I’ve got a little early bird treat for you, saddlepals. We’re going to time travel into yesteryear and see how we celebrated this marvelous nation’s birthday here in the Santa Clarita.
We’ll also sneak up on the world’s largest grizzly bear, see The Signal’s first-ever humor column in 1919 (and no; it wasn’t written by moi) and witness crime and tragedy — against two of the world’s most famous people who happened to be SCV citizens.
C’mon! We time it just right and in our Western duds, we’ll just sneak into all the parades of yesteryear…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
¿TE AMO JALISCO? — Ever see those bumper stickers around town that declare: “I Love Jalisco?” Ignacio del Valle, son of Antonio and owner of the Rancho San Francisco (which would later be most of the SCV) was born on July 1, 1808, in Jalisco, Mexico.
ATSA BIG BRUIN — On July 7, 1871, Canyon Country pioneer John Lang shot the largest grizzly bear ever recorded. The beast weighed 2,350 pounds and had a track that measured 19 inches in diameter. It had killed, and eaten, several hundred cattle and a bunch of men over its career.
AIN’T CHANGED A PINCH IN 104 YEARS, HAS IT? — The town of Castaic was founded on July 1, 1915.
JUNE 30, 1919
EARLY SCV SOCIALIZED MEDICINE — This was long before HMOs but our local Dr. Blanchard suggested that all medical fees should be abolished and doctors should be on a fixed salary.
ATSA LOTTA CHICKENS — Eggland, the huge poultry farm that used to sit in Happy Valley, was named the fourth largest egg producer in California a century back. If my pal, Clem Cox, who is in chicken heaven (or reincarnated as a 7th century Mongolian warlord) was around today, I’d bet he’d still have some of those eggs, hoping the market will go up. Miss you, Clem, darn it. Write when you have a chance.
PALES IN COMPARISON TO TIM WHYTE’S OFFERINGS — The Signal’s first-ever humor column appeared. It was called “On the Funny Side” and was filled with early 20th century jokes. Here’s one: “QUESTION: Kind sir — will you please tell me in what state one can obtain a divorce quickest?” ANSWER: “The state of matrimony, of course. How dare you ask such an easy one.” For the record, it was also the last time “On the Funny Side” appeared in this paper. Some of us should be watching our Ps & Qs…
TAKING THE DAY TO SNOOZE — The Fourth of July was noted quietly with a few picnics and dances here.
JUNE 30, 1929
BAD THINGS HAPPEN, 2 — ACTORS 0 — Famed movie star and Saugus rancher Harry Carey, whose San Francisquito ranch now sits atop the Tesoro del Valle development, was out of the country. Harry was starring in “Trader Horn,” which was being filmed in Africa. An epic rainfall hit his camp, drowning several crew members. Another local SCV cowboy superstar, Tom Mix, made the headlines. While on a train, Tommy was robbed of several thousand dollars cash. Didn’t have his six-shooters on him to protect himself. Heavens. In 2019, that means that Mix was carrying around the equivalent of $91,000 . . .
PROGRESS VISITS — Talk of the town was this new-fangled device called a teletype machine. It was installed at the Newhall airfield.
KIDS. DON’T DRINK. — A Signal editorial called for education in the schools about the dangers of alcohol. “If the children know that the stuff is harmful and dangerous, they are not apt to fool with it.” Wonder about which children from which planet Signal Editor A.B. Thatcher was writing.
JULY 4, 1932
NOT THE FIRST FOURTH — The alleged first Fourth of July parade in Newhall was held on this date. It was actually the first in a string of Independence Day parades. Actually, Newhall hosted a few small parades in the early 20th century (in which two surviving Civil War vets, one from the Union, one from the Confederates, marched together in their uniforms and carrying flags). There was also a Fourth of July parade here in 1925.
JUNE 30, 1939
THE SANDMAN — Bruce Howard of Castaic won the greased pole climbing contest at the big Fourth of July fest after the parade. Bruce studied the other boys slipping and sliding, then filled his pockets with sand. Bruce used the sand to degrease the pole and came out a champ.
A VERY BAD DREAM — Ed Gesler, as The Signal solemnly noted: “… dropped suddenly into the sleep from which there is no awakening.” Gesler had picked up a hitchhiker in Bakersfield and the man was driving while Gesler slept. According to the thumber, Gesler awoke from what seemed to be a bad dream, grabbed the wheel and the car veered off a cliff on the Ridge Route. The windshield shattered and Gesler’s jugular was severed.
ANOTHER CHILDHOOD TRAGEDY — It happens consistently over the years. Bob Lake, 10, nearly blew off his hand reaching for an allegedly unlit firecracker. Best you folks take extra special care of yourselves and your loved ones this upcoming Fourth…
JUNE 30, 1949
AND IT WASN’T EVEN SLIPPERY! — More than 20,000 folks paid to get into the Slippery Gulch (today, Melody Ranch) for the big Fourth of July post-parade party. It was very much like our modern Santa Clarita Cowboy Poetry and Music fest with Western bands, stunts, vaudeville, barbecue and such. The event was such a surprising smash, one organizer said, in Tonto like fashion: “We shot at a rabbit and bowled over a buffalo.”
I THINK TOM STILL KEEPS MIDGET BURROS IN HIS BACKYARD TODAY — Seventy years ago in the Fourth of July parade, Tom Frew and his brother Billy won first place for their midget burro wagon team carrying a beauty queen. Interestingly, the parade queen, Barbara Ayres, rode in the Independence Day parade back in 1999.
THE PATTERN OF DROUGHT — It was a pleasant but very dry Fourth of July. We were riding through our record fifth year of drought here in the SCV. We had a little over 8 inches of rain for the season.
JUNE 30, 1959
BIGGER, WITH MORE CRITTERS — We were definitely more Western 60 years back on the Fourth. There were all manner of rodeos, gymkhanas and cutting horse exhibitions on Independence Day, plus, the obligatory ponies marching through the parade. We had more than 200 entries in 1959.
A SWEETER, MORE INNOCENT TIME — This week in 2019 we have a passel of R-rated movies at the box office. In 1959, “Gidget,” starring Sandra Dee, was the big new movie at the American Theater in Newhall. Imagine showing the “John Wick 3” here in 1959? They would have lynched the theater owner.
JUNE 30, 1969
THAT’S ONE BIG CROWD — We had an estimated crowd of more than 50,000 to watch the parade in 1969. They watched 170 entries.
HOW TIMES CHANGE QUICKLY — And we, The Signal, were part of it. The lead story in The Mighty Signal on this date was, “Russell’s New Position on Sex.”
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, PALS — Hats off to Chuck Albrecht and Beverly Zimmerman. They announced their engagement 50 years ago this week. Two darn good souls. Chuck made his transition a few years ago.
DUCK & COVER — Los Angeles County started a $90,000 PR campaign to inform folks where their closest nuclear fallout shelters are. Ours were at Wayside Honor Rancho and the Governor Gage and Red Rover mines in Acton. Hmmm. Wonder how fast you’d have to run to get from Newhall to Acton after a nuclear blast?
JUNE 30, 1979
LOTS OF H20 ELBOW ROOM — College of the Canyons just opened their beautiful new indoor swimming pool but couldn’t get anybody to use it to save their junior college lives. Reading the admission list, only six to 29 people a day used it during the afternoon public hours. The poor thing was losing money.
OUTRAGEOUS! — Speaking of money, mark this day on your calendars. The Signal upped its newsstand price from 20 cents to a quarter.
AND YOU DON’T SEE MANY SUSANS AROUND TODAY — Signal Editor Scott Newhall penned his famous front-page editorial: “The Rape of Susan B.” It was about the new Susan B. Anthony coin dollar. Wrote Scotty: “In reality this pusillanimous scrap of base metal is nothing more valuable than a cake of buffalo dung.” Mr. Newhall also called it a “whorehouse token” and “a dollar-ette.”
Well how about that for time traveling? Enjoying yesteryear’s Fourth of July a few days in advance? See you back here in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then — ¡Feliz quatro de Julio y vayan con Dios, amigos! (Happy Fourth of July and ride with God, amigos!)
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 Amazon.com. Check out his History of The Mighty Signal series on Saturdays on A1.