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?