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Model A Day

Recently I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at a meeting of the Santa Barbara Model A Club about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, the Tecolote Canyon. I was happy to do so, and we had a great time, but my big payoff was an invitation to join the club on an upcoming outing. A day that turned out to be a memorable tour of some historic Goleta locations.

We all met at the recently reopened and thriving Timbers Roadhouse. It was a treat to see the beautifully restored old cars lined up in front of the beautifully restored historic building.

The Timbers was built in the 1950s by Tex Blankenship, a man with a vision to make something like a theme park in western Goleta. His first move was to build a restaurant using reclaimed timbers from some of the Ellwood piers, including the ones that were shelled by the Japanese during WW II. Unfortunately, his theme park dreams never came to fruition, but an experienced restauranteur later opened the restaurant and named it the Timbers, after the reclaimed pier pilings. As a kid in the late 1960s, my parents took me there for a few dinners. The only recollection I have was a cowboy named “Timbers Bill” that wandered around the restaurant, giving kids little trinkets.

When everyone was ready, the Grand Model A tour began. We all cruised in a line down Calle real to our next destination, the Tecolote Ranch Hacienda in Rancho Embarcadero.

The Tecolote Hacienda is a private residence that has been beautifully restored and maintained by the current owners, and they were kind enough to open the gates for the Model A Club. Seeing all the restored cars pulling into the circular driveway was perfect, like taking a trip back in time. Both the hacienda and the cars were built in the late 1920s, so you can be sure this wasn’t the first time a Model A has graced this driveway.

We made our way into the hacienda and gathered in the scenic courtyard where the owner gave us an excellent rundown of the history of the canyon and the hacienda. It was obvious he had given this speech before, and he was as enamored by the history as we were.

Once inside the thick concrete walls, the atmosphere was idyllic. The upkeep on the hacienda was remarkable, from the paint to the landscaping, everything was in perfect condition. The job the current owners have done with maintaining this Goleta landmark is worthy of my Saviors of Goleta History page.

Situated at the back of the Tecolote Canyon, the hacienda has its own microclimate, as well as spectacular canyon views.

Every hedge trimmed square, every blade of grass kept in check, Silsby Spalding is surely smiling down at the state of his beloved hacienda. If you haven’t read the remarkable history of this ranch, you should take a moment to do so. Here is a link to the Tecolote Canyon story.

We were allowed to wander through the main wing of the hacienda and soak up the atmosphere. It is so well maintained and cared for, it was very much like a comfortable, lived-in museum exhibit. Many original pieces of furniture, paintings, statues and some knick knacks have been found and placed back in the hacienda they came from.

Like this great statue of two owls, or tecolotes, the namesake for the canyon.

There was an extensive library with an impressive number of books, and even more impressive….

….a revolving bookshelf that revealed a hidden bar. Because all that reading will make a person real thirsty!

A few piles of old photos were left out in the living room for us to enjoy. This shot of the courtyard back in the day gives the impression that the landscape is better maintained today!

Glancing out the living room window, I had to stop and take a photo. Like looking through a window into the past.

Like being at a big Spalding soiree in 1920s Goleta.

Soon it was time to head out to our next stop on the Model A tour. The century old chariots were fired up and headed out in single file line. Following these guys was like being in a parade, everybody we passed stopped and gawked and usually waved.

Next stop was a quick lunch at Sandpiper Golf Course, for some beautiful views of the coast. The amount of history in this little area is staggering. This was once the most productive oil field in the world, providing millions of tax dollars and jobs to the south coast and it was also the site of one of the only mainland attacks in American history.

The next stop was just down the street. The club members lined their Model As up in front of the historic Barnsdall Rio Grande filling station. Goleta’s all-time favorite and most unmaintained landmark. Ty Warner could certainly learn a thing or two about historic preservation from the owners of the Tecolote Hacienda and the owners of these cars.

Seeing these historic items together was a real treat. Lots of folks honked their horns as they passed, and a few even pulled over for a closer look at the spectacle of it all.

Once again, we have to emphasize how much everyone loves the Barnsdall gas station, and what a horrible crime it is to let it continue to rot. The city of Goleta can blame the owner, Ty Warner, all they want, but at the end of the day, it sits in the city of Goleta, and they really should be able to influence the owner to do something. Before it’s too late. However, given the city’s recent disdain for the history of petroleum in Goleta, maybe they would rather let this old gas station crumble to the ground and be forgotten?

With a little help from technology, these modern photos can be made to look like a gathering from days gone by.

While the cars may look brand new, the gas station still shows her age.

At any rate, it was a special day, and I am very grateful to the Santa Barbara Model A Club for allowing us to tag along on this brief journey into Goleta’s past.

Categories: Goleta History

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Tom Modugno

9 replies

  1. What a great opportunity and wonderful way to tour historic sites. The only way it could have been better was to have the cars parked at the Two Hangars!

  2. Tom,

    Again you dazzle with your reporting! I never knew of the Tecolote Ranch, just the canyon. Friends from previous generations lived lower in the canyon. I also learned this late in life that “tecolote” is owl in Spanish (and I had considered myself to be a good student of the language!).

    I was in SB over the past weekend with a full schedule, but I happened to snap a photo of a striking classic car parked in front of Hollister Brewery. Now I know why I saw it!

    I tried to put the photo in this comment box but apparently that’s not permitted.

  3. Tom great story my friend. Timbers Bill, that reminded of when Timbers Bill would come practice his old west show in the park behind my house on Manchester and Calle Real. He would practice with his Six guns ( blanks) and long whips. All us neighborhood kids would go running to the park at first sound of the whips cracking and colts bang. He would pick a kid and have them stand very still with a rolled up piece of paper in our mouth sticking out about the length of binder paper. He would then pick up his whip and cut the paper from 15-20 feet away. The crack of the whip was as loud as pistol.
    One time I even invited him over for dinner without asking my parents first. The look on my parents face was pure shock. Here’s this little kid and slender old cowboy at door and the little boy asking, if his friend can join the family for dinner.
    Being good Catholics they said yes. We had a good time eating a great Mexican meal my mom had prepared. Bill didn’t have much money he lived in his grey-blue early 60’s Oldsmobile station wagon. He made candles to sell for whatever he could. For little spending money. I am sure my mom’s cooking was the best meal he had in a very long time.

    1. Wow! Now THAT is a great story Rudy! I’m stoked to hear someone else remembers Timbers Bill, because nobody ever knew what I was talking about. I was starting to think it was all a dream. So now its confirmed, but who knew he was a homeless cowboy! Thanks for sharing that great bit of history, and for being so kind to the legendary Timbers Bill…

      1. Any time my friend.
        Maybe consider a piece on Winchester Canyon, the old gun club that was back there, the walnut grove that was in production for decades and the old stage coach road that came down from West Camino Ceilo.

  4. This is so cool! What a great event to honor our city! I do hope the City of Goleta finds a way to preserve the Barnsdall Gas Station-such a beautiful landmark.

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