The Sad, Sad Day the SCV Went Metric

Time Ranger
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I know. I know. It’s going to take some old-fashioned get-up-&-go followed by one of our oldest friends, Moe Mentum. Climb out of them Posturepedics, sofa cushions and designer foam mattresses, you post-Christmas bunk huggers. Time to hop aboard a special horse cosmically designed to be your best pal and guide.

We’re going on a trail ride into the yesteryear of Santa Clarita.

Each latrine along the way is private and designed from your deepest and most cherished dreams of luxury.

Don’t steal the linens.

The time portal has sensors, strobe lights and embarrassing and accusing robot voices that go off…

WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME 

Imagine if he had to lay sprinklers throughout his property ack on Jan. 1, 1842, there was essentially one landowner here. Ignacio del Valle lay formal claim to the Rancho Camulos — which later became the entire Santa Clarita Valley. The guy was his own ZIP code …

Then, exactly 8 days later on Ignacio greets a ragtag, starving and weathered pair of scouts — William Lewis Manly and John Rogers. Manly and Rogers had left a stranded wagon train of settlers in Death Valley and set out on foot to find help in San Francisco. In odd happenstance, the duo were so off course but they actually DID find San Francisco — del Valle’s name for his epic spread, the Rancho San Francisco.

DEC. 29, 1919

Actually, Californians should be called the 96ers, not the 49ers, after us he book, “Golden West,” was published in New York City by J. Alexander Forbes, 81 at the time. Forbes was one of the first to point out, in print, that a major gold strike was found on the old Rancho San Francisco here in 1842, seven years earlier than up north in Sutter’s Mill. What Forbes SHOULD HAVE pointed out was that there were huge gold mining operations in the SCV up San Francisquito Canyon as early as 1822. Topping that, there was the big Lost Padre Mine in Castaic which yielded millions in 1796.

DEC. 29, 1929

Bi-planes. Tri-planes. Whatever it takes. odney E. Hornbrook and Eldo H. Melling moved to Newhall. They were the first official federal aviation officers to man the Newhall Airport, which, on this date, went from private hands to public. Back in the day of biplanes, the port was open 24 hours a day.

007? ope. Bonita Darling (her Christian name was Nellie Bayless) had a reputation as being the town floozy. On this date, her little homestead up Railroad Canyon was raided by James Bond and the Dry Squad. Bonita’s gang was making moonshine whiskey. The non-007 Bond discovered several hundred gallons of mash and an electric “ironer” for aging the whiskey. Bonita’s place, four years later, would be the site where her jilted lover, Gus LeBrun, shot Sheriff Ed Brown to death. Sheriff Ed Brown was no relation to Signal Editor Ed Brown, by the by.

DEC. 29, 1939

SCV 335, Palmdale 155 up. We beat Palmdale. We were still so tiny we shared the same phone book with Palmdale. Combined, the two communities, an hour apart, had just 490 phone owners — 335 in the SCV and 155 in Palmdale.

DEC. 29, 1949

We still beat Palmdale t’s funny. One of the things that many of us in the — ahem — older generation experience was the yearly introduction of the phone book. Every house and business got a brand new thicker-than-three-Bibles book in January, listing everyone’s phone number and address. The 1950 phone book came out. It wasn’t exactly thick. It had 2,000 local listings.

That works out to above $68.50 a day he first of many trials lasting nearly a decade started in the little Newhall Courthouse on Market. At stake was who would get the estate of William S. Hart — his ex-wife and son, Bill Hart Jr., or the county to which he deeded it in his will — was in its early stages. The jury of nine women and three men were picked. One of the first tidbits about his Horseshoe Ranch came out that it cost Bill Hart about $25,000 a year to run it.

Let it snow let it snow let it snow!! 
The second half of the century came in with a shiver. We had snow in many of the canyons New Year’s Day. We had a low of 13 degrees at the San Fernando Road fire station.

DEC. 29, 1959

An unasked for history lesson during Christmas break. Sinful 
Newhall Elementary School has hopscotched all over the valley since 1877. It started in the Lyons Ranch bunkhouse near present-day Interstate 5, then moved in 1878 into its brand new building at 9th and Walnut Streets. The original two-story structure cost $3,500 to build and land and money were donated by Henry Mayo Newhall, and there was a donation from big game hunter, Judge John Powell. Cyrus Lyon, the gunfighter, helped build the first structure. 

There was one classroom on each floor. It burned to the ground in 1887 and, for the next three years, school was held in a little 14-by-20 board and batt building near the present-day Way Station (that burned down, too). In 1890, a new two-story schoolhouse was built on the original burned-out 9th and Walnut location. This new building wasn’t exactly structurally sound. It was held up by huge beams wedged on the outside to keep it from falling over. The school was straightened and two more rooms were added somewhere between 1912 and 1914. 

By 1925, with the valley growing, the school board advertised for bids for a new school, which was built at its present site on Walnut Street. The district also sold the old campus to A.B. Perkins and his partner, a Mr. Reidel, for about $1,000 an acre. Perkins and Reidel dissected the schoolhouse, moving part of it to around where Kansas Streets and Lyons used to intersect. 

The other half of the school was moved to the northwest corner of Lyons and Newhall (are you guys following all this?). Perk used the two-story building as a rental property, then sold it to George Bjornstad in 1948. George just had the old schoolhouse leveled in 1960 because it had turned into a “fire trap and insurance nightmare.” Interestingly, Bjornstad used the lot to burn brush and tree limbs. 

This fire metaphor continues because the new Newhall Elementary would burn down — twice — in the 1930s. If you’re adding things up, that’s one school burning down four times. 

DEC. 29, 1969 

Global wind blowing? nd, an exact decade after the old Newhall School building was razed, a huge windstorm with sustained winds of over 75 mph blew through, knocking over an ancient, huge oak on that very corner. The storm also blew over billboards, tore off roofs and knocked over other trees. Windows were knocked out and, of course, all the tumbleweeds from one side of the valley ended up on the other. Worse, Cablevision, which supplied TV cable to Canyon Country, went down right in the middle of a bowl game.

DEC. 29, 1979

That’s why Europe’s in so much trouble. They use metric. espite grumblings nation- and valleywide, on New Year’s Day, 1980, all hard liquor made or bottled in the Santa Clarita Valley (and, well, the U.S.) had to be sold in metric-only bottles or cans.

Well how about that? Our absolute, final time ride through SCV history — for 2019 at least. I’ll be back next week — er — next YEAR with another exciting Time Ranger time ride into the SCV seasons past. Until then —¡vayan con Dios, amigos! May all your New Year’s resolutions come true…

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.

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