Rain, Snow & The Quiet Heroes of Sloan Canyon

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger
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Top of a wonderful and quite beautiful Sunday morning to you, dear saddlepals and saddlepalettes. As usual, we’ve a most entertaining trail ride into SCV history ahead, plenty of scenery, plenty of good companionship.

Nothing like a good horseback ride into yesteryear to wash away our woes.



I said “woes” and hope the several hundred thousand horses didn’t hear “Whoas…”


Plug nickel nd 122 years ago, the Acton Post Office was founded. Rudolph Nickel was named first postmaster. Nickel was also the publisher/editor of the valley’s first major newspaper — The Acton Rooster. It hasn’t printed in a while, but the Rooster seems to come back from the dead every once in a while…

Made it into a bunch of movies and plays, too nd 128 years ago, spinster and dime novelist Helen Hunt Jackson arrived at the Rancho Camulos and interviewed Blanca Yndart for research for her new book. It would eventually become a bestseller and turn the little ranch on what would later be Highway 126 into a major tourist attraction. The book would also be instrumental in bringing tens of thousands of easterners out to sunny Southern California, and, our little SCV novel would be named one of the most influential books in American history. Title of the tome? “Ramona.”

JAN. 19, 1920

Talk about a speed trap he Board of Supervisors signed some rather crafty legislation to stop speeders and cut the severely high death toll on the Ridge Route. Starting Feb. 4, 1920, two motorcycle cops were stationed at each end of the narrow Ridge Route. Every motorist going north or south was stopped and given a slip of paper with the time stamped on it. If they made it to the other end of the Ridge Route at a rate of speed greater than 15 mph, they were ARRESTED. That practice would eventually be used for motorists driving through Newhall to the San Fernando Valley.

Sing it with me: “This land is your, land. This land is ggland, the big chicken farm that took up a good part of Happy Valley, placed third in the state egg-laying championships. Can you imagine, today, living next to 12 billion hens and roosters?

JAN. 19, 1930

Life was a little tougher then ig rains delayed the grading and oiling of our roads. Roadmaster Erwin was in charge of taking out the bumps and filling in the holes after rainstorms. We also used to oil our dirt roads to keep the dust down. Hmmm. Out where I live, if I pour the oil deep enough, I might even be able to catch a few extra horses…

Snow damage? Here, in the SCV? Really? ocal work crews were also busy cleaning up and trimming after an earlier snowstorm broke hundreds of branches of trees in the valley.

JAN. 19, 1940

Guess it wasn’t Charlie’s time epending on how you look at it, Charlie Brannen was either very, very lucky. Or, very, very unlucky. On this date, Charlie drove his car to a desolate Santa Clarita canyon and pulled under an ancient oak tree. He hooked up a hose from his exhaust pipe and ran it to the front seat of his car, flooding the interior with poisonous monoxide gas. Problem was, he ran out of gas and got just enough of Death’s Perfume to make him sick. Worse, he was about 10 miles to the closest civilization and had to walk.

Guess it was time for these guys 
Five hunters nearly — and unintentionally — met Charlie Brannen’s fate on the same day. They had pulled over to catch a nap in the pre-dawn cold of Agua Dulce. Problem was, their old clunker had a leak in the floor boards and the inside of their car filled with monoxide. A passing and alert motorist saw the smoking car and pulled the men to safety. (HISTORICAL INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE FOOTNOTE: We don’t have as many carbon monoxide suicides today because of unleaded gas. Word is it’s almost impossible to die from inhaling it.)

The Curse of Newhall Elementary continued he little elementary school had been plagued by fire since its inception, burning completely to the ground four times. On this date, custodian J.L. McIntyre was severely burned when he came in to light the 6th grade furnace. It blew up. The roof separated from the building and the walls bulged off their foundations.

JAN. 19, 1950

Smile fondly when you pass by Sloan Canyon ertha May Sloan, one of the most beloved citizens to ever grace the Santa Clarita, died at her home in Sloan Canyon. She and her husband folks called Father Sloan (no Catholic jokes, please)  homesteaded in the canyon that still bears their name back in 1910. They earned the nicknames Mother and Father for all the foster children they had cared for over the years. Are you sitting down? The total of the kids they took in was 380. They had 11 of their own. Bertha’s nickname was well-earned. She left a note, on ruled paper and written in pencil, about the miracle of life resurrecting in the fields and hills of Sloan Canyon, “wearing shining mantles of greenery.” She wrote of the budding leaves and fruit, of the songs of larks in the meadow, of the cry of a newborn sheep.

A miracle of biblical proportions 
Interestingly, when Bertha’s husband died a few years earlier, there was a rather unusual occurrence at his funeral. Father Sloan was a renowned beekeeper. When they lowered his casket into the ground, a swarm appeared out of nowhere, alighted on the flowers for a few minutes, then flew away.

Not another cave man joke at Tom Frew’s expense e had a communication explosion here a half-century back. There were 177 new telephones added to the SCV, bringing the grand total to, ching-ching-ching, 1,263. Tom Frew (Pleistocene Epoch) has a cell phone, but he thinks he has to be in the pokey to use it…

JAN. 19, 1960

Were the snowballs made from heavy water? hree teens were arrested north of Castaic after they threw snowballs at a Santa Fe bus. The windshield was cracked in two places and the bus nearly swerved off the road.

JAN. 19, 1970 

On some level, aren’t we all? he Signal launched a new entertainment column. It was called: “Is This Artist A Hippie?”

The answer to school overcrowding 
Start banishing kids? Hart superintendent C.T. Haan began discussions on how to solve all the overcrowding in all three of the valley’s junior high schools. The Newhall Land & Farming Co. was blamed for building too many homes.

Re: Above? Ditto. he board of the Upper Santa Clara Valley Water Agency went to war with Newhall Land and Farming over usage. Too many people. Not enough H2O.

JAN. 19, 1980

Justice is blind. And sometimes stupid. ichard “The Swindler” Schindler received a nine-year prison sentence and $30,000 fine for defrauding SCV investors in his Ponzi scheme. Michael Jernigan, who murdered a popular local teacher and shot a convenience store clerk as he pleaded for his life, was given six years.

When I get back in a minute from this morning’s trail ride, I’m going to call my best pal Phil Lanier in Chicago and torture him about the beautiful SCV weather he left behind. As I do every January, I’ll ask if he thinks I should take a sweater tonight or just wear a long-sleeve shirt. It’s like 2 where he lives. As for the rest of you revered condo monkeys and grizzled saddlepals, see you next week with another exciting Time Ranger history adventure. Until then —¡vayan con Dios, amigos! 

John Boston has been writing about SCV history for more than 40 years. You can buy his books and novels on Amazon.com. Best you do…

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