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FEATURES

The Jonas Journeys: From Hard Rock to Old Wood


Jonas with son Luke who finds and ships his wood.

 VOL.25 NO. 1
January 12 - 25, 2001
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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 flatlands.

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 any easier.
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 ark.

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 seek.



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 Steven Spielberg.

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.

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Brownies Prepared 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 grades.

"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 commitment.

"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."

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Holiday Feast Feeds Canyon


Topanga 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!.


The 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.

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Cheney Breakfast 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 entire neighborhood.

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 go-go juice.

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 the children.

People wave on our streets because they know each other. John Hughes probably had no idea what he was starting all those years ago.

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 here.

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