Happy Anniversary to our Greatest Tragedy

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger
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I’ve some exciting news, saddlepals. I did a little digging and found out that the guy who invented Daylight Saving Time lives in Stevenson Ranch. All 20,000-something of us are going to ride over to his condo, knock on the door, punch him in the nose and then politely ask our ponies if they need to use the restroom before we travel through time.

Sounds like fun, don’t it?

Not to worry. Sure. We lost an hour of sleep this morning. But when we go travel back into the SCV History Time Continuum this morning, we’ll take a leisurely nap.

Separately, of course.

We’re cowpeople.

Not Vikings.


The fatal horsefall arch 13, 1882, millionaire Henry Mayo Newhall and founder of the town of the same name took a tumble from his horse and later died. Some folks are under the misinformation that Hank founded The Newhall Land and Farming Co. He didn’t. His widow and five sons formed it a year-ish after he died.

Heck of a present n his March 9 birthday in 1842 (he was born in 1802), Francisco Lopez discovered gold in Placerita Canyon. While it wasn’t the first big gold discovery in California (records indicate miners were taking AU out of San Francisquito Canyon in the early 1820s), it was a big one and helped set up the big gold rush of 1849 further up north. Santa Clarita further pushed the gold discovery back with the fabulously wealthy Lost Padre Mine in Castaic in the late 1790s. Interestingly, Francisco was looking for onions for his birthday salad when he spotted the 79th element.

MARCH 8, 1920

The days of dirt roads efore there was a reservoir, and before there was a paved road through Bouquet Canyon, the creek could prove to be a problem during the rainy season. Eighty years back, a wet winter caused the stream to overflow and no cars or wagons could get through for supplies to the residents there.

MARCH 12, 1928

The SCV’s most tragic day n a few days, some will remember the anniversary of one of the greatest manmade disasters in American history and, after the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, the second-biggest in California history. The St. Francis Dam up San Francisquito Canyon burst shortly after midnight, sending a nearly 200-foot wall of water down the canyon. While the height of the water dwindled, by the time the wave hit the Pacific, it was about 2 miles wide. Estimates vary, but about 500 lost their lives in the disaster. Bodies were found washed up as far away as Mexico.

Not great advice  little tidbit I don’t think has been mentioned before about the dam disaster involved a man who may have loved comfort more than adventure. Louis Rivera, one of the seven Rivera children who lived with their parents on the banks of the Santa Clara River, was awakened by a distant roar. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was the sound of a 75-foot wave speeding down San Francisquito Canyon, tearing up trees by the roots and bringing a devil’s soup of houses, livestock and megaton boulders. The entire family rushed into their parents’ room. Peter Rivera, the father, told his family that it was just a wind storm. As the noise grew louder, Louis grabbed two of his sisters, Isabelle and Frances, and led them from the house. They were followed by their mother and the baby. Their father’s body was found a few days later, in Santa Paula. The mother and infant were never found.

MARCH 8, 1930

Sing it with us: “Don’t call to me, Argentina …” n this date, Pacific Telephone installed some new equipment at the local office, enabling locals for the first time to call South America and Canada from their homes. Don’t complain about today’s rates. It cost $48 for the first three minutes to talk to Buenos Aires. 

Bob & Bob owboy Bob Anderson and Bob Baker stayed on long enough to start their fourth annual local rodeo at the Baker Arena. The pair sold the ranch on this date to cowboy “B” movie star, Hoot Gibson, on April 15, 1930. The old spread used to cover 8,800 acres and, in the 1920s and ’30s, hosted one of the country’s biggest rodeos, attracting tens of thousands of visitors. Today, that ranch is called the Saugus Speedway.

Need a truck diet oad crews working on the Weldon Canyon cut (today, The Old Road connecting the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys) were causing havoc. Seems the huge gravel trucks driving through Pico Canyon (today, Lyons Avenue) were ruining the oiled dirt road, cracking the surface and causing gaping potholes.

Make it easy for you: Tweren’t many of us .L. Carson was snooping around town, counting folks. Carson was the census taker for Newhall and Chatsworth. 

MARCH 8, 1940

Speed kills. Again eon Lacewell, 14, died after a high-speed pursuit on old Highway 99, near Lyons. The boy in the stolen coupe was doing over 100 mph when he couldn’t make a curve, went airborne and flipped several times in the air before hitting a tree. Amazingly, CHP officers didn’t know Lacewell had a partner. Robert Kurtze, an escaped teen inmate from Calabasas, was thrown so far from the wreckage no one knew he had been in the car. He lay unconscious for over a day in some brush, got up and started walking. Stumbling down the highway, he was spotted by sheriff’s deputies and rescued.

MARCH 8, 1950

Before it was the Master’s College 
Mrs. W.C. Gaffers switched her business on this date. She changed her Placerita Canyon thoroughbred farm from a racing stable to a breeding farm. One of her boarders, by the way, was movie mogul Louie B. Mayer.

MARCH 8, 1960

Fiends olks up in Mint Canyon formed a lower-case vigilante committee. Seems someone was shooting and poisoning dogs up there.

MARCH 8, 1970

A little aircraft trivia ur local Congressman, Barry Goldwater Jr., was temporarily grounded by the FAA. BGJ’s small craft ran out of gas and had to crash into a driveway in Van Nuys. Wonder what Barry Sr. said. His dad was a bomber pilot during World War II and later would run for president. Here’s some major cool trivia: Barry Goldwater Sr.’s co-pilot in World War II was another local — Gene Autry.

Useful as an udder on a bull n this date, our first local chapter of the ACLU was formed. Michael Ball was the first chairman. Best as I am informed, the ACLU didn’t last very long here. It needed 15 local members, but couldn’t raise a quorum.

MARCH 8, 1980

There’s an insufferable lemonade one-liner hiding here ll that was needed was another two trucks, one filled with ice and the other with sugar. Bob Gruver’s double-rig semi was rear-ended by another big rig on this date. Gruver’s cargo of several tons of lemons spilled onto the rain-soaked Interstate 5 at Lyons.

We could use it on water skiing antifa members? he Fire Department was testing their new water cannon out at Castaic Lake. You didn’t want to be doing the dog paddle next to the intake jets. The cannon sucked out 3,000 gallons of water per second and could spray it nearly 100 yards. Hmmm. Seem to recall we don’t get a great amount of fires out on Castaic Lake …

Hope you all do something useful with this extra hour of daylight. Like take a second nap. 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 turn this into action and do so right jolly now …

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