By Tony Morris
Jonas Hardy remembers living in
Malibu in 1962 when a friend suggested that he take
a drive to Topanga. Hardy drove north on the Boulevard,
through the "S" curves and realized that he
had entered another world. After meeting with a local
realtor who showed him a house on Colina , Hardy put
down $4,000 on the $32,000 property. Topanga was a different
world in the early '60s.
Driving on the Santa Monica Freeway
in his black Lincoln Continental Hardy says he won't
forget the vision of a Mark III Continental with the
license plate: Memphis I. It was Elvis. At the time
Hardy was the youngest general sales manager in the
history of Crenshaw Dodge, far from the world of rock'n'roll.
Living in Topanga in the early '60s, many now familiar
stores like Topanga Creek General Store, once Joe's
Market, did not even exist. The onslaught of commuter
traffic did not threaten residents. The beauty and the
solitude of the place offered a quiet refuge from the
After living in Topanga for a while Hardy met Bob Denver
of Gilligan's Island who convinced him to "shed
my sales manager's suit and tie." Denver urged
Hardy to try his hand at acting. Hardy met legendary
KRLA disc jockey Reb Foster who also wanted him to try
acting and introduced him to the world of rock'n'roll.
Asked by a friend of Foster's if he would consider a
job as road manager for a new band Hardy recalls that
it was either Steppenwolf or Three Dog Night. They flipped
a coin and Hardy chose Three Dog Night. Hardy had a
talent for discovering songs and acted as a song broker
for Three Dog Night, finding hits like Joy To the
World and Never Been To Spain.
Hardy soon fell in love with the wife of the band's
leader, Chuck Negron, and his role as tour manager came
to an abrupt halt. He was persona non grata and
he didn't want to press his luck remaining in Los Angeles
to find out what might happen. Rumor on the street that
there was a contract out on his life didn't make matters
Bent on survival, Hardy and Negron's wife Paula left
town in a hurry driving across the country. With no
destination in mind, the couple kept driving until they
reached New England. Stopping for gas in Connecticut,
Hardy asked the attendant the best way to Vermont.
Whatever Happened to America
By Jonas Hardy
It's nice to know
That long ago
Someone had us in mind
When they wrote it all down
I was a young man
Now I'm past my prime
Even been through two wars
And I've served my time
Came back to find
Everything has changed
Whatever happened to America
Whatever happened to America
I love America, my sweet America
Ain't that the truth
Oh, give me the truth
If I said hello
Would you say hello back to me
If I looked at you
Would you please not look through me
And if I had a dream
Would you share that dream
Did you ever think of the price we'd pay
We been ridin' on empty for a long , long time
I came back to find
Everything has changed
Whatever happened to America
Whatever happened to America
I love America, my sweet America
Ain't that the truth
Oh , give us the truth
Whatever happened to America
Why don't you tell me
My sweet America
Arriving in Vermont driving a turquoise
Mercedes and wearing leather pants and long hair, Hardy and
Paula surprised conservative Vermonters with their rock'n'roll
getup. One elderly resident, after realizing that what he
saw was not an apparition, asked Hardy, "By jeeze, what
is it that you do?" It wasn't long before Hardy realized
that he wanted to learn about his newly adopted state. Driving
through small towns and hamlets in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom,
Hardy passed by 200-year-old farmhouses with stately barns.
Some even had cemetery plots protected by wrought iron fencing.
Many towns had been settled before the Revolutionary War.
Hardy drove through St. George, Hinesburg, Enosburg Falls
and South Richford--a world away from Topanga and rock'n'roll.
It was here that he nurtured a growing interest in wood buildings
erected by early Vermont craftsmen. After reading a book on
barn building he met a family whose 120 foot long barn was
in danger of collapse. Striking a deal Hardy dismantled the
barn, taking care to preserve all of the planks, posts, beams
and wood members which had been used to erect the barn in
1800. Hardy thought about the craftsmen who had placed wooden
pegs to connect the hand hewn beams and posts. As the barn
came down he was struck by the simplicity and integrity of
the wood members. He decided to return to Los Angeles inspired
by what he had learned in rural Vermont.
WOODWORKER TO THE STARS
Back in Los Angeles, Hardy remembers studying
the antique furniture at the Raymond & Keith showroom
on Robertson Boulevard and saying to himself, "I can
build that." His first efforts were completed on a hillside
at Gunnison Trail. Hardy says that he actually used wood taken
from the walls of his house and was given additional material
by friends. He fashioned a crib for his young son Luke.
This unfinished piece rises like a Biblical
Moving from Gunnison Trail after his divorce
to a garage on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Hardy expanded his
workshop. On the Boulevard he made a name for himself, not
by his work, but with unique production methods. Hardy would
occasionally startle passersby when they glimpsed him laboring
in the nude behind a large tarp. Establishing a large barn-like
workshop on Rose Lane in Red Rock, his reputation grew as
his unique furniture was sought after by celebrities in the
entertainment world. Hardy used wood from centuries old New
England houses and barns which were in disrepair and slated
for removal. After carefully dismantling the structures he
loaded the wood members onto flatbed trucks for shipment to
his workshop in Topanga. Hardy's talent is that he is able
to "see the soul" of the wood members which "speak
to him." Letting the wood tell its story, he conceives
of a table, a chair or an armoire which is created from materials
which retain original markings. Most of the wood beams and
posts have not been touched since the late 1700s. Experiencing
Hardy's finished pieces for the first time they appear to
be made in another era. His work is original and there is
no production line which allows Hardy the freedom to create.
This originality is what designers, architects and owners
Old barns, like this one in Vermont, are the source of wood
for Jonas' masterworks.
With a global reputation Hardy's clients
include film directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas,
actors Alan Alda and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as King
Fahd of Saudia Arabia. Topangan Steve Kipner, songwriter and
producer, has known Hardy for 15 years and says, "He
puts his heart into his work. It's not just a craft for him."
Kipner, who has a dining room table crafted by Hardy, says
that in the event of an earthquake he wouldn't hesitate to
take refuge under the table with its sturdy construction.
FROM THE ASHES
In 1993 when the Topanga/Malibu fire started
on Old Canyon, Hardy watched in disbelief as his studio on
Rose Lane, his tools and dozens of finished pieces were reduced
to ashes. Louie Kelley remembers meeting his friend of 35
years on a hill overlooking the gutted studio, "Well
Jonas, now you're just like most of us, you ain't got nothin!"
Hardy laughed, remembering his earliest days in Topanga, and
was soon on the phone to his clients reassuring them that
he would be back in business in no time.
Hardy stands by his ruined studio, lost
in the Old Topanga fire of `93.
Hardy doesn't let much get him down and
prefers to dwell on the bright side. He says that Topanga
has often provided him with reasons to feel that way. Memories
of music and Topanga are never far from his mind. When the
celebrated Topanga Corral drew audiences from all over Southern
California, Hardy says that it was easy to rub elbows with
renowned rock'n'rollers. When the Rolling Stones wanted to
drop by he remembers calling "Spade Marie" and asking
her to lay on some tablecloths for his guests.
Hardy remembers the late Burgess Meredith asking the cost
of a piece he had ordered. Meredith, taken aback by the price,
asked how much money he would have to advance as a deposit.
Hardy asked him, "May I ask how old you are, sir?"
Meredith offered that he was 82 and without hesitation Hardy
said, "Well in that case, I'd like all the money now!"
As a craftsman Hardy's work is well known to designers and
architects, having been featured on the cover of Architectural
Digest. His commitment to the process of discovering new
forms in wood keeps him occupied. Aged wood located and shipped
from Vermont by his son Luke is unloaded at Hardy's workshop
in Canoga Park several times a year. As the wood is unloaded
and stacked in neat piles he studies each piece with respect,
knowing that the craftsmen who worked to create the hand-hewn
beams and planks which rest in his shop have been gone for
more than 200 years.
Customers for pieces like these include
Recently Hardy was featured in an E-Entertainment
report produced at his workshop. When asked what inspired
him to create his own hand-crafted furniture from aged wood,
Hardy said that it is the process of creating something out
of wood which would never have been made into furniture. Then
Hardy reminded his audience that music will always be an important
part of his life as he sang a spirited rendition of his composition
Whatever Happened to America.
for Big Scouting Year
By Susan Chasen
Topanga's Brownie Girl Scout Troop 153,
just formed in September, has gotten off to a busy start with
camping trips and work on two badges almost completed. The
unusually large troop of 30 Brownies has learned the Girl
Scout Promise, its "be prepared" motto, and soon
will begin its cookie sales fundraiser and planning for a
community service project.
"To me, it's all about self-esteem," says troop
leader Pamela Waymire. "It's about teaching our daughters
that they're capable of doing everything they set their sights
on, of helping others and their community."
Waymire, a teacher's aide at Topanga Elementary and a former
girl scout herself, became a scout leader years ago in Indiana
before she had a daughter of her own. Now, living in Topanga
and with her daughter Gillian attending Topanga Elementary
School, Waymire decided to get back into it. Last year she
established Topanga's first-ever Daisy Girl Scout troop for
kindergartners and first-graders.
The Daisy scouts are named for Girl Scout founder Juliette
Gordon Low's nickname, which was "Daisy." Last year's
Daisies "bridged" to become the core for this year's
Brownie troop which took on over 20 new members in September.
Now, Topanga's Brownies include first through third graders
and one fourth grader. Terry Cogbill has taken over as leader
of the Daisy scouts which is now all kindergartners.
While Topanga seems to be experiencing renewed interest in
scouting, Waymire points out that there is an unfortunate
gap for Topanga's fourth and fifth graders because there is
no Junior Girl Scout troop for them. There are established
troops for older girls in the canyon, but none for the upper-elementary
"I would love to help a mom start a Junior troop,"
says Waymire. "Our fourth and fifth-grade girls need
Girl Scouts. It's just such a good way to show them the world."
In the meantime, Waymire's huge Brownie troop and its three
co-leaders Ruth Tosdevin, Kim Franz and Katie Boli are working
to make sure there will be Junior Girl Scouts in Topanga next
year. Franz and Tosdevin have daughters in third and fourth
grade who will be bridging to Junior Girl Scouts along with
eight other third graders in the current Brownie troop.
Waymire has chosen an outdoor-life focus for Topanga's Brownies
since it comes so naturally to many of them. Most already
have camping experience, says Waymire. The troop's first badge
will be the "Earth and Sky" badge which they earned
during a day of activities at Tapia State Park followed by
a camp-out at Malibu Creek State Park. This month they spent
two nights at Cottontail Ranch off Las Virgenes Canyon Road,
learning from Girl Scout Senior Troop 1481, Mystic Yankee,
which takes charge of the program as part of their own scouting
"Outdoor life is very important to my family," says
Waymire. "It's part of the reason we love Topanga."
The Brownies' second troop badge is likely to be a "Listening
to the Past" badge in which the girls seek out stories
about life in the past and how children lived long ago.
Other activities have included singing at Silverado Senior
Living in Calabasas, an Alzheimer's specialty residential
facility as well as at this year's holiday dinner for Topanga
senior citizens. Also, at their meetings after school, on
alternating Tuesdays, the Brownies have made holiday cookies,
crafts and gifts and learned about the history of scouting.
Every meeting ends with the Brownies standing in a friendship
circle, right arms over left and holding hands as a silent
squeeze passes from one hand to the next around the circle.
Although there are limits on the number of scouts allowed
per leader and co-leader, Waymire has a "more the merrier"
philosophy of her large troop, especially in light of past
problems would-be scouts have faced finding troops closed
to new members, both in Topanga and in surrounding communities.
"It's more fun," says Waymire. "The more you
have, the happier it is."
The key to managing with such a large troop is having parents
who are willing to help out, says Waymire.
"I'm very appreciative of all our parents."
In addition to the cookie sale fund-raiser coming up, Topanga's
Brownies will soon be observing Thinking Day when two and
a half million Girls Scouts in the United States join with
Girl Guides and Scouts around the world in thinking about
each other and celebrating the February 22 birthdays of Robert
Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes who started the first Boy
Scout and Girl Guide troops in England. Then comes the Girl
Scout birthday celebration in March commemorating the first
official meeting of 18 Girl Scouts in 1912 in this country.
Juliette Gordon Low, an American who lived in England and
Scotland and became close friends with Baden-Powell, his wife
Olave and his sister, had a Girl Guide troop of her own in
Scotland. When she returned home to the United States, she
brought Girl Scouting with her.
"When I see all those girls in their uniforms, I'm really
proud," says Waymire. "They're all so precious and
eager to do their part and be good scouts."
Plus, adds Waymire: "Gillian just loves it."
Holiday Feast Feeds
kids enjoy unseasonable snow, thanks to the Carlsons.
By Tony Morris
More than 250 Topangans braved the crisp
cold air of December 23rd to celebrate the holidays at Pine
Tree Circle. A brass band played Christmas carols while the
evening's community pot-luck cuisine was carefully placed
on five portable tables. Casseroles and exotic dishes for
this year's event set a record: Patricia Tackett's legendary
roast turkey, cranberries and stuffing, mashed potatoes, several
spiced rice dishes, lasagna with white sauce, pistachio paste
with Persian herbs and yogurt, eggplant moussaka, red potatoes,
sausages, chicken wings, meatballs, green tomato herb salad,
vegetarian chili, Chinese chicken salad, eight varieties of
pasta, camembert with pine nuts, tofu salad, cous-cous, hot
cider and fresh bread. A separate dessert table offered chocolate
brownies, lemon bundt cake, Christmas bundt cake, apple, pumpkin
and cherry pie, chocolate bread pudding, cranberry apple cheesecake,
apple strudel, Christmas bread with raisins, warm chocolate
fudge fresh from the oven, banana cake, pumpkin bread, fresh
tangerines, apples and papaya. There was food for all!.
Topanga Brass band, featuring (L to R) Wayne Hoard, Douglas
Roy, Fred Tackett and Steve Feinberg, rings out
Thanks to Steve and Leslie Carlson, who
provided the Pine Tree Circle along with tons of fresh snow,
the Great Topanga 2000 Holiday Potluck was a great
opportunity to celebrate all the Holidays. The 11th annual
potluck's organizer and inspiration, Patricia Tackett, thanks
Linda Hinrichs, Randy Just, Gretchen Booth and Dr. Doug Roy
for "helping to bring everyone together for a night of
good food and song." Only in Topanga.
a Crowd Pleaser
By Penny Taylor
How well do you know your neighbors? Do
you chat over the fence, wave when you pass each other on
the road? Do your kids play together? Does your dog visit
their dog (or pig)? Do you bar-be-cue on weekends? And if
disaster strikes and fire heads your way while you're out
of the canyon, does your neighbor call you at work and let
you know that he's thrown your cat in a kitchen wastebasket
and both are packed safely in the car? Does your neighbor
even have your work and emergency numbers?
If you answered "no" to all of the above, then chances
are you don't live in Cheney Canyon. (Okay, it's called Sylvia
Park on the map, but it was and is Cheney Canyon just like
Eagle Rock is still Elephant Rock to the old-timers and people
with an eye for the obvious, in spite of what the park service
may have re-named it.)
Just before Christmas, the residents of Cheney Canyon got
together for their annual pancake breakfast. It's hard to
count when people are coming and going, kids running, dogs
chasing whatever. But I'd say that over 150 people showed
up at this year's breakfast, neighbors from Cheney Road, Paradise
Lane, Callon Drive, Sylvania Lane and Penny Lane.
It all got started with a man named John Hughes who lived
in the rock house on Cheney just before it meets Paradise.
Every Sunday in the early 1960s John would serve up a pancake
breakfast for all the kids in the neighborhood. One of those
young rowdies was Gary Cheney, grandson of the man who pioneered
that section of Topanga in the late 1800's.
Gary never forgot that man, his many kindnesses and the fun
everyone had each Sunday. So in the mid-1980s, Gary and Martha
Cheney began having pancake breakfasts for their neighbors
at the old homestead. It was a chance for everyone to get
together and catch up on what was happening in their lives.
They made new friends and got to know each other better. And
over the years it grew. Just a few neighbors turned into an
When Gary and Martha moved to Montana, the yearly get-togethers
moved to Yedvart Tchakerian's spread on Paradise Lane. Yed's
lived in the canyon for 25 years and even though he wasn't
even born in the U.S., he's probably about as country boy,
grass-roots as you can get.
In 1999 the breakfast moved to Bill Buerge's home, the Mermaid,
and this year the site was the old hunting lodge on Paradise,
now the home of Jill and Bruce Vernon.
These days the Beemers and Lexuses and immaculate SUVs outnumber
the battered old pickup trucks parked along the road, but
the idea is still the same. Get to know your neighbor. Okay,
yeah and chow down on pancakes, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit,
o.j. and mimosas. (If I'm a little larger this year don't
throw stones. You try loosing weight with Yed standing over
you saying, "Just have one more piece of sausage. Here,
try this one!")
The old coffee pots on the campfire were largely symbolic
of days when it was grab coffee and go herd cows. Things have
been updated with shiny coffee urns containing gallons of
The sign-in sheet was there to put your name and address down,
emergency, home and work numbers. It'll go into the Cheney
Canyon directory so everyone can be easily found.
There were people who have lived here 50 years and others
who have only been around 5 months. All talking, playing,
swapping stories and ideas, building friendships.
I was a little disturbed to hear one mother recommend the
pre-school her toddler was attending somewhere in the valley,
saying it was definitely worth the drive. It seemed to defeat
the purpose of moving to Topanga to farm the kids out at an
early age when there are at least four pre-schools in the
canyon that take great pride in the enriched development of
People wave on our streets because they know each other. John
Hughes probably had no idea what he was starting all those
So if you work "outside," drive home, grunt in your
neighbor's direction when he says hello and hibernate in your
den all weekend, you're missing somethingTopanga.
Maybe you can be the one who puts together a breakfast committee
in your corner of the canyon. Or if the size of it overwhelms
you, just start with a couple of blocks. Your relations with
your neighbors will be better, you'll have a sense of security
that wasn't there before and you'll grasp that Topanga is
more than just getting away from it all. It's becoming part
of something that's all too rare these days.
Hell, you don't even have to start with a huge breakfast.
Just wave, smile and say "Hi" to everyone you pass
today, even if you don't know them. It's considered normal