The President’s Son Dies in Castaic…

The Time Ranger
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Top of the Sunday morn to all you Mighty Signal saddlepals. Time to mosey back into the calming yesteryears of Santa Clarita history.

We’ve a fine ride ahead, with mysteries, pioneers, bad guys, good guys and tons of monkey business.

Find someone to whom you’ve taken a liking and follow the dress code (no baggy prison hanging shorts, flip flops or wigs more than a yard tall; it scares the horses…)


WE BEAT ALL Y’ALL BY A BUNCH — Many of us falsely learned that the first major gold strike in California was up north in Sutter’s Mill in 1849. On Oct. 1, 1842, The New York Observer newspaper noted that a major gold discovery just happened in our very own Placerita Canyon. Of course, even the Oak of the Golden Dream was old news. There were major gold mining operations in San Francisquito Canyon in the 1820s and Castaic’s fabled Los Padres Mine in Castaic, which yielded millions — in the 1790s.

SEPT. 29, 1919

BEFORE THE DAYS OF HOME DEPOT — Addi Lyon moseyed back to Newhall to settle for good. Son of one of our 19th century pioneers, Lyon had moved away to manage a power plant in Mendocino. Quite a weather difference. First thing Lyon did when he moved to his dad’s ranch on the west side of town was to run a classified ad in The Signal. Addi wanted to buy 1,000 feet of used 1-inch pipe and “an old house suitable for tearing down for lumber.” Back then, often when people moved, they literally took the boards off their houses and moved the lumber with them.

EVIDENTLY THE DRIVER DIDN’T HAVE TUNNEL VISION — A semi-trailer truck got stuck in the old Newhall road tunnel. The truck, considered big because it could carry 9 tons, was carrying oil rig machinery from Los Angeles to Taft — a two-day drive back then. The 13-foot-diameter housing got stuck in the old tunnel, which today would be just about right under Sierra Highway next to Beale’s Cut.

COME AND LISTEN TO MY STORY ABOUT A MAN NAMED … — Ed Clampitt was buried on this date. For historical note, he was no relationship to Jed Clampitt, patriarch of the Beverly Hillbillies.

SEPT. 29, 1929

THE PRESIDENT’S SON IS MISSING — Here’s a real oddball one for you. Ulysses S. Grant Jr. died on this date in a motel room in Sandberg, on the Ridge Route, just north of Castaic. He was in the best of health when he went to bed and quite dead the next morning. Ulysses was the youngest son of the American president of the same name. The body of the president’s son was taken to San Diego, where Grant had lived, for interment. Isn’t that a kick in the britches? U.S. Grant Jr. himself died here?

YES. I KNOW. “WHAT” TREES?!?!?! — Remi Nadeau, multi-millionaire and owner of the Nadeau Ranch (which would be around the Whites Canyon/Soledad area) came back from Arizona with five new breeds of deer. Remi kept a tree-lined resort and zoo on the property. Most of the critters were deer. People from all over visited the place, just to picnic amongst the trees. 

SPEAKING OF TREES — Clyde Radmacher of Placerita Canyon died on this date. He was cutting down a tree. It fell on his head.

SEPT. 29, 1939

YUP. FORREST PARK HAS TWO R’s —Henry Lang, a recluse who lived in a small Forrest Park cabin, died on this date in rather a grisly fashion. He apparently suffered a heart attack and fell atop his hot stove. His body and clothing caught fire and his charred remains were found about a week later. A little trivia. The ACTUAL real name of Forrest Park up past Canyon Country is For Rest Park. Back in the 1930s, a sign painter was given the job of creating a new welcome sign to the community. He didn’t put a space between “For” and “Rest.” Another SCV typo in our legacy.

SEPT. 29, 1949

I NEVER THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO TAKE CHEMISTRY — Three Hart students were badly injured in a lab experiment in Roy Dunden’s chemistry class. Fred Gibson, Jerry Morse and Bob Donaldson were all cut in the face with broken glass after an experiment went awry and a beaker exploded. Another of Dunden’s pupils, later, in 1956, would die when an after-school experiment ended in an explosion. Poor kid stumbled around, seeking help and bled to death.

ORDER IN THE BEDROOM! — Judge Arthur Miller, and no, not the guy who married Marilyn Monroe, seriously broke his leg. The judge was bedridden for over a month and conducted local court business from his bedroom.

OCT. 1, 1955

YOUNG, FAMOUS AND DEAD — Teen hearthrob and soon-to-be film icon James Dean, 24, died in a fiery car wreck on Highway 99 a couple of hours north of here. Dean had stopped off at Tip’s cafe in Castaic to have his last meal on this plane of existence. The waitress who last served Dean said he ordered a very simple and American apple pie and glass of milk.

SEPT. 29, 1959

THE ABSOLUTE LUCKIEST MAN IN SCV HISTORY — Gale Pickens was skydiving out of the old 6S airfield in Canyon Country. His chute didn’t open all the way. He hit some high-tension wires. They broke. He hit them and the nanosecond he fell through, they crossed and arced with 33,000 volts of electricity. All Pickens sustained was a broken ankle.

SEPT. 29, 1969 

LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD — He is known as the greatest athlete to come out of the SCV. Hart High’s former star, Joe Kapp, led the Minnesota Vikings to a 52-14 win over the Baltimore Colts. Kapp tied the NFL record for most TDs in a game (7) that still stands today and set a Viking passing mark with 449 yards. Kapp is the ONLY player to compete in a Super Bowl, Rose Bowl and Canada’s football championship game, the Grey Cup. Alas, the quarterback lost all three…

THE SPLENDIFEROUS RASCAL — Signal owner, editor, publisher and pirate journalist Scott Newhall began an epic journey to sail his newly purchased steam-powered paddle boat from England to San Francisco. The 105-foot, 166-ton Reliant would make an 11,000-mile voyage. With his wooden leg, Scotty cut a swashbuckling figure as a sea captain.

HOME OF FINE POETS & SOULS — The Santa Clarita opened the doors to its first continuation high school. It was christened, “Bowman,” after the dashing and controversial trustee and educator, Jereann Bowman. 

NO WAY! IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!! — Bill Kohlmeier, president of the SCV Boys Club, stunned the valley when he announced his fundraising goal for 1970. Bill promised his volunteers would raise $14,000. Gasp. By the way. Back then, it was just called the Boys Club.

THE FIRST COUGARS — College of the Canyons held their first week of classes. That first semester, COC was open only at night, held their classes at Hart High and had 500 students.

OCT. 2, 1972

AND THE NAME SORTA STUCK — As early as the 1930s, thanks to Signal Editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher, we’ve affectionately called ourselves the Little Santa Clara River Valley and from that, the Santa Clarita Valley. Thanks, Dad. But, finally, in an unofficial straw vote, the name, “Santa Clarita Valley” was adopted to refer to this region. 

SEPT. 29, 1979

STILL MISS THE DEAR LANKY COWPOKE —Newhall’s legendary cowpoke and personal pal o’ mine, Andy Jauregui, was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma. Andy started ranching as a boy and at 15, was given an offer he couldn’t refuse — riding horses in the rodeo for $2 a day. I’ve got tons of Andy stories. One of my favorites was when he unintentionally closed down most of Newhall. Andy was giving roping lessons to a couple of Hollywood types at his Placerita Canyon ranch. Word got out and hundreds of people innocently started dropping by, bringing everything from pies to casseroles for a “friendly visit” and sit atop the corral rails. Seems Andy was giving general cowboying lessons to Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.

I can see that familiar glow up ahead. That’s our re-entrance to the here-and-now of present-day Santa Clarita, give or take a few seconds. I surely enjoy the company on these history trail rides. See you all in seven days and I’ll bring along your own, personal time-traveling horse. Until then — Vayan con Dios, amigos de la silla de montar! (Ride with God, saddlepals…)

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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