Tom Frew Starts 5th Grade. Yet Again

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

Hasn’t this just been so glorious — this March miracle of rain? The hills are going to be just riotous in the following weeks.

We’ve got everything from earthquakes to making fun of my dear friend and saddlepal, Tom Frew. We just turned into spring and wanted to remind Tom to set his clock forward another hour.


C’mon. We are going to mosey back into the mystic of yesteryear and have ourselves a perfect time. Perfect trek to get away from the humdrummia (a word my dopey sister-like substance Leslie invented) of all this quarantine, isn’t it?


Grab those clay pots! he last of the aftershocks of the Santa Barbara 1812 earthquake were felt in the SCV in late March 1813, with only local Tataviam and a few Spanish here to feel them. Going back, they estimated the 1812 tumbler registered 7.1 on the Richter Scale, about the same size as the San Fernando Quake of 1971.

The mighty Hercules With blasts of Hercules Dynamite, on March 22, 1875, work began on one of the longest train tunnels in the world. Engineers starting simultaneously from the Newhall and the San Fernando Valley side started digging toward one another to create the Newhall Train Tunnel. It was 6,940 feet long when completed in 1876. When Chinese laborers broke through to greet one another, the tunnel was off a mere couple inches.

Happy Birthday! he Castaic School District was founded on March 25, 1889. I’d like to point out that Tom Frew was starting his third year of fifth grade, but that would be cruel …

MARCH 22, 1920

Could fit in your wallet imes were a bit tough for The Mighty Signal. Having just lost Editor Ed Brown a year into creating this newspaper, TMS was just four pages long for a few weeks. His widow, Blanche Brown, took over running the periodical, along with the SCV’s first cowboy poet, Thornton Doelle.

Our most boring story? esides being tiny, The Signal sure was boring. The front-page lead story was a reprint of a long Christmas letter from a woman who used to live in Newhall. She waxed poetic for several hundred words about how raisins were 27 cents a pound.

In the days of anti-political correctness heck out this front-page story, in its entirety: “Gypsies in and around the town of Saugus the past few weeks have caused considerable worry to all those having poultry, it being a known fact that all gypsies are fond of poultry.”

MARCH 22, 1930

‘Weird ol’ weather’ hat was the headline of TMS 90 years back. In the course of a day, we had everything from sunshine to snow to hail to rain followed by flash floods. 

Ouch! ne of A.C. Donahue’s hens was walking funny. She laid an egg 7.5 by 10 inches. It weighed nearly 7 ounces. Signal Editor Dad Thatcher noted there weren’t any ostriches on the Saugus farm.

Remembering the damn, remember the dead t was the second anniversary of the bursting of the great St. Francis Dam where some 500 souls lost their lives. The Saugus Community Club hosted a large luncheon, with several hundred in attendance. Seven chunks of the dam were used in the Saugus garden as memorial statues of the seven club members who had died in one of America’s greatest disasters.

That’s a pretty decent hike in the rain he Deltrick family came home from a party to find something asleep in the front seat of their car. It was Howard Johnson. Nope. Not the restaurant owner. The 11-year-old runaway. Howie hiked all the way from Long Beach to reach Ventura. He got a little tired. And wet. The Deltricks took him to the sheriff’s office on 6th Street and the local gendarmes fed him and gave him fresh warm clothes. His parents were more than a little happy to hear he was OK.

MARCH 22, 1940

Our Cool Hand Lukes rison labor was used to create a brand new road, linking Placerita Canyon to a future Sierra Highway. The original road had an underpass to allow cattle to go under the highway. 

One boffo show nd one of America’s biggest rodeos, amen boy howdy. The 15th Annual Newhall-Saugus Rodeo was one of the biggest in America. A veritable who’s who of stars were announced and included Jack Benny, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, our own Bill Hart, Clark Gable, Wallace Berry and nearly 100 Hollywood and Western celebs.

Geez. I’d like to somehow sneak this back in my saddlebags to the future  Signal classified ad noted: “Choice lot for sale on Arcadia Street. Telephone 130-R.” Total price for the lot? $750 …

MARCH 22, 1950

Ain’t lion ard to believe, but we had three full-time mountain lion hunters here in the SCV. Hermann Keene shot a 130-pound puma near where the Magic Mountain employee entrance is today. He took home $50 for the bounty, then went back and shot the mate.

Hart’s OK ctor “Wild” Bill Elliot testified at the estate trial of silent superstar William S. Hart. Elliot noted that the deceased actor was of sound mind. That one tenet was the crucial point of a series of trials that lasted a decade. Hart’s son and ex-wife were contesting his will in which he left mega millions to L.A. County instead of to them. Famed gossip columnist and Hart pal since 1915, Hedda Hopper, also testified at the little Newhall Courthouse.

Now that’s religion! ne aspect that’s been a constant over the decades is how the local faiths help one another. On March 19, 1950, the Latter Day Saints held their very first official meeting. It was at the 7th Day Adventists Church.

MARCH 22, 1960

Flying rats art High was infested with hundreds of pigeons. The birds took over every nook and cranny, from vents, pipes, ledges and rain gutters. A compendium of ordinances forbade shooting or trapping them. Eventually, they flew away.

Ssssssscuuuzzzz me!!! int Canyon farmer Harry Humphrey had more than a little surprise when he walked into his henhouse one fine Sunday morn. Except for a lot of feathers and chicken byproducts, all his hens were gone. Harry didn’t find a fox in the henhouse. He found a full-grown mountain lion. The puma vamoosed post haste.

MARCH 22, 1970

That’s one way to seriously lowe ryour car payment  San Clemente man drove his car all the way to Castaic, attempted to drive it off a 200-foot cliff, bailed out but not before setting the car on fire. The car’s chassis got stuck on the edge of the pavement. Turns out the gentleman over-insured the vehicle for fire as a way to get out of payments.

Benjamin Franklin would have been proud he Signal sponsored its first — and last — kite flying contest. TMS noted that kite flying was America’s favorite sport. We offered prizes in such categories as: Biggest, Smallest, Highest, Lowest and Best Decorated.

MARCH 22, 1980

Vampire gets life onald Doyle Wilburn, the infamous Vampire Van cannibal, drew a life in prison without parole sentence on this date. Wilburn had picked up a hitchhiking girl, murdered her, then ate part of her. His public defender was outraged over the verdict.

You folks be well and I mean that sincerely. Use this down time to get to know yourselves. I’m betting you’ll find a friend and interesting person there. 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 Best you turn this into action and do so right jolly now …

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