Topanga Before Today

Pablo CapraBy Pablo Capra      May 28, 2021

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Topanga Before Today
Mrs. Anna Van Skike has attracted worldwide attention for her remarkable aquatic feats. She was sent to California five years ago to die. She now celebrates her birthday by plunging into the ocean and swimming for 12 or 14 hours. [1924-08-30 Venice Evening Vanguard, Photo by Coffey Studios
As digital archivist for the Topanga Historical Society, Pablo Capra saw an opportunity to compile historical vignettes lifted from bygone newspapers and publications that capture the times when they were written. Capra encourages readers to support the Topanga Historical Society by becoming a member and buying their book, “The Topanga Story,” a detailed history of Topanga. Published in 2011, it was compiled and written by local residents, and edited by Michele Johnson. (topangahistoricalsociety.org) Mrs. Van Skike Makes Record Swim from Venice to Topanga September 16, 1924—Santa Monica Outlook Mrs. Anna Van Skike of Santa Monica has again established a new endurance swimming record by swimming 16 miles and remaining in the water from 8 o’clock yesterday evening until 5:30 o’clock this morning, celebrating her 64th birthday. Her record last year was 12 miles. At the close of her birthday swim which started from the Venice plunge and extended to the mouth of Topanga canyon and back to the plunge, Mrs. Van Skike announced that she was still strong and could have made several miles more except for the strong tide facing her. After battling the tide for nearly two hours Mrs. Van Skike was taken from the water by Life Guards Pedro Hull and Earl Cady. She had one breakfast in Santa Monica after leaving the water and another when she arrived home.
Most Malibu and Topanga People Are Republican
By Forrest deButts

December 8, 1960, Topanga Journal—I liked to died when Mama told me the editor said I could write a column for this paper. I feel like Macy’s and Gimbels in that Christmas story called Miracle on 34th Street. Everybody is being very nice to each other. It seems like it all happened at once. Good will to men—so it must be the Christmas Spirit. I told Mama this paper probably wouldn’t let me write for it if they found out that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. Because it seems like most Malibu and Topanga people are Republican. She said, “They will defend with their lives your right to be a Democrat.”

They say you outgrow the way you think. When you get to be the age of your father you think like he does. Papa says the age I am is the very worst age for thinking. So, I guess it takes a lot of brave Christmas Spirit for an editor to let somebody in Junior High express opinions in his newspaper.... (From the “Squeaky Mesa” column)

De Butts Stops Here, Malibu Decides
By Martha Groves

[October 25, 2006, Los Angeles Times]—Weary of crude comments and teasing, De Butts Terrace residents recently lobbied the city to change the name of their mansion-dotted, ridge-top road near Escondido Canyon. But Mayor Ken Kearsley and others resisted, saying that the moniker honored a colorful and pioneering mid-20th century Malibu family.... According to family and friends, Marianne and Edward Delaplane deButts migrated west after World War II from Delaplane, VA. Marianne deButts for many years wrote a popular folksy column for the Malibu Times called “Squeaky Mesa.” The column, started by their daughter, Forrest, when she was a schoolgirl, was named for the family dog....

An Unusual Display of Northern Lights
November 17, 1960, Topanga Journal—An unusual display of Northern Lights was sighted about 10:30 p.m. Saturday from Condor Rock in Red Rock Canyon by Albert Hoyt. Earl Crabhorn, Camp Ranger of Camp Slauson also witnessed the solar display. There was a purple-red curtain effect which faded in and out for quite some time it was reported. (From “Topanga News Briefs”)

Topanga Temperature Topples to 18°
January 18, 1962, Topanga Journal—Temperatures ranging as low as 18 degrees to 27 degrees gripped Topanga Monday night. Pipes froze and frost covered the entire area. More cold weather is expected. Cover the pipes, and let the cat in.

Sightings: UFOs Anyone?
October 9, 1997, Topanga Messenger—A few residents on Callon Drive are disturbed by the strange lights spotted hovering around a group of trees near their homes last week. “The lights are so beautiful,” says Emery Scognamillo of his Sunday night sighting. “They’re shaped like crystals and float turning colors, blue and red and beaming. It was an amazing show.”

Scognamillo and his companion Gisele Queiros say the strange lights that floated around their area for about 20 minutes last Sunday resembled what they thought could be a UFO.

“We are very certain about what we saw,” says another neighbor, Katie Korzen, who, along with her husband, saw the floating light show for three nights running. “We even got our neighbors to verify it so people wouldn’t think we’re wacko.”

Korzen also claims she saw “very glassy floating crystals” that reflected different colors and radiated light. “They did different formations on top of each other and then around,” she says. “Then they appeared and disappeared. It’s definitely something, but I don’t know what.”
Pablo Capra

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