Oafs, Pumas, Movie Stars & TWO Champs!

Sunday Signal

After that spate of heat, it’s been a splendiferous June. Drat that summer’s around the corner, with its surface-of-Mercury temps. All these years of living here, I’ve developed a fairly foolproof measurement. It’s rather uncanny, but we almost always have 100 days of hot weather, starting around the Fourth of July and ending mid-October.

Well. That meteorological imitation of Nostradamus aside, shall we get moseying on our weekly trail ride through Santa Clarita history?

It was a rhetorical question. Get on the horse. Follow me…


THE SANTA CLARITA HAD NOT YET BEEN CREATED. — All was dark. Time was not a concept. All life was brooding in a great, yet-to-be defined black hole.

AND THEN — on June 27, 1849, Edward Fitzgerald Beale married Mary Edwards. She was credited in coming up with many of the real estate and business schemes that both earned and cost the couple fortunes. Sneaking up on 200 years later, the SCV still bears the name of the famous explorer in our state historical landmark, Beale’s Cut. It was the first major road linking Southern and Central California.

JUNE 23, 1919

LOCAL MAKES GOOD — A young, handsome silent film star set up shop in Downtown Newhall to make an untitled “five reel photo play.” The actor and his company built realistic Western fronts in town that would later be called, Mixville. The actor, Tom Mix, would later become one of the world’s top screen draws.

THE AIRPORT IS COMING! — This item from the June 27 Mighty Signal is interesting just for its language: “It is rumored that a large tract of land will shortly be donated as a landing place and aviation grounds; also it is intended to erect a large Airdome. No doubt Saugus in the near future will be a ‘Haven’ for air ships.” That airstrip would eventually be Newhall International Airport, near where Granary Square is today.

AND MORE PRACTICAL THAN AN UNDERLAND — The Newhall Garage was selling brand new vehicles called Overlands.

JUST THINK HOW THE DEMOCRATS COULD TAX THEM — How’s this for a right-wing editorial? Signal publisher Ed Brown noted that the country of China was under “foreign spheres of influences” and that Europe and the United States should just take the darn country over.

TWO CHAMPS, ONE VILLAGE — Heavyweight boxing champ John L. Sullivan popped into town to look into buying oil leases in Saugus. Wonder if he took a ride up Soledad Canyon where the Metrolink station sits today? Back then, another heavyweight champ, “Gentleman” Jim Corbett, owned a dynamite factory there that would eventually become Bermite. Corbett knocked out Sullivan to take the pugilistic crown years earlier.

ALTHOUGH WE DIDN’T HAVE LOW RIDERS — Drive-by shootings and road rage aren’t anything new. A fellow with the interesting name of Galloway Piper was arrested for firing 17 shots from his car into the back of a slow-moving bakery wagon in front of the Saugus Cafe.

JUNE 23, 1929

PUNCH, BUT NO JUDY — On this date, a Mr. LeMoyne of the LeMoyne Ranch and A.E. Widle performed a one-sided bout of fisticuffs over a business disagreement. Mr. Widle socked Mr. LeMoyne in the eye, “but not before removing Mr. LeMoyne’s eyeglasses,” the police blotter reported.

LA-TEE-DAH! — Local Bill Davis just bought a new luxury car that he referred to as his, “La Salle.” The cowboys around town took to teasing him, calling their Model T’s, “La Lizzies.”

WHEN WE WERE A ZOO — Today, Whites Canyon and Soledad Canyon Road is a busy business intersection. But 90 years ago, it was the halcyon Remi Nadeau vacation ranch, filled with grazing deer, elk and buffalo. Nadeau had 85 deer on his compound, with 100 due for delivery in October. They also had caged wildcats, mountain lions and various critters. Folks could stay at cabins or just picnic under shady oaks and cottonwoods. Take a good gander now because when we get back to the future, they won’t be there.

JUNE 23, 1939

NOT ON VIDEO? — Eighty years ago this week, Jean Rogers was filming at the old potato packing shed, aka, the former Newhall Train Depot. Title of the flick? “Heaven With A Barbed Wire Fence.” Although he drew fourth billing, Glenn Ford was the lead in his first major motion picture.

MAYBE IT WAS HIS COLOGNE. —Jim Andreros was down from Lancaster, visiting friends in Saugus when he claimed he was stalked by a mountain lion while bending over to take a sip from the Perrier-tasting waters of the Mighty Santa Clara River. Andreros’ plight with local fauna continued a few minutes later when he claimed he was chased by two coyotes. Chased by two coyotes? The guy must have been the size of Jiminy Crickett.

WE WERE PREPARED  — The conflicts in Europe and Asia were being felt here in the sleepy Little Santa Clara Village as we were known back then. Through San Francisquito and other Saugus canyons, armed guards from the Metropolitan Water District patrolled. The fear was terrorists would blow up the huge water mains that ran through the SCV and fed Los Angeles.

TODAY, THAT’S A CUP OF COFFEE — Workman’s Comp rates were increased on this date, from $6.42 a week to $10.

JUNE 23, 1946

A FORGOTTEN TIMELINE — Easily one of the most important and memorable citizens in the entire history of this valley was William Surrey Hart. He built an epic castle atop a hill in downtown Newhall in the 1920s and in his heyday, he was one of the most famous people in the world. More than a century later, actors still credit Hart as being the original celluloid cowboy hero, part wild West, part Shakespeare. Hart’s death on this very day will forever be a landmark. His passing also was a line of demarcation, separating the old days of cowboying, ranching, gunfights and heroism from a new, modern era. The post-World War II Santa Clarita ushered in urban development, unknown comforts and an entirely different lifestyle of constant lights, no elbow room a rush-rush reality.

JUNE 23, 1949

FAREWELL, DEAR ALBERT — Albert Swall died a half-century back. Swall arrived in the sleepy little village of Newhall when it was less than a few hundred souls in 1890 when he was 19. As a teenager, he leased some space in the back of Jim Gully’s general store and opened up a meat department. He was the first businessman to move from Railroad Avenue to present-day San Fernando Road, leading a businessman’s exodus. In 1914, he built the famous Swall Hotel (in which was housed the first Signal offices). Swall would eventually own a good chunk of downtown Newhall and be one of the town’s richest and most influential citizens.

MRS. HART WANTS HER ALIMONY — Winifred Westover, the former teen bride of William S. Hart, threw a bombshell into the already complicated fight for the estate of the silent film superstar. She served notice in court that their divorce of 1922 was null and void and that they were still legally married, hence, she was entitled to his multi-million-dollar estate. She never got a cent beyond a lifetime stipend from Hart.

BIG CLIFF — Cliff Thompson was startling a whole lot of citizens in town. Cliff was making a series of presentations at local stores, shaking folks’ hands. It was a handshake locals would never forget. Cliff was billed as the World’s Largest Man at 8 feet, 7 inches tall. He weighed nearly 500 pounds. Cliff was actually well over 9 feet tall when he put on his big ol’ Stetson.

JUST LIKE LAST WEEK, MINUS THE RAIN — Ouch. This week a half-century back, we had rain and temperatures in the low 100s in some spots.

JUNE 23, 1959

DOUBLE DARN OUCH! — This week, four decades back, the temperatures hit the 110 mark in some spots.

A TOM FREW JOKE JUST WAITING TO HAPPEN — The Wayside Honor Rancho held its commencement ceremonies for 8th grade graduates who received diplomas while staying in the poky.

SMITH. SMYTH. WHATEVER IT TAKES —The Clyde Smith couple celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary on this date up in Forrest Park. For the record, no relation to former mayor Clyde and his bride, Sue, who begat current councildude, Cameron…

JUNE 23, 1969

COPS vs. SCLARITANS — Several youths, one claiming he had cracked ribs, others claiming head and face wounds, filed complaints against the Sheriff’s Department’s Special Enforcement Bureau. In several different incidents, the SEB were accused of kicking, beating and verbally abusing local youths. The SEB had only been in town for two nights and were here to cut down on cruising up and down Lyons Avenue. The SEB officers noted that they had been confronted by a parade of 24 cars filled with men from North Oaks who had threatened to run them out of town.

A DOOZY OF A SCAR — The all-time topper to the self-inflicted gunshot wound comes from George Kinsey, north of Castaic. Kinsey was the proud owner of an antique French cannon. Two decades back today, Kinsey wanted to see if his cannon worked. He loaded an empty shell with gunpowder and sealed it with paraffin. The shell stuck in the breech of the gun. Next morning, Kinsey went out with ranch hand Coy Stewart. Armed with two hammers, two screwdrivers and a hay hook, Stewart said he’d either pry or fire the shell out. Kinsey warned him to back off but Stewart persevered. Whack, whack, whack with the hammer and boom, the cannon fired. Kinsey ran back to find him doubled over on the ground, 35 yards away. Imbedded in a nearby buggy was a hay hook. The other direction were the pieces of the hammer and cannon. Stewart actually healed from his wounds.

JUNE 23, 1979

GUILLOTINE FOR PUNKS? — The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society dedicated a special monument for the St. Francis Dam Disaster, in which about 500 folk lost their lives. About a year later, in 1979, the monument — made of bronze and dam debris — had been nearly destroyed by vandals.

OUR FAVORITE BAND OF SCOUNDRELS — Never in our history has there ever been such a band of pie-throwing, psychotic, crooked and inept bureaucrats as the little agency with the big name. The West Los Angeles County Resource Conservation District (try getting that on a business card) made The Signal’s front page. Again. Seems their chairman, 19-year-old Marcus Frishman, ran up quite a tab while enjoying a Washington, D.C., convention and charged it to taxpayers. The Woodland Hills native stayed on a few days extra to party. The WLACRCD actually made The Signal’s front page in three separate stories. No. 2 was that Frishman’s mom was threatening to sue this paper for picking on her kid. No. 3 was that the WLACRCD cancelled their subscription. Don’t Even THINK About It…!

Funny thing about time portals. They don’t come with lit-up freeway offramp signs. You just have to — know. We’re here. All y’all have to go back home to your friends and families and I’ll go where I’ll go. See you back here in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then, Perdona. ¡Te hace más ligero

vayan con Dios, amigos! (Forgive. It makes you lighter and ride with God, my friends!)

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.

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