29 September 2009

Sleepy Hollow Recollections: Paul Nolan Hyde--Canyon Boy, 1948-1959: #1

A few days ago, I received a comment on my entry about traffic improvements in the Canyon, though the comment was unrelated. The correspondent, Paul Nolan Hyde, a Utah resident, wanted to simply share the fact that, from 1948 to 1959, he lived in Sleepy Hollow and said that he had a lot of memories of his decade-long residence in the community.

I made a reply comment that I wanted to post some of his reminiscences, if he was willing to provide them, and, subsequently, he has sent me three specific recollections that I'll share on this blog. If he is willing to send more, I'm happy to post those, too.

This, after all, is part of the documentation of the history of this oldest of Chino Hills communities and the oldest surviving Carbon Canyon neighborhood (the original Olinda being thirty years older, but also gone for nearly a half-century now.)

So, here is the first entry of the three Dr. Hyde sent, a really well-written remembrance of glow worms found along Carbon [Canyon] Creek and a tale that takes us back some sixty years in Sleepy Hollow's history:

Glow Little Glow Worm

One of the unforeseen delights of moving into the Canyon was the discovery of unimagined creatures. Rattlesnakes and hummingbirds I had at least seen pictures of, and in short order, found them up front and personal in my own yard. There were no epiphanies associated with these encounters; snakes were snakes and birds were birds. Although I came to have strong feelings about them, so much so that nearly fifty years afterwards I can write about them with some clarity, yet there was little of the moment that surprised me about snakes and hummingbirds. Glow worms, however, were different.

My mother and father would one day form a dance band. Mother was a competent singer and learned to play the marimba. My father played the guitar, generally as a rhythm instrument. I seldom saw them perform at Dot’s and Floyd’s, but I was often privy to their practice sessions with the constable drummer, the evangelical trumpeter, and my best friend Bill's accordion mother. What I remember best about those sessions, however, was the music, the countless songs that they brought into our front room as they added to their repertoire. They were songs made popular by Doris Day, Dinah Shore, and Rosemary Clooney. They affected me profoundly, not because I liked the songs particularly, but because my parents could perform them with such apparent ease. Some of the songs have become etched into my memory. "This Old House", by Rosemary Clooney was a kind of theme song for my mother. Patrons at the bar where my father's band played and sang, asked for that number over and over again. I suspect that my mother's version was more popular to her audiences than Miss Clooney's was. Years later, upon the death of my mother, that song became the informing metaphor for my poem "Quiet Time". Anyone acquainted with the lyrics of both the song and the poem, would immediately sense the connection between the two. Another popular song performed by the band, was the Mills Brothers' classic "Glow Little Glow Worm". My earliest recollections of music include that song, the Brothers' rich, clear voices almost negating the need for the instrumental ensemble that accompanied them. I had no idea, as a young child, what a glow worm was. I think that I had not even made the connection between the thing and the animal world. I suspect that I may have thought of the glow worm as mythical as dragons, or even as fanciful as the story of Cassiopeia that I read in my book on the constellations. Imagine, if you will, the extraordinary impact that registered upon my mind and my heart when one early summer's evening, my mother took my sister and I out to the front stairway that led to the road above our house and pointed out the pale green light of my first glow worm. I was as if all fairy tales had suddenly come to life. Were I compelled to point at a single event in my life that created within me the capacity to willingly suspend my disbelief, the initial motions of a burgeoning Romantic, it would have to be that damp night of pulsing luminescence. We were allowed to hold the living treasure of dreams in our hands and then were persuaded to return the creatures to their home in the ivy along the steps. I cannot recall ever having seen another in my life.

This remembrance is copyrighted by Dr. Hyde's Parrish Press publishing company and used here with permission.

28 September 2009

Carbon Canyon and San Bernardino County's First Producing Oil Well?

In the 2 October 1941 issue of the Los Angeles Times a short article titled "New Oil Well Flows at Chino" was published. The piece begins by stating "Brought in by Homer May, Jr., a driller, completion of what is characterized as San Bernardino County's first producing oil well, in Carbon Canyon, four miles south of Chino, was reported today."

The article went on to note that May was only twenty-eight years old, but had a decade under his belt as a driller in oil fields. Moreover, May admitted that his well was "financed on a shoestring" ($5,000 was spent on a five month job drilling only to a depth of 1,000 feet) and was being drilled on the "installment plan," but that he anticipated a new field would be opened up with the discovery of oil in his well, which was said to be in the same geologic formation of producing wells in north Orange County.

At the time, May stated that well was capped for unspecified reasons, but that in ten days it would be producing (and "without the necessity of pumping") and crude extracted. There were four others listed as investors in the modest project, including three Los Angeles civil engineers and a TWA pilot from Hollywood.

Unfortunately, the article did not specify the location of the well, nor is there any indication of a followup article to verify that the well did actually continue to produce oil after the ten-day capping period was over. Given that there was no new oil field opened after this and that no further news coverage ensued, it can be assumed that, either the well proved to be only very limited in its output or that it was a hoax or misguided pipe dream of some kind.

27 September 2009

Costs of Carbon Canyon Road Improvements

In recent weeks, two new CalTrans projects have been underway on the Orange County portion of State Highway 142 (Carbon Canyon Road,) both managed by District 12 based in the county.

The first, which appears to be largely completed, is a drainage improvement project on the north side of the road, adjacent to westbound lanes, which seems to have involved scraping away some of the bottom of the hillside, trenching, installing drains and other work. This is just west of Olinda Village as the highway descends towards the regional park and Olinda Ranch. The area involved is at the base of a nearly sheer wall of the hills where landslides and falling rocks have been a regular hazard for as long as the road has existed on that section. According to a "Tentative List to Advertise" issued at the beginning of this year, the estimated cost for this work was $280,000.

The second project is the installlation of a new traffic signal, along with sidewalk construction and minor road improvements at Olinda Village. This FTIP (Federal Transportation Improvement Program) project has a total project cost of $644,000, with 10% of this coming from local funds and the remaining $579,600 coming from federal funds granted to CalTrans for project administration. There have been posts already dealing with this project, which is still in the early stages with concrete posts for the signals installed. The signs put up on Carbon Canyon Road indicate a late spring 2010 completion date.

Meantime, a small drainage project has just been finished on the Chino Hills side. A concrete trench has been placed on the south side of the highway, next to eastbound lanes, just east of Canon Lane to direct runoff into a drain that then goes under the roadway and off into Western Hills Golf Course and, presumably, the channel for Carbon [Canyon] Creek, which runs through the golf course. The shoulder of this area, which usually does floor during moderate to heavy rainstorms, has also been paved with asphalt. This work has been handled by District 8 in San Bernardino County.

It is always good to see improvements, like the drainage projects, being undertaken. The installation of the signals, again, while understandable for the folks in Olinda Village, will slow, to some degree, traffic on the highway, but the real effects probably will not be seen until other signals are installed in Chino Hills at Canon Lane and Canyon Hills Road, as planned (though unlikely to happen for some time to come.)

25 September 2009

An End-of-Summer Bushwacking Trip through Carbon Canyon

I can't think of a better way to spend your wedding anniversary than thrashing through dried out prickly sunflowers and other man-eating (or nearly so) chapparal on a hot day in Carbon Canyon. Yet, that's precisely what my wife and I did last Sunday.

I'd been told there was a hiking trail that led out the lower west end of Sleepy Hollow and then doubled back up the hillside toward the back end of the community. So, we set out mid-morning and did, indeed, find a trail, but one that was not at all maintained and, because of the growth since the November 2008 fires, was "highly vegetated," meaning overgrown.

We actually took the wrong route initially and followed a little path that led to an old tin building that had collapsed and been flattened over who knows how long and then came to a very pretty spot along Carbon [Canyon] Creek, along the south side of Carbon Canyon Road. The water (and whatever is in it!) trickled down over the sandstone exposed along the base of the hills and meandered westward.

We then doubled back to catch the "trail" (so-called) and plowed our way through the mass of bushes, shrubs and weeds, hopping over some steep gullies coming down from the tops of the hills and running down toward the creek. Finally, we hit a point where it was obvious that we had long ago lost the "trail" (so-called) and decided to simply scramble in a zig-zag pattern up the hillside until we hit a fire or utility access road. Sure enough we did, although it hadn't evidently been used for years, and got up to the main ridge road.

From there, scratched, gouged, poked, prodded, pierced, scraped, abraded, graded and jaded, we walked back home vowing only to use the trails and roads that we know are regularly used and in good condition!

Of course, there were some good aspects of our little adventure: the solitude and quiet, seeing that there is some greenery coming back on many of the fire-scarred trees and shrubs (although there are invasives, too, to be concerned about) and the views from the ridge are always a treat. The above photos, taken last Sunday the 20th, are a sampling of what was seen on the walk.

24 September 2009

They're Baaaack!

It's been a couple of weeks now since school went back in session for all levels of education and, with summer vacations completed as well, traffic on Carbon Canyon Road is, obviously, noticeable busier, especially westbound in the morning between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

All the more reason to be concerned about the fact that, on the Chino Hills side there are 174 approved homes that will be built in the Pine Valley Estates and Canyon Hills subdivisions. Meantime, it appears 13 October will be when the Stonefield project of 28 houses comes to the City Council via an appeal. A few months back, it was stated in the Chino Hills Champion that a pre-application has been submitted for 110 houses near Canyon Hills. Even a small 11-unit project is in the works for a parcel off Old Carbon Canyon Road below Carriage Hills.

Doing the math this adds up to 313 houses in the Chino Hills portion of the Canyon and we haven't even gotten to the possibility that the 165-unit Canyon Crest project might someday be revived. That takes us to 478.

Now, much of this projected development will depend, naturally, on the housing market and economy. In recent decades, wage stagnation has meant that buying houses for many people is more a matter of creative financing and the taking on of enormous debt than true affordability. If our income gap, now at its widest point since 1928, isn't narrowed, home affordability will continue to be out of reach, especially if reform of the mortgage system is enacted as it should be.

So, we will see what transpires in the future on this, but the prospect of up to nearly five hundred new homes in Carbon Canyon will take its toll on a wide variety of areas and traffic will be among the most obvious.

So, any of you who drive Carbon Canyon Road during rush hour(s) and bemoan its current E or F-rated level of service during those times, ponder a little about what hundreds of houses in the canyon in the future will do.

23 September 2009


A little anecdote, one of perhaps thousands that other commuters using Carbon Canyon Road could tell, from my drive on Highway 142 on Monday morning.

I was behind a white Lincoln all the way through the Canyon from Chino Hills to Brea and noticed that the driver was not exactly hewing a straight line, sometimes drifting off toward the shoulder and other times moving perilously close to the opposing lane. It was only 8:30 a.m. so it seemed highly unlikely (though who really knows?) that it was someone who'd had too much to drink or ingested some illicit chemicals. So, I kept my distance just in case.

Then, once we descended down from Olinda and the road becomes four lanes at the Olinda Ranch subdivision, I moved over into the slow lane and cruised on past the Lincoln. Glancing over to see who it was, I saw a young woman holding a mascara brush in her left hand, deftly working those eyelashes, while holding the lid in her right hand and using that hand as a brace against the steering wheel. Obviously that rear view mirror was, at that moment, just a mirror.

Now, this wasn't the best example I've seen of a person grooming themselves. I actually once saw a woman on the 405 in West Los Angeles painting the toenails of her left foot while driving and I once saw a guy using a cordless shaver while on the road somewhere in Orange County, but it never ceases to amaze me what people do (yes, that too!) while driving and somehow manage to avoid (at least that time!) crashing into someone or something.

Just another day driving Carbon Canyon Road!

21 September 2009

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #s 2649-2654

A month or so has gone by and another rash of accidents and near-accidents in Carbon Canyon.

Last Thursday, as I was driving westbound from Chino Hills on my way home to Sleepy Hollow, there was a pretty major two-car crash at the intersection of Carbon Canyon Road and Fairway Drive, the same intersection that would be at issue in the proposed Stonefield housing development and in the same area that Chino Hills city staff says has one-third the accidents of comparable highways (with what criteria and standards?) in the state. It looked as if someone was turning left onto Fairway from eastbound Carbon Canyon and collided with someone coming westbound or from Fairway turning onto Carbon Canyon and getting hit by a westbound driver. Some rather severe body damage to both vehicles, but apparently no major injuries.

Around the same time, there was an accident at Azurite Drive at Carbon Canyon Road at the entrance to the Summit Ranch neighborhood, because there is a long line of broken glass along the left turn lane off the eastbound lane of Carbon Canyon Road. Seems like someone was making that left and a collision ensued with a westbound driver.

Meantime, someone went off the road on the westbound lane of the highway on the Brea side at the far western end of the old La Vida Mineral Springs property. In the above photos, two green spraypainted markers can be observed. These were obviously made by law enforcement to mark the beginning of a skid (to measure speed, probably) and what may have been a point of impact. Tire marks then lead off the road.

Also in view here are three more areas of drivers veering off the road, though not in as serious a way as the above. The first is also in Brea as a westbound vehicle skidded off into the opposing lane and bounced off the hillside. The second, again in Brea, indicates that a driver went across the eastbound lane and into the shoulder of the westbound side, also at the La Vida Mineral Springs site. In instance #3, someone, perhaps a motorcyclist, took a little detour off the highway on the eastbound lane in Sleepy Hollow just off Rosemary Lane and plowed through a little bit of the easement and landscaping there.

All of this has happened within the last few weeks, evidence enough that unsafe driving continues to be a regular occurrence. Amazingly, no major injuries or deaths have happened on the road for quite some time, which truly seems like circumstance given all of the incidents documented on this blog.

16 September 2009

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #19

This is the earliest of the La Vida Mineral Springs items posted so far on this blog and is a real photo postcard, meaning someone took a photo and had it printed on a postcard, rather than a commercially-produced card.

The caption would have been written with white ink directly onto the negative and reads "La Vida / Hot Soda Spring / Cafe & Bath House."

The structure is three stories or two stories with a basement and there is a set of narrowing concrete steps leading from the walkway and bridge in the foreground to the front door. Supported by brackets affixed to the building's front wall is a second-floor balcony. Branches from what appear to be oak trees are on either side of the front of the structure, while behind the building a small portion of hillside can be detected and then a gap from the center off to the right. This might be the area where the surviving water tank is located toward the west end of the property.

The item, sent to Sterling, Colorado, has a message dated 25 September 1928 from "La Vida Hot Spring." It reads,

Dear Ray, This is the bath house where Eddie takes his daily dozen. He has one more treatment and then we will go home. Sure quiet here. Lots of quail, rabbit, etc. up here. We have a cabin. Will go home soon now. Love, Flo.

The postmark is from the next day, 26 September, in Placentia. The card dates from the time when, presumably, the resort was owned by William Newton Miller, founder of the business some four years before. In 1932, some references say, Archie Rosenbaum bought the property, which did receive some publicity at the time that has the hallmarks of a change in ownership.

How long this building stood is not known. A later postcard, from the 1930s or so (see the 30 October 2008 entry in this blog), shows a long, low building in the location described above, in front of the surviving water tank, and it doesn't appear to have any resemblance. Was the structure in this photo torn down and replaced with the one shown in the later image? Someone out there may know or future research may provide an answer.

Regardless, this photo is of significance, at least for this blog, because it represents the earliest view yet of La Vida, although it is so focused on the entry that its general location on the site can't be determined with great accuracy.

This card was purchased by me and donated to the Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, California.

14 September 2009

La Vida Mineral Springs History on Another Blog!

I came across this post a few days ago and thought I'd link it here, so anyone interested in the history of La Vida Mineral Springs can see a recollection from 1966 and some photos of two postcards of the Springs purchased by the family that visited there.

The blogger, Gary, asked some questions about the later history of the site and I replied in the comment section for the post. At any rate, here is the link:


10 September 2009

Neighborhoods of Carbon Canyon, Part Six: Oak Tree Downs at Western Hills

It's hard to believe that it was eight months ago that the last of these features was posted here, that one on Summit Ranch. The next Carbon Canyon neighborhood to be developed was Oak Tree Downs, set back into the rolling hills on the north side of the Canyon a good distance away from Carbon Canyon Road. This seclusion, coupled with the natural setting and the exclusive, gated aspect, has proved to be very attractive to upscale buyers.

The first homes came along in 1983, when, in March, the Los Angeles Times reported that the plans for the initial structures were being prepared by Newport Beach architects. Little publicity appears to have come out during the rest of that year, but, in 1984, matters changed significantly and Oak Tree Downs was being heavily advertised.

Indeed, a spokesman for the developer said in September that "more and more southern California families are moving from their run-of-the-mill city residences to the wide open spaces of the country. One such place is the equestrian-oriented Oak Tree Downs community in scenic Carbon Canyon."

A couple of items leap out from that statement: first, the idea that Oak Tree Downs was in "the wide open spaces of the country." In fact, in 1984, that was still largely true, as I made a few trips through the Canyon a year or two after and hardly saw a car on the road from Brea to Chino Hills. Today, however, we are seeing the slow, but steady diminution of that "country" feel as commuters flood the two-lane Carbon Canyon Road and developers gobble up undeveloped land and make their plans to build more and more homes.

Meanwhile, the phrase "equestrian-oriented" is downright archaic in Oak Tree Downs. If that was the intention twenty-five years ago, it is hardly the case now, as very few of the homes in the community have horses today. Certainly, this mirrors the general trend in Chino Hills as a whole. While the city proudly promotes its equestrian heritage and rural (or "semi-rural") character, none of the recent housing projects or developments have been equestrian, despite the vinyl-fenced equestrian trails the line some of the city streets with its decomposed granite featuring nary a horseshoe print for the most part. Moreover, it's getting harder and harder to describe a city of 80,000 people as being rural or even semi-rural.

It is also significant to note that, in the mid-1980s, Oak Tree Downs consisted of lots that averaged a half-acre. This has changed considerably over the years as many lots are well over an acre. Likewise, square footage has changed dramatically. Early residences in the Downs were around 4,000 square feet and somewhat larger, whereas now it is not all uncommon to have homes of 6,000 square feet or more, with the largest, the former King "estate" at some 14,000 square feet. As a matter of fact, a house plan has just been approved at over 11,000 square feet. Given that our society's average square footage in single-family homes has about doubled since 1970, we shouldn't be too surprised at the consequent increase in Oak Tree Downs.

Another major change: in November 1984, a Times article noted that half-acre homesites in the Downs started at $77,000 and the developers were promoting the appeal to "value conscious" buyers, a term that seems laughable today when talking about the Downs. Even adjusting for inflation and the severe economic downturn of the last year, prices for undeveloped lots in the community have gone up more than dramatically in the last quarter-century. Then again, given that the barrier between Carbon Canyon and the surrounding suburban landscape has been gradually eroded over the years, Oak Tree Downs is a great value still when compared to similar areas of Orange County.

Like almost anywhere else, the subdivison sputtered in the real estate collapse of the late 80s/early 90s and didn't rebound until the market picked up again after the mid-90s. That's when a significant number of new, larger and more ornate residences sprung up throughout the Downs. In the meantime, Western Hills Estates, consisting of 35 smaller homes and lots adjacent to Western Hills Country Club, was developed by C/L Builders-Developers, Inc., which also happened to be the developers of "The Ranch Oaks," also known as "Summit Trails," now part of "Summit Ranch," which developed the lower or second section after 1983.

In the heavy winter rains of 2004-05, a dispute arose after Carbon Canyon Road was closed between Canon Lane and Canyon Hills Road due to a sinkhole. When homeowners in the Downs objected to drivers using their streets as a detour around the closure and resorted to verbal "protests" directed at the invaders and then the blocking of the Canyon Hills gate, the City of Chino Hills evidently trotted out a copy of the old approvals of the project, then under San Bernardino County auspices (Chino Hills cityhood being several years in the future), from the Eighties, which provided for use of Downs roads for emergency access in case of a Carbon Canyon Road closure. This uneasy state of affairs lasted for a couple of weeks until the highway was repaired and reopened.

In 2007, the two merged into one development, managed by Empire Management in Upland, that will someday have a guarded main entrance gate off Canon Lane, rather than the automatic gates there and at Canyon Hills Road that once serviced the Downs exclusively before the Estates was folded into that system. Although the completion of the guard station [see the photo, taken in July, above] has stalled, the new name of the community, Oak Tree Downs at Western Hills, seems to have taken effect. Indeed, .pdf files of HOA meeting minutes are available online and are an interesting window into the management of the only gated custom luxury home community in Carbon Canyon.

03 September 2009

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #2538

It was a little ironic that the day I went to photograph the lowered speed limit signs on Carbon Canyon Road 15 August, there were what appears to be two pretty new sets of deep, pretty long skid marks right next to the 45 mph sign, between Old Carbon Canyon Road and Chino Hills Parkway on the east side of the highway.

As has been said previously, CalTrans is supposed to be conducting a second survey to determine whether or not to lower speed limits (for longer than twelve days) on the Chino Hills/San Bernardino County side of State Highway 142, but if the hope is to reduce accidents or near-accidents by so doing, it seems like it would be better to reconsider the patrolling policy utilized by the Chino Hills Sheriff's Department.

That is, unless no one thinks that the litany of events described and seen in photos on this blog, on the Brea side as well, is of enough concern to change the status quo.