of Big Santa Anita Canyon


By Norman Kling
(Grandson of the original owners.  Written in 1994)
 Cabin #4 is located in Big Santa Anita Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains above the town of Arcadia, California. This cabin was cabin #1 before the renumbering after the flood of March 2, 1938.  This history includes the years from 1914 to 1960 when the cabin was sold.

George Stephen Kling was one of the three brothers who came from Lowville, New York, to Los Angeles about 1895.  They were building contractors by trade and they built many quality buildings around the turn of the century, both in New York State and later in Southern California, including a castle in La Canada for the lieutenant governor of California.  They also built stations along the Pacific Electric Railroad.  They lived for a while in Upland while they were building the station there.  Perhaps they built the Sierra Madre station?  I don't know when or how my grandfather, George Kling, was introduced to Big Santa Anita Canyon, but this I know: He and his wife Ardella, and their three sons, Spencer, Robert and Loren, with the help of Mr. Sleppy, a cabinetmaker who worked with the Klings, built cabin #1. I say cabin #1, as it was the first permit issued when the Canyon was opened for summer home construction in 1914.  George Kling was no youngster when he started this project at the age if 48.  At that time, the hike in and out of the canyon site was 5 1/2 miles each way!  The road had not been built at that time.

George Kling was very careful in his selection of a site.  In reading his Bible, he believed that the "wise man built his house upon a rock."  You will see that cabin #4 is perched atop several large granite rocks.  He also knew that a stream erodes the outside of a curve, so he picked the inside of a curve about a quarter of a mile downstream from First Water.  Cabin #4 has stood through at least three major floods and at least one fire.  This year it is 80 years old, longer than the lifetime of George Kling himself.

The family built the stone walls and the stairs with manual labor and block and tackle.  Loren Kling can show you a scar on his finger where it was crushed between two rocks during this construction.

 All lumber and building materials had to be packed in at a price per pound, so all of the parts were measured, cut and temporarily assembled at home before being packed in, to keep the cost of transportation to a minimum.  The studs, floor joists and rafters were made of “aircraft lumber.”  This was like a 2x4, but it was routed  into  the  shape   of   an  “I” beam to maintain its strength at minimum weight.  Wood shingles were used for siding, because they came in bundles which were just right for packing in as they came from the lumber yard

A portion of the floor of the main room about 10' x 10' was first assembled on the ledge below the cabin but above the water.  It was used for the base of a tent house where the family stayed for about three years while the cabin was under construction.  The tent platform was later Incorporated into the floor so as not to waste any material.

There are two stone staircases.  One leads from the stream up to the front door.  The other leads up to the side porch which overlooks the stream.  This staircase is completely overgrown by Periwinkle, and can't be seen anymore.  Periwinkle is an ivy-like vine with blue flowers, and was planted by some cabin owners years ago and has since spread throughout most of the canyon. Another path, lined with stones, leads up the hill behind the cabin to the site of the first outhouse.

The building itself has some unusual features.  Three sun burst windows are on the east side of the living room, and the kitchen sink is unusually low because Mrs. Klimg was only 5 feet tall.  The drain board was made of wood with grooves routed into it so that the water would flow towards the sink. I have seen one similar to it in the Winchester Mystery House near San Jose, California.  There was a bathroom which had a galvanized tub with claw feet and a mahogany rim. Water was heated by a coil of pipe which ran through the wood stove.  The bathroom was raised about 2 feet and was entered through the kitchen.  Under the floor of the bathroom were two trundle beds which pulled out into the main room for sleeping.  You can see where these beds were, as the bottom two feet of the living room panels have been pieced out.

Water was piped across the canyon from a spring which served cabins #4, 5 and 3.  I don't know what the original numbers of three and five were (#3 was 2, and #5 was 4. --Ed.) a concrete Basin caught the water below the spring and a galvanized pipe was suspended from a cable anchor to rocks on each side of the canyon which brought the water across the canyon.

The front porch was an open porch with a roof over it, and a live oak grew through the floor and the roof.  As the family grew, the porch was closed in.  The upper part of the walls had removable wood panels, which fit exactly into the wall below, so that when removed, they formed windows and fit below out of the way.  Beds were set up on the porch.

There was a problem caused by spilt water from the bathtub which got the trundle beds wet. The bathtub had to be removed and the floor lowered to the same level as the rest of the cabin.  Bunk beds were built into the room which had previously been the bathroom. The bathtub was still used, too.  However, it was on the enclosed porch.  We filled it by a bucket, and when we wanted to drain it, we opened the front door and pushed the tub to the door and pulled the plug!

Loren Kling, my father, remembers the original owners of cabin #5, the Tracy family. They had several sons. Cabin #3 was built by Dr. Todd, a bachelor.

Loren says there were many frogs in the Canyon when he was a boy.  He  and his brothers used to catch them and they ate frog legs many a time for dinner.  Loren and his brothers hiked to Mt. Wilson, the West Fork, Monrovia Peak and just about every mountain and canyon, whether or not there was a trail.

On one occasion in around 1928, when he was in college, Loren Kling wasn't feeling well and he somehow fell off of the swinging bridge at First Water.  It was a long hike out of the canyon.  Upon entering the hospital, he was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix and peritonitis.  It took months to affect his recovery, those being the days before antibiotics.

It was at the top of Sturtevant Falls that Loren James Kling proposed to Vivian Marie Rimby. They were married on New Year's Eve day, 1935.  Next January, they will celebrate their 60th anniversary! Last fall, Loren hiked to the top of a mountain and Oregon, where they now live.  His early training lent to his still being physically fit and 84.  Their marriage lead to the birth of one son, Norman Kling (me), and one daughter, Lorelie Kling Merrill.

My earliest recollection of the canyon and the cabin was in the late 1930s, when my dad carried me in a knapsack with holes cut for my legs.  There was a swinging bridge at First Water, and the ranger station was across the creek at the foot of the trail.  Before the step dams were built, we went down the West Fork side of the creek and crossed another swinging bridge opposite cabin six.  I remember saying the "old trail" and the “new trail."  The “old trail” met the road somewhere between the Hermit Trail and the present trailhead.  It was what remained of the original five-mile trail to First Water.  After the ‘38 flood, it was no longer passable.  Today, if you go up the First Water trail to the first switchback, the old trail continues straight ahead instead of turning.  It's blocked by a large slide, and you can't even see any remains from the present trail.

After the ‘38 flood, I used to ask why the trees were laying down in the stream bed.  My parents used to talk about “before and after the flood." For years, I thought the “flood" was one and the same as the flood in Genesis in the days of Noah! The flood washed out the water pipe and some of the terraces around the cabin but it didn't touch the cabin.

 In 1939, my parents had to move from the house they were renting in Glendale when the landlord died.  They decided to move into the cabin.  We moved in with another family who had two girls.  Our family used the bedroom and they used the porch.  I was still in a crib, about three years old.  I remember playing outside, and I got to a terrible case of poison oak.  At that time, I wasn't sure which plant caused it, even though my parents pointed it out to me.

My dad and Hinney hiked up the trail every morning and drove to town to go to work, leaving Mom and Mary with me and the girls, Patty and Diane.  They had to get water in a pail from the stream and heated on the wood stove to wash clothes, dishes and to bathe.  The clothes were washed on a washboard and ironed with a flatiron which had a removable wood would handle and which was heated on the stove.

My dad, Loren, used a star drill to hammer out a hole in a big boulder planning to cement an eyebolt and to reattach the cable to suspend the water pipe across the canyon.  He never finished.  The hole is about two inches deep.  In the 1950s, a new pipeline was placed across from cabin #3, and the plumbing to #3 and #4 was connected.  Cabin #5 was no longer standing.

During the time we lived at the cabin, my parents had a rodent problem in the bunk beds, and they set a mousetrap.  It was springing every few minutes all-night long.  The mice were running right above their faces.  They decided to tear out the bunk beds. The bathroom/bedroom was not finished after that, but was used for storage as long as we owned the cabin.

After a few months, my mother and Mary had a disagreement, and the other family moved out, leaving my mother and me during the day.  One day Mom and I were going to hike up to the falls.  Our cocker spaniel wouldn't let us out the door.  She stood between us and a rattlesnake.  The snake bit Mitzy (the dog) and Mitzy ran away.  Mom made me stay inside from then on.  We called and called the dog, but she didn't come back until three days later.  She recovered, but was blind in one eye.  The snake must have bitten her in one eye.  It wasn't long after that event that we moved back to the city.

During World War II, gas was rationed and we didn't go to the cabin very often.  The cabin needed repair, and I remember a work party when Loren and his brothers, Spencer and Robert, along with their parents and families, carried roofing down on the shoulders to put on a new roof.  They also replaced rotten flooring on the side porch.

I was about five or six years old when I learned how to play the Victrola.  It was during one Sunday when many of the relatives were playing cards that I picked the Star Spangled Banner, and all of the adults stood at attention.  This gave me attention, so I playing it over and over until I was told to stop or get a spanking!

 George Kling passed away in 1944.  Spencer and Loren engaged in furniture manufacturing and worked six sometimes seven days a week, and Robert’s family moved to Oregon. The cabin wasn’t used very much.  I remember going up and raking leaves at least once a year for the annual fire protection cleanup.  Sometimes my grandmother Ardella went along.  The last time she went into the canyon was in the summer of 1950, when she prepared a delicious lunch while Spencer and I raked leaves.  I believe my cousin Roger, Robert’s son, a friend of Roger’s and a friend of mine were along.  Ardella passed away in November 1950.

During the 1950s, I was in my teens and I was very interested in the Canyon.  My friends and I climbed just about every mountain and explored every trail.  One trail I hope will be restored someday is the East Fork.  At least as far as Adams Falls.  Very few people in recent years have seen these beautiful Falls.  Two Falls, side by side, from Spring Camp drop into a deep gorge.

During the era of the 1950s, there was quite a bit of vandalism and we had to repair broken windows.  It was then my dad, Loren, and I made wood shutters for the windows to protect the glass.

One time, my uncle Max, a friend of mine and I went to the cabin.  It was raining.  We expected my parents, Loren an Vivian Kling, two aunts and my sister, Lorelie, to come that evening.  It was nearly dark when we heard a knock.  It was Dad.  He had left the women on the trail.  They were carrying food in paper sacks which were disintegrating in the rain.  We went up and loaded the food into my backpack and got everyone down the trail to the cabin.  Dad didn't have a flashlight, and when he crossed the stream, he got completely soaked in the deep pool!

By the 1950s, the old wood stove in the living room was in very poor condition.  The legs were gone and it was perched on a flat rock, but was wobbly.  It had been raining, and the wood was wet.  We had a hard time getting the fire started.  My dad poured kerosene on it get to an up it blazes it went!  I immediately dropped the cover on it, and the stove rocked, dislodging the stovepipe.  Flames were coming out into the room and I was trying to put the pipe back together burning my hands. (Not seriously.)  Dad threw a bucket of water on the fire and put it out. The cabin almost burned down that time.  Shortly thereafter, the stove was replaced by a small brand-new potbelly from Sears.  Bill Adams probably remembers hauling it down there.

About the same time as the stove was replaced, vandals pushed the outhouse off the hill, so we built a new one where it's presently located.  I spent much time digging that pit.  It was hard digging, we tried several spots and hit lots of rocks.

I found two 1908 Victor Talking Machine gramophones under the cabin.  These were the kind with the external wood horn.  I asked if I could have them, and thankfully got a yes.  Between the two, I had enough parts to make one working model.  Dumb Normal!  I sold it to the Glendale Music Company, a RCA Victor dealer, for $15.  It's worth about $1000 today.

 I bought an old Victrola and about 20 records from Mac Conway of cabin No. 61 and carried them down to cabin #4.  The phonograph was still there when the cabin was sold, but I brought the records home.  I still have some of them.

I also got to know "Bogey" Bogardas,  who owned cabin #1 below Hermit Falls and Riley, who worked for Bill and Lila Adams at the pack station.  We were also friends with Smitty and Becky Smith, who owned cabin #3 during the ‘50s.

About 1950, cabin #5 disappeared.  All that remains is the stone foundation.  We think it was dynamited, as we found a small hole in our roof with a piece of wood painted the same color is cabin #5 protruding from the hole!  (Bill Adams remembers a tree crushing cabin # 5. -Ed.)

During the fire of 1953, a shed behind cabin #4 burned to the ground.  The shed was owned by the owners of cabin #3.  The tall pine tree next to the shed was scorched and apparently died.  In 1957 the pine tree fell over and landed on the roof of cabin #4.  A large live oak between the pine and the cabin broke the fall, and the pine just lay on the cabin without having caused any damage.  You can see where a larger branch of the oak broke.  This scar is still visible in 1994.

One time, when I was with a friend hiking in at night with flashlights, we were coming up from the stream to the back door when we were startled by a loud roar.  Thinking it was a bear or a mountain lion, we shined the light up the hill behind cabin #4 in the direction of the sound and were surprised to see a donkey!  Bill Adams had built a corral on the flat area above the old outhouse and left several burros there to graze, unbeknownst to us.

On another occasion my friend Stewart and I rode bicycles from Montrose to Chantry Flat.  We made a big mistake and rode down the bank from the upper parking lot to the lower.  I slipped and sprained my ankle.  We hid the bikes in the brush and hiked down the trail to cabin #4 and then back up to Chantry Flat, and rode home to Montrose the same day.  The next morning, I couldn't step on my ankle, which took several weeks to heal.

Another time, I wanted to explore the “old trail" of the fifties.  I was alone (another mistake.)  By that time, the trail was nearly obscured by slides and brush growing right in the middle of the trail, which had been abandoned for the last 25 years. (Since before the ‘38 flood.)  I was able to follow it all the way to the road, but encountered a wasp's nest along the way while I was entangled in brush and got stung above one eye.  I also found the halfway house where Mr. Clark was still living.  He commented that he didn't see many people on the trail anymore.  They had gotten lazy since the road had been built.  (The halfway house was on the old trail to the town of Sierra Madre.  Mr. Joe Clark died in the mid '50s.  The telephone relay station is at the approximate location of the old halfway house.  --Ed.)

 When my grandmother died in 1950, the family estate was divided in such a way that my father, Loren Kling, got the cabin.  He was going to give it to me.  After the fire which swept through in 1953 and the construction of the step dams, I had moved to San Diego and thought it was too far to be able to properly maintained the cabin.  I had thought the cabin had been ruined by the fires and dams, so my dad sold the cabin in about 1960.

I usually go up to Big Santa Anita Canyon about once a year and have shown it to all of my children, grandchildren and nephews.

 The last time I saw the old bathtub, it was partly buried in the sand just upstream from cabin No. 2.  This was about 20 years ago and apparently someone didn't like it.  Possibly it was one like it, which was removed from another cabin destroyed in the flood.

I usually leave a note at the cabin when I visit.  I haven't been inside the cabin since it was sold by my parents.

Back to Stories...

All rights reserved.