Knolls Ranger: Origin Story

The Knolls Ranger is the Official Greeter & Superhero of the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach.

As the story goes, his origins are deeply shrouded in the bean fields of Lakewood:

Old Bixby Place

Spawned from a ginormous Lima bean at the Bixby’s Thanksgiving Dinner  in the age of the Ranchos – the Ranger was cast out of Long Beach by the Bixby settlers.

He was found and raised amongst the Tongva Indians who inhabited a lakey, woody area just north of L.B. city limits.

Isolated for years after getting lost during a manhood ritual, the Ranger eked out a proto-suburban existence in a track-home he designed and fastened out of thistle and homemade Portland cement.

In the middle of the last century, Louis Boyar, Ben Weingart, and Mark Taper (collectively known as “The Lakewood Fathers”) encountered the Ranger while surveying land they planned to develop into the nation’s prototypical suburban “contract city,” Lakewood.

The Lakewood Fathers dazzled the Ranger with heroic tales of World War II (which came as quite a shock to someone who hadn’t yet heard of World War I) and how the “GI Bill” would help brave American soldiers find peace, solitude and the American dream in 17,000 new Lakewood homes just like the Ranger’s.

The Knolls Ranger, a do-gooder by nature, agreed to help the Lakewood Fathers develop Lakewood for the returning “GIs” and used his super-abilities to complete over 500 homes a day.

The Lakewood Fathers were able to keep the Ranger’s work a secret by hiring dozens of sub-contractors to build eight foot tall walls along every street (these are the parkway walls of today, supposedly meant to protect neighborhoods from the hustle and bustle of cross-town traffic).

While the Ranger slaved away to help his fellow man, the Lakewood Fathers hatched the final stages of the sinister plot they called “The Lakewood Plan.”

Boyar, Weignart and Taper utilized the monies saved from Lakewood’s construction (they paid the Ranger with string and shiny buttons) to devise the ultimate weapon against Main Street, USA. They called it, the Lakewood Regional Towne Center.

The Towne Center had a destabilizing effect on neighboring Long Beach’s downtown and Bixby Knolls area and became the blueprint for automobile-dependent suburban living all over the country. The Lakewood Plan and Lakewood Regional Towne Center effectively became  ‘weapons of mass destruction’ when they were copied all over L.A. County and the world.

But back in the 1950′s, the Knolls Ranger had no idea that he was helping bring demise to the multi-use development bliss of Long Beach and beyond. While he fastened a final doorknob ona  Loomis Street single family home, he was startled by Boyar, Weingart and Taper: “Put this on,”  Taper demanded. He handed the Ranger a gimmicky cowboy costume typical of the era.

The Ranger adorned his new garbs and followed the Lakewood Fathers up the street to a large building he’d never noticed. There were hundreds of automobiles and thousands of people celebrating the historic opening of the Lakewood Regional Towne Center. The Ranger, in his cowboy costume, had been co-opted to entertain children while their parents shopped at Macy’s and argued over parking spaces.

Meanwhile, the Mom’s and Pop’s of Bixby Knolls, an idyllic mixed-use shopping district to the south had caught wind of the Towne Center, and they headed north with pick-axes in arm and torches ablaze. When the posse arrived, they demanded to know who was behind the utter demise of their district. The Lakewood Fathers pointed to the Knolls Ranger and said in unison: “He did it!”

The angry mob chased the Ranger right out of Lakewood, shouting “string him up,” as they chased him by the 100-ft. tower enchanting GIs to buy a (Knolls Ranger-built) Lakewood home.

The Ranger found safe refuge in the Rancho Los Cerritos, which was practically abandoned and in ill-repair. He crawled into a fruit crate and fell asleep for a long, long time.

Several years into the Ranger’s Rip van Winkle-esque slumber, the City of Long Beach purchased the Rancho Los Cerritos and began to restore the property as a museum. The fruit box the Knolls Ranger was in, along with several others, were shipped to the Long Beach Ice Company to be kept in cold storage until they could be dealt with.

A few turnovers at the City and the boxes were forgotten about for a very long time.

But then, a few years back, the Long Beach Ice Company was doing renovations and discovered a false wall that was concealing an odd assortment of historic fruit crates. The Ice Company contacted the Historical Society, who had just moved to Bixby Knolls, and asked if they would take the boxes back.

The fruit crates arrived at the Historical Society on a sunny day, but the contents (including the Ranger!) were still frozen stiff. The staff carefully excavated the boxes and were quite startled when discovering a frozen Superhero in a cowboy outfit.

“It must be a mannequin from some old city collection,” assumed the staff, and they placed him in the window.  The staff placed a little white card in the window next  to the new display. The staff member pondered what to write and then it came to her, “Knolls Ranger.”

Strike a Pose

A few hours in the hot sun was enough to re-animate the Knolls Ranger. Disoriented, he rubbed his eyes and read the words in front of him “REGNAR SLLONK.”

“That must be me,” the Ranger thought, still disoriented from the intense brain freeze.  He suddenly remembered all of the events that had taken place – the Bixby’s bean pod, the Lakewood Fathers, the people of Bixby Knolls – and right then and there, he stated this oath:

“I, REGNAR SLLONK, promise to help place the true interest of the community before mere commercialism and financial success. We have here an exceptional city and it’s a proud and grateful task to serve such a people and build up such a land!”

After reciting his oath, the Knolls Ranger thought, “Gosh, I’m hungry.” He moseyed out of the Historical Society to one of Bixby’s fine eateries. From the outside of the museum, he saw the little white card in the window display from which he came. He read. “Knolls Ranger” and thought, “Hmmm…that’s a much better name.”