Heat Waves, Elk, Cityhood & Gentle Ben

Sunday Signal

Well what do you know? It’s time to time travel. We’ve a most interesting trek into the lost canyons of SCV yesteryear. Us with all our cellphones, we’ll pay a visit to the first-ever phone in the valley. There’s critters, crooks, creatures and cretins. Try saying that fast, 10 times.


Let’s mosey…


BLACK GOLD —July 8, 1876, Demetrius Scofield started a little oil company called California Star Oil Works. Demetrius hired an oil field worker from Pico Canyon to help out. The chap was named Charles “Alex” Mentry, after whom our historic Mentryville would be named.

MAY I PUT YOU ON HOLD FOR 11 YEARS? — On July 12, 1900, the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Exchange founded the first telephone office AND first-ever telephone in the SCV. It would be another 11 years later until the SCV got its second telephone.

JULY 7, 1919

CAN YOU SING FAR, FAR AWAY? — The Mighty Signal noted that two local musicians went out to serenade a recently married Newhall couple. The crooners belted out tunes on the porch for about a half-hour when they noticed no one was making a peep inside. Turned out they were at the wrong home. Hard to do when there were about two homes in town back then.

JULY 7, 1929

JAZZ BAD — Signal Editor A.B. Thatcher continued his war with jazz, “the degenerate music.” Quoth Dad: “The big critics are claiming that degenerate music is making degenerate people. Yes sir, I agree with them. I heard some degenerate justice over the radio every day and I find myself becoming degenerate very rapidly. If I could only get at that singer, I know I’d be entirely degenerate, for I feel sure I’d kill him, or her, as the case may be.” Wonder what Dad Thatcher would do today if we dragged him back to the future where he could listen to a few hours of rap?

SLIMY LAWYERS  — A judge threw out a case against local mucky-muck and the former presidential candidate from Newhall, Henry Clay Needham. A Ms. Preston had sued Needham after claiming she ran into his horse wandering around on what would today would be modern Sierra Highway. Turns out everyone at the scene told Ms. Preston, and later, her attorney, that the horse she killed didn’t belong to Needham and that also, Ms. Preston had passed four trucks on a blind curve going about 70 mph to hit said horse. The judge threatened to disbar the attorney for bringing suit.

PROGRESS 1, TREE 0 — Developers tore down a massive pepper tree between 8th and Market on old Spruce Street. The builders said they thought the big tree would obstruct their new electric sign.

GREASE MONKEY 2, BEARS 0 — Mr. Doddril of the Oak Garage shot two cinnamon-colored bears and had the beasts stuffed and mounted.

JULY 7, 1939

MAJOR OUCH!! — The mercury hit 118 here 80 years back this week. Global warming? Or, summer in Newhall?

OBVIOUSLY NOT SHOPPING LOCAL — President Roosevelt’s WPA program brought federal money to clear the wreckage of the old burnt-out Newhall Elementary School, but it didn’t bring local jobs. Of all the workers on the project, not one was an SCV man or woman.

MAY I TAKE YOUR ODOR, PLEASE? —The Newhall branch of Southern California Gas, the largest of the 15 stations, got a new job. This date, 80 years back, they started “perfuming” their unscented natural gas, which flowed through the huge pipes in the SCV. The Newhall plant odorized from 100 to 300 million cubic feet of natural gas every 24 hours.

LAST OF THE NEW ERA — The Saugus School District had two historic bits of business before closing down for summer. First, they sold off all the land and buildings in the New Era School — “The last of the little red schoolhouses here.” Secondly, they changed the name of the district to the Clifton Union School District. Evidently, the name “Clifton” didn’t stick.

GENTLE BEN — A local cowboy wrote a rather polite letter to The Mighty Signal six decades back. He complimented the town on their fine Fourth of July parade and festivities, but called for a series of watering holes for horses and riders throughout the valley. The cowboy noted he had to ride 20 miles one way just to ride in the parade, then, had to turn around a few hours later after the picnic and ride back. The cowboy? He would later win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in “Last Picture Show” and his name was Ben Johnson.

REMEMBER DRIVE-INS? — Several locals drove in a caravan to visit a nifty little enterprise — the drive-in theater. The closest to us was the San-Val in Burbank. Folks who showed up with the letter “M” in their license plate got in free. Otherwise, it was a quarter per adult, a dime per child.

JULY 7, 1949

SHOULDA JUST MOUNTED THEIR HEADS ABOVE THE FIREPLACE — Game wardens trapped themselves a few poachers on this date, stopping a deer carnage that almost eliminated the creatures from the Oat Mountain area. For taking the deer out of season and in record number, each poacher was given a month in jail.

YUP. WE HAD ELK. — Same week, Fish and Game offered a lottery to hunters to thin out the growing elk herd population in the hills north of Newhall. Just 75 males and 50 females could be taken.

JULY 7, 1959

CHP GOES POLITICAL? — Local judge C.M. MacDougall put a temporary stop to the local CHP. Seems the California Highway Patrol, under Sacramento headquarters’ directive, started writing more parking tickets — including in rural areas where there were just dirt roads and no curbs. Judge Mac thought the move was a political one by the CHP to put more officers on the payroll.

A GREAT WAY TO GO, I’D SAY — World champion rodeo cowboy Randolph Richard “Dick” Abbott died a cowboy’s death. Abbott had been participating at a weekend rodeo in Castaic, roping cattle, when he suffered a heart attack and died in the saddle.

LUCKY JOAN DIDN’T MARRY MR. TUNES — Speaking of things Western, Joan Looney married Robert Steer on this date, making it the Looney/Steer wedding.

JULY 7, 1969

PUNK HIGHLIGHTS — A mob of around 100 rock-throwing youths and alleged adults surrounded the Newhall Park office, trying to free a purse-snatching suspect. The perp was a teenage girl who snatched a purse, ran and was caught by the victim’s friend. She evidently had many hoodlum friends picnicking in the area. Several were arrested.

THREE MISTAKES — An arsonist tried to blow up the Newhall Courthouse on Market. His Coke-bottle bomb failed to go off. And third, he threw the Molotov cocktail in front of Bill Bowers (not OUR Bill Bauer of Hart High). Bowers was sleeping in his car, waiting for the court to open when he heard the window break and the arsonist jump into his white Chevy. The arsonist was soon arrested.

CARL WAS THE BEST — City father Carl Boyer included Valencia on his proposed city map 50 years ago today. Carl would spend hundreds of hours bringing local government to the SCV. The good soul passed on to his reward recently.

THE NEWHALL VERSION OF “LES MISERABLES” —An 18-year-old transient stole $2.19 worth of meat from a local market and was captured after a three-block chase by the butcher and the box boy. There’s a meatloaf joke in there somewhere.

BAD MOM — It was one of the most pathetic cases of mothering we’ve ever witnessed. On this date, 50 years back, a 2-year-old was found wandering back and forth across Sierra Highway. Motorists stopped to rescue the tot. They found his mother drunk and passed out in a ditch a quarter-mile away. She and her husband were frequent visitors to the local pubs.

REMEMBERING  YOU STILL — Stephen Harrell, 22, of Newhall, was killed in Vietnam on this date in history.

JULY 7, 1979

AND COULDN’T MOST OF USE A MARGARITA LONG ABOUT NOW? — Japanese-American waitresses handed out margaritas and sushi 40 years ago at the grand opening of Valencia Motors — the valley’s first Honda dealership.

Sure is nice to ride in yesteryear with all that room. Let’s say we leave our troubles behind, get together in a week and do it all over again?

See you Santa Clarita saddlepals and neighbors back here in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then — ¡ Que tu verano sea tranquilo y templado y vayan con Dios, amigos! (May your summer be calm and temperate 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.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS