Hello, saddlepals. I’ve a question. How can you possibly NOT read a story with the headline, Miss SCV Nude Universe? You can’t. You’re powerless.
C’mon. As is our Sunday drill, I am waiting at the entrance of your McMansion, $4,025-a-month studio or sprawling Sand Canyon ranch, with several thousand steeds, hot coffee and pastries. You stumble out. You put your foot (the left one) into the stirrup and swing your ample hips up and over. Then, we go exploring our valley’s rich and often humorous past.
This week? We’ve got a cannibal to try, a worst-case-scenario cleaning accident, some dirt on my pal, baseball legend Mike Gillespie and a visit with the SCV’s first lady.
C’mon. Sun’s going to burn a hole in our Stetsons if we don’t make it to the time vortex in good order.
WAY BACK & THEN SOME
- It was August 1834. With the signature of military governor Jose Figueroa, all of the Catholic Church’s missions were seized in an act called “secularization.” All the land and properties were briefly given back to the original owners, the Indians. Then, they were easily acquired by wealthy and powerful landowners. Our own satellite mission, San Francisco, was given up. The evicted padres responded by slaughtering between several hundred and several thousand (numbers vary) head of cattle. The new owners found the SCV littered with their carcasses when they rode in to inspect the property.
- Riley Canyon is a little-known indentation off Sand Canyon. In the early 20th century, it was designated a state historical landmark. Back in the 19th century, there was a giant stone mill that crushed quartz crystals, first broken up by laborers. The quartz, mined in nearby Placerita and other canyons, was ground up and processed for gold. I guess we were so desolate out here, state officials never made it out to place a monument. Or, maybe the bronze marker was stolen and melted for scrap.
- It made for one heck of a paperweight. On Aug. 15, 1849, a gold panner found an 8-pound solid gold nugget up San Feliciano Canyon.
- Before we settled on calling ourselves the Santa Clarita Valley, we went by many names. We were informally called Newhall-Saugus, the Soledad Township and probably a few things you wouldn’t repeat in front of your mother. One of our earliest names given on Aug. 15, 1855, when we were recognized as the Tejon Township. Our boundaries covered 1,000 square miles then.
- Horace Truman Cain was born on Aug. 23, 1903, in the Chickasaw Nation that would later become our 46th state, Oklahoma. I wish I could tell you how he got the nickname of “Ace.” He earned it as a boy. The formidable 6-6 and 280-pound Ace became a bootlegger, soldier, movie actor and illegal nightclub owner in L.A. In 1955, he bought the The Rocky Springs Country Club up Sand Canyon Road and changed the sign to, aptly, Ace Cain’s. Rumors were that one could acquire not only a cold beer up there, but also the affections of what politically correct today calls “sexual performance engineering specialists,” or, what our moms called back then — “floozies.” Ace sold his ribald digs to VFW Post 6885. The vets were forced by the bores on the SClarita City Council to sell the place in 1993 for a paltry $295,000. Why? Too noisy. Too much fun.
AUG. 10, 1928
- A pretty tomboy of a girl posed for a photo in front of R.E. Nickel’s store in Acton in 1928. It would be one of thousands she took. Lou Henry’s dad managed a few gold mines in the region and Lou recalled playing in the shafts and slag heaps as a lass. The above photo is not that Acton photo, obviously. But it’s one of my favorites of her. She’s seen here with her sons, Allan (left) and Herbert Jr. Lou led an amazing life, including being the closest thing the SCV has had to a first lady. She was married to President Herbert Hoover.
- My old pal Andy Jauragui died back in 1990 at the age of 87. The hall-of-fame cowboy lived a rich and full life as a rodeo star, stuntman, livestock provider for the movies and coach. Clark Gable used to take How To Be A Cowboy lessons from Andy at his Placerita ranch. Funny story. When word got out that famed movie star Gable and his girlfriend Carole Lombard were at his ranch, some 500 people (much of the valley’s population!) drove out to “drop on by.” Anywho. On this date, Andy got busted up pretty good in a local movie shoot when the stage he was driving flipped — and landed on top of him. Ouch. Andy busted a few ribs and broke a leg. Andy once gave me a cowhide chair Tom Mix gave to him.
- The local fire department bought a spanking brand new fire truck that could spit water 100 feet. It was the 1928 White Motor Co. model.
AUG. 10, 1938
- I hope we never lose that eclectic energy that defines the SCV so. Witness this sign at the entrance to Newhall: “BUN: $2? MEAT: $3? CHISEL: $5? TOTAL: $10?”
- From 1910 to 1938, you entered the south end of the SCV through the Newhall Tunnel. They tore it down, replacing it with Sierra Highway. The Griffith Construction Co. would take out mountains of dirt and nearly fill up Scorpion Canyon and part of Placerita. By August 1938, the project was a third completed.
- Hard to fathom how much media we consume in a day. Entertainment in the SCV consisted of one (1) double feature playing at the Newhall Elementary Auditorium — on Tuesday nights only.
- I believe Smokey Wingfield’s place in Happy Valley would be where Oak intersects Valley today. Smoke built himself his own park, completed with an outdoor boxing ring, dance floor and picnic area. He also built an Olympic-sized pool for his daughter to train for the 1940 Olympics. Poor girl never went. World War II.
AUG. 10, 1948
- My dear amigo Tom Frew lived in the house that today is headquarters for Hart Park. On this date, the Board of Supervisors OK’d the purchase of the 23 acres and house. Same joke I tell for the past 40 years: Tom still hasn’t spent that $10 from the sale.
- Train engineer W.L. Leeper could have picked a better place to blow a train engine. The huge freight train was stuck smack dab inside the Newhall Train Tunnel. Leeper and crew walked through the smoke-filled cavern for help. The train? Eventually, all by its lonesome, just rolled downhill, all the way back to San Fernando.
- The heirs of Miguel Espinoso, jefe of the giant San Martinez Ranch, sued the new owner, oil mogul Bill Barnes, for hundreds of millions. Seems Bill didn’t tell the family back in 1915 their property was sitting on one of the biggest oil fields in California.
AUG. 10, 1958
- Dear me, hard to fathom how common a story this was. Mrs. Violet Russell died from house cleaning on this date. She was using kerosene to scrub the floors, sinks, tile and toilet. Then, she relit the pilot light on the water heater and blew up the house with her in it.
AUG. 10, 1968
- Well. We’re famous for something. An anonymous SCV woman was named Miss Nude Universe. The woman, who also worked as a bunny at the Playboy Club, wouldn’t give her name, interestingly, because she said she didn’t want the attention.
- You can count on bureaucrats and city people to not get the concept. The Saugus Rehab Center was being used as an L.A. City summer program to teach 3,000 inner-city kids the beauty of Nature and how to relate to animals. The program was quickly shut down when investigators called it “…an animal concentration camp.” Sheriff’s deputies and animal control officers discovered 14 caged creatures in shocking conditions. One starved mother rabbit was forced to eat her young. The program directors called the charges, “political.”
- At long last. For decades, the SCV had been victim to violent flash floods and storms. Col. James Irvine Jr. of the Army Corps of Engineers to share they’d be putting in a $43 million flood control project.
AUG. 10, 1978
- Mike Gillespie is one of college baseball’s best coaches of all time. He led College of the Canyons to state titles and, later, won a national title for his alma mater, USC. The Always In Our Hearts A Cougar showed the world his infamous work ethic. In summer of 1978, Mike G challenged the valley’s youth to shoot for that invisible bull’s eye of achievement by teaching a summer class at COC. It was in Frisbee. Yup. Frisbee. Ain’t makin’ it up. The Hall of Fame coach is currently an Anteater. No. I don’t mean he eats ants, though who would we be to judge others? Mike’s the skipper of the U.C. Irvine 9, whose mascot is the Anteater.
Ronald Doyle Wilburn was one of the sickest villains in SCV history. He had been arrested in June for kidnapping, murdering and cannibalizing Mary Ann Linco, a young female hitchhiker. On trial in Encino for his carnage, while on the stand, he was asked what happened to parts of Linco that were missing, Wilburn calmly replied: “I believe I ate them.”
- “Starsky & Hutch” was one of the top TV shows in its day. Stars Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky) and David Soul (Hutch) were in town, shooting an episode. The disco cops blocked traffic in Downtown Newhall for several hours.
Well, dear amoebas (Spanish, for friends?), looks like we made it back to the compelling beige of the SCV, safe and sound.
John Boston, aka, Mr. Santa Clarita Valley, has been writing about and teaching the history of the SCV for more than 40 years. Recipient of The Will Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award and 119 major journalism honors, he is also author of the historical tome, “Images of America: The Santa Clarita Valley.”