Good thing Mother’s Day was last weekend. It’d be a shame to take our kindly dear moms on a trail ride this week that features so much ribaldry, perversion and inappropriate sexual behavior.
And by the way. You don’t need to make such a wild, Oklahoma mad homesteader dash to get to your horses. It’s not like all the salacious historical pornography is going anywhere…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
AND TOM FREW WAS JUST IN 6TH GRADE — Prior to the Big Bang, the Santa Clarita was a highly compressed point of matter and wasn’t even called the Santa Clarita Valley then. Beat that.
BLESSEDLY, THERE WEREN’T ANY DOPEY HEART EMOJIS — Prior to 1914, all California license plates were privately made for individual customers.
WHEN A RIDE INTO THE VALLEY WAS TRULY AN ADVENTURE — California was America’s brand new state and the old dirt road from the Mission San Fernando through the San Fernando Valley and up Lake Elizabeth via San Francisquito Canyon was declared a public highway. That was back on May 19, 1851. I think we’ve picked on Tom Frew more than enough, so we’ll just let this one go quietly by…
THE CATTLE KILLER — An epic drought began in spring of 1862 and lasted for three years. Virtually no rain fell. It decimated the cattle business here in the SCV and elsewhere.
MAY 17, 1920
BUT NO ROOTY TOOTY — The Deciduous Fruit Growers Association met at the Swall Hotel on this date to talk about, well. What else? Fruit trees that shed their leaves at the end of their growth period. And, posse members, for extra credit, who can name a few? (DON’T PEEK!) (Try fig, peach, plum, cherry, apricot, pomegranate, apple, pear and spaghetti. We threw in the last one in case there’s any little kids riding with us today…)
MAY 17, 1930
CLARA BOW SLEPT HERE? — Retired entertainment mogul Charlie Mack used to live on 8th Street in a spectacular rock house. It’s still there today. On this date, his house guest for the week was the silent film star, Clara Bow. The silent film superstar spent the week horseback riding. Outside, of course.
HEY. DEDUCT YOUR ALTITUDE! — Newhall Water Co. was busy modernizing. They started installing the first water meters on this date. They also handed out rather complicated tables for residents to figure out their water pressure depending on their address and time of day. “To find your new pressures, deduct your estimated altitude from 1,466 and divide the result by two, which will give you the approximate answer in pounds, subject to deduction for frictional pulls.” Say what?
IN THOSE PEACEFUL DAYS BEFORE TRAFFIC JAMS — We got our census figures back and there were 3,028 people in the greater valley (when we were the Soledad Township, our boundaries stretched all the way to Gorman, Palmdale and Chatsworth). Of that figure, there were 1,104 people living in Newhall and 151 in Saugus.
THE SHERIFF MUST’VE BEEN STAYING AT ONE OF THEM FANCY HOTELS — It was the Great Depression and money was more than tight. Local deputy Sheriff J.D. Story quipped that he was going on vacation to the Midwest with his family and that he withdrew 75 cents from the bank to finance it.
MAY 17, 1940
THAT’S ONE WEALTHY HIGHWAY — Several oldtimers acting as sidewalk supervisors really gave N.M. Ball something to think about. Ball was building the Sierra Highway/Placerita Canyon intersection. Seems the locals pointed out that Ball was using a lot of rich soil for his road — “auriferous” they called it. In English, gold rich. An ex assayer estimated that the road base the construction company was putting down had gold, silver and platinum in it to the tune of between $2 and $14 a ton.
I WOULDN’T MIND BUYING LAND AT $550 AN ACRE — On this date, Newhall Land and Farming sold 20 acres at $550 per to the Los Angeles Unified School District. The Newhall Avenue frontage would be used to build the first high school in the SCV. Tom Frew’s dad was president of the local school board and had been working for two years to help make the deal.
OL’ TWO GUN JUST KEPT GETTING RICHER AND RICHER — William S. Hart finally won his “Tumbleweeds” suit. Hart had sued United Artists 11 years earlier for denying him profits on his film by “dumping” a cheap film in 7,000 of their theaters instead of releasing his. The epic silent Western cost a staggering $302,000 to make. Hart won a $278,210 judgment. Interestingly, UA got a slap on the wrist and a big L.A. judge earned a felony conviction for bribery and jail time for being paid off in the first trial, won by UA.
WORLD WAR II FELT HERE — We weren’t involved in the Second World War — yet. The Nazis bombed Holland, killing hundreds of thousands. Locals Joe Gibson and Ted Kornelissen had relatives there.
MAY 17, 1950
YUP. BIG MEDIA’S BEEN CROOKED FOR MORE THAN A SMIDGE — Bill Bonelli Jr. ran for the state Assembly. His father, “Big” Bill Sr., was just starting what would be a decades-long feud with the powerful Los Angeles Times over liquor licensing. The Times would run, just a few days before the election, a made-up front-page story accusing the Bonellis of being Mafia gangsters. The Times printed a small not-so-much retraction but a “clarification” buried in the back of the paper — after the election that Bonelli Jr. would lose.
FUTURE PRESIDENT, TOO — Congressman Richard Nixon ran to be California’s senator on a lead plank of counter-communism espionage.
MAY 17, 1960
HMMM… VERY OLD TESTAMENT — I can’t say it was a message from God, but it does make you scratch your head. Some out-of-town preachers set up an old-fashioned revival meeting in a big circus tent at 9th and San Fernando. The tent, all the bleachers, porta-potties and stage were ripped to shreds by a freak tornado touching down. It hit the tent and only the tent.
FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT STARVED? — We used to have a big event called Placeritos Days, celebrating the big discovery of gold in Placerita Canyon by Don Francisco Lopez in 1842. The 1960 event had more than 5,000 people in attendance at the park.
HAPPY 70TH, ROTARY! — On this date, the international arm of Rotary granted the SCV a charter membership for 28 individuals and businesses. Jim Keysor, a San Fernando Valley Rotarian, was responsible for bringing that first Rotary Club here. If the local Rotary doesn’t know it’s their 70th anniversary, everyone should really fine themselves severely at the next lunch…
THE NUMBER 93 — Newhall matriarch Martha Ann Arman died at 93 at this date — leaving 93 descendants.
MAY 17, 1970
CATCH THE PERPS. TIE THEM TO AN ANTHILL. — The building of North Oaks park stalled. Again. Punks once again attacked the construction site and one county engineer called the vandalism, “worse than anything in Watts.” Vandals had poured sand into bulldozers and broke water mains, flooding and eroding the site to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
YOU’D THINK WILLIAM MORRIS WOULD KNOW HOW TO BRIBE SOMEONE — Long before there were plans to level rustic Placerita Canyon and turn it into a condo project, there was another Golden Valley. It was a half-trillion-dollar project to make Gorman into a major city. The William Morris Talent Agency was part owner in the project. The L.A. County supervisors, of all people, nixed the idea, noting that there were too many earthquake fault lines within the project.
MAY 17, 1980
MAYBE ANA COULD RUN FOR CONGRESS? — They were wild times at CalArts and the avant garde campus was world famous for bizarre antics at graduation. Bachelor of fine arts Ana Han accepted her degree nude, save for a G-string and high heels. Patricia Burns stumbled to the podium in a straitjacket. John Boyce “hacked off” his “hand” (complete with special effects, fake spurting blood) after accepting his diploma from president Bob Fitzpatrick, followed by sprinting to a rented helicopter that flew him away.
BLOODY CALARTS PART 2 — Got one better. CalArts prez Bob Fitzpatrick was whisked away from the graduation ceremonies in a hot air balloon he piloted. The balloon only traveled a few miles and landed in a field. Fitzpatrick neglected to arrange someone to pick him up, so he tried hitching a ride back to the campus. Problem. When someone pulled over to give the tony arts administrator a lift, they noticed his “blood”-spatted hand and suit and screeched away. Bob the Bloody had to walk back to school.
BIG BIRD BORN HERE — For the first time in decades, a California condor chick was hatched in the wild. Audubon Society and Fish & Game officers attended the birth, somewhere in the Sespe.
I’M GUESSING IT AIN’T COMING BACK — Here’s something they haven’t done in a long time — the Castaic Spring Parade through downtown. Too many trucks today?
WISHED FOR P.R. PURPOSES THIS HAPPENED IN VALENCIA. IT DIDN’T. — An ax-wielding Canyon Country man (and how that flows tripling off the lips) attacked his nearly ex-wife and her boyfriend in their bed. The boyfriend was able to wrestle the ax away from the hubbie. Get this. The man and woman were still married, living in the same house and waiting to settle up property. The man comes home and catches HER in HIS bed with HER boyfriend. That is cold. I guess you could call it, “The Ax Man Cometh…”
Well amen boy howdy. This particular time ride through SCV lore surely flirted with the wicked, didn’t it? 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.