvious adjunct to a professional life that grew out of my childhood friendship with Jimmy,” concludes Kevin. “Rotary’s motto, Service Above Self, says it all.”

Now and Then – Veterans Advocacy Network

| Community | September 7, 2017

It’s 2 o’clock on a summer afternoon and R.J. Kelly’s phone is ringing. A homeowner in Newhall is calling and his message is short and to the point. The caller’s backyard nectarines are ripe and ready to be picked.

Veterans Advocacy Network founder R.J. Kelly is quick to point out that his wife Patty “not only puts up with my veteran activities, but helps and shares her time with veterans as well.”

R.J. hangs up, then calls a few of his friends in the Veterans Advocacy Network and schedules a time for them to gather up their ladders and buckets for an afternoon of fruit picking. This is no pleasure excursion, although the vets do find ways to make the task fun. These nectarines will be taken to the retired Marines Canyon Country office where they will be divvied up and eventually find their way to local veterans’ kitchen tables. On this particular day it’s nectarines, however Kelly has a whole network of local homeowners with backyard fruit trees, small orchards, and large vegetable patches who make similar calls throughout the year that end up in similar harvesting outings.

In addition to the distribution of fresh produce, Kelly’s group also makes deliveries of fruits and vegetables in the form of homemade pies, cakes, and breads that are baked by church members and other charitable community volunteers.

The project began five years ago with a letter to Kelly’s fellow Sand Canyon residents that began: “Are you tired of spoiled or rotten fruit laying on the ground for days; stepping in the fruit and tracking it everywhere; fruit attracting squirrels and coyotes? Let our veterans harvest your trees and give the excess fruit to needy veterans, homeless veterans, and senior veterans, as well as the Children’s Veterans support program and the Food Pantry.”

The positive response was overwhelming and word quickly spread to home growers in other parts of the SCV. Kelly’s group found that they had more fresh fruit than they could handle. This led to a meeting with the College of the Canyons veterans program and its Culinary Arts Program and the creation of the Veterans Plantation Co-op. The joint project focused on gardening, growing, harvesting, and turning the fruit and vegetables into products that not only went to individual veterans, but could also be marketed with profits benefiting various veterans’ services.

As impressive as the produce co-op is, it is only one facet of the services provided to Santa Clarita Valley veterans by R.J.’s non-profit organization. Kelly founded the Veterans Advocacy Network, or VAN, when he began serving as a mentor to the young veterans returning from tours of duty in the Middle East.

In their confused, and sometimes troubled, faces he saw a mirror of his own feelings and experiences when he was a young veteran trying to adjust to civilian life after serving two tours of duty in Vietnam.

“I knew how hard it was for me and my buddies to compartmentalize our war experiences from the civilian life that we had returned to – a life that was now vastly different from the one we left behind when we enlisted,” said Kelly. “We had no idea of the services and resources available to not only meet our unique social, but medical needs as well.”

His generation’s negative experiences were compounded by the unpopularity of a conflict that was never declared a war and was often muddied by the Washington establishment’s political ideologies and ambitions.

“Nine-eleven was an attack on us, on our soil – it left no doubt about why our young people were fighting,” continued Kelly. “It also created a whole new patriotism, much like was felt in World War II, so the military and these returning warriors have been viewed with more understanding and compassion. And yet, many of them still had the same problems that we experienced in readjusting to civilian routines and pondering decisions about the future. I was one of many older veterans in our valley who wanted to make their adjustment easier and more positive.”

As a prominent Santa Clarita Valley businessman, Kelly was a natural to form the Veterans Advocacy Network and foster its outreach. Besides making community contacts through his CPA office and his elected position on the Castaic Lake Water Agency, he has also served on the board of the SCV Chamber of Commerce. Community activities include past commander of the DAV, past and current commander of the Canyon Country VFW Post 6885, and past president of the SCV Veterans Memorial Committee.

Likewise, fellow members of the Veterans Advocacy Network are often involved in similar Santa Clarita Valley volunteer organizations, all with the goal of providing returning vets with information and resources available to meet their educational, housing, and counseling needs. Their services supplement government programs and work with businesses and educators, as well as other business and charitable organizations.

The volunteers have been key in welcoming and providing mentoring services for the new residents of the Habitat for Heroes housing project off Centre Pointe in Saugus. The tract, a Habitat for Humanity development, will be finishing its final building phase around the end of November, comprising 78 homes in all. The Veterans Advocacy Network, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, has already planted fruit trees in the southeast corner of the development and is planning to add a community garden with 30 plots.

“We are really excited about this current project,” concluded Kelly, “It gives the veterans and their families a way of supplementing their grocery lists as well as providing for valuable family interactions.”

For more information about the Veterans Advocacy Network, you may call R.J. Kelly, 661-510-1025.

Now and Then – Game On!

| Community | August 31, 2017

Games can intensify rivalries, entertain us when we’re bored, and sharpen our senses. They can also play an important role in opening up injured psyches and stimulating communication. Counselors at the Child & Family Center use the therapy of games every day to soothe and rehabilitate the children who come to them with damaged emotions and/or abused bodies.

In their quest to keep the Center’s therapists well supplied with the games they need to create a safe and friendly atmosphere for their young clients, the Child & Family Auxiliary members decided to choose a popular adult game as a fundraising theme.

The group hosted a Summer Bunco Bash last Thursday evening, which began with wine and hors d’oeuvres then transitioned to a gourmet Italian meal prepared by Chef Walter Kiczek, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Kiczek has worked as head chef in restaurants, hotels, and resorts across the country and, happily for those gathered in the Center’s Education Room last week, just happens to be the husband of Auxiliary chair Jean LaCorte, an accomplished cook in her own right.

The meal was complemented by wines selected by sommelier Randy Moore, the husband of member Barbara Moore, who created the popular children’s dress that was featured at the Bunco raffle table.

Bunco enthusiasts topped off their meals with sweet treats baked by Betty Rabin-Fung, then put on their best game faces and began rolling the dice. The following were the winners for the evening. Most Buncos: a tie between Candice Falk and Adele Macpherson; Highest Score, Laurie Morse; and Lowest Score, Sherill Mayo. Each winner went home with two tickets to the Child & Family Center’s Taste of the Town event next May.

There were also chances to win door prizes, as well as packaged items at the raffle table. No one went home empty-handed, thanks to Fran Fiel

Rolling winning combinations was serious business.

Players fuel up for the Bunco competition.

Auxiliary member Dottie Sander gets a sample of the donated wine poured by sommelier Randy Moore.

Chef Walter Kiczek prepared the special Italian dishes served at the Auxiliary fund-raiser.

C&F Center Auxiliary chairman Jean LaCorte and Betty Rabin-Fung show off some of the desserts they prepared for the Summer Bunco Bash dinner.

Auxiliary member Barbara Moore’s Dream Dress creation was a favorite item on the drawing that took place after the Bunco competition.

Sherill Mayo came ready to play at the Child & Family Center Summer Bunco Bash Aug. 24. Her enthusiasm paid off, she was one of the evening winners.

, owner of Celebrity Beauty Supply, who had prepared goody bags for each guest.

Now and Then – It’s Jay Okay

| Community | August 17, 2017

Portly comedian Jackie Gleason would always start his weekly variety shows with a short monologue. Near the end of one such set, he called for a few of the show’s female dancers to bring him a drink to clear his throat. With the drink in hand, he sadly sighed as he watched the svelte beauties walk offstage, then turned to the audience and quipped, “There they go, “The Pepsi Generation,” and here am I, one of “The Metrecal for Lunch Bunch.”

Gleason’s “Pepsi Generation” jest spotlights social scientists’ penchant for labeling each emerging age group in America. They give us assignations like Millennials, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, Generation X, and The Greatest Generation. There is one group, however, that exists independent of these erudite labels — its members can best be described as “The Disney Generation” and it crisscrosses all decades.

The Disney Generation isn’t just about Snow White, Cinderella, and Jungle Book fantasies, its members can be firmly grounded in realism. But who wouldn’t prefer feeding a wild bird perched on a finger to pushing a noisy vacuum around a living room floor. And like Dr. Doolittle, “DGers” would like nothing better than to talk to the other animals inhabiting planet Earth.

The Disney Generation tends to share Facebook posts such as the one that features a woman sitting quietly on a beach. Her smiles turn to surprised laughter as a young elephant seal slowly snuggles up to her, then gently nuzzles her and rolls into her lap.

“DG” members also give the “thumbs up” emoji to those rescue videos of sailors unraveling a fishing net wrapped around a disabled whale; vacationers hanging over the side of their boat meticulously cutting away plastic bottle holders from a turtle’s neck; and beachcombers freeing Pelican’s wings from yards of discarded fishing line.

Tom and I recently had a similar experience during a morning breakfast ritual with one of our backyard critters. Over the years we have had a number of scrub jays (and one sweet “mama” squirrel) that have shared a morning tradition of taking peanuts from our outstretched hands.

This summer we have been visited by one particularly friendly scrub jay. He will casually perch on our fingers and peck at a peanut shell until he gets to the peanut inside. He is so trusting that he will let us touch his wings while he pecks away. That trust led to an early morning rescue last week when he flew into the tree above us in an agitated state. Rather than swooping down to our outstretched fingers, he stayed on a branch pecking away at something hanging from his neck. When we looked closer we saw that he had somehow poked his head through a square of green plastic netting (the kind that holds sod together). From his bedraggled state, it appeared that the plastic “noose” had been there for some time.

We watched his frenzied pecking in dismay, knowing he would never be able to break through the strong, plastic filaments. After a few worrisome moments, we hatched a plan. If Tom could distract the jay with a peanut offering, he might be able to get hold of him.

I ran for a pair of scissors while Tom offered up a particularly large peanut. Fortunately, the jay was hungry enough to interrupt his pecking and fly down from the tree. Tom caught hold of the netting and gently enfolded our feathered friend’s wings in his opposite hand — a move that did not make the bird very happy. But Tom was able to restrain him enough so I could snip the plastic away from his neck. When Tom opened his hands, the jay flew off squawking. Was he scolding or thanking us?

We wondered if he had been so spooked by the aggressive handling that he would not return. Our doubts dissolved when he appeared a few seconds later and flew to Tom’s finger to peck at a peanut “peace” offering.

Our jay has continued to return for his daily breakfast treats, so we hope that means his birdbrain views us as friends, not foes. And while our backyard experience can’t compete with some of the dramatic marine rescues on the internet, we, nevertheless, had our own Animal Planet/Disney Generation moment and it felt great!

Now and Then – A Tower of Treasures

| Uncategorized | August 10, 2017

A time machine stands silhouetted against the San Gabriel Mountains, towering above the houses and industries of Sylmar. Two solid cast-bronze doors weighing 1,500 pounds each and standing 15 feet high provide the entry for touring groups to step inside this time machine, which the Merle Norman Cosmetic Company calls “San Sylmar.”

The tall, sand-colored building, visible from the I-5 Freeway, houses a treasure trove of collectibles which had been purchased, restored, and used by cosmetic company founder J.B. Nethercutt and his wife, Dorothy. The Nethercutts believed that their art should be functional and enjoyed – `and everything in San Sylmar is in working order and is displayed openly so visitors may study each object closely. Guests, who make reservations in advance of their visit, have enjoyed this privilege since the doors to The Collection opened in 1971.

Once inside the towering bronze doors, modeled after 19th century iron doors from Scotland, visitors enter the grand salon showroom specially designed to house classic and antique automobiles. The room takes the viewers back almost 100 years to an era of opulence and style. An automatic piano plays a 1926 George Dilworth recording while guests traverse dark marble floors between coral marble colonnades, and blink back at a gleaming array of chrome and dazzling colors.

(During a 1976 tour, groups marveled at a 1934 model J. Duesenberg, a 1933 Bugatti, a 1930 Marmon, a 1923 McFarlan, and a 1912 Premier — just a few of the highly polished automobiles reflecting the images of mirrored walls and crystal chandeliers which grace the room.)

During the tour, a guide points out unique fixtures found in each car and explains that almost all the cars are taken out of the showroom, driven around town, and enjoyed. Most guests wonder if they’d want the responsibility of driving one of the flawless cars in today’s traffic.

When the piano selection ends, everyone gathers at the base of a stairway and reluctantly walks out of the Gatsby-like setting and mounts the stairs leading to an 18th century display.

On the mezzanine balcony, a nearly 200-year-old Belgian rug cushions two copies of French roll-top desks. The larger bureau au cylinder is a copy of a desk made for Louis XV in 1760. The desk is all inlaid wood and 12 different veneers depict scenes of French culture, education, and battle. Adjacent to the furniture grouping is a wall of display cases housing a variety of radiator ornaments (also called radiator mascots — today, most of us refer to them by their modern function as hood ornaments).

A spiral staircase with musical notes painted on its walls (musicians recognize the arrangement as “Stairway to the Stars”) leads to a floor that the Nethercutts designated as their “Cloud 99.”

Cloud 99 is somewhat cooler than the rest of the building and opens into a room of recording pianos, large orchestrions, a 1926 Wurlitzer theater pipe organ, a showcase of musical clocks, and a Louis XV dining room.

Guests walk across a plush carpet, designed to resemble a field of clover, to an alcove of musical instruments. Here, an 1878 Italian carved orchestrion can be activated to play “A Bicycle Built For Two.” The grouping also contains a Wurlitzer orchestrion and a 1912 “nickelodeon” with a self-playing violin and piano. Several wall-length orchestrions fill the room and are fully restored to play. They are decorated with small statues, Tiffany lamps, marble inlays, and stained-glass mirrors.

In one corner of the room is the oldest piano in the collection. The instrument is a nine-foot concert grand piano crafted in Vienna from 1894 to 1898 and presented to Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1898.

A final musical demonstration is given by a computerized Wurlitzer theater organ. The organ plays a number of selections from a computer memory bank as curtains are drawn back from large glass windows to reveal its 1,700-plus pipes “inhaling and exhaling” along with the melodies.

This free, guided tour of The Collection is by advanced reservation only, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (excluding some holidays). Children under 10 are not allowed. Check the website for directions to San Sylmar and available tour times: www.nethercuttcollection.org

Free self-guided tours of more antique vehicles are available at the museum across the street from San Sylmar. Sitting on tracks behind that building is a 1937 Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson Locomotive and 1912 Pullman private car. Fifteen-minute tours of the train are given Tuesdays and Saturdays, at 12:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. The museum staff advises that no tours of this attraction are given on rainy days and the train is not walker, stroller or wheelchair accessible.

There are no picnic or eating facilities at either location and food and beverages (except for bottled water) are not allowed. Aside from the tours, there are various special events scheduled during the year. A calendar of these events can be found on the website.

Now and Then: Underwater Fantasy Swims Into the PAC

| Community | July 29, 2017

How far would you go and how much would you pay to see a quality musical theatre production? Some people fly to New York, others battle the L.A. freeways — and often shell out the big bucks for the experience.

We in the Santa Clarita Valley are more fortunate. Since the formation of the Santa Clarita Regional Theatre we have had to travel no further than the College of the Canyons campus to sit in the state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center and watch some of the biggest Broadway hits (Think “Chorus Line,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Shrek,” etc.). And the price for this quality entertainment starts at $12 per adult, $10 for juniors and seniors; and tops off at $29 for adults and $26 for juniors and seniors!

The Regional Theatre’s latest offering opened last weekend with Saturday night and Sunday afternoon performances of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

So, how do you create a mostly underwater adventure on a dry stage? It begins with the overture. As the lights dim and the live orchestra (“under the sea because you can’t see them”) plays, the stage screen comes alive and the audience is swept along in an animated ride alongside colorful fish through underwater sea caves, swaying sea weed, and sunken vessels. The orchestra’s last note breaks the water’s surface where Ariel, a 16-year-old mermaid, sits on an outcropping of rocks wondering at “The World Above, Fathoms Below.”

From there on its one familiar song after another as the spirited heroine pines for the chance to be human; is granted her wish by the evil Sea Witch, Ursula; falls in love with her handsome prince; defeats the witch’s evil curse (of course, Ursula’s magic has a “squid pro quo”); and triumphs (with her father Triton’s blessing) to stand beside her groom in a glorious wedding finale.

The production is a visual, as well as an auditory treat with bright, glittering costumes, tap dancing sea gulls, slinky Morey eels, a quirky French chef, and an 8-year-old wunderkind, Brock Duncan, who dances and sings his heart out as Ariel’s lovesick sidekick, Flounder.

The large cast of singing and dancing sea creatures, sailors, and royal attendants supplement a vocal powerhouse of leading characters: Alex Britton (King Triton), Skylar Cutchall (Ariel), Judi Domroy (Ursula), the above-mentioned Brock Duncan (Flounder), Brandon McCravy (Scuttle), O Michael Owston (Chef Louie), Viktor J. Pacheco (Jetsam) Colin Robert (Prince Eric), Craig Sherman (Sebastian), and Jacob St. Aubin (Flotsam).

At the Sunday afternoon performance, the theatre seats were filled with little merfolk, some in their most colorful Ariel attire. At intermission, their parents (or grandparents) could purchase lighted crowns and tridents. The small theatregoers were encouraged to turn on the lights and wave the tridents during the musical’s closing number.

When the final bows had been taken and the lights came on, snippets of conversations filtered above the crowd as the audience filed out of the theatre. Just a few from the adults: “Didn’t Ursula remind you of Bette Midler?” “Such incredible voices,” “Loved the underwater animation,” “That orchestra was first-class.” Fom the children: “The pies in the face were my favorite part!” “Sebastian and the Seagull were so funny!” “Ariel was so pretty!”

There are six more weekend performances of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” ending on August 13. For seating chart and ticket prices, visit the website: http://www.canyontheatre.org/shows

Now and Then: A ‘Knight’ to Remember

| Community | July 21, 2017

“The Play’s the Thing!” is an oft-quoted line from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” And even though a scene from “Othello” was one of the highlights at the Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival’s Gala last Friday night, it was not the premier “Thing.”

Indeed, the evening’s main attraction, in artistic director and host David Stears’ words was the “knighting of Dr. Marc, with a ‘C,’ Winger as Patronis Artium et Educatio, or Patron of Arts & Education.”

In his introduction, Stears told the audience that he has known the retired Newhall School District Superintendent “since before my hair was gray.” They met over 25 years ago when Stears approached the district about initiating an educational outreach program. That successful collaboration later blossomed into a project to bring adult theater to the SCV with the founding of the REP on Main Street — an enterprise that has recently undergone a metamorphosis. The theater reopened in June under city management with a new name — The Main, Municipal Arts in Newhall.

Dr. Winger’s passion for cultural enrichment through the arts just naturally led to his long-term support of the Shakespeare in the Park series, as well as other Shakespeare Festival events. Eight years ago, the group began bestowing Lord Chamberlain status to its extraordinary supporters, taking the name from a practice that started in the Elizabethan era when the Lord Chamberlain was responsible for the patronage of local artists — coincidentally, one of the companies that Shakespeare wrote for was the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

Not surprising, then, that the SC Shakespeare Festival adopted the tradition to recognize community members who have made significant contributions not only to its own projects, but also to other local arts endeavors.

Friday’s ceremony included an official knighting, complete with sword, by City of Santa Clarita Arts Commission chair, Dr. Michael Millar; and the presentation of a bronze key, the symbol of patrons, by Arts commissioner, Patti Rasmussen.

Footnotes:
• The event was originally scheduled to be held at the Festival’s stage in Towsley Canyon, but the fire that broke out earlier in the week forced Stears to do some quick negotiating with the city, moving the ceremony to the Sports Complex on Centre Point Drive. Stears pointed out a parallel to an incident that occurred in England in 1613. Shakespeare’s acting troupe used cannon fire in a performance and ignited the thatched straw roof, burning the Globe Theatre to the ground. The troupe rebuilt the theater across the Thames and it was reopened a year later.

• Stonefire Grill catered the buffet dinner with plenty of appetizers to go with the wine during cocktail hour.

• Previous Festival patrons include: Supervisor Michael Antonovich, 2014 and Mayor Laurene Weste, 2014; Dr. Steven Lavine, president of CalArts, 2015; COC Chancellor Dr. Dianne VanHook, 2016 and, In Memoria, Judge Frank Kleeman, 2016.

• The actors entertaining the group on Friday evening will be performing the full play at the Rivendale location, weekends until August 12. More information can be found on the website: https://www.scshakespearefest.org

Now and Then: Fourth of July Postscript

| Community | July 13, 2017

The theme of this year’s parade was Emblems of the Land. As expected, there were many red, white, and blue banners, streamers, and American flags on every entry, along with a generous amount of Uncle Sams, bald eagles, and Lady Liberties. There was even one impressive salute to the Liberty Bell which was entered for non-judging by the Republicans for Veterans. However, as one of the judges pointed out, there were plenty of other forms of Americana that could also qualify when deciding Best of Theme trophy.

Just a few include the Wells Fargo Stagecoach, Western cowboys, Henry Ford’s Model A, scouting, and “mom, apple pie, and Chevrolet” – and they were all present in the parade. So there were many outstanding and worthy choices from which to choose, but the solemn and emotional tribute from the Prayer Angels for the Military reminded everyone that there would be no Americana and no Fourth of July Parade if not for the young men and women who have fought for our liberties and values.

It was impossible to keep from choking up when the banners depicting eleven of the SCV’s post 9-11 warriors, who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, were carried down the streets as part of the Prayer Angels’ entry – the entry that ultimately earned the Best of Theme trophy.

The Prayer Angels for the Military began informally with a group of local women, who got together to hold prayer vigils for their children and husbands serving in the military. The group grew, as neighbors and citizens asked them to include other service members in their prayers and support. That led to an official founding in July of 2004. Today 25 members, including wives, parents, family, and friends of veterans and current military personnel, meet on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month to pray, make cards, write letters, and schedule care packages for the troops.

The Republicans for Veterans float featured the Liberty Bell on their 2017 4th of July parade entry.

The banners that the members carried in this year’s parad e included: Army SSGT Brian Cody Prosser, Army PFC Stephen E. Wyatt, USMC LCpl Richard P. Slocum, Army PFC Cole W. Larsen, Army SPC Jose Ricardo Flores-Mejia, Army SGT Dennis L. Sellen, Jr., Army Specialist Rudy A. Acosta, Army SPC Stephen E. Colley, Army SCT John M. Conant, Army SGT Ian Timothy D. Gelig, and USMC PFC Jake Suter.

Patriotism, music, high energy, and extraordinary decorations earned Hart High’s “Home of the Brave” the Sweepstakes Award; Best Decorated Award went to the Fil-Am Association of SCV; and Grand Equestrian Trophy was taken home by E.T.I. Corral 21.

Two extraordinary sights and sounds at this year’s parade were provided by the All SCV High School Band and Colorguard, which brought the spectators to their feet with their rousing patriotic melodies; and the P-51 Mustang that flew over the parade route to kick off the festivities. The gleaming silver symbol of America’s World War II air superiority flew so low that the backwash sent the judges’ score sheets flying off the podium.

Checking with the SCV Historical Society’s webpage, the parade has been a mainstay of the valley’s Fourth of July celebrations for 75 years. It has had its ups and downs, as well as a number of different sponsoring organizations. Historical Society guru Leon Worden points to the 1955 parade when sponsorship completely fell by the wayside. A stalwart group of 14 people took up the challenge and staged their own impromptu march down San Fernando Road (now Main Street). Included in the group were Fred Trueblood, Jr. and his English bride Bobbie. Though British by birth, Bobbie became one of our valley’s most patriotic citizens. Besides being the backbone of the local Women’s Republican Club, she was a long-standing participant in the parades (the Society’s website credits her with 50 consecutive appearances).

In 1973, Bobbie organized her own “protest” parade when the current sponsor, the NSV Chamber of Commerce, decided to hold all Fourth of July festivities on the weekend following the actual Fourth. Insisting that no American patriot would miss observing the real day with a parade, Bobbie vowed to march down Main Street by herself, if need be. By the Wednesday date, about 150 people, dogs, horses, and cars turned out to join Bobbie, including the American Legion Color Guard and Scout Troop and Cub Pack #577.

In 1973, Signal Newspaper reporter Steve Hart took this photo of Republican Women’s Club member Bobbie Trueblood, who organized a small parade on the actual 4th of July when the NSV Chamber of Commerce decided to move the celebrations to the following weekend.

Loyal friends provided a divan chair for Bobbie to sit on, hefting it on their shoulders to carry her down the parade route. Honoring both her country of origin and her new home, Bobbie waved a small standard with the two countries’ flags (however, the Stars and Stripes flew above the Union Jack).

The most vivid image from that day in my mind was Signal editor Scott Newhall, who left his prosthetic leg at the newspaper’s 6th Street offices, donned his war correspondent’s uniform, picked up a pair of crutches, and marched down the street flanked by two patriots playing a guitar and flute.

Now and Then: Fourth of July SCV Style

| Community | June 25, 2017

As our valley prepares for the upcoming July 4th celebration, it’s fun to reminisce about some past SCV observances.

One of the most popular traditions has been the morning parade which, since 1960, kicks off with the Rotary Club’s red, white, and blueberry pancake breakfast. Over the years, the parade has had some rather sophisticated floats. Those designed by Newhall resident Tom Frew in the ‘60s were lavishly decorated and one self-propelled float even included its own “hidden” driver. Today, flatbed trucks are the most popular form of transportation, and many entrants add portable sound systems and bands to delight the curbside crowds.

While the SCV Parade Committee now organizes the event, it was once sponsored by the Newhall-Saugus-Valencia Chamber of Commerce. One especially memorable parade took place in 1977 when actor Harry Carey, Jr. was Grand Marshal. The morning began at 10 with a gathering of parade officials and special guests in the chamber headquarters — the old Pardee House on Market Street. (Originally built by oil driller Ed Pardee in 1890, the small house later served as a home for the Pacific Telephone Company and the Boys and Girls Club before the Chamber relocated there in 1977. The building is now one of the historic houses featured at the SCV Historical Society complex near the entrance to Downtown Newhall).

Harry and his wife Marilyn sat on a comfortable couch under a wall painting of galloping horses pulling a bouncing stagecoach while hostesses Betty Bardwell, Alice MacWhirter, and chamber manager JoAnne Darcy served coffee and honey-flavored cookies. Harry, whose parents owned a ranch in San Francisquito Canyon when he was young, reminisced about the St. Francis Dam collapse with parade announcers Cliffie Stone and Placerita Junior High School principal Mike Shuman.

The tall, sun-bronzed actor explained that the Carey Ranch had a tribe of Navajo Indians living at the front of the property. The Indians performed ranching chores and kept a nearby trading post stocked with authentic Indian works of art.

While he was too young to recall many anecdotes about those early days, he did remember that the tribe’s medicine man was very upset about the dam and warned that it would soon burst. The shaman was so strong in his convictions that he went to Harry’s dad and requested that the tribe be permitted to return to Arizona when the Carey family went back East on a business trip.

On the day the St. Francis Dam was finally filled to capacity, the Carey family and the Navajo tribe were gone — they were not there when the deluge of water, trees, and concrete blocks tumbled down the canyon. Not so fortunate were the trading post owners who perished, as their dwelling and Indian treasures were swept away in the 18 mile-an-hour flood.

In 1977, Harry and Marilyn were living in the San Fernando Valley, but he was surprised and happy to see some early childhood playmates standing on the sides of the streets as his car traveled down the parade route.

When the parade participants passed the American Legion on Spruce Street (an impossibility for later parades, since the construction of the new library resulted in a reconfiguration of the roads), the enticing aroma of chili salsa and savory buffalo meat was mixing with the street vendors’ offerings of cotton candy, snow cones, and soda pop. By the time the parade was over, the Legion was filled with a long line of body shirts and sunburned noses waiting to have empty plates filled by chefs Bob Horstman and Ed Hayes. At 2 p.m., local country western entertainer Don Lee and his band arrived and the Fourth of July celebration was in full swing.

The day ended with The Signal newspaper’s fireworks show that took place at Hart High School. Families brought their blankets, kids, and picnic dinners, and sat on and around the football field to watch the colorful sky bursts. The event was free and even included bags of popcorn that had been filled by Signal employees prior to the event. No one worked harder before, during, or after the show than Scott, Ruth, and Tony Newhall.

Today, the City of Santa Clarita hosts a fireworks show at the mall – a larger venue with a larger audience. Still, one thing is most likely the same. The people who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the venue can watch in the comfort of their own backyards and they don’t have to fight the traffic when the show is over.

Now and Then: Teeing Up for a Tribute

| Community | June 15, 2017

While it’s easy to write about our community’s charitable events and social galas (simply describe the entertainment, great food, and fun-filled activities), not so for the heart-wrenching, monumental losses that are also a part of life in the SCV. One such loss took place a year ago when friends, family, fellow volunteers, and work partners lost 55-year-old Lloyd Sreden to pancreatic cancer.

How do you internalize the death of someone so full of life, compassion, and mischievous fun? (Who wasn’t an unwitting foil of Lloyd’s playful sense of humor at one time or another?) Whether he was unraveling a tricky tax problem, balancing the books of a local non-profit, volunteering for a community work project, coaching his kids or colleagues in a ball game, teeing up on a golf course — or yes, adding a little zing to your fingers with his infamous shocking pen — the ultimate CPA knew how to keep a group entertained and at ease.

Lloyd’s memorial service was meticulously planned by his wife, Vicky, to be an uplifting experience, reminding the gathered mourners of his aptitude for fun by combining examples of Lloyd’s humorous antics with his charitable deeds. Each speaker had his or her own amusing anecdote to share. It was the beginning of the long process of healing.

In the days and weeks following the memorial, a number of friends suggested the idea of a golf tournament in Lloyd’s honor as a way of continuing the healing process. Needing some time to grieve, Vicky put aside the notion until six months ago when Terry and Marion Gagnon and their son Ryan posed the idea once more.

When retiring Rotary Club President Nick Lentini asked for a luau-themed party, Lloyd and Vicky Sreden jumped at the chance to host it in their Westridge backyard. Lloyd served as the ultimate emcee.

With the further support of 30-year friends Mike and Melina Berger, Vicky decided to go ahead with the tribute. Because the bulk of the proceeds will benefit the City of Hope, Vicky enlisted the help of the hospital’s fundraising contact, Harlan Kirshner. A donation will also be made to the SCV Rotary Club, which Lloyd attended and helped to lead for 30 years.

“Lloyd gave so much in life to help others, I feel it’s only fitting that his spirit of giving continues,” explained Vicky. The tournament is one day prior to the anniversary of his death, which occurred on June 27, 2016.

The Lloyd Sreden Memorial Golf Tournament will debut Monday, June 26, at Lloyd’s favorite golf course, the Tournament Players Club Valencia, 26550 Heritage View Lane, Valencia.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. followed by a continental breakfast and putting contest. A short tribute to Lloyd will precede the 9:30 shotgun start. Lunch will be served at “the turn” by Lloyd’s family — Vicky, Mandy, Travis, Mat, Jessica, and Cal. The event will end with cocktails, dinner, raffle, prizes, and an award’s ceremony.

For player and volunteer opportunities, one may contact Vicky at (661) 803-9433 or email victoriasreden@gmail.com.

Now and Then: ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat!’

| Community | June 8, 2017

Damon Runyon’s colorful world of quirky New York gamblers and showgirls makes its temporary home in Downtown Newhall for the next three weekends as his “Guys and Dolls” animate the Canyon Theatre Guild stage. The 1950s musical comedy, written by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, gets its punch from the catchy and often rousing music and lyrics written by Frank Loesser.

Burrows and Swerling combined elements from several of Runyon’s 1930s storylines, along with his unique, underworld dialogues, to weave a comedic clash between New York’s small-time gamblers and the saintly folks at their neighborhood Save-a-Soul Mission.

CTG director Ingrid Boydston has assembled a talented cast that rattles the theatre’s rafters with musical showstoppers like “Luck Be a Lady,” “If I Were a Bell,” and “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat.”

The infectious melodies punctuate a plot that revolves around a motley group of gamblers who are anxiously awaiting the time and location of a floating crap game. Woven into their impatient demands for action are two romances between the play’s four main characters: the mission’s button-downed Sgt. Sarah Brown (Tara Cox) and the oh-so-cool high-roller Sky Masterson (Tim McCarter); and crap game organizer Nathan Detroit (Ryan Miles) and his girlfriend of 14 years, showgirl Miss Adelaide (Laura Mitchelle).

“Supporting cast” is a misnomer in this production, because every character in the show brings his or her own story line and share of laughs. Nathan’s “lieutenants,” Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Brandon McCravy) and Benny Southstreet (Jeff Lucas) create a memorable rendition of “Guys and Dolls” punctuated by great comedic timing. McCravy “brings the house down” when he belts out “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.” Each of the ensemble numbers gets a melodic boost from the harmonies provided by the back-up dancers.

 A few of the cast members from the CTG production of “Guy’s and Doll’s” relax before the show. Photo by Musette Caing

The audience waits in the lobby for the doors to open to the CTG Theatre. The production of “Guys and Dolls” runs for three more weekends. Photo by Paige Noltemeyer

Adding the behind-the-scenes polish to the show are: assistant director, Musette Caing, choreographer, Annette Sintia Duran; vocal directors, Carla Bellefueille and John Forman; stage manager, Felicia Tamika Sheppard; costume coordinator, Sasha Markgraf; set designers, John Alexopoulos and Douglas Holiday; scenic designer, Frank Rock; lighting designer, Lisa Stoddard; sound designer, John Fortman; and producer and executive artistic director, TimBen Boydston.

Because this is community theatre, the performers and the support staff all have day jobs that are most frequently outside the world of greasepaint and footlights. A few examples: Tara Cox is a substitute teacher who works with special education children, Chris Carter (Big Jule) is an electrician, Greg Hayes is a retired basketball coach, Brandon McCravy works at the DMV, and Holly Green (Agatha) is a teacher.

There are also parent-child connections like Chris Carter and his son Cole, who plays the drummer in the Save-a-Soul marching band; and Margo Caruso, who is reprising her role as a Hotbox dancer from a play put on 12 years ago and shares the stage with her son Jackson, a Valencia High sophomore playing Society Max in the play.

Society Max, Rusty Charlie (Jeff Dillehunt) Harry the Horse (Greg Hayes), Liver Lips Louie (Adam Kort), Brandy Bottle Bates (Jack Matson), Jake the Saint (Jacob St. Aubin), and Romeo Jones (Victor Pacheco) — who can resist a group of grifters with names like those?

Then there are the Hotbox dancers and ensemble players: Annette Duran, Adrianna Aldridge, Nancy Lantis, Javeneh Markanvand, Laine Matkin, Gabriella Roberts, Katie Cavataio, and Sarah Scialli.

Marching with Sister Sarah are Brother Arvide (Bill Armstrong) who sings a moving “More I Cannot Wish You,” Holly Greene, Jan Grierson, Beatriz Javellana, Paige Noltemeyer, Sarah Rogers, and Ally Rupp.

Rounding out the storyline characters are Jennifer Teague (General Cartwright), Timothy Hart (Lt. Branigan), and Joe Aboulafia (Joey Biltmore).

Whether they are veterans of the CTG productions like Nancy Lantis, or a newcomer like Percy “P-Dog” Manasala (Angie the Ox), who recently left a rock band to join the show, the cast members of “Guys and Dolls” have their own, unique stories. Pick your favorites and meet them in the lobby after the show(s). They will be happy to share those stories with you.

Now and Then – Fort Tejon

| Community | June 2, 2017

Besides being a holiday to honor the American patriots who died while serving in our country’s armed forces, Memorial Day has long marked the unofficial beginning of summer (in spite of protestations from purists who stick to the scientific Summer Solstice designation that occurs around June 20-22 in our hemisphere).

Turning from the profound and solemn Memorial Day observances to a preoccupation with summer festivities may seem superfluous, but gives us one more reason to thank the warriors who have made this recreational pursuit possible.

Back in the ‘70s, this holiday weekend signaled the last of the school formalities and the beginning of a search to find summer activities that could keep youngsters entertained, while also providing a little “family togetherness.” At that time, the entertainment choices in the SCV were rather limited. The young trees planted at Magic Mountain in 1971 didn’t provide much shade during the day, and the park was yet to become the knuckle-busting capital of California that would merit multiple visits over the summer.

Those who were on limited budgets and looked to one-day excursions for their recreational pastimes could purchase a small paperback sold at some local stores that was written by columnist George Lowe and entitled “Where Can We Go This Weekend?”

The majority of the book’s trips could be enjoyed in a day’s time, requiring no motel bills and a minimum of restaurant stops. There were even a few sites listed in Newhall (a tour of the now defunct Thatcher Glass factory being one). But one unique jaunt, which was relatively close by, featured summer reenactments of Civil War battles at Fort Tejon.

Located about 68 miles from Newhall, off Interstate 5, the author described Fort Tejon as a strategic outpost to catch horse and cattle rustlers in the mid-1800s.

To a young family with limited funds, it seemed like just the place to go in July of 1975. Once the sightseers arrived, they were greeted by docents who explained that the fort was first settled in 1854 for the mutual protection of whites and Indians (the Yokut tribe was indigenous to the area). The fort dragoons were most famous for “guarding miners and Indians, chasing bandits, and giving band concerts.”

In their colorful uniforms, which were patterned after the most fashionable French troops of the time, the dragoons were also the only U.S. Army troop permitted to wear mustaches and long hair.
For a short time prior to the Civil War, the fort became the site of the experimental use of camels. It was thought that the “ships of the desert” might be useful in Southern California’s dry, arid climate. However, the camels’ hooves were more suited to soft, desert sands, not rocky terrain, and their slow pace made them a better fit for transportation than fighting. (There is an interesting article by George Stammerjohn that covers the topic in depth on the internet at www.forttejon.org/camel.html.)

Long after the fort became inactive, the state bought the land and was able to restore some of the decaying buildings. In 1975, our family spent an hour eating pre-packed lunches in the adjacent park next to a rushing brook. Then it was on to the parade grounds to watch the main attraction, a Civil War battle enactment between the blue and grey uniformed opponents.

The scenario began with a couple, dressed in the garb of the day, laying out a blanket at the side of the parade grounds and setting up a picnic lunch. There were also a few other picnickers on the sidelines and it was explained to the “present day” spectators that some battles, like Gettysburg, did have civilians watching as the combatants traded cannon fire and gunshots. In fact, many of the troops came with their entourages of hoop-skirted belles and nurses.

The hapless couple in the reenactment was rousted by some Union soldiers who, in turn, were accosted by the “Virginia Boys” from the Confederate army. Cannons that fired wadded balls of tin foil, and muskets packed with powder charges and lard, filled the air as the Civil War buffs faithfully re-enacted carefully planned battle sequences. It was heart-pounding stuff, but luckily for the tourists, this battlefield’s pockmarks came from resident gophers, not bombshells.

For anyone who hadn’t outgrown the days of “cowboys and Indians” and “war games,” the battles were exciting to watch. And except for all the noise and smoke, it was just like those childhood games, because at the end of the battle, all the dead guys got up and walked back to their respective sides of the field.

In the 1970s, Civil War reenactments took place on the last Sunday of each summer month, but today’s Fort Tejon site lists only one battle and that takes place this weekend. However, there are other scheduled attractions such as historical tours, a reservations-only Victorian tea party, and a candlelight ghost tour later in October. And the nominal fees to enter the site still make Fort Tejon a good destination for families on a budget.

Now and Then – Celebrating 57 Years of Service

| Community | May 25, 2017

How does a service organization celebrate its 57th birthday? If it’s the SCV Rotary Club, it takes a year! There are the 6 a.m. preparations for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and the Fourth of July pancake breakfasts; a renovation project at the Rotary Garden honoring young military heroes; community service projects, and the presentation of four $2,000 checks and two $1,000 checks to local charities, to name just a few of the ways.

The check presentations come from the club’s community foundation, which was started in 1977. Signing the Articles of Incorporation were then president, Jack Clark (CalArts administrator), Dan Hon (Attorney), Chuck Rheinschmidt (COC administrator), Adrian Adams (Judge), Ed Bolden (Engineer), and Robert Rockwell (COC president). Since that time, interest from the foundation’s earnings is divided annually and presented to local applicants. This year the donations went to Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers, the Triumph Foundation, the SCV Food Pantry, the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild, and two checks to the Passick-Greer Nursing Scholarship Fund.

In accepting the $2,000 check for the Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers, executive director Philip Solomon explained that the money will help pay for the new flooring in the Val Verde clinic. Solomon thanked Rotary, not only for the check, but also for the ongoing support that Rotary has provided since the first center was opened in 1980.

The health centers began as an annex at Reverend Samuel Dixon’s church in Val Verde. Rev. Dixon, who was committed to bringing affordable health care to his community, tragically died before the first building was officially dedicated in 1980. The demand for affordable health care in the unserved and underserved population has contributed to the growth of Rev. Dixon’s dream. Today, there are two more health centers besides the one in Val Verde — the Canyon Country center opened 16 years ago, and the Newhall facility became reality in 2009.

The non-profit organization not only provides health and wellness care, but dental and mental health services as well. Government and private grants and donations help keep the doors open to patients who receive care on a sliding scale basis. Solomon was quick to point out that care is provided even if the patient is unable to meet the $36 per visit fee.
***
SCV Rotary first learned of the Triumph Foundation in 2010, one year after its creation. Andrew Skinner came to us then to describe how a 2004 snowboard accident, which broke his C4, C5, and C6 vertebrae, led to the creation of the foundation.

Having graduated from college just six months before the accident, Andrew had to cope with the reality of being a quadriplegic and how his life focus would have to change. He credits his then fiancé Kirsten and his family’s support for getting him over the rough spots and helping him to fashion a new reality for his life. Kirsten stuck by him during his years of recovery and, as his wife, encouraged him to begin an outreach program that would support others suffering from spinal cord injuries.

The first project of his newly formed 501(c)(3) foundation involved delivering Christmas care packages to the disabled at a Northridge hospital. The program expanded to include mentoring, numerous educational networking groups, and grants that would help fund the construction of projects such as home ramps and modified vehicles.

After Andrew’s 2010 visit, Rotary donated towards the building of a ramp for a wheelchair-bound youngster named Tyler. At Wednesday’s meeting, Andrew reported that, as Tyler grew, more modifications were added to the home to accommodate his growth.

Today, the Triumph Foundation delivers 150 care packages to patients in 18 different hospitals and supports various health and security networks that address not only physical, but emotional needs of the disabled as well.
***
The Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild was formed by a group of quilters in 1990 and currently has a membership of over 120. The members are dedicated to giving back to the community, while also perpetuating the art of quilting for future generations. Members regularly donate quilts to provide comfort for people in need.

In recent years the guild has worked with local school children to produce anti-tobacco themed quilt blocks, which were pieced into a large quilt and auctioned to raise funds for Henry Mayo Hospital. The Guild has also donated quilts that accompany the keys to each home sold in the new Vets Habitat for Heroes Housing project off Centre Point Parkway.
***
In addition to this year’s $2,000 donation to the SCV Food Pantry, Rotary annually provides Thanksgiving turkeys for the Pantry’s families. This year an extra $300 check was added to help stock the Pantry’s grocery shelves.

Located on Railroad Avenue in Newhall, the Pantry’s mission is secure donations, then package and distribute nutritious food to qualifying residents in the SCV. The organization’s overall goal is to help struggling families with current and future hunger challenges, while also maintaining active partnerships with other organizations throughout the community.
***
The Greer-Passick Nursing Scholarship can be traced back to the early ‘70s when a family established a start-up grant to the nursing program at College of the Canyons. Rotary took the project over and began making annual donations in memory of two of its members, Ivan Passick and Robert Greer. This year, the foundation was proud to award two $1,000 scholarships to the college. Recipients, chosen on the basis of financial need and academic merit, were Jennifer Anderson and Ashlyn Carr.

The donations and community service projects are business as usual for the local professionals — their way of celebrating 57 years of the national organization’s motto, “Service Above Self.” Oh yes, and president Wendi Lancy promises a birthday cake next week on the actual anniversary of the club’s founding, which was May 31, 1960.

Now and Then: Fleeting Memories of the Alamo Foundation

| Community | May 18, 2017

Good and evil. Black and white. Those contrasts ran through my mind while reading about the recent death of infamous cult leader Tony Alamo. Tony, his wife Susan, and a disparate collection of lost souls inhabited the SCV for a few brief years in the early ‘70s, adding a bit of colorful perplexity to our sage brush-covered canyons. The evangelical couple reigned over a cadre of young homeless people “rescued” from drug-infested streets in Los Angeles. They established a headquarters north of the Soledad Canyon/Sierra Highway junction that professed to grant salvation through hard work and strict religious practices.

Publicly, Tony and Susan were enigmas, contrasts in style and temperament. Susan often dressed in long, white dresses or pants suits. From a distance the white garb, coupled with her long, blonde locks, gave her an ethereal look. However, up close, she more closely resembled a bleached-out version of Morticia Addams. In his dark suits and slicked down hair, Tony looked like the stereotypical Mafia Don. They were a study in black and white – and, as it turned out, good and evil. Their community appearances were rare, but at one chamber event, they stepped out of a dark limo dressed in their black and white personas to deliver an Alamo Foundation entry to a Fourth of July parade.

And what a dramatic entry that was! About 100 of their young cult members marched at the end of the parade, carrying crosses and belting out an impassioned rendering of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” A fellow curbside spectator nudged me with his elbow as the singers passed by exclaiming, “Those Alamo kids really know how to raise the Holy Spirit!”
“Those Alamo kids” provided the public “face” of the foundation. As in most cults, they had turned all their worldly goods over to the Alamos in the name of salvation. That included a variety of cars that were then painted red, white, and blue and adorned with the Alamo logo.

At one time or another, several of the cars would be parked at the foundation’s gas station located at the corner of Sierra Highway and Friendly Valley Parkway. The young acolytes not only pumped gas, but would also clean a motorist’s windshield. Many in town commented skeptically that this colorful façade did little more than cover the real workings of a cult, even though there were no overt signs of individual oppression or abuse.

While reading Alamo’s obituary, I mulled over several questions. Were the former music promoter and the once-aspiring actress truly converts to the “Jesus Movement”? Did they start out with good intentions – a crusade to uplift their followers with the word of God? Can a cult ever deliver the salvation it guarantees? And if so, when, in the case of the Alamos, did things go so horribly wrong?

In 1976, the Alamos left our valley to relocate their “ministry” in Susan’s Arkansas hometown and expand their foundation’s outreach. The gas station closed and the red, white, and blue cars disappeared, but a church continued to operate in the Agua Dulce-Acton area, and Alamo literature would sporadically appear on cars’ windshields. The cult was mostly forgotten until a few disturbing Midwestern newspaper stories began filtering back to the SCV.

One of the most bizarre stories came after Susan’s death in 1982. The grieving widower, who preached that his wife would be resurrected, recruited some beefy cohorts, sneaked into the cult mausoleum in the dead of night, and stole her coffin. Upon hearing the report, The Signal Newspaper editor Scott Newhall cynically commented to co-workers that Alamo had become a poor man’s Juan Peron. Scott’s words conjured up eerie images of Alamo carrying Susan’s coffin around, much as the Argentinean dictator did when “Evita” died.

Susan’s death did result in a resurrection of sorts. Subsequent news stories reported that the foundation “died” and was replaced by a tax-exempt corporation called the Music Square Church. The “church” became most notable for being investigated for tax evasion. Alamo was personally investigated as well, becoming more famous for frequent arrests involving his multiple child brides than as a redeeming pastor and savior.

In 2009, newspaper stories reported on Alamo’s final criminal conviction, which resulted in a 175-year federal prison sentence for sex crimes against children. Charges also included the beatings and starvation of young male and female members of the church.

A recent, tersely worded paragraph from SCV History.com may well sum up Alamo’s ultimate legacy: “ . . .Alamo, aka Bernie LaZar Hoffman, was convicted in 2009 of transporting children across state lines for sexual purposes. He was given the maximum allowable sentence. He died in a federal prison facility in North Carolina, with about 167 years left on his sentence.”

Susan and Tony are gone, but remnants of the Alamo Foundation live on. According to a Wikipedia article, there are more than 30 properties to be dealt with, including the church in the Acton area.

And every now and then, disgruntled SCV shoppers return to their cars to find Alamo pamphlets stuck under the windshield wipers or blowing around the parking lots.

Now and Then: Sorry, Wrong Number

| Community | May 4, 2017

The malicious practices of hackers, spoofers, and phishers turned our lives into a series of movie titles last week.

Scene One: “The Prelude to a “Perfect Storm”
Things started routinely enough the week before with a trip to a local provider to make some changes in our Internet-TV-phone bundle. Following in the footsteps of our tech-savvy children and friends, we decided to give up our landline in favor of our cell phones.

We renegotiated a communication package, unplugged our four wall phones, packaged them up neatly in a box, and banished them to the rafters above the garage — a veritable wasteland of outdated technology and home improvement discards that (in my husband Tom’s words) “we might need again someday.”

A friendly tech arrived the following Monday and “rewired” our outdated communication system – a process that required moving furniture and embarrassingly cleaning up years of undisturbed lint and dust bunnies. We settled in with a new list of TV channels and programs to memorize and a vastly improved internet connection. By Thursday we were well on our way to technological sophistication — a sharp television picture and a new routine of moving our cell phones from room to room to outdoors, as we went about our daily routines. (Any good inventions out there for a woman whose wardrobe is sadly deficient in pocket-friendly apparel?)

Scene Two: “Gaslight”
Then it began. A Thursday morning email alert arrived from “Citi Bank” advising me that a payment I authorized from my designated account would soon be withdrawn (complete with dollar amount, confirmation number, and a link to click on for further instructions). Lately, I’ve been receiving quite a few similar email notices purportedly from other established providers. The terms “hack, “spoof,” and “phish” have become old friends. I closed the email, went to the Citibank website, and dialed a customer service number.

Confusion arose when I was asked for my Citibank user number and password. I told the representative that I had signed up on a hotel site for a card that would give me credit each time I booked a room at its participating hotels. When the card arrived in the mail, calling a Citibank phone number activated it. I did not have a Citibank user name and password. We decided that the information I gave on the hotel site was what she needed. But that wasn’t all. I also needed to recite the telephone number I was calling from.
Scene Three: “High Anxiety” – the Frustration Begins
I gave the rep my cell phone number. There was a pause. The rep informed me that it was not the correct number. Another pause, then the light dawned. I told her she must have our landline number, which we had cancelled because cell phone technology made it superfluous. That may well be, the rep informed me, but her company did not recognize cell phone numbers. Another pause, only now a very awkward pause. When I replied that our two cell phone numbers were the only numbers we had, the rep said she would do some investigating. I was put on hold for five minutes. When the background music stopped, the rep returned saying there was a problem and she would have to call me back.

I hung up and waited. And waited. And waited. Two hours later, my computer chimed and a new email appeared. It said, “We’ve identified possible fraud on your account. Charges may be limited until we hear from you. We need you to call us right away.” An 800 number and a case number were included.

I picked up the phone, dialed, and gave a new rep the information from the email. He was very polite and asked me to verify my account. I was back to the previous routine – only this time there was no “I’ll investigate and call you back.” Instead, he said, “If you have no landline for identification, no further action can be taken.” At that point, my blood pressure began to rise and I asked if he wanted my Social Security or driver’s license numbers (cynically, I added to myself: or maybe a blood sample). He assured me that the company did not use such information. I then suggested that the only recourse would be to cancel the card.

Scene Four: “Catch 22”
The rep’s retort was that I could not cancel the card without a landline number because he had no provision for calling cell phones. It was then that my husband and I looked up the address of the local Citibank branch and drove to Saugus.

Surprisingly, in spite of coded bank identifications and our IDs in hand, the calls made by personal banker Keri Shulman, then manager-vice president Sofia Prevoo, it elicited the same response: no landline, no recourse. Sofia’s requests to speak to managers, then managers’ managers, and supervisors, all ended in similar stalemates. By now, close to two hours had passed. If not for the conscientious and courteous attentions of Keri and Sofia, I would have been tearing my hair out. Half jokingly, Tom suggested maybe we needed to walk across the street and order a couple of margaritas at El Presidente. It became clear that a wall existed between the banking and the credit card operations and getting through that wall wasn’t easy.

At one point, one of the credit card reps asked if we could give him the telephone numbers of relatives that he could call to verify our identities. We shook our heads in frustration — our closest relatives had long ago given up their landlines for cell phones. It was now past closing time, and the only concession the man would give was that we would be contacted with some kind of solution in the next 48 hours.

Scene Five: “The Sound of Music”
We clutched our cell phones close to our bodies and waited for them to ring. The silence over the next four days was deafening. Monday morning found us once again in the comfortable offices at Citibank. Sofia was ready. She was not going to end the call without a permanent resolution. She asked for a supervisor, went through her coded branch numbers, and explained our dilemma once more. I was asked again to provide relatives’ telephone numbers, only now the supervisor explained that he didn’t have to have a landline, simply a number that was affiliated with a Citibank account. Luckily, our daughter-in-law had one such number. Then it was only a matter of minutes before our cell phone number was accepted and our account was validated! Instantly, a heavy rock lifted from my shoulders, our 4-day phone odyssey was over!

We came away from the experience with four conclusions:
If you decide to give up your landline for cell phones – and that landline is tied to an account – call the account holder to update the phone information before canceling the landline.

It is commendable that the Citibank credit card division has such high security standards and is conscientiously doing its best to protect its clients from fraud. Unfortunately, the perverted hackers and spoofers who derive more pleasure cheating people out of their hard-earned dollars than working honest jobs have necessitated a rigid policy that punishes innocent consumers.

Thank goodness SCV Citibank has courteous and efficient professionals like Keri Shulman and Sofia Prevoo!

Don’t give up on brick and mortar. Without them, I’d still be on the phone. Being face to face with a provider really helps.

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