The legend of Sleepy Hollow

And you thought “Hal Linker” was done. (Or not.) Here’s the comment he left the other day in response to a comment by Bob House, who had inquired about the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood in what is now Chino Hills. Hal’s comment was so long I saved it for its own post. Take it away, “Hal”:

With regards to Sleepy Hollow and the La Vida Mineral Springs resort, all I can tell you is what I know from my limited personal experiences.

The La Vida complex was a resort that goes back quite a few years. At some point the hotel closed (perhaps due to a fire) but the structure remained till the 1990′s, although essentially abandoned and neglected. It was bulldozed in the mid-1990′s sometime after it was discovered that unsavory types were manufacturing speed inside the old building.

The mineral springs and swimming pool were kept open for quite a while after the hotel ceased to exist. Even before the hotel closed, people could pay to get access to the pool and such, without staying at the resort. Since no one had a pool where we lived, my parents used to drive us to La Vida on weekends or during summer to go swimming (dodging tarantulas and rattlesnakes on the, then, much narrower and more treacherous Carbon Canyon Road). This would be in the 1950′s and 1960′s. They also had one of those things called a Swingin’ Gym which was kind of an enclosed cage that two people could manipulate to sway back and forth. It was like a ride at the fair which you had to power with your body movements. At some point, perhaps the late 1970s – early 1980′s, the pool and mineral spings were also closed down.

This left only the La Vida Cantina Restaurant. A variety of folks ran the place and it became a pretty cool biker hang-out with a few pool tables. The place had indoor and outdoor stages which catered generally, though not exclusively, to blues music. During the mid-1990′s Edgar Winter, Georgia Satellites, Rick Derringer, Lee Rocker (formerly of The Stray Cats), Coco Montoya, Buddah Heads (that’s their spelling, not mine), James Harman, Guitar Shorty, Walter Trout and a latter day version of the Jefferson Starship (with Paul Kantner) played the venue. The crowds were always small because the place just didn’t hold that many folks. Even the outdoor stage seating was extremely limited. There was a band called Three Blind Mice that opened shows a lot.

The food wasn’t as bad as you might think. For diner / dive type fare it was OK. The place was what it was! I felt comfortable there, though some might have found the regular biker clientele a bit threatening. When I say biker, I mean true biker. Not these weekender doctor / lawyer types. These people were the real deal. The waitresses were generally really hot biker chicks.

They had all-you-can-eat spaghetti for a dollar mid-week. On that same day they also offered all-you-can eat lasagne for 2 bucks – and this was in the 1990′s!! It was a hell of a deal!! You never have seen such a funny sight as the tables full of senior citizens enjoying the bargain pasta at a hardcore biker dive (and of course they ordered pitchers of free water as their beverage). For the money, the food was great. It was surprisingly good. Also on weekdays they had a cheap taco day and an all-you-can-eat rib day (4 bucks). The cook was an ex-con named Don who also worked at the old Canyon Corral in Chino Hills (corner Peyton Dr. and Chino Hills Parkway).

I remember a comical suituation once when I arrived at the La Vida Cantina with my wife, “Hadla,” for an early dinner. No waitresses had showed up, so a big bellied biker, wearing oily Levi’s and a leather vest with no shirt underneath, became our server. It was great because we could tell he didn’t enjoy his new unwanted temporary job at all. I ordered a New York Steak dinner which came with a salad. The biker asked me what kind of dressing I wanted. I asked if they had Italian dressing. He replied, “Whattya think dis is … de (expletive) Ritz Carlton or somethin’?!?!”

Just the sight of this guy, his attitude, and the whole situation made both my wife and I convulse with laughter. I have often said that if I could duplicate that scene in a movie it would make a great moment. I guess you really had to be there. I settled for the Bleu Cheese after laughing my ass off.

There was also a bar in the Sleepy Hollow area called Jack Tater’s. It was a hangout. Sleepy Hollow attracted a lot of counterculture types during the 60′s, 70′s, 80′s and maybe later, but I can’t say from personal experience. I liked it there despite my older brother’s warnings that there were a bunch of “acid freaks” living up there. There were a few musicians who lived there. At one time there were two small markets in the village. One closed quite a while back and was converted to a home. The other is still there, I think. It was a Party House Liquor Store for a time. The store had a covered picnic table area next to it. Locals would buy their beer and such and congregate at the tables and enjoy the company and libations.

Another cool feature of the liquor store was that many of Sleepy Hollow’s female residents’ photos were posted on a large bulletin board near the register. Since Sleepy Hollow was a “free spirited” community, most of these photos were topless shots of the local gals. For instance, a guy like myself could be in the store buying a six pack, admiring the photos and then realize that two of the women behind him in the store were also in the photos. This was store policy right through the 1980′s with fresh pictures always being posted. It gave the store and the community a personality.

It ended when the City Of Chino Hills incorporated and they used their newfound authority to go on a moral crusade. The first things the City Of Chino Hills did upon founding were to get the pictures out of the Sleepy Hollow liquor store and disallow the partying at the tables next to the building. It really ended the loose sense of community in the area.

Immediately after the City Of Chino Hills did that, their top priority was becoming the first city to outlaw smoking. The city also adopted a very harsh attitude toward bar owners, specifically the Canyon Corral and Graziano’s. But that’s a complicated story for another time.

In the mid-1960s there was also a short-lived fake ski business on one of the hills in the canyon. Some “genius” thought it would be a great idea to have people ski down a hill on some fake plastic or teflon snow. They even built a small resort complex for the fake skiing folks to stay. It didn’t last. Perhaps they got sued by skiers who hurt themselves, I don’t know. Eventually counterculture types moved into the “fake ski resort” accommodations (turned rentals) and the area was known affectionately as The Purple Haze.

There was also a great tire swing near this area that hung over the creek which runs alongside Carbon Canyon Road. “The Swing” at The Purple Haze was a hangout for many people in the community.

The only unanswered question: What would Washington Irving have to say about Sleepy Hollow?

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  • Don J

    There was a terrible wildfire that swept thru this area too, in the early ’90s…

  • “Hal and Hadla Linker”

    The La Vida Cantina met its demise when the propreitor died unexpectedly and the liquor license couldn’t be transferred, at least that’s what I have been told. The place had a full bar, it wasn’t just a beer and wine joint.

    It was fenced off with chain link fence for quite some time afterwards, before being bulldozed into a memory. It was a sad day for bikers and all those who enjoyed the funky atmosphere and informality of the place.

    I believe the liquor store in Sleepy Hollow is still Party House Liquor #2.

    The Carbon Canyon wildfire was either in 1990 or 1991 and destroyed some Sleepy Hollow homes randomly, as fires of that type are wont to do, along with burning vast hillside acres of brush.

    There was also St. Joseph’s Hill Of Hope. This was a gated cult religion in the hills who believed that Jesus would return for his Second Coming on said hill. I think they gave up but, who knows, maybe they’re still waiting.

    Sleepy Hollow’s slightly freaky community somewhat paralleled what was happening in Laurel and Topanga canyons.

    And, by the way, Hadla reminds me that the unwilling biker server mentioned in the original post was also scratching his crotch as he waited on us. The guy was priceless!!!

  • Miss T

    I went to see a rockabilly show at the La Vida Roadhouse in around 2000 or 2001. It was shortly after that the owner died and it was shut down. It’s such a shame because it was the perfect place to drink some booze while enjoying some live rockabilly music.

  • Desdave

    I went up to the La Vida Roadhouse a few times for some small time ‘hippy’ gigs, including one with an Allman Bros Cover band, a Cheap Trick cover band, and (the real reason we went) Cubensis… who is a great Grateful Dead cover band out of Los Angeles. In the parking lot, I bought a small laser pointer off of some guy. During the Cheap Trick pseudo set I was sitting all the way in back at the tables shooting lasers all over the place and especially at the guitar player’s fret board. He kept looking around, amazed, thinking something really bizarre was happening… his pupils were as big as quarters, as were most of ours quite frankly. After the set, he came right up to me and said “That is the first gig where I was staring at the person FARTHEST from the stage.” He shook my hand and thanked me profusely.

    Another time, this time on the outdoor stage, the David Nelson Band (Of New Riders of the Purple Sage fame) was playing and a lighting stand fell and somehow missed everyone in the crowd. Amazing. That night there was a guy walking around with stickers that said rude things (far too rude for this blog, I dare say) and sticking them on people’s backs. I must have asked wife a dozen times if something was on my back.

    That place was good times, and the big biker element genuinely kept the normally rowdy ‘young’ 909 crowd in check. Also of note, there was very little law enforcement presence up there which, for people who like to really party and get down, is a huge plus. Yes, you could really let your freak flag fly at La Vida!

  • “Hal Linker”

    Miss T: Just out of curiousity, which bands did you see at that rockabilly show? Do you remember?

    In the early 1980s there was a punk rock event at La Vida Cantina which ended in a huge brawl between bikers and punkers. Anybody remember this?

    I’ve also been told that the La Vida Cantina was over 100 years old and had once been a stop for stagecoaches. Anybody know if there’s any truth to these stories?

  • “Hal Linker”

    Here’s a very old postcard of what mineral springs area looked like before the pool and other concrete went in at a much later date.

    This is a trip!

    http://cgi.ebay.com/RPPC-La-Vida-Mineral-Springs-CA-Postcard_W0QQitemZ150231234313QQihZ005QQcategoryZ20198QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

  • “Hal Linker”

    The La Vida Mineral Springs Resort with hotel opened 1924. It was opened by William Newton Miller and his son-in-law. They began bottling the mineral water circa 1928 and sold it as “La Vida Lemon and Lime.”

    The postcard photo is pre-resort.

  • “Hal Linker”

    Ah, yes, Cubensis, I remember they opened for the Buddah Heads once out at Moose McGillycuddy’s out in Long Beach. They were also regulars at Santa Monica’s 14 Below and The Foothill in Long Beach.

    Speaking of copy bands, which is a trend at clubs which continues to grow, back in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s the seeds for this were sown by long deceased bands like The White (led by Michael White, God’s gift to himself – Led Zeppelin copy band) and the Rolling Clones. Then came Wild Child (The Doors tribute band which still carries on) before a plethora of others.

    I was in a band which did all originals circa late 1970′s / early 1980′s. We had a Stonesy type of sound circa their Mick Taylor period. For some reason the Rolling Clones could not make a gig at the Handlebar’s Saloon (now defunct) out in Santa Ana and they asked our band if we could fill in.

    The gig involved three copy bands. An Alice Cooper copy band (who may have been called Billion Dollar Babies but I really don’t remember), us filling in last minute for the Rolling Clones (who the crowd expected) and the White (the Led Zepp copy band I mentioned – the lead singer videotaped every sex act he had with groupies – I think primarily so that he could admire himself – Michael White, what an ego!).

    When we hit the stage the rowdy crowd was obviously disappointed that we weren’t the Rolling Clones. We made no attempt to look like Mick and the boys as the clones did. We did “Let It Bleed,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Sympathy For the Devil,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and “Happy” before doing our originals. On the second original tune a rowdy biker heaved an empty bottle in the direction of our bass player. Seems the crowd wanted only Stones done by Stones look-alikes.

    Well, our bass player was a pretty hot headed guy and he didn’t appreciate the bottle flying past his head so he grabbed the long neck Stroh’s off of his amp and made a direct hit on the perpetrator. This caused a riot! This was a very rough bar! Roadies and band members were in hand to hand with bikers. Our chicks were fighting their chicks! Police had to be called out. The biker clientele wanted to kill our band. The bar owner wanted to preserve his assets. Thank god nobody messed with our gear!!

    It was just another memorable night in Orange County. The next night we opened for the re-formed Humble Pie at a club called the Woodstock (now defunct) in Orange County. There were a few black eyes and bandages in the band, but, as they say, .. the show must go on … break a leg and all that jazz.

  • “Hal Linker”

    I just remembered that Sleepy Hollow also had a geodesic dome home which was painted lavender. Not sure if it still stands, but I assume so, although it might be a different color. All Hail Bucky Fuller!

    There were also several hippie types who were living in a small abandoned church in the Hollow. We had some jam sessions there.

    In the late 1960′s some homeowners in the Hollow painted psychedelic murals on the exteriors of their homes ala The Fool at Apple Headquarters and The Aquarius Theater.

  • Kristin McConnell

    Hal,

    Yes, the geo dome house is still there. It’s not lavender anymore, but more of an off-white (thank Heaven!). It sold a few years ago, and we wanted to buy it, but it was out of our range. My husband loves that house! :)

    KT

    [Incidentally, Kristin's is the 1,000th comment on this blog since its inception last September. -- DA]

  • Mike

    So what is at the La Vita Hot Springs site now? Any hiking/biking trails?

  • Nancy

    I lived in Sleepy Hollow for a time, and even though I had wasps nesting in the attic of the old house on Oak (right behind and up the hill from Party House Liquor), I enjoyed living there.

    It was an exceptional place, quirky and wild at times, and it reminded me so much of the sixties when my brother and some housemates lived in one of the really old two story places. There were remnants of original furnishings, a funky kitchen with the old cold cupboard still in place, and a hand painted sign outside that said “HeadQuarters.” I don’t think I need say more!

    It was the early eighties when I rented a house there, but it still had that certain flavor about it. I loved walking down Oak to the store and hearing the phone ring there. It was always answered, “Party House Liquor…the ONLY business in town!” There was a five gallon Sparklets water jug on the counter that everyone pitched change into, and the money went for the annual party there in the Hollow… Definitely the end of an era.

    [Thanks for the local color, Nancy. -- DA]

  • Don

    We moved into a new home in Brea in 1962. Once a week, during the summer, we would drive past La Vida and go swiming at the Carbon Canyon Country Club. It was next to the plastic ski area. There was horse riding, swimming, shuffle board, minature golf and roller skating. We loved our summer months there. We never had a problem with people there.

    For a short time, we watched skiiers come down the hill. It was made on a cement base and there were 1 foot square plastic tiles that were more like a 1″ thick carpet, glued down all over the hill. Most of them have decomposed. I actually sold that hillside and back behind it to a developer around about 1984. It had a plan for houses on it but nothing was done.

    We also swam at La Vida a time or two and watched the people swing in the people swings. I remember dodging the tarantulas a few summers. There were thousands of them. I wonder why that was and why it is no longer a problem?

    Speaking of the area, we used to also hike up to the Nike Base when it was a Nike Base. Sometimes the military guys would let us get a drink inside the base. We also went to the Tonner Canyon Scout Reserve and hiked to a fort in the middle of nowhere. Lots of great memories of that time and place.

  • Victor Murray

    At least 40 years ago, two friends and I were traveling north in Carbon Canyon, and stopped at La Vida Hot Springs to look around. I was surprised to see posted on a wall a photograph of my sister, brother, and many cousins, posing with glasses of La Vida water. They were young children, and the picture was taken just before I was born.

    Someone in our family had a copy of this photo which I had seen several times, but I don’t know what happened to it over the years. It was quite a shock as an adult to see this photo on the wall of the La Vida company.

    The terrible fire this year, 2008, reminded me of that visit I made so long ago. I’m 76 years old now, and I wish I had a copy of that picture to post on our family website. I’d be amazed if anyone had any information about the disposition of such a photograph as that, but it’s a small world, and miracles do happen, especially on the Internet. I would be pleased to see that photograph again.

  • Donna

    Ah yes, the hot springs. My ex-ol’ man and I would ride through the Canyon to La Vida for a drink and some food. We met some very cool people. Some wore their colors and some did not depending on the mood. We partied and enjoyed life. It was a place to relax and get crazy, I am truly sorry to hear that progress (again) destroyed a (what I call a historical) place. Is Cooks Corner still open?

    Peace.

    Donna Hayes

  • Michele

    Yes! Cooks Corner is alive and well. They have added on to the back, with outside bands and more room for “hanging out.”

  • Michele

    In 1990-1991 we went to La Vida for the regular Sunday afternoon of having some cold beers and people watching. They always had good bands outside and pool tables inside.

    I remember one night, we met a bunch of bikers and were invited to their house for a party/bbq. We didn’t know anyone, but decided to go. The owner of the house had a big wolf on top of the roof in a makeshift cage. It was the neatest thing to see between all the trees, and the wolf.

    We partied, met some eccentric people, decided it was time to get out before nightfall and headed back down through Carbon Canyon back to the Chino Hills area. Loved La Vida and was really bummed out when it closed.

  • EL KABONG!

    Re: Rockabilly acts at La Vida Cantina.

    I saw the Paladins, The Blazers, and a few other acts there in the late ’90s (?)

    Too bad it’s gone, it had a high suavity factor.

  • Dolly

    Just wanted to thank you all for bring back some nice memories.

    On Christmas Eve, I stopped by the area of La Vida. For a moment as I closed my eyes, I could still hear the laughter and music. In the early to mid ’70s, as a young teenager, I would stop by the liquor store in Sleepy Hollow to relax and water my horse. I would talk to some of the locals. I will admit a few of them made me a little nervous but most were interesting and or entertaining. Because of the amount of people around, I always felt safe.

    It is a shame the City of Chino Hills council members (the ones who all had campaigns saying they wanted “to preserve our rural atmosphere”) have continued voting to take away the atmosphere.

    I would like to say thank you to the fire fighters for saving the Hollow once again. They put up a hell of a fight.

    God Bless To All,
    Dolly

  • kenny

    I used to go to La Vida Mineral Springs in the ’60s and all the way through approximately 1975. It was great. It was my alternative to the beach during summer vacations.

    My grandparents took us kids there in the ’60s all the time to go swimming and eat and spend the day. My grandparents would go into the hot pool while us kids stayed in the big cooler pool.

    I really wish there were old pics of the place in the ’50s and ’60s. I have a few that were taken of family at the resort but no full shots of the area.

    I was so sad to see it absolutely gone when I decided to take a drive through and found only a chain link fence around where the cafe once stood. I miss it.

    Blessings,

    Kenny

  • Mark

    I moved to Olinda Village as a 12-year-old in 1964. The owner of La Vida — the Dickensons — lived across the street from us. We went to a small two-room schoolhouse of about 50 students, 1st thru 8th grade. We would all walk to La Vida to get banana splits.

    My brother worked as a lifeguard there in the summer around 1966 and 1967, and I remember when that hammer type ride was added.

    A few of our classmates lived along Carbon Canyon Road as far away as Sleepy Hollow. Donald Dayton lived right next to what used to be the Sleepy Hollow Inn and before the liquor store. Another one, Chuck Kraemer, lived on a ranch near La Vida. He would ride a horse to school. It was his dad that was an investor in the ski resort — plastic with bristles — my friends and myself worked putting the tiles down. I went skiing there several times. It was fashioned after a similar resort in Japan, but it did soon died out.

    That location was originally our country club for Olinda Village. It had two Olympic size pools — a roller rink — horse stables where we would rent horses — and there was an old large abandoned theatre house complete with stage that we used to walk through. This was from 1964 to 1969.

    After that time I lived in a house right on Carbon Canyon road just before the Phillips 66 gas station. We as hippies of the time would be getting loaded and watch the Brea police drive to the end of their jurisdiction and turn around at the gas station.There was also a cafe called Ichabods.

    The names of our small class of friends:

    John Tannehill (Buzz)
    Gil Linne
    John Haddox
    Steve Garrett
    Charlie Garrett
    Alan Bledsoe
    Buddy Bledsoe
    Mark Bement
    Jim Reed
    Don Dayton
    David Dayton
    Chuck Kraemer
    Mike Sterling
    Larry and Gary Perger (I believe this was their last name)
    Steve Darnold

    All of us were living at Olinda Village, and all but one were attending the Olinda school from 1964 to 1967.

  • Mike E (M.E. Ross)

    In the ’60s and ’70s my friends and I used to go there in the middle of the night, down a spooky dirt road at Lions Head, to the “insane asylum” that supposedly was back there. LSD, the moon, and midnight on a road to a crazy house used to scare the hell out of us. And we never found the nut house. So we went back often.

    One of the last times I was at La Vida Cantina, I was front man in a band called Speeds All Stars for the Vagos, a biker club from the Corona and O.C. area. It was a great outdoor gig. So now I’m sad to hear that it is no more. All the good places are gone…or maybe all the good people are. Or they’re hiding.

    So, to the La Vida Cantina, and all the great times in Carbon Canyon, I salute you!

  • VANCE STEARNS

    Some interesting articles indeed. I was born and raised in the Sleepy Hollow area of Carbon Canyon and remeber a lot of these stories.

    As a kid my dad was the constable at Dot and Floyds and I remember going there. It was turned into a market by Joe Norris whose son owned the gas station at a later date. It was originally owned by big Dan.

    When I was 12 or 13 I worked at Canyon Hills Country Club in the Skate shack playing 33′s of Paul Anka and then they built the miniature golf course and they moved the rentals of everything up there. There were a lot of good times growing up in the hollow and I still live in the area of Mt. View today. Swam at La Vida and my mom waitressed there in the ’60s. A lot of history in the area.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4vTPoFunig David

    I went to the source of the La Vida Hot Springs yesterday.I got some video too. There’s nothing where the buildings once stood but the water still flows.

    I wish I knew about this place when it was goin.

    Here is the link to my video of the hot spring http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4vTPoFunig

  • Curt Hallett

    I moved to Sleepy Hollow in 1997 and still live there next to what is now the Community Center. The old fire house was still there then and served as the Community Center until it was condemned and torn down about 6 or 7 years ago. I also understand that there was a bar where the community center parking is now. Wish it was still there…….I could crawl home!

    La Vida bar and restaurant was still there when I moved there as well. It was owned by a guy named Don who had owned it for about 20 years at the time. Don was a nice guy. From what I understand he had some connections in the music business because he worked in it at one time. That’s why all the the great bands that played there.

    I used to go in there and have breakfast on Sunday mornings and hang around for the band to play outside in the afternoon. I remember one time about 10 or 11 years ago my sister drove up here from Fontana and brought her neighbor who was celebrating his 21st birthday so we took him to La Vida. I believe it was on a Sunday. When those bikers found out it was that kid’s birthday they proceeded to get him so drunk that we practically had to pour him out of the place when it was all said and done! Last time I saw him he still talked about that!

    Those bikers were cool people and I never had a problem with them. They treated us like we were old friends.

    I remember when Don died and it was a shock. He had a lot of health problems though so it was a surprise but then again it wasn’t. I miss that place. There’s nothing up here anymore except the liquor store but it’s still a beautiful place to live. I’ve been here almost 12 years and have really enjoyed it. Except for the fire last year. God bless those firefighters! Every damn one of them is a hero!

    I wasn’t here “back in the day” but I understand this area has a lot of history so keep the stories coming! If anybody’s got any old pics put them up if you can!

  • Brad

    I used to play with a band called Roscoe around Orange County between 1977 till about 1996. One of our favorite places to play was La Vida Hot Springs.

    At that time the hot springs and pools were closed but there was still the restaurant and bar owned by Chris Cromwell. There was an indoor stage inside the restaurant, and an outdoor stage built across the creek, which flowed underneath. I remember at one time the county came in and told Chris that a permit had never been taken out to build that stage. Chris replied that it was only a temporary stage and that no permit was needed. The city said Bull… so Chris knew a guy who had a helicopter business and had him come out and lift it about 3 feet off the ground. So the county let him keep it.

    Sundays were the big days out on the lawn, and the days when most of the bikers showed up. My band never had any trouble there, probably because some of us were bikers.

    I got married June 12th, 1982, and had my second wedding reception on June 13th. Chris cut me a really good deal for the catering, which I far exceded, so to pay off my tab, I did a singles act on Saturdays in the afternoon, with just me on guitar and Chris bartending.

    La Vida holds a special place in my heart. We live in a different country now, and nobody has the freedom that we enjoyed back then. We have been legislated and taxed to death. Viva La Vida, may she live again. Brad

  • Chris Farren

    I grew up in Olinda/Carbon Canyon and went to both the Old and New Olinda School. I lived on the Oil Lease across from what is now Carbon Canyon Park and the Dam.

    As a teenager, I worked at La Vita Resort as the Life Guard during the summer and did maintenance work during the winter months.

    I remember the cafe back then served frog legs. I like them but never asked where they got them.

    As for Sleepy Hollow, I had an uncle that lived there and the scariest thing during that time was the bars, people drinking too much and the car accidents on Carbon Canyon Road. Most of them never made it through all the corners and turns. Crashes were a regular weekend event in the canyon.

    I still have my autograph book from the New Olinda with the first class kids’ names, plus teacher. If you were part of the class you can’t forget Miss Cotton and music time. We all knew Peter Paul and Mary songs but didn’t sound as good.

    We had the best time growing up there, somewhat isolated but we created our fun, and I remember only one broken arm.

  • Leslie Moog Slavens

    I lived in Carbon Canyon from 1973-1981. I worked with Chris Cromwell for a few years. He had a lot of bands at LaVida. One local band was “Coyote”. I heard Chris died a few years ago..so sad..i saw him after his bypass heart surgery around 1990 when his dad drove him to my house to say hi…RIP Chris

  • Tony Anthony

    This is for Leslie Moog Slavens. I lived in The Canyon for a time it was before Chris started in Lavida. I had moved to Oakland and would return to The Canyon from time to time. Before my move Chris and I were quite close — my best friend during the time I lived in the Canyon. I lost touch with him and Christine. His passing shook me. What a time he and I had — and my son Tony was along for most of it. The Canyon was quite a place to live — I have great memories — I think anything you hear about it is most likely true. What a time was had by all.

    Tony

  • Maryann

    I enjoyed reading your article as it reminded me of the 10 years (1988-1998) I lived at the base of the canyon near the Eucalyptus groves in Chino Hills, before all the development ruined the area.

    I made the winding drive through the canyon past the horse farms every work day going past La Vida and Sleepy Hollow. We used to go shoot pool at the Cantina and enjoyed the great blues music there. The bikers were a fixture but they never bothered us. We looked like professional type people in t shirts and jeans on the weekend. The hotel and even the cage were still there when I moved in. I think they tore it all down after I moved away to Ontario’s historical area.

    There was a geo-dome home in the Hollow…the first I had ever seen standing. I still miss the area the way it was when I first moved there. Now there are huge homes where the oil derricks used to be in Olinda. I guess you can’t stop progress and shopping centers galore all along what was Church Row on Peyton in Chino Hills and the Canyon Corral has been gone for a long time now…I loved that place too.

  • Leslie Moog Slavens

    Hi Tony, just saw your post. I have tried to find Christine Cromwell but to no avail. Also, were you aware Chris and Christine had a son? Chris ended up raising him after their divorce. Daniel was spittin image of Chris. I have a pic of Chris that I would be glad to scan and email to you. Tony, were you in the house that was a couple doors up from Christine’s? Your wife had plants all over your house?..Take care, Leslie

  • Bill Johson

    The name of the “night-club” cum bar was “Joe Taters Oak Grove Inn.”

    Joe was (maybe still is) a great guy, he and his wife ran the inn. Joe was famous in Orange County as a nightclub entertainer and piano player. He was most noted for his ” I don’t any more” singalong songs where everyone would join in.

    Chris Cromwell and I were buddies too. I was the President of the Town Hall for a year and a member of the Sleepy Hollow Volunteer Fire Dept. I owned a small house, a property across the road. We used to shop at “Fred’s Store” across the road and party at the “Purple Haze” just down the road.

    They were great times but you know it had to end, there was way too much crazy stuff going on in the canyon in those days. I married a local girl, Patty Robinson, and we lived there for a few years til our relationship crashed and burned…And who can forget all of the very unique characters that lived there..but don’t get me started. It would take weeks.

  • http://www.grahamtalent.com Randy Graham

    What a pleasant surprise… I stumbled onto this blog as I was attempting to reconnect with some childhood chums.

    I grew up in Sleepy Hollow/Carbon Canyon, CA cir. 1949-1973. It was a tight knit community then, especially at the earlier end of that spectrum. Life there was tranquil in the extreme… I don’t think my parents ever locked a door or took the keys out of the car. Few had phones, so communicating was done face-to-face. To the best of my knowledge we had the first TV in the “hollow,” the antenna for which had to be “precision adjusted” by hand when the channel was switched to one of the other two available.

    Story told short, it was a great, tranquil place to be brought up in the warmth, camaraderie and guidance of people who, for the most part, genuinely cared for each other.

    Our home overlooked the patio of Floyd & Dot’s cafe. Their son, Dennis (Frampton), and I sold bunches of mistletoe and holly we collected from the nearby woods to the tipsy patrons to earn Christmas money.

    Though I started school at Richard Gird Elementary in Chino, I later transferred to the two room school in Olinda… grades K through 4 on Mrs. Addy’s side, 5th through 8th on Mrs. MacDonald’s side. The latter remarried somewhere around my 6th grade year and became Mrs. Keilor. Our bus driver, custodian, and woodshop teacher was Vern… last name escapes me at the moment. My 8th grade graduating class was the last before the historic school and village were leveled to build the flood control dam that for so many years held back nothing but tumbleweeds. I attended and graduated from Brea-Olinda Union High School, class of 1964.

    The first (high school) job from which I had actual tax deductions taken out of my $1.25/hr minimum wage was as a dishwasher in the restaurant at LaVida mineral springs. I also worked for Rex Ellsworth’s thoroughbred farm in Chino, which produced Swaps, who won the 1995 Kentucky Derby. While attending college, I too worked on the early construction of Ski Villa, the artificial slope mentioned by a couple of people here in earlier posts. I also worked one summer on the small oil field in Soquel Canyon, and briefly as a young adult at Aerojet General, forming and welding rare metals with explosives.

    Growing up in Sleepy Hollow is an indelible part of my childhood. I think, if pressed, I could identify/recall nearly every house and occupant in the community of that era.

    Here’s a partial list of some of the my friends/classmates with whom I shared such youthful pursuits as: exploring the hills on foot and horseback, playing army, building tree houses and forts, damming up the creek to make our own swimming holes, rigging up horrendous rope swings over chasms, and sharing sundaes at Icabod’s cafe.

    Dennis Frampton
    David Purington
    Bill and Daniel Craig
    Guy “Lucky” Waller III
    Kenny Dees and all his siblings (lived @ Mountain View)
    Wanda & Illene Harbor
    Paul Hyde
    Kathy Weeks
    Eugene & Harvey Lasiter
    Jody & Nancy Allen
    Richard & Sammy Green
    Eva Lou Stripling
    The Wickham kids (Carol was in my class at Olinda)
    Donna Herrod
    Billy McKuen
    Sheila Stearns (Sterns?)
    Rick Patton
    Merle & Leonard Tittle

    A few friends from Olinda Elem…

    Jack Smith
    Carl Farren
    Kathy Berry (had a terrible crush on her)
    Jimmy Gray… he survived the carnage when a boiler exploded at the LaVida Hot Springs Hotel, where he worked with his dad.

    My best friend in high school was Hank Sybrandy, whose parents built/operated a Christian retreat across the road from (the new) Olinda Elem. school.

    Life takes over… we’ve scattered and lost contact. Of all those mentioned above the only two I have reconnected with are Rick and Hank. I’d enjoy hearing and sharing a story or two from anyone living in Carbon Canyon in the timeframe, or those interested in that period of local history. Please feel free to contact me.

  • Dan Moore

    I lived on Francis Dr. from 1983 til ’98 when we moved down hill to town. Remember the Cantina well. Satellite for ballgames!

    Used to buy my beer at the Party House ’cause Willie always stocked unique imports. Jeff Weiler was a good friend.

    That ’90 fire was a beast. Stupidly, I was 1 of only 2 that did not evac. Swore I’d never do it again. I always cast a look to the hills from wherever I was during the day when we had windy conditions.

    We live in NC now and haven’t been thru the canyon in 6 yrs.

  • Bill Johnson

    Do any of you remember:

    Jimmy Trusho aka Jimmy t-bar or “Sage” or Dennis and Debbie or any of the locals at the “Purple Haze.”

    I remember Fred’s Store real well. Used to shop there all the time.

  • Zachary Cromwell

    Wow. Talk about binging back memories. My dad Chris Cromwell ran La Vida for some time and I grew up going there.

    I was even bus boy for a short time. It was such a fun time and I got all the free food, video games, bands, and pool that I wanted. It was an interesting time growing up as a kid around all those bikers and bands. I loved it. Everyone was so good to me and I never had a problem even though there were some scuffles from time to time.

    Carbon Canyon was so different back then and it breaks my heart every time I drive by La Vida and see just a vacant lot.

    In a previous post someone talked about riding on the swinging gyms that were at the La Vida Hot Springs. I am 35 now and when I was a teenager we used to go into the swings after hours and ride them. Looking back now I know how dangerous this was as the swings had not been used in years and were so rusted, but boy did we have some fun.

    Here’s to Party House Liquor Store #2, Oakway Lane and Sleepy Hollow. Carbon Canyon is a very unique place and so was La Vida. I still live in Chino Hills and this area will always hold a special place in my heart. Here’s to all those who made this area such an interesting place to grow up in. Thanks to all of you. You know who you are.

    I also want to thank the firefighters who worked so hard to put out the fires we had a few years back. I could go on forever telling stories but I had better stop here as some stories are better left untold. :)

  • Michael Smith

    In the late 1990s, I wanna say 1998, the best band I ever played for (“Manta”) regrouped after disbanding a few years before and played at La Vida’s.

    At the time, I had no idea really even of the approximate location of the place. Coming from Ontario, I was given directions to take the 60 Fwy to the 57 south, exit Lambert, make a left and head into the canyon… again, having no idea that this road would connect directly into Chino Hills Parkway. For years I would think of the place (La Vida’s) from time to time wondering exactly where the hell it was located.

    A few years ago I was conversing with someone, reflecting on “Old Times.” I mentioned my regular hangout at a place called “The Boars Head” in Upland, which has been gone for over a decade. He started talking about his regular spot (La Vida’s) and I totally put it together that he was describing the Mystery Place in the canyon I’d played at several years prior.

    I went driving through the canyon looking for the former site of La Vida’s with no success initially (it was nighttime). The next day, after several passes by the general area, I caught a glimpse of the chimney with the name “La Vida Cantina” still written on it. I stopped my truck, got out and reminisced of that surreal night we played there. It was a really good time, we felt very welcomed there, and there’s no doubt in my mind it was a place to be.

    When I read the story of the lady who stopped her car at the location and closed her eyes to hear the laughter and music, she made me hear it too. It’s moments like these that I still continue to live for. Thanks to all who wrote about the place… “La Vida Cantina.” I only wish that I would’ve spent a little more time there….

    ~Mike

  • Bill Johnson

    As far as bands go…do any of you remember the band “Coyote”? They were locals and used to play at La Vita all the time. I knew all the members of the band and we partied together at the old Puple Haze.

  • Brad Stiewel

    Remember Coyote very well. It at one time was Tim Harwood on steel, Tom Harwood on bass, Dave Harwood on drums and their brother-in law on guitar. Dave had type 1 diabetes and i heard a while back that he had gone blind, but that the nucleus of the band was still playing somewhere around Santa Fe springs. Coyote used to also play at the Longhorn Saloon in Covina when I was a member of the Stan West Band.

    i had Tom and Dave play at my wedding on Saturday, and I think that the whole band showed up at the party at La Vida on Sunday. I think that we had members from about 10 different bands that day. I have often wondered where everybody went. Tim Slaven used to live in the hollow, and he played in my band for a few years before I moved to Colorado and lost track of everyone.

  • Carole Caddick

    I met my husband, Lorne, when he was living in Carbon Canyon. I believe he had a very good friend, Bill Johnson. The Bill I remember meeting once had a dog with a heart condition that would pass out when overly excited. If that is you Bill please get in touch. We live in Summit Ranch now. Lorne would love to hear from you.

  • Bill Johnson

    Carol;

    Yes that was me…actually the Great Dane named “Buddy” (a harlequin black and white spotted pattern) belonged to my ex wife Patty Robinson…poor Buddy was a great dog. It went everywhere with her and she never, ever had to worry about someone bothering her. Buddy was very protective; but alas Buddy died several years ago. She was only 5 yrs old.

  • Pam

    Came across this blog, just came back from sleepy hollow, we still have a house in the hollow one which I would never sell. It is not much by today’s standards but the first my mom and I could afford. At one time we owned the Carbon Canyon Inn, known previously as Icabods and then after, Joe Tatars Oak Grove Inn.

    My fondest memory was the year we shut down Carbon Canyon Road on Halloween and Joel Norris and Clarence reenacted the Ride of the Headless Horseman, it was a sight. I also recall the vigilantes which were mostly Clarence and his shotgun scaring the OC kids who went to the Staley Ranch (Lions Head nicknamed by the large lion’s heads at the gate). He lived in the house at the gate entrance and would enjoy scaring the school kids when they went to hunt the man-chasing motorcyle-eating monters that lived behind the gates.

    We were also members of Club El Circulo (spelling is probably wrong) which later became the Purple Haze. It was a great place to go on the weekends and largely supported in the 60′s by the space industry employees from Orange County.

    Chris Cromwell was my neighbor for a time and we both drove VW crewcab pickups…times in the canyon are ones you will never forget and the stories seem to stay with you to share generations down.

    I do not know anyone who has ever told me it was a bad place to live. It is not for everyone but in the 70′s it seemed Off beat Professionals, Hippies and Cowboys brought a lot of color to a very small town…One of those places that if the streets could talk what stories they would tell.

  • Bill Johnson

    The name of the second store was, or at least we all called it, “Fred’s Store.” It was a one-room general store owned and operated by Fred Gentry who lived there with his wife who was suffering from muscular sclerosis.

    Fred’s store offered credit to the locals. I always shopped there because it was easier than driving out of the canyon for supplies. In fact rumor has it that Fred’s store was a converted bar, one with a nefarious reputation back in the 1930s. Fred showed me where there were bullet holes left in the ceiling and walls, remnants of an arguement that had gotten out of hand in days gone by.

    The Purple Haze was a great place to party, full of a collection of the most delicious variety of ne’er-do-wells and other eccentrics you could ever meet.

  • charlie link

    Cool stories about this place. When I was in my late teens I watched bands play at La Vida roadhouse and even enjoyed that $1 spaghetti night every week :)

    I was always interested in seeing what the hotel looked like and one day even hopped the fence with my buddies and went into it. There was a large hole in the roof where a fire burned thru, I imagine some homeless person was living in there and made a fire to keep warm and it got out of control or someone was making speed or something.

    Anyhow yeah it was weird, there were boxes of hotel records all over the floor in the office area downstairs and the rooms were nasty and tore up. I remember wanting to go into the basement but we were all too chicken.

    The pool area was awesome, there was a kids pool it seemed and a really large other pool, I remember the swinging gym thing, my friend got in it and we actually used it LOL. I took pictures of it and of the pool area and have them somewhere. It’s really too bad that this place was not saved. I think someone should buy the property it’s on and rebuild a new one, a replica of the original. Anyhow. Thanks.

  • Vic Murray

    I left an earlier comment about a photograph of a La Vida ad that was hanging in the restaurant many years ago. The older kids in my family were pictured drinking La Vida Water, and the photo title read: La Vida Babies.

    I didn’t know what had become of our copy of the photo, but I visited my cousin, Evelyn, a few days ago, and found that she had saved one and it was posted on her wall. I now have a copy of it, and think that it would be nice to post it on a La Vida website. I could just post it on Facebook, I suppose. The picture was taken in about 1931, and my brother and sister and our cousins were all smiling, but I understand that the mineral water wasn’t so tasty.

  • Joel Billeaudeaux

    My brother and I really enjoyed all of these stories and memories of this wonderful place. We are Canyonites being born and raised in Olinda Village and attending Olinda school. I had so much fun as a young man at La Vida in the early 90s… Saw great bands and always had fun and yes the Vagos kept us little punks in line when we got out of hand. My friend Martin Johnson worked as a cook there in the late 90s and I filled in for him a couple of times. The back of the restaurant was directly over the creek and I believe you could see through the floor. La Vida was our last stop of the night because we had less than a mile drive home… I love the feeling of Fall in the Canyon and will cherish my time there. 1974 to 1998….

    • Martin S. Johnson

      Don Himes ran La Vida for many years until his passing and the end of an era in 2001. I worked as a bouncer, cook, and booked alot of the bands that played there from 98 until it closed. I will always have a special place in my heart for all the employees, patrons, bikers, and local freaks that I had the privilege to associate with.

  • Bill Duke

    I happaned to stumble across this blog in pursuing a different matter. But I am glad that I did as the above entries brought back lots of fond memories of the “canyon” and its adjacent area. Like so many, we had on occasion partaken of the dining and swimming accommodations afforded by the La Vida Hot Springs.

    And the circuitous Mulholland-like road that made up Carbon Canyon Road drew motorcyle cafe racers – read crotch rockets – in droves. Rarely did a Sunday pass when at least one wasn’t carted off in an ambulance.

    As for the “Canyon Corral” it had been once dubbed the “Sand Trap.” a name given to attract visitors to the local link; Los Serranos Country Club. My dad was a frequent patron of the Sand Trap in the late 60′s, early 70′s. He was friends with its then owner, a gentleman named “Tony”.

    He was a bit of an enigma in that he was quiet and low key, never sharing much about his past, other than he had once served as one of the Flying Tigers fighter squadron of WW II. And I recall “Fred’s Store”; our version of Mr. Drucker’s store from “Green Acres.”

    A friend of mine had family who owned and operated the Scheafer BBB Turkey Ranch. If my memory serves me correct, it was located behind the Canyon Corral. Many of my friends worked there during the holiday season. Besides being paid they all came home with a free bird and a ton of turkey pot pies.

    Not having ventured there in close to 30 years, I am afraid that I will be saddened to see what it has morphed into. I have a few co-workers who live in Chino Hills and they know little if anything about how the place once was: A veritable rustic laidback version of 60′s era Laurel Canyon.

  • Carol Colvin

    First place I lived when I left home was a little room outside the night club Purple Haze. I did not know it was a hot springs! I know the people who ran the Purple Haze, Dillard Eugene Stewart (known as Gene) was one of them. Sorry to say he has just passed away. I do have pictures of the place in 1969-1970 or so. Left Calif.in 1972 (with Gene and our daughter) for Oregon. I don’t know if I will be back to this site but sure brings back the past!

  • Steve Tidwell

    My Great Uncle, Dave Tidwell, ran a little store north of the La Vida location, in the early 1960′s. I wish I could have seen that. It had an outdoor stage.

  • B. Delaney

    I was in a band called Warlock early 80s…we played there often…I even have some cool old pics of the inside and out…the stages at least. Good times, damn good times.

    [Feel free to email me a photo or two, B. It'd be nice to decorate this blog post with one. -- DA]

  • John Schmale

    Wow,

    I just listed a super great card of the resort in carbon canyon called Tidwell Oaks. I should have looked up the history first. Here is the Ebay number 270906904969. I am from Northern California but spent several weeks at Topanga in the 1960′s. This card looked like some place I had been so I bought it at a postcard show in Pasadena in the 1980s. I guess I had seen it while hanging out in the hills. They were great times. Is this the place where rock bands played?

    John Schmale out-west

  • Gil Gerhardt

    I just stumbled upon this site and what a hoot. I’m the guy who broke his arm that Chris Farren mentions. His family lived in Olinda on what was then Rose Drive up opposite the “new” Regional Park. My dad worked for Mobil Oil and we lived on the oil lease about a mile further up the hill from 1947 to 1980. All gone now. My parents’ and the Farren’s homes were destroyed in the 1980 fire along with all the old buildings.

    Jay’s grocery store was on Carbon Canyon Rd just west of what is now Santa Fe Rd. The Olinda Grammer School with grades 1-8 was about where the Regional Park lake is now. They along with several homes, the Smith’s and the Ledbetter’s, were removed when the dam was built in 1959. I learned to swim at the La Vida pool.

    Randy Graham mentions a lot of folks I grew up with and the memories are still strong. It was a magical place to live.

  • barbara f

    Photos of a more sedate La Vida worth a thousand more words:

    carboncanyonchronicle.blogspot.com/2012/02/carbon-canyon-historical-artifact-27.html

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/edge_and_corner_wear/6223409129/

  • Zachary Cromwell

    I lived and grew up just behind Pary House #2 on Oak Way Ln. Those days were so fun and when my dad ran La Vida Hot Springs Restaurant and bought, remodeled and sold many houses in the canyon.

    In the 70′s growing up there it was so great. There were two stages outside and yes one was built directly over the creek. Someone also mentioned about the hole in the floor in the kitchen and that is so funny. The kitchen and the back office were over the creek as well and there was a round hole that I think was either a knot in the wood that just fell out or maybe where an old pipe ran but yes it was there and I remember as a kid always laying down on the dirty kitchen floor to look through the hole and down in the creek. My dad would catch me sometimes and say “Boy, get up off that ground don’t you know how dirty it is you knucklehead” but I did not care as it was such a cool thing as a kid to look through the floor to the creek below.

    The biker scene was always there and such an unbelievable place to see as a kid and the right 2/3rd’s of the place was all set up for them with the bar, stage, games, pool tables, dart boards, and jukebox. The left 1/3 side was the restaurant and you would see so many different types coming into that place as it really was a special place and you knew that after the 1st time going there and will forever be in our hearts for those of us that were there over the many years.

    My Dad Christopher Earl Cromwell died of a heart attack 3/5/2007 but not before owning a very large Masonry business and seeing his life go full circle and my mother Christine Cromwell and younger brother Danny Cromwell have moved out of the area a few years back and I am just outside the Canyon and visit the locals quite often.

    Carbon Canyon, Sleepy Hollow, La Vida Hot Springs and the awesome people of this area will forever have a special place for me and my family in our hearts. It truly was a different world back then and it saddens me to see all this history gone forever. I am so grateful that everyone is reliving the good times through this blog and if you go to the Canyon today you can still meet many old timers with many many amazing stories to tell about a time gone but never forgotten. Long live Sleepy Hollow!

  • Judy Muchow

    I’m looking for the pool and hotel. Does anyone one know if it’s still open? I can’t seem to find an address. My husband was a life guard there in the early 80′s. My husband passed away last year and I’d love to see it again. The cafe was a blast. We partied there every weekend in the summer of 1980.

  • Bluebelle

    I”m new to the area, and have enjoyed reading about your special memories. I like to know the history of where we live,and this has helped quite a bit. I have been fascinated by the canyon, since we moved here.