John Lang’s family has lived in Placerita Canyon for almost 100 years, and so Lang has about a century’s worth of memories to share.
In that time, the Langs opened Placerita Canyon Mobile Home Park Inc., which has become more than just a business to Lang, who still runs the park to this day.
The family history
It all began in the late 1920s, when Lang’s grandparents moved to Placerita Canyon at a time when it was nothing but a dirt road running through the hills.
His grandfather Kenneth Williams was a cowboy and champion trick rider, who would compete locally at the Baker Ranch Rodeo, which would later come to be known as the Saugus Speedway.
Once Williams retired from the rodeo, he began training horses on the family’s ranch.
“People would stop by while he trained the horses and stay (at the ranch),” Lang said. “Then one thing led to another, and he stopped training the horses, but he had spaces for these people that were staying, so they put trailers in there, and they became a little trailer park with 10 spaces.”
In the early 60s, Williams added more spaces to the lot, making it more like an actual mobile home park.
A little hard work along the way
“My grandparents raised me because my parents were in show business, and they were traveling around the world, so I’ve lived here all my life,” Lang said.
Since he was 14 years old, Lang has helped to improve the park and make it what it is today.
“I’ve dug ditches, I pulled wire, I grew trees, I’ve laid concrete, put up fencing, landscaping, I’ve built buildings,” he added.
When Williams died in 1968, Lang helped his grandmother to continue running the park until she, too, died in 1978.
It was his grandmother who taught him the value of being kind to others, as she was kind with her residents, including Lang’s future wife, Julie. Julie moved in with her family years ago, at a time when the property typically only housed adults.
“My grandmother let them move in, even though we were an adult park, because Julie and her brother were preteens,” Lang said. “She told them, ‘I just don’t want to ever see them because it could cause problems.’”
They kept to their word, and Lang spent almost a year completely unaware they even resided on the property.
The importance of a kind gesture
When he and Julie were married in 1982, she began helping with the park.
“Before I met her, I was literally living off the quarters in the laundry room because the park wasn’t making any money,” Lang said. “She was the manager of a bank and she was good with numbers and money, so she took over and made it livable, so we could raise our kids.”
Julie took the reins for the next 30-plus years until she died three years ago, helping Lang to make the park into what it is today: a home for 32 residents and their families.
“I’m in a good place because of her, so I’ve got to thank her for that,” Lang added. “She straightened it out, and now we are what we are, so I’m able to help people when I can.”
When the pandemic hit, Lang decided to do just that, giving each of his tenants a free month’s rent.
“I gave it in two lumps because I still have bills to pay, so I couldn’t just not have money come in that month,” he said. “So I gave them May and June off, half on one month and half the next month.”
Before making the decision, Lang talked to his daughter, who lives in the park with her family.
“Everybody paid in April, and it was amazing because that was in the height of nobody working,” Lang said. “I told my daughter, since everybody paid rent, I’ve got to thank them somehow, and this was my ‘thank you’ for not just taking advantage of me and not paying rent.”
Though his daughter Mallory Klein said she was worried, she told him to go for it.
“I thought it was nice and generous,” Klein said. “I was just hoping that people appreciated it, and fortunately for him, everybody continued to pay rent (afterward).”
For Lang, it was simply an opportunity to help his residents and maybe give him a little bit of good karma.
“This is a scary time,” he added. “I knew people were struggling, and I felt that if they could pay half their rent and not have to worry about paying all of it, it would be less of a stress on them.”
In a letter he sent to residents, Lang told them he felt as though they were like family and should be treated in the same way.
“The days ahead are filled with uncertainty and hardships for many of us,” he wrote. “I hope this small gesture will help ease some of the hardships everyone is going through at this time. We will get through this together.”
Lang used some of his savings to get through the two months, and since then, each and every resident has continued to pay their rent.
More than just a park
When the Langs moved off the property to Saugus when their daughters were young, Lang continued to come to the park on weekdays, treating it almost like a day job.
“Since my mom passed away, he’s definitely spent a lot more time here,” Klein said. “Now he’s spending seven days a week at the park. … I think he really cares about his tenants, otherwise he wouldn’t spend so much time here. I work from home right now, so I sit here and I watch him talking to tenants all day, (which) just shows he likes what he does.”
For Lang, his residents truly have become like family to him, “and they take care of me in a way, too,” he added, referring to when his wife was sick before she died.
“He grew up here, so I think it’s more than a business,” Klein added. “I forget sometimes that it’s his business because to me, this is just my family thing. This is where my grandma grew up and where my dad grew up, and I lived here when I was younger, and my mom’s family also lived here. So for me, we’ve come out of this place.”
It was that sentiment that he expressed to residents in his letter that he has exemplified as he continues to run the park after Julie’s death.
“My wife passed away three years ago,” Lang said. “She always said when I turned 65, we were going to leave, but that didn’t happen. I tell people now, ‘Unfortunately, you’re stuck with me.’”