Bisected Bum & Two Presidents Visit SCV

Sunday Signal

OK, dear saddlepals. Time to arise from last night’s wretched excesses. C’mon. Hop into the saddle, which, you’ll note, has a fine horsey tucked nicely underneath.

On this week’s trail ride through SCV history, we’ll inspect a bona fide U.S. president eating at the Saugus Café, an Asian-hating official and our first junior high — in 1939.

There’s crooks, heroes and gee-whiz vistas ahead, amigos and amigo-ettes. Shall we ride together into the SCV mystic?


• And there isn’t even a photo of him in the Saugus Cafe Back on April 25, 1891, President Benjamin Harrison’s train with him in it stopped briefly at the Saugus Train depot to take on water. Ben, grandson of our 9th president, William Henry Harrison, hurt his hand earlier changing cars and sported a bandage. He actually ATE at the Saugus Café. Benny had the distinction of losing the popular vote in 1888 by nearly 100,000 votes, but winning the electoral college. Hmmm. Whatever president recently lost the popular vote but took the electoral college? Let me see…

• The town with two names Same day of April 25, but 15 years later
in 1906, the Bercaw General Store opened up in Surrey. Around the turn of the 20th century, there was a back-and-forth argument about whether to call the place where the Saugus Café sits today Saugus, or, Surrey. Some wag even painted a white line in the middle of the wooden sidewalk with a sign on each side, “Welcome to Saugus” and “Welcome to Surrey.”

APRIL 21, 1919

• Yup. Jimbo was a Democrat. And, from Berkeley. The hue and cry over immigration into California isn’t new. Our senator and former San Francis co-mayor, James D. Phelan, lamented the “dangerous immigrants” and referred to the Japanese here as “suffering the menace.” Quoth the orator: “They (the Japanese) operate their farms without the assistance of the white man; they are quite capable of taking care of themselves, and that is why they are a dangerous immigrant.”

APRIL 21, 1929

• It ain’t hay There was little alfalfa grown in the valley this year. The Newhall Land and Farming Co. was still cleaning up fields after the previous year’s St. Francis Dam disaster and others were left fallow. NL&F and the city of Los Angeles were still wrangling over how much NL&F was owed. They would eventually settle on a check of $750,000 — coincidentally, or perhaps not, the exact same price that Newhall Land was asking for all their acreage in the valley. There were no takers.

• Needless to say, there was no champagne Henry Clay Needham, the valley’s only serious presidential candidate, celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary.

• Pays to advertise in The SignalThis reminds me of Gary and Kath- ee’s Anal Retentive Ranch in Placerita, back before they moved the operation to Texas a few years back. Anywho. In 1929 this week, the owner of the Sunshine Ranch placed an ad in this paper, offering a $10 reward for information leading to the return of his stock. The Sunshiner listed precise descriptions of every horse or mule stolen, down to their exact weight and age.

APRIL 21, 1939

• The early days of Placerita Junior High It took about 25 years, but the seeds were sown in 1939 to build the valley’s first junior high school. The matter was first brought up at a Los Angeles City school board meeting. The district agreed to buy 12 acres in Newhall. Of course, World War II sort of postponed things …

• Another bisected hobo If you’re the local sheriff or ambulance driver, this isn’t exactly the call you like taking. Dennis Kelley, hobo out of Denver, passed through Saugus on this date and after which, could no longer use the phrase, “undivided attention.” Kelley was hitching a ride on the old Owl No. 25 when he fell off a baggage platform and under the train. He was bisected at the waist. This type of accident actually happened frequently from the 1920s to 1950s here.

APRIL 21, 1949

• Sorry. Farm talk. Newhall Ele- mentary’s new water well came in as a gusher. The well was considered one of the deepest in town, with a bottom of 852 feet. It pumped out 500 gallons a minute and the water was just 25 feet from the surface.

APRIL 21, 1959

• Make sure you ask Greg Amsler atSaltCreek TheoldStageCoach Inn, 2 miles south of Newhall on Sierra Highway, was the place to go for red meat in 1959. Check out these prices: “Chicken dinner — $1.45. Jumbo Shrimp dinner — $1.35; Big Juicy Steaks — $1.65 or $1.95; Deluxe Cheeseburgers — 35 cents.” Wonder how much read meat you could buy at Salt Creek Grille for 35 cents today …

• Where streets get their names It was on this date when the Hart School District voted to name a new street separating the soon-to-be-built Placerita Junior High and Newhall Park. The handle “Dalbey Drive” was unanimously agreed upon. The street was named after Lester Dalbey, who had given 31 years of service to SCV as a teacher, the district’s first super- intendent and principal at Hart.

APRIL 21, 1969

• Trouble in telephone land Folks were shaking their head how fast the area was growing. For about 10 years, we just had two telephone prefixes — 259 for Newhall and 252 for the rest of the valley. On this date, they attached a new prefix to the SCV — 251. Me? I’m still missing my cell flip phone …

• And today, it’s legal On this date, the SCV opened its first “head shop.” Called The Tape Den, it sold psy- chedelic posters with well-endowed naked hippie ladies, roach clips, water pipes and, bonus — 8 TRACKS!!

APRIL 21, 1979

• Don’t mess with the SCV “I think I know how General Custer felt,” was the quote David Bauer offered. Dave was the PR flak for the IT Corp. IT held a “Meet the community” night at the Arroyo Seco gym and Bauer and the company were soundly booed by the 400 visitors. IT wanted to build a 720- acre hazardous waste dump near Sand Canyon. Their own environmental impact report offered damning evidence that the ground water would be threatened. The dump was never built.

• Nixon in the spring Two telephone company workers lent a hand to help pull a late-model black Cadil- lac off a soft shoulder on the outskirts of Santa Clarita. The workers were rather amazed when the driver identified himself as a Secret Service agent. They were more amazed when the smoky glass window rolled down and a man in the back seat offered thanks and a couple of his personally signed autobiographies. The passenger? Richard Milhous Nixon. He said he had wanted to take a drive to see the area’s wildflowers.

• Tim Whyte still wears his Howard & Phil’s Western Wear was having a sale on this date, 40 years ago. They were selling bellbottoms for $9.98. Aren’t those things in a museum now?

• And wash them afterwards Sev- eral local sheriff ’s deputies were gig- gling out of control as they read over a new handbook from HQ. The direc- tive was a series of Spanish phrases to help officers deal with Spanish-speak- ing people. One of the phrases was “con sus manos, separe sus nalgas.” In the English, that means: With your hands, separate your buttocks.” Here. That’s worth at least one more try: “con sus manos, separe sus nalgas.”

Thanks for the company this won- derful spring day, saddlepals. I’ll see you in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then — Te deseo una Hermosa semana y vayan con Dios … (Wishing you a beautiful week and ride with God …)

John Boston has been writing about SCV history for more than 40 years. Read his historical tome, “Images of America: The Santa Clarita Valley” on Check out his History of The Mighty Signal series on Saturdays on A1.

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