The Real Slim on Shady

Arthur “Slim” Vaughan moved to the Crescenta Valley in the early 1930s in his late 20s. After bouncing about for a time, he moved in with his mother Inez and stepfather Willard on Shadygrove Street near Marcus Avenue in Tujunga. He’d been working in construction, doing electrical work for some years, but now he would reinvent himself. He grew out his hair and beard and dubbed himself the Southwest Tumbleweed. He purportedly appeared in a number of western films, but I’ve been unable to find any such record. Perhaps he appeared in the background with uncredited roles.

Down in Orange County, and smack dab in the middle of the Depression, Walter and Cordelia Knott began serving chicken dinners to make ends meet. It wasn’t long before word spread of Cordelia’s delectable chicken and long lines of hungry patrons soon extended out the door. Walter, cleverly, decided to give these folks something to do while they waited and began the development of what would become Knott’s Berry Farm.

Early attractions included a small volcano flanked by a gold mine. Visitors could pass through a mineshaft, which led to an open pit, where they could pan for gold. Slim had the look of an old-time prospector and saw his opportunity. Shortly after the gold mine opened, Slim was there, assisting visitors as they panned for gold among Walter’s growing attractions. A western ghost town was soon added, expanding Slim’s role in the burgeoning park.

It’s easy to imagine that this weekend gig at Knott’s Berry Farm wasn’t bringing home the proverbial bacon, so Slim developed other means of remuneration back here at home. Locally, he was known as a tree surgeon with the greenest of thumbs. He could often be seen inspecting, trimming and removing fallen branches. He was easily recognized by his long locks and beard – uncommon at the time. By all accounts he was beloved by our community and was considered one of Tujunga’s most colorful characters. In general, people said he made them smile.

Slim was also a traveler. In one photograph he appears next to his truck, a sign stating, “Touring 48 States, Canada and Mexico from California to Maine, from Florida to Washington, 35,000 miles.” While in New York in 1958, Slim dropped by CBS Studios to be a guest on the hit TV show, “What’s my Line?” The program aired that same year on May 4 when Slim stated that he lived in Sunland-Tujunga in the Green Verdugo Hills and described it as being the “most beautiful place in the world.”

Everyone is invited to see this iconic television clip from 1958 of Arthur “Slim” Vaughan, the same year he was named honorary mayor of Sunland-Tujunga, on June 22 at the Verdugo Hills Cemetery, 7000 Parson Trail in Tujunga. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., runs 80 minutes and is free of charge. In this new presentation, Tujunga on TV, Slim appears along with a handful of other clips of TV shows filmed in the area or locals appearing on television from 1958 through the present.

On a humorous note, Slim once met a beautiful young model and love quickly followed. They became engaged but she had one demand before they married: he must cut that mangy hair and beard. Slim then appeared at the barbershop and, while much of the town watched the spectacle in amazement through the window, he was transformed into a handsome, clean-shaven man – truly unrecognizable from his former self. The engagement didn’t last and it wasn’t long before once again Slim was seen sporting his trademark long hair and beard.

Craig W. Durst, AKA The History Hunter, is a historian of the Tujunga Rancho and President of the Friends of Verdugo Hills Cemetery. He can be reached at craig@thehistoryhunter.com.