Pumas, Witches & Crazy Hunting Tales

The Time Ranger
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I know. I know. Some of you still have a blood alcohol level from last night so high, it’s simply measured as “Peach Margarita.” C’mon. Climb out of those sofa cushions and futons. Get up into the saddle. Use your face if you must, it always worked for me.

We’ve yet another epic trail ride into Santa Clarita history.

There’s plane crashes, lost toddlers, pumas, election trivia and an entire passel of cool, gee-whiz info. Here. I’ve brought coffee for all-y’all, all … Take a sip. Splash a little on your eyelids. The rest, daub under the armpits …

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve written this on a chalkboard: “Cyrus was the gunfighter. Sanford was the businessman.” The Lyon twins were born on Nov. 20, 1831, in Machias, Maine. For those of you seeking extra credit, “Machias” comes from the Passamaquoddy tongue and means, “bad little falls.” Cyrus? In a land of tough hombres, he was one of the toughest. He was a captain in the California Rangers, the law brigade that hanged, shot, stabbed, clubbed or beat up just about every bad guy in Los Angeles. Cleaned up El Pueblo in about 18 months.

Have any idea how “Castaic” was spelt in 1851? Of course you don’t. The new state cartographers took a wild swing and came up “Chastequike.”

Speaking of Castaic, on this very day in 1849, wildlife painter and bird expert John Woodhouse Audubon camped out here for a few weeks to paint and sketch the myriad of migrating birds.
The first-ever Newhall Parents Teachers Association (PTA, yay) was formed on this date in 1916.

NOV. 18, 1928
Bad luck hit the FBO Movie Co. Tom Mix’s production company was in Pico Canyon, shooting a modern Western. A plane in one of the shots crashed into a big oak tree, which happened to be where the entire crew and cast were sitting. Fortunately, everyone got out relatively unscathed, including the cast on the biplane.

All manner of strange packages arrived by rail to the Newhall Train Depot. Several dozen horses were dropped off. They were used by geographers to map the Santa Clarita Valley.

Jessie Sackrider was the SCV’s first lady real estate agent. Wish I could swing a 1928 deal from her in 2018. You could get a house on an acre for $12.50 down and $5 a month. I might even buy six or so, just for the elbow room. Jessie was related to one of the accused black magic practitioners at the Salem Witch Trial, who was pressed to death. And, former Signal editor Jeanne Feeney was related to Jessie.

After nearly 30 years shoeing horses, Tom Frew II retired, handing his blacksmith shop to his son, Tom III, who later turned it over to my pal and lifelong cheapskate, Tom Frew IV. By 1970, the Frew shop was seeing fewer and fewer orders for horseshoes and the place closed.

The huge St. Francis Dam had burst just eight months earlier, sending a nearly 200-foot wall of water over much of the SCV. Searchers found the cash register from the old McIntyre Garage in Castaic. It was filled with mud and $27 in cash. The register and money were returned to the son of old man McIntyre, who had died in the disaster.

NOV. 18, 1938
The Mighty Signal noted there were too many poets in the SCV: “Bang, and another poet bit the dust. (We hate to shoot them, but we must, we must.)” Iambic pentameter, too…

A great meteor passed across the valley, turning night into day. Some thought it was an airplane burning before it crashed.

During the Depression, federal and state programs put literally thousands to work here. A census by the local Kiwanis noted that there were twice as many prisoners and California Conservation Corps workers in the SCV than regular citizens.

NOV. 18, 1948
Odd Accident No. 1: New bride Mrs. Floaralie Jean Griffin lost her nose in a car accident. Doctors stitched it back on. As of Nov. 18, 1948, it was doing nicely.

Odd Accident No. 2: Local rabbit hunter Al Stevens had his right index finger shot clean off by another rabbit hunter. Any of you saddlepals offhand know who’s the patron saint to Elmer Fudd?

Odd ALMOST Accident No. 3: In the blinding rays of sunrise, motorists swerved to avoid a sobbing pedestrian trotting down the middle of Highway 99 (The Old Road today). Two teen boys jumped from their car to rescue the toddler, who was only wearing soiled diapers. The Highway Patrol found the baby’s father, drunk and passed out in a car a half-mile away.

Historian A.B. Perkins wore many hats, including heading up the Newhall Water District. Perk got kidded frequently about the quality of his H20. One day, a particularly lovely local lady stopped Perkins in the post office and asked if he could start putting the mud back in his water again. She said the November winds were blowing away all her top soil.

NOV. 18, 1958
Local mortician Ed Hilburn had the most appropriate but unappreciated nickname: “Digger.” Take a guess where Digger went for his two-week winter vacation. Yup. Death Valley.

What a lousy way to lose an election. Democrat Mrs. Rudd Brown was declared winner in our local congressional race. A week later, she was declared loser. Seems in tallying votes, someone hit the wrong key, giving the conservative Hiestand 23,000 votes instead of 33,000. Mrs. Brown was the granddaughter of William Jennings Bryan.

Here’s a perk you don’t see in the Here-&-Now. Giant fuzzy car covers. A young mountain lion had adopted the Plastic Age plant in Saugus as its nappy spot and would regularly fall asleep on the hoods of cars in the employee parking lot.

NOV. 18, 1968
Three young boys from Sepulveda somehow climbed over a 10-foot fence topped with razor wire protecting an oil well shaft. One of them managed to fall into the 100-foot hole. He lost an eye.
OK. The Newhall Land & Farming Co. must have bribed someone. The Valencia bridge overpass spanning Interstate 5 was named one of the 15 “Most Beautiful Steel Bridges” in America. The award was given by the American Institute of Steel Construction. Hate to see the 15 Ugliest …

NOV. 18, 1978
You have to give them an “A” for attitude. After Measure K was defeated, its inner supporters held a raucous and happy victory party. Measure K was the movement for the SCV to secede from Los Angeles and form its own government: Canyon County. It failed in the general November election by a 2-to-1 ratio. Local voters wanted freedom by a landslide.

Most locals were terribly afraid of the “B” word — busing.

Superior Court Judge Paul Egly released a plan to include the SCV in a Southern California-wide plan for mandatory school busing. Egly’s plan was later poo-poohed and never implemented.

Sure hate to part ways. But that spinning vortex up ahead means we’re back to the present. See you in seven days with another exciting Time Ranger adventure, dear saddlepals. Until then — No necesitamos insignias apestosas. Also, if I may wish: Vayan con Dios!

John Boston, aka, Mr. Santa Clarita Valley, has been writing about and teaching the history of the SCV for more than 40 years. Read his historical tome, “Images of America: The Santa Clarita Valley.” It’s available on Amazon.com.

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