A Merry Christmas to all The Saddlepals …

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

A few days to go. So much to do. How about we steal an instant from infinity and ride a little into yesteryear? 

We’ll stretch in the saddle, look around at trees and sunsets, preserved forever, visit heroes and tsk-tsk at villains, certainly smile and enjoy each other’s company.

Get you back before you know it …


Way back to the zillionth nth illions of years ago, when we were part of the great super continent of Pangaea, it was three days before Christmas and not a soul was doing last-minute shopping. Not even the T-Rexes.

That’s still kinda steep, supes ne of California history’s most controversial characters, Gen. Edmund Fitzgerald Beale, took over the contract to finish what would later be called Beale’s Cut, the major route from Central to Southern California. On Dec. 23, 1863, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors extended his contract. Seems he finished, but they wanted the road to be improved to a 20% grade, which is still like a ski jump.

Let’s drive through the mountain 
The main southern entrance into the SCV was through a car and truck tunnel on future Sierra Highway. On Dec. 21, 1910, that epic and leaking tunnel was completed. For 28 years, that tunnel was part of the main road. It was blown up in 1938 and Sierra Highway was expanded.

DEC. 22, 1919

Not only that, the losers had to go home to their wives hristmas week, the locals entertained themselves by having the single men play the married men in baseball. The young fellows beat the oldsters, 9-5. Tom Frew’s granddad gave up all 9 runs for the marrieds.

Wonder what we’d write about man buns?  Signal editorial lamented the current hair cuts in men. The problem was that it was either too short, “…a remembrance from the trenches,” or “… the thick crop on top which rather resembles a horse’s coat arranged for the winter.” 

DEC. 22, 1929

I’d take it, put up a toll road & you can fix the pot holes yourself 
Bureaucrats from the state and county gathered to wrestle over the Ridge Route. The state wanted to give a good chunk of it to Los Angeles County to maintain and improve. L.A. didn’t particularly want it.

Postal crybabies he clerks at the Newhall and Saugus post offices were complaining about the big Christmas rush to mail and pick up packages. There were about 700 people TOTAL in the valley then. 

Talk about government out of control he fines back in the 1920s were absolutely crippling, when compared to costs of the day. James Psilos was nailed for picking wild cherries in one of our canyons and hit with a $50 fine. That’s about 10% of a house then.

DEC. 22, 1939

On the bright side? No HOAs t’s not polite to laugh at someone from another time dimension and especially while you’re on horseback, but this seems funny in retrospect. Locals were puffing out their chest about 1939 being the biggest building boom in SCV history. In that year, 25 new buildings were added. For the year. Newhall Water put the population of Newhall itself at just 1,930.

Mixing it up nce the biggest cowboy star in the world, Tom Mix was named to head the Newhall Rodeo board of directors.

Those long-gone agrarian days 
The Mighty Signal printed a cartoon map of the SCV, touting what we were known for. Like turkey ranches, chicken ranches, horse ranches, cattle ranches, potato farms, fruit orchards, dairies and even fox pelt farms. Save for the fur coat factories, about the closest you come to any of those today are the meat and produce section of the grocery store.

DEC. 22, 1949

Plus, it sorta made the place sooty 
A Superior Court judge ordered oil well companies in Placerita Canyon to stop burning off so much gas from their wells. The fires were turning Newhall’s nights into days by igniting an estimated 7 billion cubic gallons of natural gas. Back then, a huge Placerita oil strike made us one of the world’s largest producers of petroleum.

Drunk and mean; not a good combo t was the first murder here in a decade and it was a grisly one. Claude Faggard, an elderly carpenter, was beaten to death with a hammer by the man he let a room from, Earl Levings. Levings had a history of violent behavior and adding to that, Levings had just purchased 50 bottles of whiskey. 

DEC. 22, 1959

Our first school principal was … 
Here’s some trivia for you. On this date, Dave Brown was named the first junior high school principal ever in the Santa Clarita. Dave took over the helm of the yet-to-be opened Placerita Junor High.

Er, we’ll shop a little later, thank you ith Christmas always comes the ads in The Mighty Signal from our loyal advertisers wishing folks well and thanking them for this and that. How’s this one from Hilburn’s Chapel: “Many thanks to your loyal friends! Your patronage has made this year a wonderful one for us, and we are sincerely grateful.” Knowing Ed “Digger” Hilburn’s proficiency for the practical joke and dark humor, you’d bet this one wasn’t an accident.

DEC. 22 1969 

Hanging bureaucrats, a long-
cherished local tradition he Regional Planning Commission approved to not just turn Lyons Avenue into a four-lane divided road on this date, but Placerita Canyon as well. Years later, after a historic oak was removed on Lyons and residents of Placerita hung the supervisors in effigy, the road was not put through.

Greg brought heat ormer Hart pitching great Greg Garrett was moved up to the Big Show. On this date, Garrett was brought up to the California Angels’ 40-man roster. After baseball, Garrett became a world-class powerlifter.

DEC. 22, 1979

Better than on his foot ene Veluzat got a Christmas present that he wasn’t particularly happy to get. Someone parked an entire house on his property on 6th and Pine streets and abandoned it. Veluzat called the cops but the locals — with a straight face — said, “It’s difficult to bring trespassing charges against a house.” After it was there a week, someone came in the middle of the night and moved it off.

A really bad name for a gas station proprietor ilbert Tarr, a Gorman service station owner, became the first person in America to be charged with gasoline price gouging. His rates were as much as 39 cents higher than allowed by the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973.

Nature always comes back lacerita Canyon State Park had been ravaged by fire the week before and it was a blessing. Frank Hovore, the naturalist there, pointed out shrubs such as chemise, toyon, holly-leaf cherry and scrub oak would now be able to sprout in the wake of the fire.

The early war on Christmas? 
Friend and gossip columnist Mimi (Ruth Newhall) noted with lament how politically correct bureaucrats had done away with most of the Christmas carols (“Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful”) so as not to offend non-Christians. “We’ve turned in some of the world’s most appealing music for a handful of cheap jingles,” wrote Mimi. Amen.

Merry Christmas to you, saddlepals. Happy Hanukkah as well. Happy holidays and an unobtrusive nod to those who celebrate other adventures. I’ll be back next week with another exciting Time Ranger trail ride into the SCV of yesteryear. Until then — ¡Shalom lekha y vayan con Dios, amigos, y feliz navidad!

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.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS