Editor’s note: John Boston’s Time Ranger usually appears on Sundays.
Nature seems intent to ignore headlines and appearances. It rains and warms, turns things green and invites the young from coyotes to fawns to bounce about and play. It’s a beautiful darn day, perfect for sightseeing along the lush canyons of the Santa Clarita of yesteryear.
C’mon. We’ve been cooped up for a week with strange creatures, from small wiggly invisible things (like germs) to giant wiggly not-so-invisible things (like family members).
Perfect time to escape and see what life was like in years gone by. We might bump into a perfect spring…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
NOT THE SALAD KIND — Back on April 8, 1874 — two years before Newhall was founded as a town — oil refining began at Lyon Station, near Eternal Valley. The refinery then moved over to Pine Street.
FOLKS. IT’S CALLED ‘INFLATION’ — Turn of the 20th century in spring, you could buy a hot lunch for 15 cents at the Woodard coffee shop in Newhall. Unless it’s already been chewed, 15 cents hardly buys a stick of gum nowadays.
APRIL 12, 1920
NOPE. HER NAME WAS NELL, NOT ‘ETHEL.’ — Nell Bailey was drawing smiles and attention, 100 years ago. The lovely teen was employed as a gas station attendant at Newhall Gas. Gasoline was about 12 cents a gallon back then. The gas station used to hire the prettiest girls in town to pump gasoline — and they’d dress up in their bathing suits to do it. Of course, back then, bathing suits covered you head to ankle.
APRIL 12, 1930
HM. SLAVERY? NOT LISTED ON OUR LOCAL BUSINESSES. — Local sheriff’s deputies were busy on this date, capturing some bootleggers with 1,000 gallons of moonshine in their truck. Same day, they caught a slaver, smuggling Chinese immigrants into the SCV. The smuggling of Chinese was a brisk underground business and brought in $500 per person.
APPLAUSE IS ALWAYS GREATLY APPRECIATED — It was the great Depression and for some, times were very tough. Newhall Elementary, in a kind act of decency, asked that relatives forsake the custom of bringing flowers and gifts to the stage when the school announced their 8th grade graduates. Seems many folks couldn’t afford fancy gifts and the school didn’t want those less fortunate to be embarrassed.
APRIL 12, 1940
AND BESIDES WORLD WAR II, WHAT’S NEW? — Life was so slow in the little Santa Clara Village, as we were sometimes called back then, the lead story in The Mighty Signal on this date was that they had three positions open at the post office. A first-class stamp was just 3¢, too. Didn’t go up to 4¢ until 1958.
CAN YOU DO 3 AND COME BACK LATER FOR THE OTHER 5? — Don the Mechanic — that’d be the guy who fixes cars, not kills people — had a special running on this date. He’d overhaul any motor at $3 per cylinder.
APRIL 12, 1950
SHOULD BE A CATHOLIC DAY OF FASTING — One of the most important dates in SCV took place on April 7. Walt Cieplik was born. Inarguably the handsomest, smartest and most fetching guy to ever even visit the SCV let alone live in it. Hear he still lives in these parts…
JUST KEEP THE RAIN A-COMIN’! — An inch of April rain canceled outdoor Easter services a half-century back, pushing the dawn observances indoors. Nonetheless, the local farmers and ranchers were happy.
REMEMBER WHEN WE USED TO HAVE THESE THINGS? — Our big rodeo — one of the largest in the world — was just around the corner and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Posse announced they’d attend for the parade. That would be more than 500 riders in some of the fanciest get-ups you’ll never see this century.
THE O.J. TRIAL OF THE DAY — One of the wackiest trials this century continued with a local little girl stealing the show. For some strange reason, Erlita Madray was called to testify in the estate trial of William S. Hart. Bill had left his ranch and most of his holdings to L.A. County to build a park. His ex-wife and son contested his will. Going into its third month of testimony, the trial wanted to know what kind of man Hart was. Attorneys for his son were trying to paint him as somewhat of a pervert and even accused him of producing some pornography in one of his Western novels, “And All Points West.” The page in question was not even his text, but rather, an illustration of a Latin woman with an alleged plunging neckline. Erlita had been given an autographed copy of the book by Hart and his son’s lawyers were trying to establish the book was objectionable. The judge, the dozen-plus attorneys, the jury, the clerk and even Erlita were shown the extremely innocent illustration. Said the little 12-year-old: “I don’t think she has a neckline to plunge.”
AND, IT STILL SMELLS BAD — The bizarre line of questioning of the little Newhall girl Erlita continued, with Bill Junior’s lawyers trying to convince jurors that the famed silent star was somehow twisted. They brought up a conversation Hart and the little girl had about a mephitis nigra. The attorneys tried to make it seem it was something bad and Erlita snapped at her inquisitor, asking him if HE knew what a mephitis nigra was. He confessed he didn’t. Erlita enlightened him. It’s a skunk.
AS HOMER SIMPSON WOULD SAY: “DOE!!!” — Here’s a rather bizarre story. Firemen at the Mint Canyon firehouse found an injured doe in the middle of the road, exhausted after being chased by dogs. The firemen took the deer back to the station house and there, visiting, was a Dr. Douglas from the County Livestock Bureau. Douglas bedded the baby animal down and bottle fed it a combination of coffee and milk. It died the next day. Immediately following were the jokes about the firehouse coffee being able to kill just about anything…
APRIL 12, 1960
DRAG THE PERPS BY A SLOW-MOVING FREIGHT ALL THE WAY TO OXNARD — Railroad terrorists were at work up near Lang in Canyon Country. They piled 15 railroad ties and two tree trunks in the middle of the tracks, along with other heavy material, in an attempt to derail a train. Passers-by saw the pile and alerted authorities, averting a possible fatal accident.
LOCAL GIRL MAKES GOOD — Young Juanita Heinley of Agua Dulce attended a dinner at the fancy Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Juanita’s been working for the local Parks & Rec department since before the invention of grass.
APRIL 12, 1970
WONDER IF ANYONE FROM THE ORIGINAL CLASS IS STILL ATTENDING (DON’T MAKE ME NAME NAMES!) — A happy anniversary to Old Orchard Elementary. A half-century ago, they opened their doors to 640 students. Les Tanner was principal.
LET’S ALL JUST BE REAL CAREFUL AND REMEMBER — This was the worst week in the history of the California Highway Patrol. Four officers — Walt Frago, Roger Gore, James Pence and George Alleyn were gunned down April 5 by Jack Twining and Bobby Augusta Davis. All of the officers were from the Newhall CHP station. The oldest — the oldest — of the four victims was just 24 years old. The two perps had threatened to kill a pair of motorists up old Highway 99. Later, they got into a gun battle with two CHP officers, killing them both, then shooting another two. Twining held Newhall man Glenn Hoag hostage in a house above Denny’s in Newhall. CHP Lt. Paul Vasquez had an eerie, calm phone conversation, discussing whether Twining was going to kill himself. Vasquez helped talk Twining into releasing his hostage. Surrounded by police, he later killed himself with a shotgun he had taken from a fallen officer. Twining’s partner, Augusta, refused to talk about that day and later would kill himself in 1990 in prison. An article later came out in a 1970 issue of Black Panther Magazine, the official organ of the extremist party. They applauded the killings, calling it, “…a victory for the people.”
APRIL 12, 1980
TAKE TWO AND DUCK DOWN IN RIGHT — College of the Canyons’ baseball game was postponed not for any of the usual reasons like rain or the sprinklers going on. Playing a makeup game at Trade Tech in downtown L.A., the game was stopped when a man stepped onto the field and started shooting at people with a shotgun. He injured three, none of them being Cougars.
GIVE US SOME MOOLAH & WE’LL GIVE YOU A VOTE — Our always campaign-fundraising-happy county supervisors made the headlines again. Two of them, Ed Edelman and Pete Schabarum, took more than $10,000 from a garbage company that wanted to build a toxic waste dump in Sand Canyon.
PAYS TO ADVERTISE IN THE MIGHTY SIGNAL — In TMS’s classified section, we ran a short advertisement for a local, “PUTO MECHANIC.” In some languages, “puto” means a male prostitute or catamite. We think our paper meant, “PINTO MECHANIC.”
Well. Stand up in the saddle and stretch. Take in all the fresh air you can into your lungs. It is, after all, free. What say we all get back together right back here in front of The Mighty Signal next week? See you in seven 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. Got some down time? You can buy Boston’s “Melancholy Samurai,” “Naked Came the Sasquatch” and other books on Amazon.com.