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Old Trapper's Relics, or, "What are those strange statues?"

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Do you ever happen upon something in the realm of local history that stirs your interest enough to employ good old Google in order to delve into it just a little further? It's that sort of curiosity that killed the cat, we suppose. It happened to us just the other day, when we caught a sort of "favorite moments" episode of Huell Howser's show on KCET. He re-ran an old feature from the late 80s about a spot called "Old Trapper's Lodge," which is just a couple of miles from our home. Well, actually, it was just a couple of miles, on Keswick Street in Sun Valley; as it turns out, despite being designated a California State Historic Landmark, it was torn down! But what was it that caught our attention? And what became of it?

Old Trapper was actually John Ehn, who came to California by way of Michigan in 1941. He was full of tales of the Old West, and in 1945 he opened his motel, and hired a guy to make a statue of an old trapper, modeled on himself. He go so into it that he started making statues of his own, using his family members as models. He did this for thirty years, and died in 1981 at the age of 84. In the mid 80s the motel was declared a landmark, but a few years later (probably not too long after the Howser piece) it was demolished to make way for the Burbank Airport. But the statues went to live on the campus of Pierce College, and some even say they haunt the school, though generally they're ignored by most, and tended to by a mysterious few. Old Trapper's pieces of "folk art" are indeed oddities, and definitely a kind of roadside attraction that can take you off the beaten bath out of sheer curiosity. We're happy that the relics have a home, though we're sad that the landmark was torn down (how can that happen, we wonder?) and that the attitude at Pierce is kind of laissez-faire. To check them out for yourself, head to the Pierce campus, which is at 6201 Winnetka Avenue, in Woodland Hills.

Photo: Roadside America