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A Chronicle of the Passing Scene

August 21, 1992|SUE REILLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bringing Home the Gold

While some of our million-dollar babies were slam-dunking gold medals in Barcelona, Ian Rawlinson of North Hollywood was getting some of his own in another venue.

Rawlinson, who marches to a different drummer, won his gold at the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ontario, Canada, site of his North American championship.

He won two more gold medals at the recent Big Bear Games which, incidentally, culminated with an earthquake.

Rawlinson's event takes a lot of lung power, but he's not a swimmer, and his footwork's fancy, but he doesn't run or jump.

He's a 14-year-old bagpiper. The youngest member of the Los Angeles Scots Pipe Band.

When they yell "Thar he blows" in his neighborhood, they aren't talking about Moby Dick.

His brother, Justin Rawlinson, 18, is a big supporter.

"We have some Scots blood, he and I were both interested in the bagpipes," his brother says. "But Ian was really serious, he's really good."

That admiration hasn't kept Justin and his friends from occasionally threatening to lock Ian in his room, a room their mother, Maureen Rawlinson, says she's going to soundproof.

So why does a nice-looking, athletic, musical kind of guy just entering Notre Dame High School play the bagpipes? Why not go for some sport with endorsement money or at least a rock band with the groupie perk?

"It's cool," he says. "Bagpiping has a lot of class and history attached to it."

Employment opportunities are definitely limited, however.

"Still, it's something you can enjoy all your life," he says.

Saddled With a Status Symbol

Dave Thornbury of Agoura isn't sure if he likes being thought of as someone who makes status symbols, although he does work up creations for movie stars such as Don Johnson.

"When you make saddles and riding tack, you just don't think in those terms," he says, obviously not enamored of elitism as a working concept.

Thornbury is one of the few people in California still making leather saddles by hand.

"I know of another saddle maker in Arizona and one in Nevada, but there aren't too many of us left," he said.

He works from a shop at home or at Calabasas Saddlery, where he has been making and repairing saddles and chaps for more than 15 years.

The former rodeo cowboy from Iowa arrived in California about 20 years ago, checked out the weather and checked in for the duration.

"It was snowing at home. Who needed that?" he now asks.

He made his first saddle about 22 years ago, back in Iowa, by trial and error.

"Before that it was mostly belts and wallets and that kind of stuff," he said.

Now, in addition to making chaps and working on tack at the saddlery, he makes about five or six saddles a year.

"One would cost about $2,000 and up, depending on how much silver you want on it," he said.

It takes him about 50 hours to make one plain saddle, and he takes his time doing it.

"I never tell anyone when a saddle will be finished because I don't know myself," Thornbury said.

He gets a lot of work from the horse-mad in nearby Hidden Hills and Calabasas, but also gets requests to make saddles and chaps and do repairs from all over the country, including those from Hollywood's cinematic cowboys.

"I got a call recently from a wrangler on a movie where the saddles kept falling off the horses and injuring the stuntmen. They were Japanese-made saddles done so poorly they couldn't be cinched properly.

"Once I saw what the problem was, I set about fixing them. But what a waste of time and money," he said, smiling. "It was one of those lessons in the fact that what seems like the cheapest way may not always be best."

One for the Books

You may remember Kerri Wong, who waged the one-woman battle against a particular pool hall coming into Burbank.

She wasn't mad about the proposed pool hall or even the fact that the proposed establishment might get a liquor license, she said. "I'm not anti-pool, I'm not even anti-drinking. That's not what I'm mad about," she insisted. "I'm not anti-anything. I'm pro book."

Wong said turning the Book Castle--a giant, low-profit supermarket of used books and magazines--into some kind of yuppie billiard parlor was not just wrong but outrageous.

The world, according to Wong, needs more books and fewer games.

Without any co-conspirators, she began picketing in front of the Book Castle with signs to let the landlord know exactly where she stood.

Then a couple of other people joined her. Then some more, until it became a popular cause. Finally the billiard parlor people said they weren't interested in a lease at that location anymore.

Wong declared the pullout a People's Victory.

Her first encounter with participatory citizenship was a great success, she says happily.

She's now got her preservationist sights set on the Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake that may be torn down.

Fallen Firefighter

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