Tragedy, Poetry, Boxers & Bad Cops

Sunday Signal

Well howdy, dear sleepy eyed saddlepals. C’mon. Sun’s peeking up in the — I think that part of the sky is called, “…east.”

We’ve an interesting trek ahead into the back historical trails of Santa Clarita yesteryear. There’s mayhem and humor, and we’ll take a look at the first-ever high school graduating class. Give you a hint? It’s Hart.

C’mon. Let’s mosey into the mystic…


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TONY! — Had he lived, Antonio del Valle would have been 178 years old this week. Alas, he died on June 21, 1841. Antonio was deeded the entire Santa Clarita Valley and then some by the governor of California.

AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OWEN! — June 10, 1910, baby Owen Harlan Mickel came into this world up in Wolf Point, Montana. Owen would eventually become one of the most famous cowboys in the world, noted for his trick roping. You might know the former Agua Dulce resident (he died in 1998) as Monty Montana.

JUNE 16, 1919

THE UPS & DOWNS OF FARMING — William Mayhue finished cutting 350 acres of prime barley and oat. Over his life, Mayhue would farm most of the flatland of the SCV and become a millionaire. He would later die in a pauper’s home in the San Fernando Valley.

MAYBE HE SAW ONE OF HARRY’S PICTURES — On this date a century ago, 17-year-old John Brown, a cowpoke on the Harry Carry Ranch up San Francisquito Canyon, found an unopened bottle of wine. He opened it. He drank it. Johnny got a little more than tipsy. Seems the teen cowboy walked into the ranch house and shot Harry’s portrait, right in the eye. The legendary movie star Carry grabbed Brown by the scruff of the neck and marched him into town where he was arrested and sent to juvenile court.

JUNE 16, 1929

THERE ARE PEOPLE FROM FRIENDLY VALLEY WHO DON’T KNOW OF THE RECENT CHANGE — The state speed limit in California in 1929 was 40 mph.

NOW THAT’S A POSTAL WORKER! — That old phrase of, “neither sleet, nor rain,” yada yada, might have been invented in Newhall. Postman Dick Bowman had to parachute twice out of crashing U.S. Mail planes north of Newhall. On this date, the old biplane was caught in an updraft north of Castaic. Bowman parachuted out at 9,000 feet, landed a mile north of Castaic and walked to the gas station. A month earlier, his other plane crashed just outside of Newhall. But he made sure he had his large sack of mail with him both times.

SAME THING WITH DRUG DEALERS TODAY — A Signal columnist pondered: “Bootlegging seems to be the most interesting subject in the world just now. Every time an honest man gets a new car, his neighbors eye him with suspicion.”

JUNE 16, 1939

WHEN ROMANCE GOES BAD — An ill-timed kiss in a speeding auto down the Grapevine ended in mayhem. The driver/kisser tried to steal a smooch, lost control around a curve, took out five guard rails and went over a 200-foot embankment. Miss Barbara Hope, 21, the kissee, suffered two broken ankles. Claude Mott, 32 and the kisser, broke his spine. Making matters worse, CHP officer Bob Gollings rushed down the cliff to rescue them and severely sprained his knee falling off a boulder and had to be hospitalized.

PUGILISTIC POETRY — We used to have regular Wednesday night boxing and wrestling at a place called Baron’s. Here’s a sample of some old-time sports writing in your Mighty Signal: “But the deepest sleep of the evening was the lot of Dick Senef, pitted against Bill McLean of Fillmore. Senef was outweighed and outreached, but was trying hard when a long right to the button rolled him outside the ropes.”

JUNE 16, 1949

AIR TRAGEDY — Two Air Force F-86 jets collided in mid-air above Castaic. One pilot was killed. The other bailed out safely.

OUR FIRST HIGH SCHOOL CLASS — They were called the ’49ers and 71 of them were the first class to graduate from any high school in the SCV. (Gwen and Dean Gallion of Castaic are ’49ers.) Tom Izuhara was the first ASB president at Hart — an interesting feat considering he was of Japanese heritage and World War II had ended just four years earlier. They planted a tree for him between the office buildings and library. Speaking of, Hart’s class of 1949 will be having their 70th reunion coming up.

NINE CENTS? REALLY? — Peter McBean and a slew of Newhall family members were on hand to cut the ribbon at a new swimming hole. This week a half-century back, Newhall Park’s pool was dedicated. Children under 12 could swim for 9 cents. You’d think they would have made it an even dime…

BLACK EYE FOR THE SHERIFF — Not so glorious in recollection was the firing of three local sheriff’s deputies, all dismissed on the same day for theft. Two officers were caught stealing 30 bales of hay from Alex Romero’s field and another officer was discharged for taking an abandoned trailer on the Ridge Route back to his home in Pacoima.

JUNE 16, 1959

AND WHO SAID THE FOLKS AT THE SIGNAL CAN’T WRITE? — Val Verde Signal columnist Lyllian Harris had a nail-biting paragraph 40 years back. It read: “Had a nice chat with Mrs. Wm. Nickerson by phone.” That was it. Complete.

HYDRATION NOTES — Newhall County Water District built themselves a new reservoir and holding tank. The tank held 300,000 gallons.

BAD LUCK TO FATAL — An unemployed house painter saw his fortunes slip even further. After selling their home and most of their earthly possessions, Howard Patrick was taking his wife and three young children back to Kansas along Highway 99 when a speeding car cut them off, clipped Patrick’s front fender and sent his Chevy over a cliff. Patrick suffered broken bones. His children were seriously injured and his wife killed.

JUNE 16, 1969

SMOKE ’EM IF YOU GOT’EM — Dillenbeck’s Market up in Canyon Country worked with some veterans for a special fundraiser for troops over in Vietnam. Locals worked with the R.J. Reynolds Co. to raise money to buy cigarettes for the boys fighting overseas.

HAPPY 50th, RHI — We just might have been the only community our size to not have a hotel or motel. That was changed when Newhall Land announced they would build something called the Ranch House Inn on this date.

BUD BIZ — On this date, Hart High baseball coach Larry Keontopp called it quits and went to Gonzaga University to lead the horsehiders there. His replacement? A young butch-headed rascal from the Midwest named Bud Murray. Didn’t that guy just win a CIF title 20 years ago?

JUNE 16, 1979

CHiPS FLU — We had a two-day sickout hit the local CHP ranks. The highway patrolmen had asked for a 20.6% pay raise, which would bring their salaries in line with other law enforcement officers. Gov. Jerry Brown countered with a 10.6% REDUCTION, hence the mini-strike.

REMEMBER RIVENDALE? — For a very short while, it was a major western destination, hosting everything from country concerts to rodeos. Today it’s part of Ed Davis/Towsley Canyon State Park. Back in 1979, it was the home to Jerry Arnett’s ranch. It was also one of the few official and licensed jockey schools in America.

THROWING IT OUT JUST TO IRRITATE HER — Mrs. Ellen Wayman-Cieplik was the Boys Club Auction coordinator 20 years ago this week. She helped raise around $78,000 gross. Recent years’ events bring in that amount by the first item. Just kidding, EWC…

MAYBE THEY MEANT ‘DONKEY?’ — Our most august paragraphist, rabble rouser and head chief opinion writer Scott Newhall penned a wonderful front-page Sunday editorial entitled: “A KICK IN THE ASS.” It was about our “Bible-thumping” president, Jimmy Carter, using the word, “ass.” The “puckered up little president,” as Scotty called him, said he would kick Ted Kennedy’s hind quarters should he run against him for president in 1980. All news is local. Mr. Newhall noted that that very Sunday in 1979, Wm. S. Hart School Board Chairman James Braithwaite was being sued by local pest and gadfly of the day, Jim Gildersleeve for a similar threat. Braithwaite was on record for threatening to kick The Annoying Gildersleeve, and, boy howdy, was he, in the ass. “So much for the asses in this early summer of 1979,” wrote Newhall. Now THAT’S a good ending for an editorial…

Well don’t you know. That spinning vortex up ahead? That’s our particular Metrolink time portal back to the present. As always, appreciate the good company and conversation. See you back here in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then, tener un Verano muy deslumbrante y vayan con Dios, amigos! (Have a vainglorious summer 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 Check out his History of The Mighty Signal series on Saturdays on A1.

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