Pinochle, Potatoes, Prose & a Barber’s Pole

Time Ranger
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So terribly sorry. You certainly may bring your cell phones. You can even take pictures. Alas, for some reason, the images don’t survive the trip back so you’ll have to just keep all the things you see on this morning’s trail ride through SCV history in the confines of your heart…

WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME  

History is circular n Feb. 23, 3001 B.C., an ancient SCV Anasazi probably stretched and noted: “Geez. This place sure has a great climate for the end of February …”

Murders No. 1 & No. 2  forgotten footnote, Castaic had the biggest range war in American history. Between 27 and 40 people were killed, including Dolores Cook and George Walton, by William Chormicle and his ranch hand, W.A. Gardner. They later were found innocent in a Los Angeles trial.

FEB. 23, 1920

And a don’t forget to brush your teeth club?  he Mighty Signal called for the formation of a Clean-Up Club for Downtown Newhall. This newspaper noted unsightly and rat-attracting piles of trash and garbage were being dumped in the many vacant lots of our main business district. Civic laziness being a gene, no one volunteered to serve …

Preaching to the choir he Signal also penned a reminder for local farmers to get their fields ready for upcoming potato season. Many potato caballeros were wondering why they needed a reminder to weed.

FEB. 23, 1930

The haunted weapon wo strong-arm bandits ordered dinner at Bob’s Place up Mint Canyon, then robbed the owner (Bob) of $7. They also forced him to drive them in his car to the other side of the valley. Bob’s wife called the cops and two constables were waiting at the Bouquet Bridge for the bandits. Turned out one of them had stolen a pistol from another Saugus lawman, Johnny Seltzer. Turns out it was the same pistol that killed nationally renowned crime fighter Jack Pilcher. On his first days on the job, Seltzer had joined Pilcher to investigate a cabin break-in. They saw a large lizard scamper under the bed. Both men, on opposite sides of the bunk, bent over to look. That’s when rookie Seltzer’s pistol fell out of his shirt pocket, hit the floor, discharged and sent a fatal bullet right between the eyes of Pilcher.

Something we don’t do here much anymore nd that’s watch the weather. The SCV was predominantly a farming and ranching community in the 1930s. We had a nice and steady rain that left about an inch. Coupled with pleasant warm weather, it advanced the alfalfa season clippings to the earliest in memory. Fruit trees were blooming early, too.

Rained out Our semi-pro baseball team was playing an all-African-American team from Los Angeles. The game was in the books and we were losing 3-1 to the Giants, who billed themselves as a “colored aggravation.” Folks and SCV ball players loaned the visiting team coats and blankets to keep warm and dry when the showers hit.

FEB. 23, 1940

Heavens. Even I learn something new every day n this date, Newhall barber Jerry Blowers got a new-fangled invention and plugged it in. It was an electric barber’s pole. For years, Blowers had to go outside several times a day and hand-crank his red, white and blue barber’s pole so it would hypnotically spin. Never knew they used to hand-crank them…

Used to play this with my dad he Newhall-Saugus Pinochle Club met, played cards, ate cherry tarts and drank coffee on this date in history.

FEB. 23, 1950

Didn’t move. Lack of interest. 
Despite inquiries from various Los Angeles and Ventura county mucky-mucks, the measure to nudge the SCV a few feet west to Ventura County was dropped. Lots of speeches were made, but no formal legislation at the state level went forward. Ventura, Los Angeles and the SCV all thought it would be a great idea if we, agricultural as we were then, were represented by Ventura County.

A high school first he very first major high school theatrical presentation of the brand-new Hart High occurred 70 years ago. It was Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” The renowned writer had three Pulitzers and was fascinated by twins. His own twin brother was stillborn. 

FEB. 23, 1960

From the what the heck were you thinking department he normally heroic and staid Newhall Sheriff’s Department took a PR chop to the chin. A small group of local Explorer Scouts were fundraising in Downtown Newhall. A local deputy called for backup to arrest the group and haul the cookie sellers down to the station. Why? No rudeness. No disturbance. No complaints. He wanted to verify their business licenses under office light. Nice crime fighting.

On the other end of the spectrum HP officer Richard Duvall was murdered by a car thief on Highway 99. The suspect wasn’t hard to spot. He was wearing an all-light-blue suit, blue shoes, blue hat and had a thick Southern drawl. The assassin shot Duvall from the dark as he approached the vehicle.

On this basis, why we have an electoral college n angry Signal editorial demanded that people not sign petitions to have California’s legislative districts reapportioned. Seems this paper felt the few big cities would have a powerful sway over the smaller populated rural areas (like us).

FEB. 23, 1970

Mystery government, Part I ur county Board of Supervisors voted to OK the formation of a new water district to serve a half-billion-dollar new development called — Golden Valley. Nope. Not OUR Golden Valley. There were 24 registered voters in this Gorman district. Not one showed up for any of the meetings. 

Mystery government, Part II here were 11 candidates running for a local judgeship. For weeks, The Signal and other locals were trying to figure out who the heck “Oliver Pfeifer” was. He wasn’t listed on any bar associations in the state. Turns out Ollie was an L.A. district attorney and the registrar had misspelled his real name (Feifer) on the ballot. Ollie lived in the San Fernando Valley but, legally, could run up here.

FEB. 23, 1980

Another great Signal editorial ignal Publisher Scott Newhall penned a front-page opinion piece, asking why there was such leniency in the sentencing of murderers. Our infamous cannibal killer, Ronald Doyle Wilburn, who partially ate a hitchhiker, was given life in prison with the possibility of parole in seven years. Michael Jernigan, in cold blood, shot a store clerk on his knees and begging for mercy. The clerk was paralyzed for life. Jernigan was out on parole within a year and murdered a Val Verde man in cold blood. Jernigan was given nine years, up for parole in two. 

Mystery of the dead body  San Francisco nurse alerted local gendarmes that a “crazed man” approached her in a local parking lot and asked her what he should do with the dead body in the back of his Ford Ranchero. After some old-fashioned police work, our local finest traced the vehicle to a Fred Jenner of Sonoma. Turns out he kept a mannequin in a sleeping bag in the back of his car/truck to deter hobos from stealing 40 winks in the open bed. Jenner was also a bit of a kidder…

Darn if I don’t appreciate all you saddlepals and saddlepal-ettes. Thanks for the company. You’re all good medicine. Well. We’re here, where we started. Looking forward to seeing you all 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 turn this into action and do so right jolly now…

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