Death Cults, Machine Guns & Outlawing the Dreaded Butt…

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

Hello, saddlepals. Did you survive another riotous Santa Clarita Saturday night?

C’mon. Splash a little Perrier into those red and swollen eyes. Grab your Sunday Stetson, spurs and, well — underwear, clothes, a sofa pillow.

We’ve a truly most interesting ride today through the back canyons of SCV history. Who knows. We might even take a peek at some naked people.

All for the sake of history, of course…


THAT’S ABOUT EVERY GUN IN THE SCV — Back on Oct. 8, 1858, the first Butterfield Overland stagecoach rode through Newhall, Saugus and San Francisquito Canyon. They were greeted in Newhall by a 100-gun salute by the local cowboys and yahoos. When applying for work, do note that “Yahoo” always looks good on a resume…

THE SURREY CAFÉ? — Then on Oct. 12, 1915, the Surrey post office officially changed its name to Saugus. In an odd coincidence with no relationship of which I’m aware, William S. Hart’s middle name was Surrey. Isn’t that a hoot? Another funny thing. In the early 20th century, locals of Saugus/Surrey had a friendly feud about what to call themselves. In fact, two neighboring store owners painted a white line on the wooden sidewalk separating their two adjacent stores, with a “Welcome to Saugus” on one side and a “Welcome to Surrey” on the other.

OCT. 6, 1919

THE SLIPPERY MARKET HIGHWAY — W. F. Erwin, who was in charge of maintaining the local roads, was busy lowering the brand-new cut linking Happy Valley with Newhall. Market Street was at first so steep that after ol’ W.F. oiled the dirt road, the cars used to slide right down it. In fact, the very first car to cross the connecting road got into an accident. Instead of turning onto Cross Street, a Model T just kept roaring through the intersection. Sadly, it was a “T” intersection and the historic driver hit an oak. Wasn’t hurt though.

HIGHWAY OF DEATH — We had a nice three-day spritzing that misted the valley with an inch of rain. Farmers were happy and the water department was gleeful. They were busy building a new road through San Francisquito Canyon to build something called the St. Francis Dam. Nine years later, the dam would break, sending a nearly 200-foot wall of water down San Francisquito, killing nearly 500. Pardon us folks from the future being nosey, but are you engineer fellas SURE you want to put that thing there?

DOGS OF WAR — The Mighty Signal printed a rather non-prophetic political cartoon on its front page from 100 years back. It was a drawing of a vicious dog named “WAR.” The pooch had a muzzle on it with the label, “LEAGUE OF NATIONS.” Signal owner Ed Brown was a World War I vet…

OCT. 6, 1929

CHECK OUT THIS EXTREME SCV MOVIE TRIVIA!! — To this date, one of the largest movie sets was constructed in Saugus to film an Al Jolson and Marie Dresler film. The movie was called, “Mammy.” The film was a spin-off from Jolson’s historic and highly successful, “The Jazz Singer,” America’s first talking picture. Jolson, by the way, was the son of a rabbi and was going to be a cantor instead of an actor. He first did his “Mammy” song in black-face on a San Francisco vaudeville stage in 1909. And no. He didn’t go to school with Tom Frew.

WHEN WE GET BACK, DON’T FORGET TO BUY AN AD — Now here’s an item from The Mighty Sig that is true today as it was 70 years ago: “You Can Drive Your Car Without Gasoline If You Go Down Hill. YOU CAN RUN YOUR BUSINESS WITHOUT ADVERTISING, BUT ONLY GOING DOWN HILL.” Best all of you people who aren’t running ads first thing Monday, go place one. With us. That’s 259-you-know-the-1234-rest…

HART HIGH’S FIRST PLANNED LOCATION — Locals were talking about establishing a high school in the SCV as far back as the 1920s. Another organized movement jump-started in October of 1929. Hart High didn’t open until 1946, although there was some talk about opening a high school here during World War II — in Canyon Country!

A FORGOTTEN REVOLUTIONARY WAR BATTLE IN NEWHALL? — Jack Sanders found a bona fide NRA curiosity up in Rice Canyon. It was a musket ball from one of those really, really old rifles.

OCT. 6, 1939

MISS THOSE NIGHT RIDERS — A group of about 50 riders participated in their monthly full-moon horseback ride through Placerita Canyon, followed by a barbecue. Up until a few years ago, Liz Faranelli used to hose moonlit rides at Don-E-Brook Farms up San Francisquito Canyon…

A LITTLE CATHOLIC TRIVIA — Our Lady of Perpetual Help held its formal dedication for their new chapel. OLPH used to be at the corner of what is today Walnut and Lyons. Catholic services were held in a wide variety of temporary locations. The first, of course, was at the Mission San Francisco near what is now the Magic Mountain employee parking lot. The old “temporary” chapel was in the same location since the 1920s. Prior to that, from 1911 to the 1920s, it moved around Newhall with padres from the San Fernando Mission coming up to offer services. A father Sugranes began passing the plate for funds to build that “first” 20th century church and three years later, in 1914, they laid the first cornerstone.

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD — You know those tire dealerships around town who say they’ll beat ANY advertised deal? Show them this one: Four tires, installed, for $8.30 at the Signal Service Station (no relation).

OCT. 6, 1949

BACK IN THE DAY WHEN YOU’D GET A WHIPPING AND THEN SOME — Two small boys were arrested for derailing a work car near Lang station in upper Canyon Country. They had placed several large iron brakes on the tracks. Fortunately, it was the small work vehicle and not a fast-moving passenger train.

OCT. 6, 1959

DOES THAT COUNT AS AN ASSAULT RIFLE? — For the second time in 1959, a group of young men were arrested for target practicing in a distant Santa Clarita canyon. Actually, the problem wasn’t the shooting. It was the gun the boys were using. The lads had bought a giant German 20-mm anti-tank gun and were aerating the local hillsides with it.

EL TEJON OBIT — Earl Thompson shot a full-grown badger raiding his pheasant pasture on this date. Used a Winchester. Not a German 20-mm anti-tank gun.

OCT. 6, 1969 

HOW ABOUT THEM COWBOYS? — Canyon High won their first football game ever 50 years back, beating Chaminade, 29-6. Ricky Deising scored four touchdowns, but, let the record state that was on the Sunday sandlot tackle football game at Sierra Vista…

IT’S PRONOUNCED, ‘CHEWYNARDS.’ — Here’s an interesting tidbit. Before CalArts moved up here to Valencia, it was known as the Chouinard Art School. The campus had been in downtown Los Angeles for 50 years and was a traditional art school.

NO BUTS ABOUT IT — A half-century back, the county Board of Supervisors outlawed the displaying of bare breasts and buttocks. Well. It was jolly well about time. And yes. It was specifically worded to outlaw the freeing of female breasts and buttocks. Which isn’t a bad garage band name. An accompanying Signal editorial by Scott Newhall was against the measure.

AN ENTIRE PASSEL OF COWBOYS AND COWBOYETTES — Remember Frontier Days? More than 30,000 turned up for the big wild West weekend in Canyon Country. The event went extinct decades ago… 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STEVE — Fifty years ago this week, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church held their grand opening. Russ Minter was the first reverend.

OCT. 6, 1979

THE CASTAIC DEATH CULT — Castaic ranch property owned by the Peoples Temple was put on the selling block. The cult owned nearly $10 million in various holdings, including 65 acres off Charlie Canyon. Asking price was $1,500 an acre. A court ordered all the Peoples Temple assets dissolved after its leader, the Rev. Jim Jones, had 998 of his followers join him in a poison-laced Flavor-Aid suicide in the jungles of Guyana.

NOT ONLY THAT, BUT JIMMY SHARES MY BIRTHDAY! — Actor James Garner (“Maverick,” “Rockford”) was in town to catch a race at the Saugus Speedway. He got a bonus of witnessing not one, but two major league fistfights between drivers after two separate accidents.

Drat. Wish I could just spend the rest of Sunday moseying with you dear companions. Thanks for the good company. Time for us to return to the here-and-now. No need to fret. See you in seven with another exciting Time Ranger/SCV history 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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