Dear riparian friends, neighbors and saddlepals. Tip of the terribly expensive O’Farrell and welcome to another trek through the vortex of Santa Clarita past.
You know the drill. Find your pony. Climb aboard while maintaining some sense of dignity and above all, don’t grunt or tell us about your operations or medical conditions.
Those of you who brought fresh-baked coffee cake with extra frosting may ride up front with me.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
THE LESSON? BE CAREFUL CARRYING ELEPHANTS — This is one of my all-time favorites. Back in 1900, Newhall’s John E. Frazer, aka, Sheepskin John, got the job of transporting a 100-percent scale model of an elephant — MADE ENTIRELY FROM WALNUTS. It was a publicity stunt for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Sheepskin, an employee of the Pioneer Trucking Co., had the Laurel and Hardy task of moving and unloading the elephant. Well. Bottom line, ol’ Sheepskin dropped it. It fell to pieces, Johnny had to pay for it and he recalled that his family ate walnuts for dinner for two full years after that.
HAD THEY NOT, WOULD ANYONE LOCAL GONE TO SCHOOL? — The Mitchell and Lang families, on Sept. 16, 1872, started the second oldest school district in Los Angeles County. The families would just split up the year, holding classes in each other’s kitchens.
NEWHALL’S FIRST SCHOOL? — While the record books officially state that Newhall Elementary was founded on Sept. 17, 1879, it may not be the case. Some old-timers claim that the school first officially opened on the old Lyon Ranch in a bunkhouse a year earlier. It’s hard to say. Adai Lyon, one of the school’s first pupils, said that the school was at his ranch in the fall of 1878, but that he had moved back east to Maine for a year. The question arises: Why would they build a schoolhouse near what today is Stevenson Ranch when Mentryville, just a couple of miles down the road, had their own, thriving school? Any of you old-timers who knew some old-timers have any insight, give the Time Ranger a jingle.
SEPT. 15, 1919
WONDER IF HE HAD CLOWN PAINTINGS IN THE OFFICE — Dr. Gus A. Dansiger became the area’s first official dentist. He opened up his office on the second floor of the new Swall hotel in downtown Newhall. Dansiger was in town twice a week, and, apparently from his sign, he was fluent in four languages: “El Dentista habla Espanol — Le Dentiste parle Francais — Der Zahnarzt spricht Deutsch.” Wonder how you say, “Get your big fat fish-smelling mitts out of my mouth” in Swahili?
SEPT. 15, 1929
YIPPEE COYOTE, I GOT A COPY!! — William S. Hart’s autobiography, “My Life, East and West,” hit the bookshelves to rave reviews. Even the eastern critics liked it. (Anybody has an original copy they’d like to part with, please give me a jingle!)
SPEAKIN’-A BILL — Bill Hart went to the movies with a pal on this date. Will Rogers had his world premiere of his first talking picture, “They Had To See Paris,” at the Carthay Circle Theatre.
THE STRANGEST ACCIDENT — I’ve heard of bronc riders breaking necks and bull riders getting all their vitals squished, but this was a first. World famous trick roper and Newhall cowgirl Fay Adams died on this date in Nogales, Arizona, in a freak roping accident.
MORE THAN LUCKY — The state was just one shift away from finishing the Weldon Canyon cut (today, The Old Road and old Highway 99). Good thing they didn’t. A massive slide of hundreds of thousands of tons of rock and dirt collapsed, nearly killing several workers. It put off finishing of the road for months. It wasn’t the end of the sliding, either. For years, the road would be closed due to landslides.
WITH A 29-CENT DEDUCTIBLE? — E.S. White was the valley’s only car insurance salesman in 1929. Old E.S. had both kinds of insurance: “$6 per year premiums on Ford-type cars; $9 per year on Buick-type cars.” Bet if they had those prices in 2019, ol’ Joe Caso at Frontier Toyota would throw in a lifetime of insurance with every new car. It wouldn’t hurt to ask Joe…
SEPT. 15, 1939
OLD TESTAMENT WEATHER — A massive freak lightning storm struck downtown Newhall on this date, partially splitting a groove down a huge oak tree (on 6th and Main today). It was 103 downtown. Up the road, on the Ridge Route, torrential rains washed cars away. Mary Cuneod and her daughter were washed away in a flash flood. Fortunately, they were just badly bruised from their wild water ride.
SO HOW COLD WAS IT? — While we were boiling here in the Little Santa Clara River Valley, Winchell “Bugs” Wilkinson, editor of the Ridge Route Rambler newspaper, recalled some colder times. A friend of his, north of Castaic, recalled the winter of 1898 in Montana, when four locomotives were burrowing tunnels through the snow with a plow. The rotating blades hit several head of cattle, frozen standing on the tracks. Before you knew it, you had cows in the Cuisinart. Joe Sellars, another local cowboy, recalled a winter in Alaska in 1899 when “… it got so cold, the flames on candles froze and you had to blow them out by hitting them with a hammer.” It gets better. Joe said it was so cold, they had to dig a hole in their cabin floor so the mercury in their thermometer would have a place to go.
SCV WEDDING TRIVIA — The first wedding ever in Bouquet Canyon was the uniting of Ruth Hathcock and Harold Glines. It was at Campground No. 2. If they’re still together, this week would be their 80th anniversary, which, I believe, is oatmeal.
WORKING FOR PENNIES — Newhall Elementary was calling for bidders for a “new concrete building at 11th and Walnut Streets.” Highest paid workers were plasterers and lathers at $1.50 an hour. Lowest paid workers were general laborers at 62 cents an hour. That’s about a penny a minute.
COULD IT BE KARMA? — Billy Rose’s prize brood mare was mistaken for a deer by hunters and shot, leaving an orphan colt to be fed. The ranchers in Castaic were often at war with deer hunters, who frequently shot at livestock. Bill Rose, by the way, as a young man was the fellow who shot W.W. Jenkins on a lonely dirt road to end the famous Castaic Range War.
SEPT. 15, 1949
MANY PEARLS BEFORE THE SWINE — Ben Kazarian, grandfather of Ken Kazarian of Elsmere Canyon dump fame, applied to the county to create an 8,500-acre hog farm in Haskell Canyon. That one ranch would have held most of the garbage-eating hogs in L.A. County. It also would have meant every garbage truck in Los Angeles would have motored through Newhall and Saugus with their stinky cargo.
SEPT. 15, 1959
I THINK THAT I SHALL NEVER SEE — Chinese elm beetles started nibbling on our wonderful shade trees. Tom Frew lost one big shade tree to the nibbler. Word was he woke up one morning and the tree was “deader than salt mackerel.”
SEPT. 15, 1969
COC is celebrating their 50th year (meaning that former basketball coach Lee Smelser started teaching there when he was 6). The college didn’t have a campus yet and the board of trustees were searching for a location. Two other sites than the current one were seriously considered. One spot was across the street from Henry “Hold The” Mayo Hospital and the other was in Pico Canyon.
SEPT. 15, 1979
20 BUCKS? FOR ‘ENTER THE DRAGON!?!?!’ — Here is a momentous day in world history. On Sept. 14, 1979, the first-ever subscription TV was offered to some local residents through our cable provider, Valley County Cable Television. You could watch home Dodger games and such great movies as “Enter the Dragon” and “FIST.”
HEY! THAT’S CHEETAH-ING!! — A huge brush fire in Acton caused the evacuation of Lions Etc., the newly named wild animal compound formerly known as Africa USA. All 100 exotic animals were evacuated and Soledad Canyon Road was temporarily closed as trainers walked full-grown elephants down the highway to safety. Actor-producer Noel Marshall was trying to move a cheetah and forgot to duck. In blinding speed, the predator lashed out with a right paw, nearly knocking out the animal park owner. Marshall had a “B” movie acting career, but few know he was also the executive producer of the 1973 Oscar-winning horror classic, “The Exorcist.”
See you in seven with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then — Vayan con Dios y no hables con nueces en la boca, amigos! (“Ride with God and don’t talk with walnuts in your mouth.”)
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.