Boxers, Bad Honeymoons & NEN Gridders

Sunday Signal

It’s not entirely too bad for a late July in Santa Clarita. C’mon. Hop up on one of the noble steeds that I’ve talked into giving you a ride. Bring a slicker because we’ve got some monumental summer rainstorms to inspect.

And, there’s mountain lions, hippies, beatniks, crooks and ill-fated lovers waiting ahead.

Shall we wander back into non-cemented and not-so-ancient times?


GUESSING THEY PROBABLY LEFT UNSIGHTLY DRIP MARKS — Back on Aug 1, 1876, the Pioneer Oil Refinery moved lock, stock and oil barrel from the old Lyons stage coach station near where Eternal Valley is today to its present Pine Street location today. It’s a state monument as California’s first successful commercial oil refinery.

WHEN SURREY WAS SAUGUS — On Aug. 5, 1891, Saugus went through a short name change. It was called Surrey and a post office opened there on this date. The community was briefly called Surrey, but then went back to Saugus, after the boyhood home of Henry Mayo Newhall.

JULY 28, 1919

NICE CHUNK OF CHANGE FOR 1919 — J.P. Rivera earned $7,000 for his 160 acres of alfalfa harvest then got a nice check from the American Beet Sugar Co. for putting up 4 miles of fence.

GUINNESS MATERIAL — The largest apricot tree in the world was right here in Newhall 100 years back. It rested on John Gifford’s yard and was planted in 1883. It grew to 26 feet in height and had a circumference of 63 inches. That’s a lot of apricots.

A SIGHT TO SEE — Some fearless sky pilot silently coasted over the SCV in a large hot air balloon.

AND WE STILL DO IT TODAY — Locals — at least the ones with cars — were getting used to all sorts of brand new motor vehicle laws. It was the summer of 1919 when the law required folks to use hand signals or a “signaling device” to note when they were stopped or turning. Top speed on the highways was a dizzying 35 mph and 15 mph in town.

BIG CATS — Government trapper “Jerky” Johnson trapped six mountain lions this month, the largest being 9 feet from nose to tail.

JULY 28, 1929

NEWFANGLED DEVICE CATCHES ON — Newhall Village, as we called ourselves then, had but 124 homes and businesses with teles. A year later, there were 146 phones. That’s a growth of 133 phones in 10 years. We had just 13 phones in 1919.

JULY 28, 1939

WORLD WAR II COMES TO THE SCV — We were preparing for invasion. Five mock air raids were conducted by different branches of government. The scenario was that foreign bombers and fighters were flying up along the Santa Clara River to take out the train depot. Actual military planes were used and some 500 locals participated.

NOT THAT MUCH FASTER IN 2019 — Locals were up in arms over the glacially slow driver’s license renewal program. Folks from the SCV had to drive into the San Fernando CHP office. One local motored over the hill to find himself just one of 200 applicants. There were just two clerks and the process included then an eye exam, a written and driver’s test. Applicants rolled through the process at a rate of one every half hour. Doing the math, 184 folks who got there at 9 a.m. left at 4 without a license.

CLIMATE CHANGE OR SUMMER SHOWERS? — We sent out July and welcomed August with torrential downpours in some of the canyons and light rain in Newhall.

WITHOUT HIM, NO BEVERLY HILLBILLIES — Heavyweight champ of the world Max Baer (and later, dad to Jethro on “The Beverly Hillbillies”) was in town. He refereed seven bouts of boxing at Baron’s Athletic Club on Highway 99. Here’s a great name for you. The ring announcer for Baron’s was a guy called Heavy Bezzo.

JULY 28, 1949

NOT A GREAT HONEYMOON — Guy Smith’s marriage didn’t last very long — a month, to be exact. He drowned in front of his bride while swimming in Elizabeth Lake. Despite several attempts to pull him into the rowboat, Smith sunk to the murky depths of the duck refuge.

HART H20 — Hart High helped save Newhall from the heat a half-century back. The Newhall Water Co. supplied most of the H20 for the village, but during peak heat periods, water use shot up and pressure went down. Hart had its own huge underground well and “lent” NWC a few hundred thousand gallons by simply opening a valve, allowing them to cut into the school’s sprinkler system.

HELP WANTED: FOOTBALL PLAYERS. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY — We were such a small valley back then, the only local high school, Hart, had to advertise to fill their team. This little spot appeared on the front page of The Mighty Signal: “Attention, Football Candidates, Hart High School. All men interested in playing football for the 1949 season are requested to report, as soon as possible, to Coach Gartiser at the Newhall Swimming Pool.” That’s back when they wore cave bear fur helmets, too.

JULY 28, 1959

TRY GETTING A CONCEALED WEAPON PERMIT FOR THIS ONE — A quad of teens motored down to a North Hollywood pawn shop and came back with a huge, giant, humongous World War II Nazi anti-tank gun. The lads paid $189 for it, took it up to a Bouquet Canyon campground and immediately started a brush fire with the first tracer round. The gun was over 7 feet long and fired a .20 caliber shot.

NOT ONE MENTION OF BONGO DRUMS — The headline read: “Two Beatnik Type Bandits Rob, Kidnap Young Navy Man & Wife at Frenchman’s Flat.” Sailor Graham Henning and his “pretty wife” Janet were taken by knifepoint a few miles down the Ridge Route and tied to a water tank, then all their possessions were taken. They described their captors as “Mutt & Jeff types” with both wearing “skin-tight black jeans, loud T-shirts and goatees.” They’re still both missing, so if any of you saddlepals see two beatniks wandering around the valley …

JULY 28, 1969

FROM BEATNIKS TO HIPPIES — CHP officers arrested a long-haired young man for driving 55 mph on the Golden State Freeway — and using his feet instead of his hands on the handlebars. Should have fined him an extra 20 bucks for showing off.

BUT WE WERE MORE PREPARED THAN FILLMORE — A story by a crack Signal investigative team discovered that the SCV was totally unprepared in the event of a major nuclear war.

JULY 28, 1979

AND, MR. LABATO, IF YOU STILL LIVE IN TOWN, SORRY . . . — Dale LaBato picked the wrong time to crawl into the back seat of a fast-moving Mercedes and pull his britches down. The teen was sticking his bare heinie out the rear passenger window, mooning cars and pedestrians on Lyons Avenue. Not great timing. LaBato’s car had been followed for about a mile during his parade by a sheriff’s patrol car and they arrested him for indecent exposure.

See you saddlepals in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then —vayan con Dios, 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 Check out his History of The Mighty Signal series on Saturdays on A1.

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