30 August 2008

Oral History Recollections of La Vida Mineral Springs

One of the more common discussion points in the oral histories of Olinda oil fields residents gathered for the 1978 Cal State Fullerton, Oral History Program publication Pipelines to the Past concerns La Vida Mineral Springs, which opened in the 1920s.

Notably, there were some important contradictions contained in the reminiscences, although this can be a common issue with oral history, which is significantly about selective memory or the pitfalls of reaching back very far into the past. At any rate, it is very interesting to read the various recollections.

For example, Merle Van Ness Hale, who was born in 1896, remembered:“We’d walk from the Columbia Lease up to the sulphur springs up there in Carbon Canyon. He’d drink the water. I couldn’t touch it! But he’d say, ‘It’s healthy.’ The reason they had sulphur water up there is because they drilled an oil well up there and it came in sulphur. So it took people later on to make a health resort out of it – La Vida Hot Springs.”

The Columbia Oil Company lease was near today's Valencia Avenue on the west side as you drive up from Carbon Canyon Road/Lambert Road toward the landfill. The person she is referring to was her father.

Lois Muzzall Smith, born in 1911, recalled going to the springs with an uncle who came back from World War I with acute rheumatism:“So we used to take him up Carbon Canyon to La Vida Hot Springs to take the baths. You know, in the early days, in that period, they didn’t have them all fixed up fancy and nice like they have now; they had wooden barrels sunk in holes in the ground, and there were the steps to walk down and get into the water. Then you’d soak in this hot mineral water. They had it in a little wooden building to protect it, with a little lattice work when you walked into it. I used to go up there with my aunt and uncle and play around while he was in having his bat. Later on I used to drive up many times in my own car, just because I loved it up that way.”

“I don’t think it cost over a dollar a bath. I know that was the first place I ever went to a dance, up to La Vida Hot Springs. I went with this same aunt and uncle. . . I was nineteen years old [1924.]“Oh, they had about a four or five-piece band—it was really a lot of noise—and they had a nice floor. I think they have the restaurant in a place where they used to dance.”

Mrs. Smith's description of the bathing structures corresponds exactly with the photograph that I shared as "Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #4" a couple of weeks ago, relative to the small wooden structures covered in lattice (or screen) with wooden barrels evidently placed in the ground within the buildings. It is also interesting to hear about the price and the dances that went on (in the 1980s, punk bands played at the restaurant, long after the soaking tubs were gone, but I can't imagine Mrs. Smith would have appreciated the historical continuity!)

Jack Gauldin, born in 1897, adds something new to his description as far as how the springs were discovered:

“The La Vida Hot Springs was originated from a well drilled for oil up on the hillside. It didn’t produce oil, however, only hot soda water. All of the oil people, or lots of the oil people, would go up there and go back up in this canyon. The men would have to stand watch for the women, because there wasn’t any bathhouses or anything. Later on they went up and built two wooden buildings and piped water into them. Water flowed down the hillside all the time. Even in the 1920s, it still stood that way, and then they built a bathhouse. . . It has a sulphur springs and also it has what they call a soda springs. The soda springs water is what they claim is so healthy.”

Also important in his description is how the springs were used by locals before the resort was opened by William Newton Miller and his son-in-law in 1924.

Born in 1890, Jessie Isbell was the oldest of the seven interviewees and had this to say:

“Well, there was La Vida Hot Springs in Carbon Canyon with its hot baths. At first, it was just a little building and beside it a row of little cubbyholes. We used to go up there and have a hot bath. At the time, you could get somebody to give you a good rubdown or an osteopathic treatment. It grew and it grew, and they built a nice big building and a hotel. Later, they put in a hot pool, where people could go and soak in the heat. Then came a swimming pool—a lovely, big swimming pool with a nice bathhouse to go with it. I usually went out there about two or three times during the winter when I was teaching. Another thing that they had there was a faucet with soda water that was from the hot spring that came up there. They used that for their hot pool and for warming their cold pool a bit. You could bring your big, five-gallon jar to this faucet and get some water and take it home. Most of us did that. The creek just ran constantly, summer and winter. We enjoyed that water. It wasn’t very soda, but it did have a soda flavor.”

As Mrs. Isbell noted, Carbon Creek (or Carbon Canyon Creek) ran year-round then and appears to do so now, although runoff contributes more now and recent drought has affected water levels. It is also worth pointing out here that the creek was not choked with arundo as it is today (I've noticed, by the way, that the fast-growing plant is now within 3/10 of a mile or so from Sleepy Hollow as it races up the creek eastward.)

In contrast to Mrs. Isbell, Harold Van Patten was the youngest of those in the book, born in 1923. His recollections are quite different, although it could well be the difference in generations when it comes to who used La Vida.

First, when asked about the springs and who the clientele were, Mr. Van Patten stated that:“By the time I was there the La Vida Hotel was there. It had a similar background to Murietta Hot Springs, and the Los Angeles Jewish community would come out to it on weekends. There was a bottling company which put out a soft drink called La Vida Lime and Lemon, and it was made from the natural carbonated water.”

It is interesting that he specifically discussed the popularity of La Vida with Jews from Los Angeles, given that the Workmen's Circle in that city had established a children's camp, Camp Kinder Ring, in the Sleepy Hollow area in 1928. Viewers will also recall that my post on "Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #2" was about a bottle from the La Vida mineral water business that ran from about 1928.

When, however, Mr. Van Patten was asked if locals went to La Vida, he responded: “Not a lot. It was where the Jewish people went, and there was very little contact. A few people went up there and worked on a small basis either at the hotel or around there, but there was just a minimum of contact. It was a little community all to itself. They didn’t participate in any way with Olinda. None of the oil company business was involved there in any way.”

Obviously, older residents from the oil field communities did visit the springs, but apparently more in the era before Mr. Van Patten, who presumably would recall the 1930s and later. The idea of the isolation of the springs from Olinda is also notable.

Well, these memories are essential documents to the history of Carbon Canyon, even if we do acknowledge that they are recollections subject to distortions of time or the selectivity of the interviewee. La Vida's importance within the canyon led most of the interviewers to make a point of specifically asking about it.

Next time, we'll get to some recollections about Carbon Canyon Road.

24 August 2008

Sleepy Hollow in the News (OK, New York)!

I will be taking a little breather from the blog for a few days, but couldn't resist posting this item from the Los Angeles Times today.

Friday evening in Sleepy Hollow, NEW YORK, the home of the famous Washington Irving novel about the headless horseman, there was an attempted robbery that led to the shooting of the victim. For that town, that might be local news, but what evidently made it worth a mention in the Times was the fact that the victim was Anthony "Cousin Vinny" Agnello, who was carrying around $100,000 in jewelry. Even for an Italian, that's a lot of bling, unless you are the proud proprietor of Famous Cousin Vinny's Gorgeous Strippers (I kid you not, that's the name of the business!)

Yes, "Cousin Vinny" was escorting some of his employees to a bachelor party in old Sleepy Hollow, NEW YORK, when he was accosted by two men. During the fracas, Agnello was shot in the thigh, but the two evildoers got away and haven't been located.

You know, our little local Sleepy Hollow has had a colorful history, but I'm not sure anything in the neighborhood annals, real or mythical, can compete with this one!

23 August 2008

Is Carbon Canyon Road safer than it used to be?

OK, one more before I call it a night and probably take several days off! But, I came across this earlier tonight and, in light of my other recent posts on Canyon driving, I thought it would be good to post this excerpt from a Los Angeles Times article by David Ryan, which appeared in Section B, Page 5 on 11 February 2000:

It may seem more dangerous and just as congested, but Carbon Canyon Road is actually safer now than it was 10 years ago.

The road has been the scene of 717 accidents, including 15 fatalities, since 1989 and just received a failing grade from the city traffic engineer for the 10th year in a row, but figures from the California Highway Patrol indicate the road has become safer.

CHP statistics show the number of people killed or involved in crashes has dropped more than 50% since 1989. The state released information on the stretch from Valencia Boulevard to Chino Hills Parkway in Chino Hills.

CHP spokeswoman Anne Da Vigo said the decline in injury accidents and fatalities on the road reflects a statewide trend since 1993–the year police were first allowed to stop and cite motorists for not wearing seat belts.

Actually, I'd like to rephrase that opening part to: "It may seem more congested and just as dangerous."

I don't know--a 50% drop really does sound impressive, but 15 fatalities in 11 years is still a lot and over 700 accidents in 11 years is about one every five days or so. And, just how many tickets have been given out since 2000 for people not wearing seat belts?
One last thing: just because the road became "safer", due to the halving of deaths from 1989 to 2000, does not mean that dangerous driving behavior on Carbon Canyon Road is something to be pushed even further off the radar (oh, nice pun!) than it already is. Oh, and it's nice to know that the city engineer (must be Brea) gave the road a failing grade for AN ENTIRE DECADE straight. Wonder how that report card has held up in the 2000s so far!


Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #5

Appropos of the post I just put up about the history of Olinda is this disbound advertisement from the 25 January 1929 issue of The Oil Weekly, a national trade publication. The ad is for the Agathon Steel Bit, from the Agathon Alloy Steels line, a brand of the Central Alloy Steel Corporation of Massillon, Ohio (ah, the old steel belt of America, now a rusted relic).

The photo is of Well #96 at the CCMO (Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil) lease, or the Upper Santa Fe, north of Carbon Canyon Road, somewhere in the vicinity of the Olinda Ranch housing tract.

This seemed like a good a time as any to post this interesting artifact, which is item 2008.5.1.1 from the Carbon Canyon Collection.

22 August 2008

Olinda and Carbon Canyon Oral History

A few days ago, I was able to get my hands on a great little publication called Pipelines to the Past: An Oral History of Olinda, California, put out by the oral history program at Cal State Fullerton back in 1978. In it, seven former residents of the Olinda oil area shared their reminiscences of living there, with the timespan ranging from about 1905 to 1965.

From time to time, I'll share excerpts from this little gem of canyon history and will start with my rendering of the general history, based on an introduction by Tom Savage and a reading of the interviews, of this place that was special enough to get its own State Historic Landmark designation with the plaque now at Carbon Canyon Regional Park.

The history of Olinda dates to 1891 and the formation of the Olinda Ranch Company by W. H. Bailey, who tried to promote agriculture for citrus, beets, grains, nuts, fruits and grapes. The venture failed, however, because of the problem of oil seepage into irrigation canals to the fields, as well as into drinking water supplies. Within a few short years, however, matters would change dramatically.

Edward Doheny, who with Charles Canfield, drilled the first successful oil well in the city of Los Angeles in 1892 (a venture for which he was ridiculed), visited the Olinda area and, convinced there was oil there, drilled the first well in 1897. The first well, still operating within the Olinda Ranch subdivision today, was a success, although the initial output of 50 barrels a day was paltry by later standards. Ten more wells were drilled in 1898 and with several major "gushers", the Olinda field became a proven success. Doheny developed a partnership with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (known generally as the Santa Fe) to operate two leases known as Upper and Lower Santa Fe, these now in the area around the Olinda Ranch housing tract. Eventually, the Santa Fe Railroad built a railroad spur line from its main line to the south (paralleling Orangethorpe Avenue). The upper lease went to the Chanslor-Canfield Midway Oil Company, commonly known as the CCMO, co-owned by Doheny's former partner, Charles Canfield. The latter was the Olinda Crude Oil Company, with the lease known as the Olinda Land Company Lease. Eventually, there were other leases in the area known as Stearns, Columbia, General Petroleum, and West Coast.

Hundreds of persons lived and worked in the Olinda field, though whether there was a town or official settlement was a matter of opinion. Bachelors bunked and married men could rent or lease houses or build their own on company land. The work could be hard and dangerous over 12-hour shifts, though oil field workers were well-known for their physical and mental toughness. Because of their relative isolation, the residents of the Olinda area experienced a close-knit community and their oil company bosses maintained, for those interviewed in the book, a sufficient level of support to foster company loyalty among "open shop", that is, non-union, workers. For example, companies sponsored sports teams, built recreation halls, and provided other amenities.

Speaking of sports, Olinda was best known for decades as the home for several years of Walter Johnson, a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher with the old Washington Senators, before leaving to turn professional. A near-mythical event (nearly anyone who lived in Brea claimed to be there) was an exhibition game near the intersection of Brea Boulevard and Lambert Road that featured Johnson and Herman "Babe" Ruth, the legendary New York Yankees slugger. A recent Los Angeles Times article covered that event, which took place in 1924. Another well-known Olinda resident was Major John L. [Jack] Armstrong, a World War II fighter pilot who was a prisoner of war held by the Germans after he was shot down in September 1944. After the war, he became a record-setting test pilot, but his career was cut short in a deadly crash at an air show in September 1954.

The Upper Santa Fe lease, or the CCMO, had the largest settlement and included a Methodist Episcopal Church, a general store, and a barbershop. There were a few small businesses elsewhere, including a food store and barbershop on the Columbia lease near today's Valencia Avenue. While estimates of the population at Olinda vary widely, there were certainly several hundred people living and working at the several leases over the years.

Olinda School was founded shortly after 1900 and the second school location was adjacent to Carbon Creek in what is now Carbon Canyon Regional Park. Although the school was closed by the 1960s, part of the structure was relocated for use as community center in Brea. Moreover, when the new Olinda Village subdivision was opened to the east in 1964, a new school, also called Olinda School, was opened and the original school bell from its predecessor dedicated at the new facility.

According to several interviewees, the death knell of Olinda included advances in technology that led to high speed drilling; the decline of on-site resident workers with the use of the car, a desire for better housing, and increased costs to the company; and, finally, a decline in the productivity in the field. Another issue relative to the physical loss of the Olinda community was the agitation for improved flood control after heavy storms in 1938 caused widespread flooding, property damage, and deaths in north Orange County. After World War II and the post-war economic boom ensued, the movement to dam Carbon Creek accelerated. By 1960, the dam was completed and remnants such as the old Olinda School were replaced. In 1975, after years of effort, Carbon Canyon Regional Park was established on part of the old Olinda community site and a State Historic Landmark plaque erected. Although some production continued in recent years and, to this day, there are still a few pumping wells, the advent of the Olinda Ranch housing tract led to the development of the last major area of the old field. Fortunately, the old CCMO office, the Santa Fe well #1, and other relics were retained as part of the Olinda Oil Museum.

Today, the name is retained in a few places: the 1960s tract called "Olinda Village" and the Olinda school; the more recent subdivision of "Olinda Ranch" and the new oil museum there; and the city high school, still called Brea-Olinda. There are probably few, if any, persons still living who resided at the Olinda oil field and as the derricks and "grasshoppers" are dismantled, the wells capped, the soil "cleaned", and the sites made ready for development, the physical reminders give way to the pages of history. Hopefully, Olinda will continue to be remembered for its important place in an industry that once predominated in the region.
If you like this history stuff, keep an eye out for more in future posts!

75 mph in Carbon Canyon: Documented

Back in July, I had a post with a link to a YouTube video clip of a motorcyclist who was quite proud of the fact that he taped himself doing speeds of up to 90 mph eastbound on Carbon Canyon Road from just before Carriage Hills to near the end of the canyon as you approach Chino Hills Parkway.
Turns out, he had a second clip that started on the Brea side that lasted through Sleepy Hollow. In that case, the speeds only topped out at 75 mph on the sparsely populated OC side, while maintaining a leisurely 60+ in Sleepy Hollow, my neck of the woods. Here it is:


In the comments to his post, our hero claims that a deer crossed the road at about the 1:10 mark and that it is barely noticeable. I couldn't see anything, although a few seconds later, Einstein tells his brother that there was a deer back there. Gosh, wouldn't it be funny if, say, the deer had gotten right in front of one or both of them and there was a collision? On the other hand, if that had happened, we wouldn't have had the clip to enjoy, now would we?

For that matter, what would have happened if someone were trying to make a left turn from, say, Sleepy Hollow onto the road while one of these geniuses was hitting the curves at 60 mph or faster?

What did happen to the motorcyclist who was probably doing comparable speeds or faster back in May 2007 when a parcel delivery truck made a turn out of Old Carbon Canyon Road?

Well, his roadside memorial is on a separate post from earlier this month.

I'll send this link, just like I did the other, to the Chino Hills city staffer I've spoken to a few times about my concerns about unsafe driving on Carbon Canyon Road. Because I heard nothing from this person on the last message I sent, I'm going to be realistic and expect nothing this time, too.
BUT, if there were more concerns expressed by others, including organizations like neighborhood watch committees (I've mentioned my concerns to my local one previously) and homeowner's associations, MAYBE something would get done. Because one guy with a concern won't get it done and at least one honest field rep at a state representative's office told me quite openly that that's the case--the proof seems to be that he never called me back when he promised he would.

Because this guy may have had the cojones to tape himself doing this, but there are untold others who just drive that way, in cycles and cars. WITH IMPUNITY.
I'd like to think the visual evidence might mean something . . .

20 August 2008

What?! Another Road Closure in Carbon Canyon?!

Another little news item from the recent 16 August issue of the Champion notifies us that on the previous Saturday at 2:15 a.m. a 21-year old driving a 2008 BMW on Carbon Canyon Road lost control and knocked down a power pole near Carriage Hills Road on the Chino Hills side. Consequently, the road was closed for much of the day while crews repaired the line, rerouting traffic through the Carriage Hills subdivision. The above photos were taken on 20 August, nearly two weeks after the accident, and they've fertilized the tire track scars to quickly regrow the grass, but there was clearly some serious chewing going on here.

Not too to be too judgmental here, BUT, let's add this up, shall we?

21-year old driver, check.

2008 BMW, check.

2:15 a.m. on a weekend, check.

Oh, one other important part of the story: turns out that the driver fled the scene of the accident, was arrested not too long thereafter and was booked on a charge of hit-and-run.

Speeding, check.
And, what else?

In the meantime, can we expect any increase in patrolling in the canyon to try and let people like the defendant know that there is a police presence there (and maybe not the same time each time)?

Hmmm . . . .

After all, knocking down a power pole, that's only a minor inconvience. As I stated a few posts back, not even the fact that we've had several fatalities in the last few years, has stirred any interest whatsoever from local authorities in either Brea or Chino Hills to do anything. So, if death won't do it, property damage, power outages, and other trivialities sure won't.

What will it take?

An innocent life?

Shouldn't It Be Called the Sleepy Hollow Earthquake?

Courtesy of the Champion newspaper and its 16 August issue, we learn that the epicenter of the "notorious" 5.4 earthquake on 29 July was actually nine miles below Sleepy Hollow where three faults--the Whittier, Chino and Peralta Hills--meet.
I'm not sure how the adjective "notorious" applies--after all, a 5.4 is only a modest little seismic event, compared to the "Big One" which we have been due to receive since, oh, 1857. That would be "notorious." I think all we can say about this pipsqueak was that it was "slightly annoying," although less so right here in Sleepy Hollow than in Pomona, Yorba Linda, Whittier and outlying areas that had more damage that I know of than anyone in these parts.

Still, since I'm prone to creating my own historic districts (Sleepy Hollow and Mountain View Estates [Canon Lane]) and historic landmarks (La Vida Mineral Springs,) I'm going to go right on ahead and declare this to be the "Sleepy Hollow Earthquake of 2008," not to be confused, however, with the "Notorious Sleepy Hollow Earthquake of 2008."

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #4

We're on a roll with the La Vida Mineral Springs stuff, which is not surprising because it was the one main attraction in the canyon over the decades.

Above is a great ca. 1920s or 1930s photograph printed onto postcard paper. It is almost certainly an individual photo and not a published postcard because it doesn't have publishing information and because it was common then for the photographer to inscribe the negative with the white-colored writing you see at the bottom. In this case, the caption reads "La Vida Mineral Springs Calif." At the far right is the number "9," which would obviously indicate a series.

Compared to later photographs with a two-story motel, restaurant and more amenities, this view shows the rustic nature of the site which would most likely correspond with an earlier date. Another hint for date is the type of stamp box (no kidding) on the reverse. As I've written in an earlier post, William Newton Miller and a son-in-law, according to a Orange County history timeline found online, opened the resort in 1924. It would not surprise me if this image came not long afterward.

On the right, just behind the end of the footbridge, likely crossing Carbon Creek, is a screened structure, most likley for enjoying the hot springs. There is another screened area to the left and a wooden building over on the left behind the oak tree. A couple of round tables and chairs )(some wood and some iron) are in the shade of the tree. Through the trees you can see the steep hillside. Interestingly, there is at least one sign with some visible lettering over against the building at the far left, but what the sign said can' t be made out.

All in all, this is great early shot of La Vida, with good exposure, crisp and clear, without fading. I suppose it is possible that the owners had these photos taken in a series, had a bunch of them printed onto postcard paper, and sold them to visitors.

Look for more historical artifacts from the canyon soon. This is item 2008.4.1.1 from the Carbon Canyon Collection.

Neighboorhoods of Carbon Canyon, Part Three (Version Two)

A couple of weeks ago, I put together a little post about a neighborhood on the Chino Hills side that I referred to as "Canon Lane" hoping that I'd find out or have someone give me the official subdivision name.

A former canyon resident replied soon after that it was something like "Mountain View" and then earlier today I heard from a local realtor that the name is "Mountain View Estates" and that there were two phases. I've also seen the name "Mountain View Park" in a couple of locations.

As indicated in the earlier post, the proximity of Mountain View Estates to Sleepy Hollow is very close, within a couple of years or so, and I've seen homes as early as 1925 back there. I'm assuming that phase one covered the lower part of the community closest to Carbon Canyon Road, while phase two embraced the upper reaches of the hillsides.

At any rate, there it is: Mountain View Estates. My wife and I came pretty close to buying a home at the top of the neighborhood and there were terrific views of the San Gabriel Mountains (Baldy and its neighbors, Cucamonga and Ontario peaks), so the name is particuarly apt. The photo at the top is looking toward the subdivision from the north end of Canon Lane next to Western Hills Golf Course.

15 August 2008

Compromised Canyons: A Comment about Aerojet/Vellano

In my rambling narrative about my wanderings in Soquel Canyon, posted in early July, I made reference to the former Aerojet munitions testing site (above), a Cold War-era relic that closed nearly twenty years ago but was subjected to a $40 million cleanup because of the development of the adjacent and expensive Vellano subdivision in Chino Hills. I also added a link to a very interesting web page about the Aerojet property by EnviroReporter.com.

I've just received a comment from Michael Collins from EnviroReporter.com and wanted to reprint some of it for the edification of those who are interested in the Aerojet issue:

"Thank you for the linking of our Chino Hills cleanup page on www.EnviroReporter.com as this is an issue of great importance to folks in your community. . . I invite you and your readers to send any tips regarding Aerojet Chino Hills to us by going to our contact page: http://www.enviroreporter.com/contact.html

Michael Collins


Again, the link to the web page is on the right side of the blog screen. The cleanup of old toxic sites because of residential, commercial, and entertainment uses on or near the locale is becoming more and more common all the time and should be of concern to all of us.

Over and out!

14 August 2008

Carbon Canyon History: Camp Kinder Ring

I had the opportunity to drive out to Los Angeles today and pay a visit to The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring's Southern California District office. I spent about an hour and a half talking with Executive Director, Dr. Eric Gordon, who shared the history and purpose of the organization and a particular component directly connected to Carbon Canyon.

The Workmen's Circle is a fascinating organization and, as the district website states, was "founded in 1900, [and] fosters Jewish identity and participation in Jewish life through Jewish, especially Yiddish, culture and education, friendship, mutual aid and the pursuit of social and economic justice." After its start in New York, with significant support from garment workers working in notorious sweatshops, a chapter of the Circle was founded in San Francisco. A month later, in January 1908, a branch was created in Los Angeles and is celebrating its centennial later (maybe this post can be seen as a small token to help commemorate one hundred years for the Workmen's Circle.)

One of the longest lasting legacies of the local chapter was the purchase in late 1913 of 10 acres in Duarte for a sanitarium. At one time, the foothill communities of the San Gabriel Valley, including Monrovia and Duarte, were renowned for their sanitaria, treating people with tuberculosis and other health problems (seems now, with all the smog, locals leave for Palm Springs or Nevada and Arizona to deal with their lung issues!). The Workmen's Circle sanitarium morphed eventually into the City of Hope, one of the greatest medical facilities in the Los Angeles Region.

Because Boyle Heights was the first major center of the Jewish community in the region, the Workmen's Circle maintained an active presence there from its beginnings, although by 1950 the organization moved to downtown Los Angeles and, then in the early 60s, to the west side. Among its many programs, the Workmen's Circle operated schools and cultural centers, had a cemetery department, a credit union, and others. Its particular emphasis on political and social issues fostered a strong grass-roots activism that extended beyond Jewish causes and embraced those of other ethnic, racial and cultural groups. While time has brought many changes to the organization, it continues to offer concerts, art exhibits, and other cultural programs while maintaining its century-long commitment to social and economic equality and justice.

In the late 1920s, the organization as a direct connection to its school component, decided to acquire land in far-off Carbon Canyon to build Camp Kinder Ring, one of seven such facilities around the country operated by branches of the Workmen's Circle. As its name implies, the facility was geared towards children as a summer season extension of their education, although families generally spent much of their summers at the camp. In 1947, an adult section was created to expand the services that Camp Kinder Ring had to offer. Unfortunately, providing water was always a difficult situation without piped-in supplies and, by 1958, it was decided to close the camp and sell the land. Today, the property, at the northeast corner of Carbon Canyon Road and Canyon Hills Road, is utilized as a horse and stock ranch, but I would imagine that some of the buildings that were part of the camp may well be there--a subject I'll try to investigate in future.

The three images above are courtesy of the Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring, Southern California District. The first is the entrance to the camp, the second shows portions of camp buildings against the backdrop of the Chino Hills, and the third appears to be a 1920s era image of Circle members against one of the neighboring hillsides. At the bottom of the blog page are more images obtained with the help of Dr. Gordon.

12 August 2008

Carbon Canyon and A Sense of Community

I received the comment below earlier today and really thought it epitomized the spirit of community that does make the various neighborhoods of Carbon Canyon different than most (not all) outside it.

"On the 28th of this month, it will be 3 years since my husband and I departed to retire in Oregon, but we did leave a large piece of our hearts in quaint Sleepy Hollow, up on Hay Drive. In addition to our possessions, we took with us irreplaceable memories of some of the last vestiges of nature in SoCal; heart stopping views of Mt. Baldy and the accompanying peaks; melancholy smiles created by coyote song and free summer night frog concerts emanating from the tiny creek. Most and above all, we will always cherish having met some incredible friends, staunch supporters of the environment, and the lynchpin of Sleepy Hollow, Don Briney himself."

I guess what stands out from this well-expressed statement is, to rework an old saying, "you can take the person out of the Canyon, but you can't take the Canyon out of the person"!

10 August 2008

Carbon Canyon Road and its Remnant Landscapes

Remnant landscapes?! Yes, there are people who make their specialty finding, studying and interpreting aspects of our landscape that were built, planted, installed, etc. for a purpose, but when that purpose is no longer needed or was changed, those aspects become remnants. An example would be planting eucalyptus trees at the edges of an orange grove as wind breaks to prevent damage to the grove. When the grove goes and the trees remain, they are part of a "remnant landscape."

Well, Carbon Canyon Road (State Highway 142) has been rerouted in the past for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the curves were too abrupt for faster cars and heavier traffic. Or a new road came through requiring a new intersection with different approaches, sight lines, new traffic signals . . . there could be many reasons why a road's path is changed.

So far, I've found three areas where the "Old Carbon Canyon Road" is a remnant--in two cases, still used, but in another, no longer so.

First, there actually is an "Old Carbon Canyon Road" heading south and west from the current road, about a mile or so from the eastern end of the canyon in Chino Hills. The road dead ends after a short distance, but also connects with the Carriage Hills subdivision. At one edge of the subdivision, Old Carbon Canyon Road continues after being "disconnected" from its continuation. In fact, when you drive the current road heading east and are making your way through Horseshoe Bend, look off to the right and you'll see several houses (and, to go back to my earlier example, a row of tall eucalyptus trees). Now, if you had looked carefully just before that, not long after the turnoff for Carriage Hills, you would have seen an iron gate just off the road to the right. Behind that gate is Old Carbon Canyon Road (see the photo above and other examples at the bottom of the blog screen.)

The second, currently used example is Ginseng Lane, a road about 1/4 mile west of Carriage Hills. Now, before that, just after you pass Valley Springs Road and the Western Hills Oaks subdivision, there is a two-story house, painted brown, at the south side (right side as you head east) of Carbon Canyon Road. If you look just past that house, you can actually see the former right-of-way for the old road. Turn right on Ginseng Lane and you'll be on the old road for a very short distance, as Ginseng ends at the entrance to the aforementioned house. More photos are below at the bottom of the blog screen.

The third, unused, example is at the eastern end of the canyon. My first visit to the canyon, that I know of, was in 1985 when I had a girlfriend who lived in Woodview, the subdivision south of Carbon Canyon Road (now Chino Hills Parkway), east of Peyton Drive, and west of Pipeline Avenue. When you came down from the canyon, the road simply curved and continued eastward. As Chino Hills came to be and development ensued, Chino Hills Parkway was created from the 60 Freeway (actually, a little west of that, because the road is still Phillips Ranch Road in the Pomona portion). Chino Hills Parkway met up with Carbon Canyon Road and assumed the old road from that point until it ends at Central Avenue. Only recently, in fact, was the road's status as State Highway 142 changed--now 142 officially ends at the 71 Freeway, whereas it used to continue to Central. At any rate, that old curve is still there, on the right as you head east to approach the intersection of Carbon Canyon Rd. and Chino Hills Pkwy.

Because the Brea side runs through the deepest, steepest part of the canyon or climbs at a higher elevation along it, there are probably no changes in the route. Although, there was a time when Highway 142, which starts on Valencia Avenue at Imperial Highway and heads north before the eastward turn at Carbon Canyon Road, made that approach but gently curved eastward into the canyon in the oil field at the southeastern corner of today's Valencia/Carbon Canyon intersection. This area is fenced and there are a lot of trees and some change in the topography, but it is possible that a portion of that old road is still in there somewhere. That would be interesting (maybe only to me, though) to find out.

08 August 2008

Hills for Everyone: Support Local Grassroots Activism

Over decades, developers have had plenty of opportunities to buy open land, build their projects, make very healthy profits and then go back for more. Whenever opposition arises because of environmental concerns, traffic issues, school enrollment impacts, water availability questions, and so on, the hue and cry from developers and their supporters is "private property rights must be protected." Well, to a degree, that is true (although it's not unlike the argument that tax cuts skewed disproportionately to the upper class is necessary because it was lead directly to job creation and investment--well, we saw where that argument has led us.) Sure, we don't need government unfairly seizing private property by eminent domain, unless the project has a proven public need and if the property owner is given fair market value for their land. Moreover, if a reasonable project can be built without major environmental impacts (not to mention a financial burden, long term, on the city or neighborhood) and has real, demonstrable benefit, so be it.

On the other hand, to allow developers to have unrestricted access to building projects and especially when local governments pave the way by overriding unavoidble significant adverse (count 'em, three, that's three adjectives) environmental impacts, is not protecting the rights of everyone else. In the case of Canyon Crest, the 165-home project proposed for the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon it is not only casting away these legitimate concerns, but downright overriding the wishes of the citizens of Brea, the very people to whom the planning commission, city staff, and the city council are supposed to serve.

I've hashed over this before and there's no need to be (slightly) overly repititious, so I'll turn my attention to making a pitch for Hills for Everyone, a true grassroots organization that has done remarkable work in preserving open space and trying to mitigate the worst excesses of overdevelopment in our area. Their biggest victory is, undoubtedly, preserving 12,000 acres of land, much of it intended for an airport (yes, an airport), in the Chino Hills. Chino Hills State Park is a valuable area of open space, passive recreation, and habitat preservation amidst a veritable sea of tract houses and other development.

Given just how impacted our area has been (look at our pollution, our horrific traffic, our water supply issues, overcrowded schools, etc.) the relative small area of the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor, covering areas from Whittier on the west to Corona on the east with links to additional areas such as the Cleveland National Forest, Irvine Ranch National Natural Landmark, and the various projects of the Emerald Necklace along the San Gabriel River are investments in the future. Canyon Crest is, however, only one of several threats to the laudable goal of preserving the Corridor.

In their new "Special Report," Hills for Everyone reasonable, rationally, cogently, and, yet, pointedly provides examples of where citizen activism has prevailed over the well-funded and well-connected network of developers, home builders and trade groups, and, yes, politicians who may actually have received some significant donations from the above.

In Whittier, La Habra Heights, Chino Hills, Yorba Linda, and Brea, there have been significant victories achieved in the face of threats. In addition, however, to Canyon Crest, there is, most notably, the Shell-Aera plan for 3,600 (can I repeat that? 3,600) units over 3,000 acres in unincorporated Los Angeles and Orange counties, adjoining La Habra, La Habra Heights, Rowland Heights, Diamond Bar, and Brea. This massive project was proposed in 2003 and, though an EIR was slated for almost a year ago, it is still unfinished. Because Los Angeles County ruled that the project was not compliant with its environmental standards, Shell-Aera (professing to be community-minded) then sought to wave that away by seeking annexation to Diamond Bar. Diamond Bar is, by the way, a city that has had a little problem with finances because it is almost exclusively residential, has little commercial/retail tax revenue, and, yet, wants to pile on a few thousand more residences. The city's remarkable success, however, as a base for city politicians to move into state and national positions of a highly conservative and "business friendly" nature (Gary Miller and Robert Huff, for example, though we should leave Jay Kim out of it, shouldn't we?) probably means that their embrace of a pre-annexation and pre-development agreement signals their complete disinterest in a balance of development and preservation. How much open space is there is Diamond Bar, anyway?

There was a recent development, in that Attorney General Jerry Brown (I know, I know) recently let Diamond Bar know that there will be an expectation that, should Shell-Aera get their way, the project must comply with AB32, a bill to reduce greenhouse gases contributory to global climate change (which may well be unpopular in DB). The hard, cold reality is that, as bad as Canyon Crest is and as important as it is to try and stop it, Shell-Aera looms like a colossus over anything else in this area.

Folks, give Hills for Everyone a few minutes of your time @ HillsForEveryone.org and, if you are stirred by what they have to say, bookmark the site, send them a few bucks, and give some of your time and effort to fighting these projects that are archaic, outdated, unsustainable, and just plain bad for our overdeveloped region. Enough is enough! To find a real grassroots organization at the local level that works positively, constructively, and foresightedly (is that a word?) to preserve, rather than alter (or, perhaps, destroy), this is it for this area. They deserve the support of anyone who truly cares about the balance (oh, that word again) that we need to maintain, especially as global climate change renders the old paradigm increasingly obsolete and we need to develop new strategies for adapting to the new realities.

That's the kind of development we should be fighting for!

07 August 2008

Sleepy Hollow History Publicized!

Last Saturday's edition of the Chino Hills Champion, which I didn't get in my mail until yesterday (no delivery in Sleepy Hollow), has two nice articles on Sleepy Hollow and one of our oldest residents, Don Briney, who's lived in the neighborhood for about 45 years, is featured in the front page article. Another piece on page 4 has the headline "Hollow Has Colorful Past, Wild Side" and gives some interesting information.

(The photo above is looking east along Carbon Canyon Road [State Highway 142] at the county line into Sleepy Hollow)

The man who built the home I live in told me that about the time the house was completed, in 1990, he was out at the front of the house when an older woman drove up, stopped, and asked him what he knew about the neighborhood. After they talked a few minutes, she paused and then told him that her name was Rosemary, the name of the little one-lane road her car was idling on.

Well, among the material provided in the Champion is about Rosemary's family. In fact, 80 acres of the canyon was bought in 1921 by Cleve and Elizabeth Purington, who then subdivided the following year. In my June post on the community and on the Google interactive map I've created and twice posted, I stated 1915, on the understanding that part of the house of a neighbor of mine was built that year. I'll have to make the correction.

There is other history mentioned, which I would like to elaborate on further later, but these articles inspired me to do a little genealogical digging, courtesy of Ancestry.com, on the Purington family. Here's what I've found:

Cleve Alpheus Purington was born 20 December 1882 in Phippsburg, Maine, the son of Robert S. and Mary C. Purington. Robert was born in 1854, probably in Phippsburg or Brunswick, and was a laborer. Cleve's grandfather, also named Robert, was born in 1823 and was a teamster (land-based shipping), a mariner or seaman, and a stevedore (someone who loads/unloads ships). This is hardly surprising because most of Maine's economy was and is related to the sea, including commercial fishing and shipping. There were a great many Puringtons in that area and throughout the state. Cleve, however, left the family home by the time he was 18 and made his way to the nearby town of Bath, where he lived in a boarding house and worked in the town's largest business, the well-known Bath Iron Works.

By 1910, perhaps because of his older brother, Fred, Cleve made his way across the United States and settled in the Brooklyn township of Oakland, where he lived with Fred and worked as a shipping clerk in an iron works company. It is not clear where, but by 1917, Cleve had relocated to Washington state, probably in the Seattle/Tacoma area, where ironworking and shipbuilding were in full swing because of the First World War. He had also married Elizabeth Heald and the couple's first child, David (mentioned in the Champion article) was born in Washington in 1917.

Elizabeth was born in New Hampshire to Josiah H. Heald and Katherine (Catherine) Pike, both natives of Maine. In fact, there were Healds who lived right next door to Cleve Purington's grandfather, Robert, in the 1880 census in Phippsburg, so Cleve and Elizabeth may have met through family connections. In 1884, Josiah Heald and Catherine Pike were married, but either married in New Hampshire or soon moved there, because their first three children, including Elizabeth, were born in that state.

Elizabeth's path to the west was further south than that of Cleve Purington. Her father was a Congregationalist pastor who was born in Lovell, Maine in 1859, the son of farmer Abel Heald and Mary Stearns. Based on his reported property values, which were much higher than his immediate neighbors, Abel was probably quite well-to-do. He was retired by 1880 and the fact that Josiah, then 21, was still in school, perhaps a divinity college, would indicate that there was money to provide for a higher education, a rarity among Americans.

It seems probable that Josiah completed his education, married, and took a pastorate in New Hampshire where Elizabeth was born. Given that clergy tend to move often, it is not surprising that he moved his family to what was then the territory of Arizona sometime around 1890. Their youngest son, Josiah, was born there, but in 1900 the Healds had migrated east to another territory, New Mexico, where they settled in the village of San Rafael. Ten years later, the family was in the much larger city of Albuquerque.

What is not obvious is how Elizabeth Heald met up with Cleve Purington, where they were married, and how they wound up in Washington.

By September 1918, though, the Puringtons had relocated to another shipbuilding mecca, Long Beach, where they were living when Cleve registered for the draft. He listed his occupation as a shipbuilder with a company operating in "East San Pedro." In the physical description portion of the registration card, Cleve is listed as 5'7", of medium build, and with blue eyes and brown hair.

It was the next year, according to the Champion article, that Cleve and Elizabeth made their first visit to Carbon Canyon and "fell in love" with the area. They remained in Long Beach for a few years, living close to the shipyards where Cleve advanced to foreman. In July 1920, they had their second child, Rosemary.

It was, as stated above, the following year that the Puringtons bought the 80 acres. Obviously, these were not land developers or wealthy investors, but a shipyard foreman who saved enough money to buy what had to have been cheap land in what was at that time the middle of nowhere. In fact, there would have been no way the Puringtons could today have developed Sleepy Hollow (named after the famous novel by Washington Irving) with its narrow streets, hilly lots, and lack of infrastructure. Then again, Sleepy Hollow was not intended for full-time residents but for weekend cabins and get-aways from Los Angeles and nearby areas.

Sadly, Cleve Purington died within just a few years of creating the community. His wife and children, however, stayed and Elizabeth was listed as a "real estate saleslady" in the 1930 census, keeping the business of selling Sleepy Hollow land going after her husband's death (he was probably in his mid-30s). The family, or at least Elizabeth and son David, remained tied to Sleepy Hollow for decades. Elizabeth died in 1951 and though David lost his home in the community in a 1958 fire, he remained a resident until he died in 1991. Don Briney bought the land where David's home had been and built the current house on it in the early 1960s.

It would be nice to know if there are still descendants around and whether there are any family photographs, letters, papers, diaries, etc. that could be available for documenting the history of this unique little corner of Chino Hills.

The Roadside Memorial: A Sobering Reminder

In my 4 1/2 years in the Canyon, there have been at least a half-dozen traffic fatalities on Carbon Canyon Road that I know of. One occurred the day we had our housewarming and guests coming from the O.C. side had to slog their way 1 to 1 1/2 hours through jammed traffic on the 57 and 60 to come around on the S. B. side because of the road closure. Another involved two Chino Hills teens who blew through the canyon in a Ferrari before crashing a few hundred feet near my house (I heard that one and it was nasty.) Another involved a guy who went off the road ascending Horseshoe Bend just east of Western Hills Country Club. A fifth was the motorcyclist roaring down the Bend east at Old Carbon Canyon Road and went under a delivery truck. I know I'm missing a couple more, but you get the point.

By the way, let's please not say that the road is dangerous, something that often is stated, but it's the people who behave recklessly not an inanimate slab of asphalt. And, sometimes, it's easy to be critical, cynical, judgmental (something about being human, I guess) about people who make a fateful decision and wind up cutting their own lives short.

Today, though, I finally decided to stop and photograph the two remaining roadside memorials marking where people have died on the road (there was a third for the guy I mentioned above who went off the road near the Horseshoe Bend, but CalTrans did some slope work there and removed it.) The one above occurred, I think, before I moved into the Canyon and I don't know the circumstances. It could have been an accident that didn't involve intoxicants or high speed, but usually that's not the case. Still, they were teens, kids, who had families and friends who obviously loved them enough to not just put up these remembrances, but to maintain them. You'd have to be pretty insensitive to not take a look at these (although who really does, other than those who created and tend to them?) and not feel something for those left behind.

Additionally, for every person who has died in an accident in the Canyon, there are many who have been injured and there has been property damage, as well. I spoke the other night to a resident who says that, in ten years, he's made 20 or 30 calls to 9-1-1 relating to accidents, many of which have gone over the side of the road. New guardrails have cut into the calls, because cars bounce off the rails (though there will be the occasional collision with other cars on the road to contend with.)

The first year or two that I lived in Sleepy Hollow, I made perhaps a dozen 911 or dispatch calls. Initially, I'd hear the screech and/or crash, leap up with heart racing and run for the phone to make that call. Eventually, and it's kind of weird to put it this way, I got used to it. Now, if I hear something, I'll peer out the window and casually walk over and punch (909) 465-6638 (memorized after the third or fourth call) for dispatch or 9-1-1 and calmly make my report.

I still believe that if the cities of Brea and Chino Hills and the state took the matter of traffic behavior on the road more seriously, there could be mitigation. Unfortunately, it might take an innocent victim, or a pedestrian (yes, we do have a few of those), or a bicyclist before notice is taken, but why wait?
The other memorial photo is at the bottom of the general blog screen.

05 August 2008

Carbon Canyon Google Interactive Map, Redux

I'm reposting this periodically so it appears current for (potentially) greater access. Besides, I've just tonight unilaterally and completely without any authority, except my own, designated Sleepy Hollow and the Canon Lane area as "historic districts" within Chino Hills and La Vida Hot Springs in Brea as a "historic landmark." I wanted to update the map to reflect these monumental changes.

I've set up a Google interactive map for Carbon Canyon that has placemarks (various icons for housing tracts, recreational places, historic sites, and others) that you can access and read information about concerning places of historical interest, notoriety, or distinctiveness within the canyon. If you have corrections and suggestions, please let me know.
Here's the link and enjoy: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=108410844123352552312.00045245ba05b66a7ae66&ll=33.96301,-117.763996&spn=0.029401,0.052872&z=14

Neighborhoods of Carbon Canyon, Part Three

I'm going to call it the "Canon Lane" neighborhood, although there is probably an official subdivision name. Maybe someone out there knows it and will share it with me? Above is a view of the homes at the top of the neighborhood taken from the north end of Canon Lane next to Western Hills Country Club.

At any rate, this community on the Chino Hills side of the Canyon, consists of several dozen homes follows the one-lane winding and steep-climbing Canon Lane, south of Carbon Canyon Road, up the hill. Much like Sleepy Hollow, only a half-mile or so to the west, this is a neighborhood that consists of quite a few, small older homes with larger, more recent additions. Some of the older residences have also been greatly expanded, especially those sitting on multiple lots. I'm going to assume that it was also subdivided with an eye for cabins and weekend homes for people fleeing Los Angeles and nearby points for a little bit of "country" thirty-five or forty miles way out.

There are a few side streets, the very appropriately named Low Lane is the first street running parallel with Carbon Canyon Road and there is Chernus Lane, Observation Lane, and a couple of others. Most homes, however, especially as you climb the hill, are off Canon. The oldest home I've been able to track is from 1920, only five years after Sleepy Hollow was subdivided. There are a couple of others from 1925, a few from the 1930s and 1940s, as well.

Not surprisingly, there are many more from the 1970s onward, when the Canyon began to be occupied by a greater percentage of full-time residents. In recent years, there have been several homes built, both at the lower and the higher elevations. At the top of Canon and off of Observation and other small roads, there are some very fine views of the canyon and the San Gabriel Mountains, including Mount San Antonio (better known as "Baldy") and its companions, Cucamonga Peak and Ontario Peak. There are a couple of houses at the very top, just above where my wife and I considered buying before we chose our home in Sleepy Hollow, that even have views into Soquel Canyon and toward Chino Hills State Park to the south.

There's even a geodisic dome house that has a cousin over in our neighborhood. The Canon Lane-area geo was up for sale a few years back and it looked like a fascinating house, with a nice interior and a great lot with lots of trees and plenty of flat, usable ground.

Sure, the streets are narrow, parking is at a premium, and it can be a pretty harrowing drive up the hill for guests unfamiliar with such terrain, but the Canon Lane neighborhood, as with Sleepy Hollow, has considerable charm. Many of the homes are shaded by majestic oaks and there are small seasonal streams that carry water in winter and spring down the hill. I would also assume that, at the top, an occasional deer, maybe even a mountain lion, can be seen.

Given that Sleepy Hollow and Canon Lane go back as far as they do, it seems to me that there ought to be some thought given to designating these areas as historic districts within the very new city of Chino Hills. I don't mean the kind of designation that would make owners of older homes feel shackled by design standards so they couldn't remodel their houses--besides, most of them have probably been significantly altered anyway.

But, the idea that these communities were created for purposes (weekend getaways) very different from their use now, because some of the homes are old, and because of their uniqueness, there seems no reason to not create a historic district designation. Many towns and cities have found it to be valuable for PR purposes and can use CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds from the federal government for creating signage, encouraging restoration or maintenance for those homes that do have some of the historic integrity.

In fact, I would suggest that Boys' Republic, which dates back to 1907, and Los Serranos Country Club (1925) would be other candidates for designation. Chino Hills may be a new city, but there are actually portions of it that are historic, and it could only be a benefit to recognize and commemorate that history, especially those aspects that are still, even if altered, with us.

Come to think of it, I'm going to go ahead and de facto hereby designate this area as the "Canon Lane Historic District," until I can track down, or someone supply me with, the actual name of the subdivision. While I'm at it, I have also decreed that there is also the "Sleepy Hollow Historic District." There is a historic Sleepy Hollow "gateway" sign that used to span Carbon Canyon Road that is sitting in storage at the community center there--we could use a campaign to get that sign rehabilitated and remounted (CalTrans willing). I wish it was as easy to just decree that!

04 August 2008

The Kings of Carbon Canyon Prepare to Abdicate

Even for Oak Tree Downs, the gated community of custom homes on expansive lots on the north side of Carbon Canyon Road in Chino Hills, this was an attention-grabber. The King family, owners of the Century 21 King real estate mini-empire when times were, or appeared to be, so good in the housing market, erected their own dream estate in the Downs. Now, that dream has faded, or will soon.
So, if you have about 5 or 5 1/2 million bucks lying around waiting to be put to use, the dream can be yours. The King home, at a little over 12,000 square feet nestled on about three acres, with all the amenities thereto, is up for sale. The home was completed just a few years ago, but like the bubble in the real estate market, it was evidently just too good to be true.
A few of the amenities: vineyard, fruit orchard, streams, lush gardens, tennis court, putting green, golf cart garage, elevator, game room, card room (after all, poker is no longer a game, it's a sport), gym, bar, reception room, pool and cabaña, 1,200 square foot guest house, THX-certified sound movie theater, the "ESPN Zone" room with three flatscreen televisions side by side to keep up on all of the games, etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum. It would appear to have been all that could be desired in a home.
I imagine the proprietors of this Italian Villa estate thought themselves on top of the world (at least, this little corner of it) when Governor Schwarzenegger was feted at the estate for an election campaign fund raiser when it was brand spanking new.
And, wouldn't you know it, the rumor mill has ground out the story that an interested buyer is none other than Snoop Doggy Dog, former kids' football coach in Chino Hills and ex-resident of "The Country" in Diamond Bar and an exclusive area of north Claremont. Now, who knows if the grapevine is yielding fruit on that one, but one has to wonder what his new neighbors in the Downs would think if Snoop bought the King place . . .

If a home is supposed to reflect what you've achieved (or wish to), then the sale of the King House is undoubtedly an outsized example of the problem we've come to when houses became as much a commodity as a residence; values rose far faster than income; mortgages somehow became available without down payments or income documentation; materialism hit the pinnacle as the preeminent product of achievement; and any regulation of the titanic level of greed that enveloped the housing and mortgage industries in the last several years (why hadn't we learned from the late 1980s or, for that matter, the 1920s?) is seen as nothing less than intefering in that bizarre netherworld called the "free market."
I know, I know, I'm on a soapbox, but I'll just say one more thing: when 200,000 wage earners are worth more than 200,000,000 people in this country, there's something terribly wrong and out of all proportion and balance. The Kings weren't among the 200,000, but it sure looks like they wanted to be.