Curator Curtis Newman and Historian Bonnie C. Kane of the Ridge Route
Communities Museum & Historical Society in Frazier Park show the Ramona Cradle as they
transfer it to the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society on Jan. 27, 2001.
The "Ramona Cradle," as Robert E. Callahan called it, was donated in 1963 by
Mary Berger, owner of Rancho Camulos, to Callahan's Mission Village in Culver City.
The name derives from "Ramona," the 1884 novel by Helen Hunt Jackson that was
loosely based on Jackson's visit two years earlier with the Del Valle family at Rancho Camulos
in the western Santa Clarita Valley (near Piru). Callahan, an actor, author and pseudo-historian
with an interest in Native Americans, moved his Mission Village tourist attraction in 1963 to Sierra Highway
in Saugus-Agua Dulce, where he called it Callahan's Old West Trading Post. (The Mission Village
property was needed for the Santa Monica Freeway.) Following Callahan's death, his widow,
Marion (Kitty Kelley), donated the cradle along with the Ramona Chapel,
Red Schoolhouse and other items from Callahan's Old West to the SCV Historical Society
in 1987. After the death of the Society's first curator, Jerry Reynolds, in 1996, the cradle
was missing until January 2001, when historian Bonnie C. Kane of the Ridge
Route Communities Museum & Historical Society realized it had found its way to Frazier Park, with
certain other items. The Ridge Route museum's log book confirmed the cradle's identity as
the one "from Rancho Camulos;" it and the other missing items were repatriated with
the SCV Historical Society.
Restored by Ridge Route Communities Museum curator Curtis Newman, the cradle is fabricated
with square nails, placing its origin in the 19th Century. Descendants of
Ygnacio del Valle owned Rancho Camulos until the 1920s, so the cradle probably belonged
to the Del Valle family.
Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society collection, courtesy of Marion Callahan
and the Ridge Route Communities Museum & Historical Society.
Robert E. Callahan's Old West Trading Post, aka Indian Village, at 13660 Sierra Highway in "Outlaw Canyon" was the equivalent of an amusement park of its day.
Callahan (b. Oct. 27, 1892; d. Jan. 10, 1981), an entertainer and novelist, exploited America's fascination with all things Western —
especially the romanticized notions of
Old California as presented by Helen Hunt Jackson in her seminal 1884 novel, "Ramona" — by collecting objects with a connection, real or imagined,
to the novelist and her work, and enticing the public to experience them.
Callahan's initial visions of creating an amusement park to be called Ramona Village morphed into the Mission Village Auto Court, which he opened in 1926
at 5675 W. Washington Blvd. in Culver City. Along with a themed hotel, he erected teepees for travelers and put his collections on display, including a chapel,
little red schoolhouse and kiva (a small sweat lodge).
Auto parks were big business as the automobile came into age in the 1920s. There were a few auto parks in the Santa Clarita Valley, most notably McIntyre's camp at Castaic Junction, which was wiped out in the 1928 St. Francis Dam disaster.
In time, L.A. city builders had a different vision for Callahan's Culver City property. By the early 1960s, Mission Village stood in the way of the coming I-10 Santa Monica Freeway. So in 1962 Callahan
closed Mission Village and moved it to 13660 Sierra Highway. (The freeway was completed in 1965).
Note: In Callahan's day, that part of Sierra Highway was known as Saugus. The county of Los Angeles later included it within the Acton-Agua Dulce Town Council's sphere of influence. It is commonly considered part of Agua Dulce today.
In 1987, Callahan's widow, Marion, donated several artifacts from the former Indian Village — including the Ramona Chapel and little red schoolhouse — to the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.
The main building remained on the property, and from From 1986-2000, Marion Callahan leased it to the Canyon Theatre Guild. In 2000 the CTG moved back to downtown Newhall where the community theatre had started.