TWO Train Robberies & Mucho Cool SCV History

The Time Ranger
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Amen boy howdy, do we have an interesting trail ride ahead, history saddlepals. We’ve got movie stars, epic crimes, a local first lady who runs over movie stars, giant wild boars, disasters and, well, phew. Get your heinies up into the saddles and come see for yourselves…

• The silent movie, “Tom Mix in Arabia,” was released on this date in 1923. The movie was shot in Newhall and, making it more local, Tom had his little studio/residence on Main Street, just across from another superstar, Wm. S. Hart. Interestingly, Hart was the No. 1 cowboy box office star in the world and Mix would take his place. Another local footnote? Tony, the Wonderhorse, was born and raised in Placerita Canyon.

• William Mulholland was the center of attention when he turned a spigot to release the first water from the Owens Valley into the San Fernando Valley. Most of you have driven by the spot hundreds of times. It’s that picturesque manmade waterfall near the I-5 and Highway 14 split. After opening the valve that would help make Los Angeles one of the great cities in the history of civilization, Mulholland spoke few words that day of Nov. 5, 1913: “There it is. Take it.”

• Few have heard of Bertha Wilkens. She had the first legal deed to Vasquez Rocks, signing over 160 acres to her on Nov. 11, 1898.

• The epic three-year drought had begun in 1862. Hardly a drop fell in the entire state. Cattle died by the hundreds of thousands, including on our own Rancho San Francisco, which covered the entire Santa Clarita Valley then. Stock prices had hit a high in 1862 from $75 a steer, falling to a measly two bits. A description of the SCV from a Los Angeles newspaper of the day: “The air was rank with smell of stinking beef carcasses…”

NOV. 11, 1928
• Lou Henry Hoover is the closest thing the SCV has to a first lady. Her father managed gold mines in Acton and Agua Dulce and she was a tom girl, playing on slag heaps and riding horses. Her husband, Herbert, was elected president 90 years back. He carried the SCV. We had 234 registered Republicans, 108 Democrats, seven Socialists and three Prohibitionists. Another nine cast their ballots, but they were unreadable. Back to Lou. While attending a dinner at her alma mater, Stanford, years later, she had a slight accident. Driving in the dark, she hit a young student, Richard Boone, breaking his leg. Rich would later become a movie and TV star, famous for starring as “Paladin.”

• Goldena Sabula (try saying that fast, 10 times) drew a stiff sentence for drunk driving. She was fined $250 plus 90 days in the slammer. Back in 1928, you could buy an entire house on an acre for $500 — TOTAL price.

• It was a terrible freak accident. A mighty gust of wind literally forced a Model T over a 400-foot cliff north of town. The driver, Anna Chilton, died in the crash. Her three girlfriends escaped with minor scrapes.

NOV. 10, 1929
• It was, inarguably, the most spectacular crime in the history of the SCV. A local cattle rustler, crook and mountebank, Tom Averill, derailed the Owl train near the Saugus Speedway. Then, he climbed on board, robbed the passengers and escaped to Wyoming (where he derailed another train and robbed it). Tom went by the name of “Buffalo Tom,” claiming he rode in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It’s unlikely he did. Tom wasn’t hard to capture. While crouching behind a tool shed near the rails, he dropped a letter out of his pocket, which carried his itinerary for the next few months.

NOV. 11, 1938
• The little bright red, one-room schoolhouse up Bouquet Canyon closed for good. New Era was built 30 years earlier and served only a handful of students. Parents voted to close it and send the few kids to Saugus Elementary, adjacent to where IHOP is today on Bouquet.

• Hard to believe, but giant wild boars roamed the SCV, terrorizing locals. A 500-pound beast attacked a prize brood mare on a Newhall ranch, goring and biting it to death.

• In a rare occurrence, the SCV went Democrat. We gave up 978 votes to Culbert Levy Olson, the first Dem governor of California in 40 years. An avowed atheist since 10, Olson refused to repeat, “So help me God” during his oath of office. Soundly defeated in the next election, Olson blamed the Catholic church.

• Signal Editor Fred Trueblood wrote these words in a front-page editorial: “The best thing about the election is it’s over. In every election, the principal effort of both sides is to convince the electorate that the country or state will go to hell in a handcart if the other side is elected. One side or the other wins, but the election never results in the complete break-up of organized society.” Amen.

NOV. 11, 1948
• Bet you didn’t know this one: The first time any high school had a night home game WITH a band and cheerleaders was on Nov. 5, 1948. The Indians lost to Oxnard, 22-6 but the half-time show got more attention than the game.

• Seventy years later, that photo of a grinning Harry S. Truman holding the Chicago Tribune headline of “Dewey Beats Truman” is iconic. Signal Editor Fred Trueblood wrote a humble apology, noting he hadn’t given Truman “…a Chinaman’s chance” of beating the New York governor, Thomas Dewey. Trueblood confessed The Mighty Signal was as off-base as every paper in the country, “…maybe even more.”

NOV. 11, 1958
• A pox that travels through lifetimes on the mouth-breathing low-lives who swiped state historical plaque No. 556. It was dedicated on this date and commemorated the “Missing Mission San Francisco and Rancho San Francisco” from a century earlier. The SCV had been a well-used trading hub for Indians as far away as Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Northern California.

• Most don’t recognize the name Joe Kapp today. The former Hart athletic star was named College Back of the Week after the runner scored two TD’s for his Berkeley squad over Oregon. Joe would have a stellar career in pro football. He also is the answer to the trivia question: “Who is the only player to compete in a Rose Bowl, Grey Cup and Super Bowl?” Poor Joe. Lost all three. But, he still holds the shared record of throwing seven TD’s — in one game! — when his Vikings beat the Baltimore Colts in 1969.

NOV. 11, 1968
• A not-so-merry prankster doctored the campaign posters of Democratic candidate, Alan Cranston. Someone edited Al’s big poster with the unasked-for text: “Stalin Registered Guns. Cranston Wants To.”

• Henry Wendell certainly earned his nickname of “Choo-Choo.” The mutt got drunk, stole a locomotive at the Saugus Train Station and took it for a joy ride. Our beloved jurist Adrian Adams so wanted to throw the book at Choo-Choo, but was frustrated there wasn’t a law against stealing a train. Adams was forced to give Chooch the maximum: 45 days behind bars and a $550 fine.

NOV. 11, 1978
• Canyon COUNTY (whose borders would be the SCV) was defeated for the second time. While it passed 59-41 percent here, it was defeated at the L.A. County level, 67-33. Nine years later, we went back door and formed the City of Santa Clarita.

• Swashbuckling Signal Editor Scott Newhall hadn’t met a president he didn’t want to impeach. He added No. 39 to his menu. Scott wrote, on the front page, the last time we had a public servant so inept as Jimmy Carter, it was Gen. Custer.

See you in seven days with another exciting Time Ranger adventure, dear saddlepals. Until then — sigue votando hasta que te alcancen 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. Read his historical tome, “Images of America: The Santa Clarita Valley.” 

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