Frozen Dead Dogs to Valencia’s Birthday

Sunday Signal

Tipping my terribly expensive but utilitarian O’Farrell hat toward the direction of you ladies and offering a positive “Howdy” to the menfolk. What say we all climb aboard the thousands of ponies I’ve brought?

There’s an epic trail ride through the time portal into the golden yesteryears of Santa Clarita history. Let’s get to moseying. I guarantee you shall come back a little smarter with some excellent cocktail party conversation to share with your friends, neighbors and the family members to whom you are still speaking…


AND, IT’S OUR OLDEST TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR — Aug. 24, 1845, there wasn’t much out here. But Mexico’s Alta California governor deeded an impressive spread to a French ship jumper, Francois Chari. Francois changed his name to Francisco to blend in a mite better. In memory of jumping ship in Oxnard and making his way to being a landed gentry property owner in Saugus, he named his big spread, Rancho del Buque. Or, French for “Ship Ranch.” When California changed hands and became an American state in 1849, topographers came out and started naming and renaming things. Speaking only English, they thought Chari’s ranch and canyon was Spanish for “bouquet.” And that’s where Bouquet Canyon got its name. It was, for a time, also called Hangman’s Canyon in the late 1890s and early 1900s after the memory of an alleged cattle rustler’s untimely fate during the bloody Castaic Range War.

WHERE THE COPS USED TO LIVE — The sheriff’s station wasn’t always in Valencia. Back on Aug. 26, 1926, a brand new substation was dedicated at the corner of what today is 6th and Main Street. It’s the wardrobe room of the Canyon Theatre Guild today.

AUG. 18, 1919

FROM 8th GRADE TO THE BATTLEFIELDS OF FRANCE — For such a small village, we sure placed a lot of men in World War I. Fortunately, most of them came home. Bill Hope, of Newhall Elementary’s 1916 class, came back from fighting in France.

THIEVES ARE STILL AMONG US — We long for the good old days, but nothing much really changes. A century ago, a circular was passed around town, warning auto owners to lock their cars, secure spare tires with locked chains and another 10 security tips to protect locals from car thieves.

AUG. 18, 1929

OPENING OURSELVES TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD — It’s hard to believe when we speed up and down Interstate 5 or even The Old Road that 90 years back, there was a mountain there. State highway crews used dynamite, modern “gasoline steam shovels” and old-fashioned muscle to dig a cut through Weldon Canyon, preparing it to be one of the world’s busiest thoroughfares — Highway 99.

SAD TALE FROM THE HORSE & BUGGY DAYS — Leland Bowman was fine but his horse was dead. Leland was trying to cross the “Boulevard” (as Main Street was called then) at 6th Street. A speeding motorist from L.A. hit horse and rider dead on. The car was doing 40 mph — too fast even for today’s modern cars. A dark note, the horse accident occurred right in front of the 15 mph sign.

BIGGEST BED IN SCV HISTORY — Silent movie star and director Charlie Mack finished working on his custom home and guest cottages on 8th Street. Mack had a custom bed designed for his master bedroom. The thing was so big, they had to build the bed first, then construct the house around it. When they moved, heartbreak of heartbreaks, they had to cut the thing into pieces to get it out the doors.

WONDER WHERE THEY ARE TODAY — Right over the hill from Pico Canyon, archaeologists discovered a significant Indian hieroglyphics, including crescents, triangles, squares and figures of birds, animals and human beings. The scientists took a jack hammer to the boulders, removing the ancient writings.

AUG. 18, 1939

PLAYING A DEADLY GAME — Little Sidney Hammond, 11, was playing in the backyard with a rope tied to a tree branch. He nearly hanged himself. In the nick of time, his mother returned from grocery shopping and found him dangling, unconscious, in the orchard. She extricated him and probably didn’t play hangman ever again.

IDIOTS WITH RIFLES — We were prime hunting country 80 years back and Elmer Fudds from all over motored up to Newhall to hunt deer. Many were called, “Dumbbells with Rifles” and it was a fitting description. On this week, there were several calls by ranchers, complaining of bullets screaming through their homes and barns and some even landing in their cows. This weekend in 1939, an estimated 2,100 hunters were combing the hills of the Santa Clarita, looking for game. Even retired silent movie superstar Bill Hart complained of hunters foraging through his private ranch and game preserve. One of his dogs brought the severed head of a baby doe into his living room. Several teens were arrested for peppering a shed inhabited by two sleeping men.

AUG. 18, 1949

ENOUGH FOR TWO DAYS OF SNACKS FOR ME — Lillian Hoehn of Park Street grew an 83-pound watermelon in her back yard.

THE LAST OF THE SAND CANYON CATTLE DAYS — Today, it’s a tony retreat for millionaires in Sand Canyon. But in 1949, the McMillan Ranch was a working cattle spread. It was also the last time they ran cattle as the main product. All the cattle — except for two milkers — were shipped to Galt and the ranch was turned into a chicken farm this month in August. Hogs were later brought in, too. They would all later burn to death.

AUG. 18, 1959

MOVING LATE IN LIFE — Members of the Gifford family were re-interred from a Los Angeles cemetery to Eternal Valley. John and his wife Sarah have the unique distinction of being Newhall’s first citizens — twice. They lived in a train box car when the city of Newhall was, according to historian A.B. Perkins, about 1.5 miles north of the Saugus depot. That would put that first community a mile further north than originally recorded. In 1878, because of a drought, folks moved the town of Newhall, every board and nail, down the road to about where 6th and Main Street is today.

AUG. 20, 1967

THE DAY EVERYTHING STARTED TO TURN BEIGE —This is where we sing a prairie song to Yuppiedom. On this date, the community of Valencia was officially founded. The stocks of tan paint companies soared…

AUG. 18, 1969

AND IT NEVER PASSED — Gov. Ronald Reagan proposed legislation to rename Interstate 5, which had just been renamed from Highway 99, to The Apollo Freeway. That would be after the space mission. Not the historic theater in Harlem.

BARBERS: THE ENDANGERED SPECIES — The five barber shops in the SCV back then were unanimous: the style of long hair and hippies were killing their business. The younger men were the worst offenders, some of them going a year or two between trims.

ANGRY, BUT NOT TOO BRIGHT — Our very own outlaw motorcycle gang, The Rebels, held their election this date, 50 years back. It was a primitive but simple process. Two leaders duked it out in an anything-goes knife fight. Winner was president, loser vice president. Laslie Checots and Jim Deatherage were arrested and hospitalized before the final tally. Both Checots and Deatherage denounced the accusations, saying the police were just trying to drive them out of town and the cuts and bruises they sustained were administered by local police. Checots’ brother, Frank, was arrested a few days later for robbing and beating a boy in Newhall Park.

AUG. 18, 1979

MISSED BEING A CESSPOOL BY THIS MUCH — The issue of the year was easily the proposed construction of a giant, 720-acre hazardous waste material dump right next to an elementary school, over our water table and right next to the freeway. A Signal editorial by Scott Newhall opposed it in no uncertain terms, calling it, “Arsenic and Old Waste.” Scotty vowed the SCV would not become L.A. County’s “chamberpot.”

AND WE STILL WON’T TAKE THEM — Folks weren’t taking kindly to the new Susan B. Anthony coin dollars, either. On July 2, the Bank of America had 2,000 coins on hand. A month and change later, they STILL had about 2,000 of what Scott Newhall called: “whorehouse tokens.” The bank tried giving them away when making change, but mostly, people wouldn’t take them.

WHY IS MY DOG SO COLD? — Controversial veterinarian James Bullock was acquitted by a jury on petty theft charges. Dr. Bullock was accused of bilking a patient out of $39.50 in treatments on a black Labrador. Story was, the dog died, Bullock froze it for a week, charged room and board on the pooch, then thawed it out with a hair dryer right before pickup and burial.

Surely and dearly appreciate the company on these Sunday morning time rides through our local history and heritage. You people are good medicine. Hate to part company, but, it’s time — for a week at least — to go our separate ways. On the bright side, I’ll see all y’all 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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