Signal Burns Down & Tibby Off to Hades

Sunday Signal

Top of a Sunday morning, you bunk huggers. Hope you had a most splendiferous Saturday night, free of bail bondsmen, exes and the probing flashlight from the CHP stationed in Burroughs Ridgecrest.

C’mon. Shake off the cobwebs and launch those Mousercise heinies into the saddle. We’ve some Santa Clarita historical exploring ahead. We’ve got — oh, heavens. Get up on horseback. We’ll chat as we ride…


HAD HE LIVED, HANK’D BE 194 — On March 13, 1882, town founder Henry Mayo Newhall died after a horse-riding accident. Newhall came west in 1849 the day after his wedding. He was a failure as a gold prospector. Penniless, he sold all his few possessions and within 18 months, was one of America’s richest men. At one time, he owned the entire Santa Clarita Valley.

NEVER MADE IT TO 40 — The famed womanizing bandito Tiburcio Vasquez was hanged in San Jose on March 19, 1875. Prior to his death, lady admirers slipped him their home addresses through the bars of his cage on the back of a wagon. He and his brother owned property in the SCV and Tibby often posed as a wealthy horse rancher here. He was lifelong friends with mining baron Remi Nadeau. The elder Nadeau once saved Vasquez’s life after he had been shot and left for dead in the Mojave desert. While at Nick Rivera’s saloon in Newhall, Vasquez boasted he would shoot the next man to enter the pub. It was Nadeau. Instead of shooting the millionaire, Vasquez wept and hugged him.

MARCH 17, 1919

YUP. THERE WERE TWO SWALL HOTELS AT THE SAME TIME  — A century ago, one of Los Angeles County’s oldest buildings burnt to the ground. The old Swall Hotel, about where the intersection of Market and San Fernando Road is today, was originally the site of the swank Southern Hotel — a bona fide 5-star resort. That burned down in the 1880s. A.C. Swall built a wooden hotel/blacksmith shop (nice combo) from the wreckage. Then, in 1917, Swall built another hotel — this one made of brick — just down the street. Just to make this clear: Downtown Newhall had TWO Swall Hotels, open at the same time. The blaze from the wooden hotel was so intense, it popped windows out in many of the buildings around it and across the street. After the ashes settled, future western screen legend, Tom Mix, helped demolish the structure by using his horse, Trixie, to pull down the chimney.

THE SIGNAL MOVES FROM THE SWALL TO THE SWALL — Another interesting tidbit — the first Signal office was lodged in the wooden Swall Hotel. Ed Brown, this paper’s first publisher, had put out only a month’s worth of papers before his business burned to the ground. He managed to drag out the old-fashioned print press and a few supplies. Brown moved into the brick Swall Hotel. Interestingly, the paper burned to the ground again in 1964, a few months after new owner Scott Newhall bought it.

DON’T CALL US AND WE WON’T CALL YOU — Interesting going back through that March 21, 1919, issue of The Mighty Signal. Looking through the ads, one notices something suspiciously missing. There were no telephone numbers in the ads.

YOU CAN’T DO THAT TODAY — Lt. Wes Holler returned from war — that would be WWI — with a souvenir. It was the helmet and machine gun of a German he had killed.

MARCH 17, 1929

NOT BAD, CONSIDERING NO PAVED ROADS — This item, from the front page of The Signal 90 years ago, reads: “Earl Graham, superintendent of Wayside Farms of Castaic, has driven 38,000 miles on Firestone balloon tires on his Studebaker, and he tells Mr. Kessels, Firestone dealer, that he will drive 2,000 miles more before he buys new ones.” If today you went to your tire dealer to talk about getting 40,000 miles on your tires, you’d probably be yelling.

A DIFFERENT COMMUNITY — Today, classified ads are usually reserved for a garage sale, car, kittens or furniture. But 90 years ago, most of the classified ads in this paper were for agricultural items or livestock.

MARCH 17, 1939

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDMA ENGLE — Five generations of Newhallians were represented at the birthday party of Sarah Engle. She was celebrating No. 103. Her great-great grandson, Dickie, was 3.

WE WERE ALMOST REAL CLOSE TO LAX — Newhall International Airport (named such because it made a mail run into Mexico) was a pretty busy place 80 years ago. Actually, several times during the fall and spring, NIA was backed up with many major airlines circling to land. The major L.A. airports in Southern California would be fogged in and Newhall was the first alternate strip. We had 42 large passenger planes taxi in one morning alone. The airport became a favorite hang-out for local kids who liked to chat with the pilots. A state bond passed in 1939. It was to build Los Angeles International Airport — right here in the SCV. World War II came along and afterwards, the project slipped from our fingers.

MARCH 17, 1949

TRASH, AND LIFE, ARE CIRCULAR — Trash dump fights are not exactly a new issue here in the SCV. Starting back in the 1940s, hog ranchers (hogs were used to dispose of certain kinds of trash just by eating it) tried to create giant slop farms here to help dispose of LA’s and the SFV’s massive refuse problem. One hogmeister kept getting blocked by court orders. He just moved his pigs from one location to another. The rancher’s name? Art Kazarian, father of Ken Kazarian, owner of BKK Industries who 20 years ago tried to build the world’s largest trash dump in Elsmere Canyon.

BRINGING HOME THE LUMBER —A local lumberyard was clearing inventory. For just 20 bucks, you could buy 1,000 square feet of anything wooden.

MARCH 17, 1959

NEW MEANING TO ‘GOT ITS GOAT’ — Loren Clymore’s practice roping goat got loose on this date and wandered all the way into town. The big billy wandered into the women’s fashion shop on San Fernando Road, Quality Togs, to taste some of the fabric. The owners couldn’t get the goat out and making matters worse, it spotted its twin in a full-length mirror. The goat charged itself at full speed, breaking the mirror. John Newlin from Newhall Hardware came to the rescue, wrestling the goat to its senses.

MARCH 17, 1969

YEARS LATER, YOU WONDER IF THE PARENTS WERE RIGHT — The Saugus school board had a near-riot on their hands after 300 jeering, cat-calling parents booed them for trying to introduce sex education courses for the elementary schools. “I cannot see what could possibly be taught to kindergarten and first graders about sex that would be acceptable to me,” said trustee James Southwell.


It was a scene played out over the years: husband beats wife; wife refuses to press charges. Except that in this case, the wife was either in major denial or had heard that song, “Stand By Your Man” too often. A 35-year-old Saugus housewife had baked a special birthday cake for her husband. Instead of reacting with joy, he told his woman he didn’t like cake, followed by dumping the cake on the woman’s head, followed by shooting her in the buttocks with a .22 pistol, followed by attacking her with a butcher knife, followed by a beating. Local sheriff’s deputies wanted to press attempted murder charges. The woman said if they did, she wouldn’t identify her mate/attacker.

MARCH 17, 1979

I LIKE MIKE — A little known ex-assemblyman announced he would be running for county supervisor on this date. His name? Mike Antonovich.

AAAA-OOOOO-GA! — After a fire destroyed Canyon High’s bell system, teachers had to use a hand-held air horn to announce class startings and endings.

FROM THE “OH, PUH-LEEEZE DEPT. — Gasoline prices jumped to 82 cents a gallon.

NO MORE JOCK STRAPS —Signal Sports Editor Walt Cieplik retired. He retained the title of sports editor emeritus.

NO WAY DO WE LOOK LIKE BALTIMORE!! — Twenty years back in 1999, James Coburn won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in “Affliction.” FORTY years ago, he was sitting in The Way Station in 1979, filming “The Baltimore Bullet.”

LEE “THE HAM-HAM-HAMMIEST” SMELSER — The film, “Fast Break” was released. While comedian Gabe Kaplan got top billing, the movie featured COC basketball coach Lee Smelser as a referee. Smelser got his SAG card from this one with the lines, “Time out, Red!!” and “No coach, he’s out! He used his fists!!”

What do you know? That swirling vortex ahead? That’s us. Santa Clarita, 2019, hopefully down to the split second. Thanks for the company, dear saddlepals. Truly, you mean a lot to me. See you next week with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then — tener una vida interesante hoy y vayan con Dios! (Have an interesting life today and ride with God!)

John Boston has been covering 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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