Bruce Fortine remembers driving around town and going to assignments as a teen in his 1931 Chevrolet.
“And it got about 3 three miles to the gallon,” Fortine recalled, “but, of course, the price of gas (was) 25 cents (a gallon).”
Nowadays, a journalist at The Signal might ask for more time if their digital equipment isn’t working right, or the internet is being slow; Fortine remembers having to make sure the janitor didn’t lock him in the photography darkroom as he worked for hours to develop his photos.
And, as was a common practice at the time for local newspapers, Fortine never got a single photo credit. In fact, he did it for free sometimes, too.
If you want to look at the history of The Signal, to see how one of the oldest businesses in town has evolved and changed through the years, you first need to look at one of the paper’s most loyal readers and supporters.
Fortine first started reading The Signal newspaper in 1949, when the population of the town was only a couple thousand people, and you couldn’t leave Newhall unless you had a car.
“If you weren’t taking the Greyhound buses, you couldn’t leave,” said Fortine. “But Dad moved us out here (in the 1940s) to help run a Boy Scout camp out there in Castaic.”
While his dad worked on the Boy Scout camp, Fortine would either lead campers on hikes around the area at the year-round facility, or through the litany of activities one can do in wide-open country at camp.
However, when they packed it up for the night and all the campers returned to their bunks or tents, and the Fortines retired to their home on the grounds, there was no electricity or many of the modern necessities one would find today. Instead, at the age of 9, he and his dad would read The Signal together.
“The camp isn’t there anymore,” Fortine said, adding that once they decided to build the Castaic Lake dam, the camp was “asked” to relocate and eventually stationed at the bottom of the lake.
Once he was old enough, Fortine attended Santa Clarita Junior and Senior High School, now Hart High School and Placerita Junior High School. While there, he developed a love for photography and, before he had even started his first day as a high schooler, he was a photographer for The Signal.
“We had a darkroom there at the school, and I could use that to develop my photos,” said Fortine. “We also didn’t have bylines then (for the photos), but I took all the pictures for stories related to the high school.”
When he wasn’t in class or being the editor for Hart’s still-running student newspaper, The Smoke Signal, Fortine was covering everything from community meetings held on the school’s campus and homecoming to the basketball and football games. The young photographer also watched the likes of Joe Kapp, who went on to become the only player to quarterback in the Super Bowl, Rose Bowl and the Grey Cup.
“He was poetry in motion,” Fortine said.
After holding down the education beat for The Signal throughout his time as a student here in Santa Clarita, Fortine made the decision to head on to Pepperdine University to study photography.
“Actually, because of photography, I got a scholarship because I was a newspaper and (yearbook) student at Hart,” he said.
One thing that stayed the same, however: his weekly Signal reading (The Signal newspaper at that time was a weekly publication).
“I would get (the paper) mailed to me when I was at school and I would read it.”
It was at Pepperdine he returned to not only his photography roots, but also his journalistic ones, as well.
“I was the college photographer, and I did all their public relations … and worked for all the local papers.”
After graduating with his degree from Pepperdine, Fortine began to work on the East Coast, as well as all over the country, as an Army intelligence officer.
“I still had my Signal subscription that I had mailed to me,” he added.
Eventually, though, just hearing about the SCV through the black and white wouldn’t be enough for him, and by the 1960s, Fortine felt the calling to return home to the Santa Clarita Valley.
From his Valencia Summit home, Fortine can still tell you of all the major headlines he remembers from the paper over the years, from 1949 to present day.
He remembers reading The Signal on the day that College of the Canyons, an institution for which he’s considered to be one of the founding fathers, was approved and first opened in 1969.
He remembers election results and the day Santa Clarita became an actual city back in 1987.
He also recalls how the paper covered the various projects he and his Junior Chamber Santa Clarita Valley chapter has completed or organized throughout the community.
He remembers all of the earthquake, election and wildfire headlines. He remembers political scandal and redemption articles like they were yesterday.
“You think the paper can get nasty now?” he jokes.
Fortine saw the paper go from black-and-white to color, from a weekly to a daily, publishers come and go. He’s worked as a liaison for the paper, contributed to articles, been on the same page and at odds.
“I spent a part of my life in The Signal offices,” said Fortine, but he’s spent his whole life being a reader.