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50 Years Ago: The Darkest Day in CHP History

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

I trust you folks are doing well and are finding the blessings and gifts tucked between the hardships. I know I am. Getting time to work on that novel finally. Taking walks. Chatting with loved ones via the miracle of technology.

Speaking of miracles.

We’ve the gift of time traveling. I only have the proper paperwork to dash back and forth through the time portals of Santa Clarita time, but there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re the most interesting people ever to walk the Earth, aren’t we?

C’mon. Many things ahead, from the tragic to the sublime …


The latest buzz as reading the most interesting story in the 1873 book, “Homes of Los Angeles.” It told of these giant bee caves in Towsley Canyon that housed centuries of honey with hives weighing in the hundreds of tons. It described an almost impossible-to-get-to cave entrance, 30 feet tall and more than 130 feet deep — all filled with honey. Back then, the Bill Brophy family lived on the original LaSalle cabin on the Towsley property. Other stories over the years noted that three men lost their lives trying to harvest the bees’ treasure. All three were stung to death.

And it wasn’t because of texts and emails, either he Castaic Post Office reopened on April 3, 1917, in Sam Parson’s general store. It had been closed for about 20 years because nobody was sending letters to Castaic and nobody was getting any.

Funny where you end up pril 6, 1820, was the birthday of William Lewis Manley. Born in Albans, Vermont, a quarter-century later he’d walk some 220 miles for help for the famous Bennett-Arcane wagon train stranded in what would later be called “Death Valley.” Manley and his partner, Rogers, were so lost after the hike, they thought they had made it to San Francisco. And, they did — Rancho San Francisco, the name of the SCV then.

Happy birthday to you! n his 40th birthday on March 9, 1842, Don Francisco Lopez discovered gold in Placerita Canyon. About a month later, April 4, he received the first gold claim from California’s Gov. Juan Alvarado. It was one of the last official things Alvarado did as governor. Barely 30, he was involved in all manner of political and armed intrigue.

APRIL 3, 1920

And really. Is there anything else in life? n our lead story a century ago, Signal Editor Blanche Brown noted that the Presbyterians would be hosting renowned speaker, Dr. M. Laidrith. Wrote Mrs. B: “Dr. Laidrith is a brilliant orator, no question about it. His addresses are glittered with smart sayings and are rich in metaphor, simile and wise sayings.”

Well. Best we go home for a nap after that one. here was only one case in front of our local Judge John Powell this week 100 years ago. Leonard de la Moth (yes; that’s his name) was charged with cruelty to animals. A jury of seven peers felt not. 

APRIL 3, 1930

Taxing, isn’t it? .L. Carson began his laborious chore of beginning the U.S. Census in Chatsworth, Palmdale and the Santa Clarita Valley. Carson went door to door, not only asking how many folks were around, but their color and “SIZE!” Yup. That was one of the questions on the local census. Carson also estimated how much people’s property was worth and inspected to see if they had such necessities as carpets or a piano.

Must destroy to build Huge 16-wheel trucks were ripping up Weldon Canyon (the future Highway 99 or The Old Road today). They dug up the oiled dirt road so they could lay new asphalt for the upcoming superhighway (it would come with a newfangled invention, the double-yellow line). Small problem. The behemoth vehicles were ruining the new road as fast as they could put it in. Sometimes faster …

Don’t forget to say ‘¡hola!’ ere’s a first for us. On this date, 90 years back, our local telephone company was able to place calls to South America. Don’t think that service was used much here. Know how much it cost to make a call to Buenos Aires from Newhall? Just 48 bucks for three minutes, extra afterward.

APRIL 3, 1940

Is there more than just one of you in there? t took just one census taker in 1920 to figure how many folks were about. Twenty years later, in the SCV alone, there were 23 federal people counters. There were 34 questions on the form.

APRIL 3, 1950

When lions attack e had three cougar attacks on local livestock on distant parts of the valley. One big male cat was shot up Oat Mountain after attacking cattle. Another was shot at in Tick Canyon after killing10 goats and a third was driven off for attacking prize horses in Hasley Canyon. More tracks were found near Sand Canyon ranches.

APRIL 3, 1960

We salute you. ard to believe, but the SCV had a very active chapter of the Veterans of World War I. About a dozen members, plus the Ladies Auxiliary, held their April meeting.

Times they are a-changing e were getting ready for the 34th annual Newhall-Saugus Rodeo at the end of April. The chairman was Lyle Greenman. He entered cars in the Indianapolis 500 every year.

Cake? Eat it too? n the accident blotter was an apparently horrific traffic accident involving an overturned truck up Bouquet Canyon. A deputy pulled the driver from the vehicle with minor injuries, but then was horrified when his passenger stumbled from around the front, thick, red blood gushing from his head and neck. Turns out the passenger was OK, too. They were carrying a mid-size truck hauling Red Dye No. 2 frosting color.

APRIL 3, 1970

One of the most horrendous days in our history our Highway Patrol officers were gunned down April 5, 1970, in that department’s worst tragedy. Dubbed The Newhall Massacre or Newhall Incident, the events started earlier near Gorman after two men were reported waving guns and threatening motorists. It ended up with officers Walter Frago, Roger Gore, James Pence and George Alleyn losing their lives within five minutes in the shootout across the street from where Wendy’s is today on The Old Road near Magic Mountain Parkway. It was the deadliest incident in CHP history. 

CHP, Part II ne of the murderers took a hostage in a home above Denny’s on Pico Canyon. Surrounded by law enforcement, he finally took his own life the next morning. The other killer was taken prisoner, tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He committed suicide in 2009 in Kern Valley State Prison. The event resulted in all manner of safety changes for law enforcement and CHP afterward.  

Maybe they could get full-time jobs? alArts was getting set to open in the fall and everything looked ducky, except for one problem. There was no place to house their students with the high tuition.

APRIL 3, 1980

Best laid plans of mice and mann he County Supes released plans for the Mann Theaters to bring a 10-screen cineplex here. The Newhall Land & Farming Co. happily complied, having named a street Cinema Drive. They built the complex eventually, then, years later, it failed. Today, there’s no cinema on Cinema Drive.

Well. Here we are. Back home. If you’re not quite ready to go back inside and quarantine, just reread. Make sure you’re back by sundown or we’ll have to go out looking for you and might be forced to stay extra long while they were celebrating the repeal of Prohibition or something. See you next week with another exciting Time Ranger history adventure here in your Mighty Signal. Until then —¡Vayan con Dios, amigos! 

John Boston has been writing about SCV history for more than 40 years. Got some down time? You can buy Boston’s “Melancholy Samurai,” “Naked Came the Sasquatch” and other books on

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