Bill Rundberg's Memories of Wickham Canyon
This is Bill Rundberg's rough sketch of the Wickham and Larinan home sites. Bill drew this from memory over 50 years since he last visited the two families.
Bill's sketch allows me to pinpoint the two families residences on this 1952 USGS topographic map
Bill Rundberg lived in Pico Canyon from 1948 to 1953 and knew both the Wickhams and the Larinans. In December of 2008, I emailed Bill and asked him some questions about them. He then generously provided me with the above sketch and the following memories of Wickham Canyon. Thanks Bill.
Re memories and responses to your questions, I can be of some help while, for me, some of the remembered details have morphed into fuzzy-edged images.
I’m not aware of documentation showing “Wickham Canyon”. When I was in Pico Canyon, I used “Wickham’s Canyon” in speech simply because that’s where the Wickhams lived. During my time there, I was aware only of Eldon Wickham and Mrs. Wickham (didn’t know what her first name was) living in the canyon. By then, their living space was a house trailer with external power plant. I don’t remember any provision for natural gas or propane. The adobe house, in good shape then and quite cool on a hot summer’s day, was not occupied. I remember the relative locations of the trailer and adobe house (rough sketch attached), but am not sure how they were placed with respect to the creek bed that defined the canyon. The Wickhams were very pleasant folks and I learned a bit of local history and geology from chats with Mr. Wickham (never addressed him as “Eldon”), those accompanied by on occasional cookie. As I remember, I reached the Wickhams’ place through the Larinans’ property. I believe that there had once been, perhaps still was, more direct access closer to the creek bed.
My memory says that the trailer site and the adobe house were near each other, on opposite sides of the canyon, and some distance from the mouth of the canyon. Beyond them was an abandoned road. Your picture of the site of the home/trailer, apparently 50+ years later, shows trees approximately where, by my memory, the adobe house was.
A website called “Who Owns the West” refers to land leased for gas production since 1992. An accompanying map shows land near Newhall and Pico Canyon leased by Eldon Wickham. That might be the name of an organization. I doubt that the Eldon Wickham that I knew was living, much less managing property, in 1992.
When we moved to Pico Canyon in 1948, I soon met Mike Larinan not only because of our location but because he was in my class (1951) at Hart High. I was two years younger (young for my class, born in 1935). I saw Mollie occasionally but don’t remember where she was living. She had graduated from San Fernando High School in 1945 or 1946 (Hart had not yet begun). I never heard mention of Lillian or of Maude.
By the time of our arrival, George Jr. had been seriously injured in an automobile accident. He had apparently been vigorous, energetic and assertive before the accident, but upon his return home from the hospital was partially paralyzed and soft-spoken. I met him then and he was very pleasant, while having full command of only one side of his body and being severely limited in his physical activity. During our time there his behavior changed. By Dorothy’s explanation, his spine had been injured and the flow of fluid to his cranial cavity was not regulated. Eventually, pressure on his brain stimulated activity, physical and mental. For a short time, his paralysis was mostly gone, he became more agitated and assertive, and he drove to town and committed to purchases of hay, etc., that they did not need and, by Dorothy’s estimate, could not afford. I’ve forgotten the event that prompted his return to the hospital, eventually to have the cranial pressure relieved, but when he returned home he was as I had first met him.
The Larinan house was dark green with board-and-batten siding, rectangular in shape, oriented so that a long side with front door and several windows faced the road, was by my memory 100-150 feet from the road. It was connected to the road by a dirt/gravel driveway that crossed the creek bed. I’ve heard that it was unoccupied for many years and that it burned down a few years ago. Near the house was another building that probably had been a garage and that, by my memory, included/was attached to a chicken house. There was also shelter there – I don’t remember how much – for some animals, including a cow.
The house had no line electricity and no power plant. As I remember, all lights were kerosene lamps, some with mantles and that made a fairly bright light, or Coleman lanterns. Dorothy’s Coleman iron was fueled by white gas. Their washing machine was a Maytag powered by a gasoline engine. Electronic communication to/from the outside world was by telephone and by a radio (AM, of course) that was powered by an automobile battery.
I heard that Mike Larinan, in the years immediately preceding his death, was deteriorating with Alzheimer’s Disease. Since his death, his wife, Ione, has married Walton Cook, also Hart ’51, who had been widowed. I believe that they live near Santa Barbara, perhaps at Ione’s home in Goleta.
George Larinan, Sr. – I don’t know where he lived – was at least partly occupied by his bee-keeping activities. On occasion I worked for him in his barn on the Larinan property, processing honey-filled hives. I used a knife with a steam-filled blade to trim the honeycomb from the hives and frames and a centrifuge to extract honey from the frames. The barn was on the east (on the left when on the driveway approaching the house) side of the driveway.
Near the barn was a windmill; I believe that it wasn’t working when we lived there. By that time, there was a water supply line from, as I remember, Railroad Canyon to Pico Canyon. Perhaps the Larinans were served by that.
Here is what Bill is doing today:
I've lived in San Mateo, on the San Francisco Peninsula, since 1967, when I came to teach mathematics and then computer science at the College of San Mateo. Since retirement in 2000, I have been building a database and website of photographs that illustrate the histories of the colleges in San Mateo County since 1922. The website collection now numbers more than 4000; yet more than that await processing. The direct access to that website is www.smccd.edu/photoarchives.