Well about that? The gods of time were kind today and scheduled Mother’s Day smack dab when we take our weekly ride through SCV history.
As I look out amongst the thousands of you saddlepals and saddlepal-ettes sitting tall in the saddle, I’ve a question. How come it’s “Mother’s Day” in the singular instead of “Mothers’ Day?” Sorry. Just bothers me a smidge, but, being newly Canadian, not as much as to why the Toronto Maple Leafs are not the Toronto Maple Leaves …
C’mon. Hold onto your Stetsons and fetching bonnets. We’ll discuss as we mosey through yonder spinning time vortex to …
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
A LITTLE MD TRIVIA — OK. I’ll answer my own question. Mother’s Day is singular because its founder, West Virginian Anna Jarvis, wanted it so that families around the world could honor their own mother. Jarvis began her campaign to make MD a national holiday, which was laughed (literally!) out of Congress in 1908. Woodrow Wilson made the second Sunday in May a national holiday. Jarvis HATED the commercialization of MD, organized boycotts and threatened to sue many companies, including Hallmark, for making big bucks off hard-working moms. She suggested the family members — ARE YOU SITTING DOWN?!?!?! — write their own, handwritten sentiments expressing love and gratitude. The creator of Mother’s Day was even arrested for demonstrating outside a Philadelphia candy company in 1925.
WABBIT SEASON!! VASQUEZ SEASON!! — I’m not sure I could wiggle a Mother’s Day angle into this one, but on May 14, 1874, the womanizing bandito and pistol fighter Tiburcio Vasquez was captured in the Hollywood hills, literally jumping out of the bedroom window of the wife of one of his men. Attempting to run and bounce into his pants at the same time, Vasquez was wounded in the leg and buttocks by a shotgun blast from a deputy. The highwayman had been the subject of the biggest manhunt in California history. Bonus points? The nickname of Tibby’s paramour was La Coneja, or, The Rabbit. If that meant she was cute as a bunny or just overly affectionate, couldn’t tell you …
HAPPY DARN BIRTHDAY, HANK!! — May 13, 1825 marks the birthday of one of the most if not THE most influential people in SCV history. Henry “Hold The” Mayo Newhall was born in Saugus, Massachusetts. He once owned just about every square inch of the SCV, and that’s from whence the names Newhall and Saugus are derived. Had he not fallen off that horse, and, with a little luck, come this Wednesday, Hank’d be 195. On the downside, were he around today, he’d probably be yelling at all of us to get off his land …
BEFORE THAT, EVERYONE DRANK EVIAN FROM PLASTIC BOTTLES — The town’s first comprehensive water system was built in 1914. There were only about 1,400 people in the entire valley, including the mineral boom communities north of Canyon Country. The system was improved in 1930.
MAY 10, 1920
AND TOM FREW STILL HAS SIX NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICS THAT ARE OVERDUE — The Newhall Library made their monthly report, noting there were 547 total volumes, 101 of that magazines.
THAT’S A LOT OF COLESLAW — The Pap family who farmed here in the ’20s suffered a huge loss in neighboring land they leased in the San Fernando Valley. The Paps had to plow under 10,000 tons of cabbage because they couldn’t get railroad cars to make the shipment back east. So, the entire crop was turned into fertilizer. If any of you time-riding pals want to take a few head back through the time warp, feel free …
MAY 10, 1930
THINK THE GUY WAITED TOO LONG? — At a rather advanced age of 67 (depending on which date of birth one accepts) on this date, William S. Hart had his tonsils out.
SPEAKING OF BILL, HE WAS ALMOST MURDERED ON THIS DATE — One of the valley’s leading citizens was murdered in Honby. Albert Horton, 68, owned most of what was called the Green Oaks tract. His brother, George, 90, reported that a young man had knocked on their door in the evening. There was a scuffle, a shot and George walked out to find his sibling dead on the porch and the young man standing there with a smoking gun. The man ran off and to my knowledge, the case was never solved. Interestingly, silent film superstar Bill Hart reported a man fitting the description prowling around his ranch that matched the murderer’s description and said he had even pounded on the front door. Hart wouldn’t open the door but was standing there with a drawn six-shooter and had his servant order the man to leave or he would be shot. Would that have been something had Hart answered his door instead of poor Albert Horton?
AND A HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO VAL VERDE PARK!! — It was first called Ramona Hills, then Eureka Villa, then Val Verde Park. The park, which still sits there today, was decorating to celebrate its first anniversary on Memorial Day, 1930.
GUESS THAT WAS BACK IN THE DAYS BEFORE COLOR — Cowboys on the old McCain Ranch, 7 miles up Bouquet Canyon from the Saugus Cafe, found three bobcat kittens, two of them quite regular and one pure white, save for black tips on the ears and a black tail. To my knowledge, it’s the only all-white bobcat seen in these parts.
MAY 10, 1940
NEWGUS? REALLY? — The boys from Newhall and Saugus banded together to form one semi-pro baseball team. They called themselves Newgus. Which is better than Saugman. We think.
A HOT TIME AT THE OLD NIGHTCLUB — It used to be THE place to be for evening entertainment. On this date, the old French Village restaurant and dance hall burned to the ground. The place went up like a match, burning for just 20 minutes before collapsing. The heat was so intense, traffic had to be stopped for a half-mile in both directions. The French Village would later be rebuilt by its owner, “Pop” Poppelman.
KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR FRIES — One of Newhall Land and Farming’s big potato trucks popped a tire. The driver hit the brakes, the other tires caught on fire, the truck caught on fire and the potatoes caught on fire. Old Highway 99 was littered “… with enough ’taters to feed a regiment,” a witness reported.
DO YOU LIKE DOGS? YUP. HAD TWO FOR BREAKFAST. — A lot of folks thought Duncan McConnell got off easy. The young, wealthy sportsman was found guilty by a local jury on charges of cruelty to animals and shooting within a restricted area. Fine was $200. The case had drawn national attention and was even featured in Time Magazine. McConnell had shot one of Bill Hart’s prize Great Danes. Worse, his L.A.-based attorney drew boos when he viciously attacked the character of William S. Hart himself. In jury selection, defense attorney Charles Ostrum had eliminated eight jurors because they answered “yes” to the question, “Do you like dogs?” Star witness of the trial was Hart’s puppy, Prince. Wounded, the dog had to be carried into the Newhall Courthouse, then whimpered pathetically in front of the jury box. McConnell didn’t make a sympathetic testifier. The hunter had bragged about trying to kill the animal to several witnesses. On the other hand, he said he had spoken with Hart three times before about Hart’s Great Dane attacking his Irish setter and chasing his thoroughbred horses, and that he only fired birdshot at the dog when he was 50 yards away.
MAY 10, 1950
SMOKE ’EM IF YOU GOT ’EM — Back in the ’50s, we used to get rid of much of our trash in high-temperature incinerators. Because of all the smoke, the county issued strict new regulations that trash could only be burned 6-10 a.m. That way, it’d just be smoky for four hours, right?
CROOKED POLITICIANS? NAHHHHH. WHAT’RE THE ODDS? — Speaking of trash, the ethically challenged Board of Supervisors tried to sneak passing an OK for a huge hog ranch up in Haskell Canyon. Most of the supervisors were receiving huge cash contributions from hog ranchers. The SCV was the prime target for the swill farms, where the garbage of L.A. would be consumed.
MAY 10, 1960
THOSE OF YOU REMEMBER THE LUMBER YARD ON LYONS, RAISE YOUR HANDS — Residents of Happy Valley wanted a zoning change in their neighborhood. Seems they wanted to build a grocery store and bowling alley off of Pico (Lyons, today) on the site where the old Newhall-Saugus Lumber Co. used to sit.
MAY 10, 1970
SHOULDN’T HAVE TO COUNT THEM HIPPIES — Mrs. Paul Kline was one of our local census takers in 1970. Two of her recollections were about meeting a demographic called, “Hippies” and visiting “places so remote, I wouldn’t return there without an airplane.”
TOO MANY TRIPS TO MEXICO? — The big fight between the Hart District school board and Superintendent Collins Haan continued. The board tried to fire Haan. He sued. They agreed to pay him $40,000 to buy out his contract. Several fine points never made it out of the board room, including charges that Haan used to take the district station wagon for long weekends in Mexico and return with some funny merchandise.
ONE OF OUR MOST TRAGIC DAYS — The trial for Bobby Augusta Davis began in Newhall’s tiny Market Street courthouse. It was surreal. Highway Patrol officers and sheriff’s deputies were stationed all through downtown Newhall, searching rooftops for possible snipers. Every person going into the courthouse was searched for weapons. Davis was one of the two murderers who gunned down four CHP officers on April 5, 1970.
MAY 10, 1980
WELL. ONE CAN ALWAYS USE MORE MIDDLE MANAGEMENT. — Proposition 13 was law of the land and some Signal spies were snooping around the Board of Education to see what effect the big cutbacks from the property tax cutback initiative had on schools. Seems hiring of principals and vice principals increased 20% while hiring of teachers “… withered away.”
Well. This is where the closing credits start to roll. Be advised that no mothers, dirty or otherwise, were harmed (although we can’t say, “winked at”) in the production of this documentary on Santa Clarita history. Be back in seven with another exciting Time Ranger history adventure. Until then —¡Feliz Dia de la Madre y 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.