Homewreckers, Converts & Giving a ‘Dam’ Typo…

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

Oof and foof. Hope all of you have the smoke coughed out of your lungs by now. Prayers, hugs, whatever it takes, for all of you who lost more than treasure during last week’s fires.

If I may, as a change of scenery, let’s you, me and the entire valley drift into the SCV of yesteryear on a calm horseback ride through history…


Our Death Valley connection n Nov. 4, 1849, William Manly and John Rogers set out on foot from Death Valley to find help for their broken-down wagon train. The duo started marching toward what they thought would be San Francisco and ended up in the Santa Clarita Valley. Odd tidbit: On arriving in Soledad Canyon, they asked where WAS San Francisco and a vaquero led them to Don Ignacio del Valle’s spread— which was called Rancho San Francisco. A posse of rescuers set out from the del Valle rancho and rode out all the way to Death Valley with supplies to help the hundred-plus settlers. The wagon train was led back to the SCV and many of them settled in the area.

NOV. 3, 1919

Slapstick a century ago ax Sennett and his slapstick company were in town on this date, 100 years ago. Local stuntman and cowboy, Dude Campbell, assisted in the one-reel unnamed comedy in the “suicide stunt” in one of our canyons.

Horses, special delivery, no pun intended “Cowboy” Bob Anderson came back from Arizona and unloaded his string of trick horses off the train in Newhall.

Home wrecker Here’s an oddball classified ad for you from The Mighty Signal eight decades back: “FOR SALE — large building in Placerita Canyon. Can be wrecked.” Hmmm. I guess the logical question is, “Couldn’t you just wreck it yourself and save me the time, trouble and money?”

NOV. 3, 1929

Funny. You don’t look Jewish 
Here’s a front page headline for you: “CONVERTED JEW TO SPEAK SUNDAY.” The big show was that a Dr. A.U. Michelson, who once was Jewish and converted, was the speaker at the Presbyterian Church.

Rail tragedy urleigh C. Mantry was the second rail worker in a week to die in a train accident in Canyon Country. Mantry was struck by a speeding engine while he was riding a little handcar. Sad thing was, he left a new bride and a 2-month-old baby.

Farm o’ foxes  Mr. Lockwood kicked off the valley’s most unusual farm. The ranch, located in Happy Valley, grew not chickens, pigs or cows. Mr. Lockwood raised prize foxes for their pelts. One kit, black with a silver tail, was valued at $750 in 1929 money. A brand new Ford coupe cost just $525. That was more than the cost of an SCV house back then.

Big money in baseball n African-American touring baseball team visited Newhall and put on a comedy show on the diamond, being careful to lose 21-2 (we had a rather healthy Ku Klux Klan following here in the early 20th century). The “colored” team, as it was called then, earned $3.72 for their show.

Giant trees sacrificed t’s a lament still heard today. Two huge and ancient white oak trees stimated to have been saplings in 1439 — were removed at the present-day location of Railroad Avenue and Lyons. The trees were cut down to make room for the widening of the road. “It would have been worthwhile to purchase additional land and go around these fine trees,” Signal Editor A.B. Thatcher commented. No darn kidding.

NOV. 3, 1939

Your new rural word of the day 
Some ranchers were shocked to discover several of their horses grazing in the local hills turned up dead. Seems either the ponies were nibbling on too much loco weed or they got “sanded.” That’s when too much sand, or in this case, granite, gets in the horse’s digestive tract.

Speaking of language ords meant different things back in 1939. Orie Bercaw Jr. just got himself what The Signal called, “… a brand new gay motorcycle.”

NOV. 3, 1949

SCV. Home of the world’s biggest wagon!! lacerita movie mogul Ernie Hickson brought in the supposed biggest wagon ever to stalk the face of the Earth. Ernie got his mitts on one of those old not 20-, but 40-mule team wagons that used to haul borax from Death Valley to the railroad in Mojave. Unloaded, the behemoth tipped the scales at 7,500 pounds. Filled to the brim, it weighed 23 tons. The wagon was one of the 20 original built (by J.W. Perry) and its run was from Furnace Creek to Mojave, a distance of 230 miles. Mule skinners made that trek in about three weeks, averaging 16-18 miles per day. They were paid $120 a month during their hauling season of October to May.

Another epic blaze irefighters mopped up the largest fire (16,000 acres, combining Haskell Canyon and Sawmill) in this area in the past 25 years (the Whitaker Peak blaze in 1924 consumed 40,000 acres).

We’re in no man’s land illiam S. Hart Jr. dug deep into the law books to try and block his father’s will, which left Horseshoe Ranch to the county. Hart’s son contested that, under Mexican law prior to 1849 when California became a state, his father couldn’t deed his land to any American government. In case you didn’t notice, there’s still an L.A. County park on the Hart place. 

NOV. 3, 1959

Problem with the steering  cattle truck lost its brakes on this date, just north of Castaic. The truck flipped, killing 29 steers.

NOV. 3, 1969 

Ask not for whom the bell tolls 
Fifty years ago this week, The Mighty Signal presented Hart High with a 150-pound bell that came from a train that used to make a run from L.A. to Bakersfield and through Newhall-Saugus. Signal Publisher Tony Newhall formally gave the bell to the Hart High student body after their football team beat Canyon, 6-0. Saugus High was added to the mix when it opened, as was Valencia High and, later, West Ranch and Golden Valley as they joined the Foothill League, which now includes all six SCV teams. Valencia has held the bell since 2009 and, going into this weekend, was 4-0 in league competition heading into the final game of the regular season. West Ranch and Hart were 3-1. 

NOV. 3, 1979

Would you not kill for buck-a-
gallon gas today? orty years ago this week, L.A. County ended its odd-even gasoline purchasing program. The last number on your license plate determined which day you could buy gas. I’m not sure it was actually enforced, except by unruly mobs. Gas was about $1 a gallon then. Figuring in inflation, that buck would still be about $3 a gallon today. Can’t win for losing in time traveling …

Have a doughnut, ‘A?’ he road folks roped up a new freeway sign for off of Highway 14. The first draft was sort of a compromise between English and Spanish. It read: “Via Princess A.” If you add a comma after the Princess, it almost sounds Canadian.

Dam. Darn. Whatever it takes. 
Speaking of typos, all the local mucky mucks were on hand to unveil a huge bronze plaque to commemorate the St. Francis Dam disaster of 1928. The writer had the word “COLLASPED” stamped in instead of “COLLAPSED.” It’s not like you could use White-Out on bronze.

Thanks for the company, friends and neighbors old and new. I’ll be back right here in seven days, waiting for you with a few hundred thousand horses, each to suit your temperament. See you next Sunday 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 Amazon.com. Check out his History of The Mighty Signal series on Saturdays on A1.

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