by Geri Chandler

Corriganville was no longer.... Hopetown was the new title when I first visited the ranch.

I was 15 at the time. Shirley Chandler had returned to the ranch and Jim Howell gave her a place to stay behind one of the store fronts in an apartment. The main street was lined with apartments behind the false fronts. It was a real town at one time having its own Post Office, I understand. We used the dark room to develop pictures we took of ourselves and friends acting like stunt people--kid stuff. I was dating Shirley's only son, Don. They helped Jim with the ranch--to take care of Flash, keep the riff-raff out and oversee things when film crews would rent the premises. I stayed there with them most of the time. The town was closed to the public then.

Charlie Manson and his gang came there and camped at the lake. Jim Howell kicked them out. It was only a few weeks before they made themselves and Old Man Spahn's Ranch famous for the crimes they committed. Jim was shocked when he realized WHO he had tossed out. We had moved back to the San Fernando Valley and were there at least one year before the fires came. They ran through the ranch taking all of Main Street in its wake before heading over the mountains toward Malibu. We went to see the aftermath. The apartments were gone. All that remained were the "melted" stove and metal cabinets. Jim Howell's house was burnt to the ground too.

I had heard many stories about the town second hand and stayed there after all the dust had settled, but it still left a strong impression on me. Some of my most memorable years.