Strange Suicides, Weevils, Drunks, Punks & Bozos

The Time Ranger

By John Boston                                                                                                                                                             Signal Contributer

Well there you are, o sleepy-sleep SClaritians. C’mon. Soon we’ll be burning daylight. Out of those bunks and futons (which I always thought was some sort of atomic bomb). We’ve a first-class trek ahead into yesteryear.

There’s epic fires, epic rains and how a Newhall gal named Death Valley. There’s lost schools, lost rescuers and lost souls aplenty. Let’s quietly guide our thousands of steeds to the east and that familiar and comforting vortex into the Santa Clarita of yore …

• We mentioned last week that perhaps the most glorious building ever to grace the SCV took 45 minutes to burn to the ground. The Southern Hotel and its 150 rooms went up in flame and smoke on Oct. 23, 1888. It was built in 1878 by land baron and businessman, Henry Mayo Newhall, after whom Newhall is named. Hank died four years before the blaze. It had been his dream to make this valley a ritzy city, with all the elegances of a European capital. The posh 5-star hotel cost $300,000 to build — a tidy sum in those days. One of the most luxurious resorts on the entire West Coast, the Southern was designed to attract investors and beautiful people.

• William Manly and John Rogers set out from what would later be known as Death Valley on Nov. 4, 1849. They were headed to San Francisco to bring back help for their stranded Bennett-Arcane wagon train. The young men hiked more than 200 miles — in the wrong direction — and ended up in the SCV. Exhausted, starving, they asked the vaqueros how far they were from San Francisco. The cowboys laughed and assured them that they were already here. Back then, we were called the Rancho San Francisco. A rescue party of several riders and wagons set out to bring back the families. Upon leaving one of the most desolate places on Earth, one woman, who later lived her days out in Newhall, looked out the back of her Conestoga and said, “Goodbye, Death Valley.” And that’s how the place got its name.

NOV. 4, 1928
• It had been a lament locally until 1987 when the city of Santa Clarita was formed. Many things, including justice, were out of our hands. Local were outraged when, in two separate accidents, drunk drivers seriously injured SCV families. They were more outraged when the two drunks got off with no jail time, no fine, no penalty. Turned out the boozers were connected to a crooked Los Angeles judge, who tried the case.

• How I love English. A Signal scribe noted that a recent cold spell had caused all the young ladies to “…keep their calves in the pasture.” Get it?

• Agua Dulce Elementary had an old-fashioned Halloween party fit to make the Druids blush. They had a huge bonfire on the campus dirt playground. All the costumed kids got to dance and pirouette around the blaze. Some church-goers were rather horrified.

OCT. 29, 1932
• Highway 99/Weldon Canyon officially opened, bypassing the old Ridge Route as the main north-south state thoroughfare. At the big Newhall ceremony, farmers and rural folk came down just to see a brand new invention: the double line. At the ceremonies, locals joked that though you couldn’t across it, they stepped over it with ease.

NOV. 4, 1938
• Back when in ’38, we were pert near minute. The odds of two people committing suicide the same night were astronomical, especially in the bizarre methods. The poor first victim didn’t start life with a decent name. But, you have to hand it to Bert Nevergood in the Determination Department. Bert stabbed himself to death with a ballpoint pen. Pearson Shaffer was more organized. He stuck his suicide note to the end of a stick and used the stick to pull the trigger attached to the shotgun sticking inside his mouth.

• The Newhall PTA relieved boredom, ever so slightly, by showing a single feature at the Newhall Elementary Auditorium. Despite the title, it wasn’t a porno. A small crowd suffered through “The Hoosier Schoolmaster.”

• One of our long-forgotten elementary schools disappeared on this date. New Era had trouble attracting students, so, it held a vote to merge with Saugus Elementary. In an epic display of indifference, locals voted 27-15 to join campuses.

• You won’t find this on The Signal recipe page. Raymond Deebach, our Acton correspondent, offered the helpful hint that it was OK to eat venison, “…provided you shake the weevils out of the carcass before eating.” Good tip, Ray.

NOV. 4, 1948
• History is circular and circular and circular. Here’s the first paragraph of a Signal editorial: “For the past two years, The Signal has believed that partisan bickering in government has been the biggest threat to our nation’s welfare.” No way, hoser. You think?

• Ah, the good old days. Local sheriff’s deputies initiated a three-day curfew for Halloween. You couldn’t be under 18 and be out after 10 p.m. If it were today, and I were boss, I’d get to pick the people who could be either in or out, not matter what time and for years on end.

NOV. 4, 1958
• A freak thunderstorm pelted Newhall with 1.5 inches of rain — in an hour. The old Ford dealership was at the bottom of Newhall Creek’s new boundaries.

• I’ll need some help from you Hart readers. The Indians set a record for their largest margin of victory, trouncing Carpinteria 62-0, under the legs of Castaic’s John Sheeler.

NOV. 3, 1962
• This weekend marks the 55th anniversary of the birth of Canyon Country. We celebrated with the first-ever Frontier Days parade, rodeo and fair.

NOV. 4, 1968
• It’s not an anniversary that is celebrated. The first-ever case of someone selling drugs on a local campus occurred 50 years ago. A Hart High senior was arrested for selling “reds” (or, “downers”) to students. Teachers started noticing kids dozing off in a catatonic manner — at least in a manner different than normal dozing off in class. Boy howdy. I could name names and folks would have to move out of town …

• John Granville was to return to the playing fields of Hart where he had triumphed as an athlete just the year before. He was to be the guest of honor at Hart’s homecoming, but couldn’t get medical clearance to travel from an Oakland military hospital. Granville had lost both his legs in Vietnam.

• Bob Hogan came home from his shift at Lockheed to find a baby resting peacefully in a blanket on the sofa. His wife had just given birth minutes earlier. Neither she nor her husband knew she was pregnant and the birth was quite the surprise. They must have missed those films in 10th grade…

NOV. 4, 1978
• Nearly 200 jackass hooligan teens were arrested Halloween night. The bozos had taken over Tournament Road and McBean Parkway and were hurling everything from eggs to beer cans at passing motorists. More than 100 complaint calls were logged. Two arrested girls urinated on themselves in protest while being booked.

• Our Supreme Court ruled that women reporters must be allowed access to the locker room of the New York Yankees for postgame interviews. In a constitutional test, Signal Sports Editor Walt Cieplik tried to get interviews in the local women’s sports facilities. College of the Canyons said no, Cieplik, no.

Thank you so much for trekking all the way into your Sunday Signal to take this trail ride. You friends and neighbors are good company. Tell you what. I’ll be back next Sunday with another exciting Time Ranger adventure on your history and heritage. Until then dear saddlepals, as they’ll be saying at The Way Station this Wednesday: tu madre va como ella en Halloween y 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. 

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