Happy Birthday to ‘Big’ Bad John (Powell)

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

Hate to break the bad news. But when we time travel to the back canyons of the Santa Clarita of Yesteryear, you can’t shop. Well. You can shop. But you can’t bring back gifts through the time portal. It’s a spatial thing. Too bad, huh? Could Christmas shop for the next 376 yuletides on the Depression-era prices alone.

Enough of the jabberwocky.

We’re burning daylight.

Which some say can cause global warming …


Never been a man like him ack on Dec. 17, 1839, one of the Santa Clarita’s most legendary figures was born in Galway, Ireland. Judge John Powell would lead troops in seven major Civil War battles, free 700 slaves in Africa with Dr. Stanley Livingston and would be the chief jurist for this valley for more than 40 years. A noted big game hunter, he would also shoot an 11-foot-long mountain lion in Canyon Country, which, I’m told, is still a record for the state. There’s still a street named after him in Happy Valley here.

DEC. 15, 1919

Let’s not do this today he Automobile Club urged car owners to etch their names in acid on their autos. Using a beeswax mold, car owners would etch their names in metal, then apply a half-ounce of nitric acid mixed with one ounce of muriatic acid and chisel their name, address and phone number (if you had one) right on their car.

DEC. 15, 1929

I hate that when I have to do this today, don’t you? ne problem we don’t have much of in the local condominium is shooing gold panners off one’s property. Mrs. Bradish up in Canyon Country way had to use a shotgun to get a large party of prospectors off her land and out of her creek. We hear stories every once in a while of the rangers chasing rascals out of Placerita Canyon. A few years back, one rogue had set up a huge sluice box and was it was likely to change the course of the park’s creek …

It was called Markley, no malarkey! ur little airstrip — Close by the present-day Granary Square Shopping Center for the benefit of friend & reader Pat Comey — was called the Markley Ranch and then The Emergency Airport then, kiddingly, Newhall International Airport. On this date, the little strip made it to the big time. With a government-installed well and light tower, the airport was now open 24 hours a day. Old man Markley, who ran the original strip from his farm, was replaced by two civil service engineers.

DEC. 15, 1939

Steele’s a stealer ene Steele was arrested up Haskell Canyon for his part in masterminding a theft ring and kidnapping a 10-year-old girl. Sheriff’s deputies later found a note, written in lipstick from the girl’s mother, trying to warn the man that the law was on to him. What a mother.

You yuppies and condo monkeys don’t try this at home ighth Street is probably the steepest boulevard in the valley and 70 years ago, they had an old-fashioned runaway vehicle episode — featuring a brace of spirited horses. Four locals were riding a buggy when the pair of lead horses ran away with their passengers — straight down Eighth. The driver, Jeff Owens, climbed over the dashboard of the wagon and onto the back of one of the horses. The horse bucked him off. Now you yuppies picture that. You’re careening out of control down a hill sharper than a right angle at 50 mph. You leap onto the back of one of the sprinting horses AND he starts bucking. That’s an unasked-for rodeo bargain. The rig made a hard right on Newhall Avenue, throwing Owens and two women toward Palmdale. The other male rider bailed. All four were hurt pretty good but bonus, they were only a block-and-a-half away from the hospital on 6th Street.

DEC. 15, 1949

Why it pays to advertise in The Mighty Signal he mystery of all that dog-eating going on near Cowboy Park was solved. Folks in the valley were blaming the disappearance of their canines on some wayward puma. Then, this flier circulated on the SCV’s telephone poles and in The Signal’s small classified section: “A gentleman and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Van Dyke, will pay a $25 reward for the return ALIVE of their pet Central American leopard who answers to the name of ‘Ricky.’” Don’t know about you, but I’m not wandering around the dark SCV chaparral yodeling, “Here Ricky, Ricky, Ricky…”

DEC. 15, 1959

Not such a Merry Christmas his newspaper’s veteran printer died after ramming his car into a steel pole near the paper.

Church folk protest the American theater everal Protestants were protesting. Seems the week of Christmas, the local American Theater management was playing the double bill of “The Headless Ghost” and “Horrors of the Black Museum.” By the way. Semantics-wise, back then, the word, “Black” had nothing to do with African-Americans.

DEC. 15, 1969 

The deep mystery of the Saugus Train Depot or the first time in its history, the Saugus Train Depot got a new color scheme. Since first being built in the late 19th century, the old train station was always yellow with a brown trim. Now, the depot was painted gray with a green trim. Why the change? Jim Guthrie, the station agent, didn’t know who was responsible for the change to his home and office (he and his family lived upstairs; how’s that for getting used to living close to the tracks?). But he suspected that the reason was simply that someone got a really good deal on green and gray paint.

Me and the horse vote for the Glub-Glub-Glub Club peaking of changes, it was on this date that the Upper Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency changed its name to something easier to handle. The state Legislature voted to call it the Castaic Lake Water Agency. Some other names nominated were: Feather River State Water Agency, Newhall Water Agency and Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency.

The good old days he COC Board of Trustees met. One of the orders of business passed was that there would be “no extremist classes” on the curriculum. We’ll just leave that straight line dangling …

Hi-Ho, Silver! he 7th annual Newhall Christmas Parade went off without a hitch. Yup. We used to have a big parade that motored down San Fernando Road for years every middle of December. Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger Himself, was our grand marshal in 1969.

And yet, everyone could beat the guy one-on-one ary Ray was the first COC basketball player to score 30 points in a game. He did that in the Cougs’ 77-75 edging of the LABC JV squad.

DEC. 15, 1979

City paperwork n this date, a local ad hoc committee finished their articles of incorporation to form a new city. Newhall attorney Rick White paid the $15 filing fee and the machinery to form our own city government was set into motion.

Air assault saves Placerita  brush fire charred 750 acres in Placerita Canyon state park, roaring over hiking trails and picnic spots. A massive air attack by the Fire Department saved the buildings and the fire from spreading.

Thanks so very much for the company, dear saddlepals and saddlepalettes. Merry Darn Christmas and then some. Happy Hanukkah as well. I’ll be back next week with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. 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