You know what the absolute nice thing is about taking a trail ride through SCV history in May?
No face masks.
Yup. That’s right. As soon as we pass through the time vortex to the legends and lore of Santa Clarita, it’s all glorious fresh air.
Let’s hop on board our trusty steeds, smart and cute ones up front, the not-so-muches toward the rear
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
LAKE OF OIL — I always have wondered how much oil that Pico No. 4 well had pulled out over the years. The Mentryville site sat on a veritable lake of oil and pumped out black gold for more than a century. There’s much history about the well and even an entire book written about that one well. It started on May 22, 1865, when the original creator, Ramon Perea and his partner, sold their claim to Gen. Edward Fitzgerald Beale and Bob Baker for the sum of $300.
FOR LACK OF A CRYSTAL BALL — Strange, and probably fortunate, how we don’t know how life will play out. Joe Gottardi was born in Italy on May 30, 1886. He would marry, have five kids and become a farmer in San Francisquito Canyon. While he lived, all six of his family would die in the great St. Francis Dam Disaster of 1928.
SPEAKING OF BIRTHDAYS — Jim Thorpe, one of the greatest athletes in all of American history, was born on May 28, 1888, in the Indian Territory that would later be Oklahoma. Thorpe shot a ton of B Westerns out of Placerita Canyon. Another actor who shot like five tons of B Westerns in Placerita was born on May 26, 1907. You may know Marion Robert Morrison by his stage name: John Wayne.
SHE PUT THE RA!! IN RAMONA — One of America’s most influential novels, “Ramona,” was turned into a movie by mogul D.W. Griffith (who owned a ranch out here in the SCV). It was released this week in 1910. It’s hard to fathom just how popular the book was for decades. Think of “Star Wars” on steroids.
MAY 24, 1920
BEST REMEMBER. IT’S GONNA BE ON THE FINAL. — Just so’s you know, milk goats cost about $20 in 1920 Newhall. It costs about $20 a month just to feed them a century later. You can buy a non-milking goat for about the same price today — 20 bucks and sometimes, farmers will give them away. Milking goats are another issue and depending on lineage, can cost from $250 to $1,000 today.
WE AIN’T CHICKEN. WELL. ACTUALLY. WE WERE. — The old Eggland Ranch used to take up a good chunk of Happy Valley. It was the top egg-producing chicken farm in California in the early 1920s.
THE TIMELESSNESS OF HOT AIR — We had a local magazine writer named Samuel Blythe who penned some rather striking prose about Washington, D.C. Wrote Blythe: “Washington is governed by the spoken word — by speech-making rather than deeds. Success is measured by oratory and the manner of remedying evils has been to dictate a speech on the issue, to deliver it, and, after giving it the widest publicity to let it go at that.” A century later, have we changed one iota?
MAY 24, 1930
ANOTHER GAS WAR — Gasoline was selling for 12.5 cents a gallon. If there was a way to figure to bring some petrol in the saddlebags back to the year 2020, I would. Of course, Memorial Day is sneaking up and there’s no place to drive to…
SAME AS TODAY? — RE: the above — in 1930, the average daily wage was $3. Henry Ford was paying his people $7 a day.
HIGH-COST RENTAL — A millionaire (most rare in the Depression) leased out the old Charlie Mack rock house on 8th Street for the year. W.C. Fields was one of many Hollywood’s Who’s Who who (sorry!) stayed in the Mack complex, which is still there today. What the heck could a millionaire do to while away the hours in 1930s Newhall?
MAY 24, 1940
NOT USING THEIR SCV NOODLE —This one’s so odd it belongs in Ripley’s. Back in 1940, a group of local citizens raised $6,000. The money didn’t go for widows, orphans or disaster relief. It went to buy land on San Fernando Road and build a new California Highway Patrol building. Leading donor? William S. Hart. Hmmm. Didn’t the locals realize that if you give these guys a building, they’re going to come back and write you up some tickets?
BEST NAME EVER? — Check out this grad roll call for 8th graders: six kids graduated from Mint Canyon Elementary, 27 from Newhall, two from Sulphur Springs, three from Honby and 13 from Saugus. It may be 80 years too late, but I’m giving Val Verde Mosley an award for having the best name of any of the 1940 graduates.
AN SCV FIRST — With Memorial Day approaching, locals were getting ready for the grand opening of the Val Verde swimming pool and clubhouse. An estimated 20,000 people would show up. That would be a lot of social distancing today…
OBJECTS DE ARTE — Don’t tell Chris Allensworth (palomino with the sidesaddle, 12 rows back) this. She’ll pass out. Belcher Prince had a fellow from Los Angeles knock on his Sand Canyon ranch door. Seems the city slicker was interested in buying old wagon wheels. Belcher had a stack of them by the barn, some of them 100 years old. He sold the ENTIRE LOT OF THEM to the downtowner for 10 bucks.
MAY 24, 1950
DON’T SPEND IT ALL IN ONE PLACE, POPS — Mr. O.L. “Pops” Morgan of Walnut Street received his federal income tax return. It was for one cent. Morgan noted that the number of the check was 14,359,317 and issued the wish that the two numbers could somehow be reversed.
FROM THE EQUESTRIAN IRONY DEPT. — A truck carrying three expensive thoroughbred horses crashed in Castaic after hitting several bales of hay dropped from another truck.
WE’RE GUESSING LENDEN WAS HELD BACK A FEW TIMES — Lenden Lee Riley, an 18-year-old high school sophomore, was arrested for assault and attempted rape on a Newhall woman. She successfully fought off Riley, if you can call getting slugged in the face successful. Newhall sheriff’s deputies quickly arrived and found Riley’s 1932 Ford still warm outside the woman’s Spruce Street house. They knew it was Riley’s car because he left his report card in the front seat. Riley was described as having peroxide blonde hair and tattoos on one arm reading, “Cats” and on the other, “Aces.” Sheriff’s Capt. Haisch issued a warning, noting that “Newhall is no longer a small, out-of-the-way country village. People can no longer trust their lives and property to unlocked doors and careless dispositions. Characters of sinister and unsavory nature are on the prowl.”
A SOFT SPOT IN MY HEART FOR TALL BLONDES — Donna Hayes made a one-night personal appearance at the American Theater on Spruce Street. The actress, billed as “6-foot 4-inches of Loveliness” was starring in the AT’s premier of “Dr. Dracula’s Den of Living Nightmares.” The old sit-&-scratch (as the oldtimers called the movie house) further warned Newhall’s squeamish in a big newspaper advertisement: “SISSIES STAY HOME!!” Second on the double bill was, “Forbidden Scenes from a Soviet Torture Chamber!!” All seats 50 cents.
MAY 24, 1960
HART HIGH TROUNCED BY DAIRY? — Hart High’s baseball squad lost in the CIF championships to a school named after a milk drink, Bosco Tech, 5-1.
ADMINISTRATORS MEET TO STUDY. WHAT ARE THE ODDS. — All the mucky mucks gathered to study school unification for the SCV. The merging of all elementary schools and the Hart school district never got off the ground. Thank goodness.
MAY 24, 1970
AND WHERE’S HAIG’S ALIBI? — Will the guilty candidate please step forward? Seems 50 years ago during the local judicial campaign, six of the seven candidates had all their campaign signs ripped to shreds. Only Haig Kehiayan’s advertisements were spared.
MAJOR COUNTY SCREW-UP — Mrs. Ida Edwards moved into her new home in Val Verde. In one whopper of a misunderstanding, the county had bulldozed her old one while she was in Oklahoma, visiting relatives. The 74-year-old grandmother lived briefly in a Boy Scout tent on her property. Newhall Land & Farming Co. led the charge to raise money to build Ida a new home.
COUGAR TO ANTEATER — College of the Canyons rolled the dice and took a chance on a new coach. They hired a preppy-looking former baseball coach from Rolling Hills High. Mike Gillespie went on to win three state championships for the Cougars. The Valencia resident coaches the USC Trojans, recent College World Series champs. He also coached the Irvine Anteaters. Fifty years ago, Mike was, we’re guessing — 11.
MAY 29, 1971
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NEIGHBORS! — Magic Mountain opened its doors on this date.
MAY 24, 1980
THE CROOKED & THE GULLIBLE — A big pyramid scheme was spreading through the SCV. People were buying in at $1,000 each. A very few folks made a ton of money and lost a lot of friends. The math was that if every man, woman and child in the SCV were to enter a pyramid, the fund would be milked dry after just 16 generations of transactions.
CROOKED, PART II — Disgruntled property owners in the Sutter’s Pointe real estate fiasco got a small amount of revenge on lender Crocker Bank. On the business’s sign, someone filled in the “C” to make it an “O,” spelling out, “Crooker” bank.
CORRECTION & HEARTFELT APOLOGY — Before I say juevos rancheros, have to make an amends. My good friend and Time Ranger saddlepal Pat Comey pointed out an error. Gremlins or alumni from Canyon High broke into my office and somehow typed that The Newhall Land & Farming Co. in 1940 sold land to build the Los Angeles Unified School District. Posh and nonsense. It should have correctly noted in the May 17, 1940, item that they sold 20 acres at $550 per to build the William S. Hart Union High School School District, or, “WSHUHSD” as we call it around the office. Please note I wrote “Heartfelt Apology” because I know most of you wouldn’t read the correction AND what the heck is wrong with the rest of you old-timers that you didn’t spot what Pat Comey spotted?
Do stay safe and sane through this quarantine. It’s not so much that things will get back to being all right, but rather, they’re all right as we speak. Thanks for the company. You guys are good medicine. See you next weekend right back here at The Mighty Signal 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 or https://bit.ly/JBonAmazon