Hello dear saddlepals. How you holding up in these unfamiliar seasons of mayhem? I hope well.
I remember A.B. Thatcher printing an editorial in The Mighty Signal nearly 100 years ago. He listed all the dark and difficult times we were experiencing and noted that he didn’t hold much hope for America surviving all the calamities.
At the end, he confessed he had not written the op/ed piece. It was copied verbatim from an American magazine a century earlier. It’s not so much about “We’re GOING TO get through all of this.” We are, already.
Let’s go check out the sublime, the silly and the beautiful of our home valley …
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
HAPPY DARN BIRTHDAY, HANKY CLAY! — Henry Clay Needham was born on June 8, 1851, back in Kentucky. He was this valley’s only serious presidential candidate, running in 1920 as the Prohibitionist Party’s favorite son. Got stricken with food poisoning the morning of the convention and couldn’t accept his own party’s nomination. Ran three other times for president, too. Got a nice small chunk of the national vote but didn’t carry his home Santa Clarita all three times.You folks who live on Arcadia or Kansas can thank Hank for the street names. His home town was Arcadia, Kansas.
THE ONION THAT STARTED THE GOLD RUSH — June 9, 1842, Rancho Temescal was deeded to Francisco Lopez, that chap who discovered gold entwined in an onion’s root in Placerita Canyon.
THE FILTHY GROCER — Back on June 12, 1868, the Soledad Post Office was established in Ravenna, a now-defunct community that used to rest between Acton and Agua Dulce. The federal government refused to deliver mail to Soledad City, a thriving mining community of 1,000-plus souls. With another Soledad up north there was much confusion as to which letter went where. So, postal authorities visited our Soledad and consulted with a rather filthy specimen of a fella named Jim O’Reilly, who ran one of the local food stores. O’Reilly suggested they rename, for postal reasons, Soledad City to Ravenna, after his pal, stage driver Manuel Ravenna, a teamster and businessman who originally called Genoa his home.
JUNE 7, 1920
NEWHALL DESIGNED BY A PASADANEAN? — Before Happy Valley was filled with homes, it was farm and ranch land. The tiny 5-acre Henry Ranch was sold to a Mr. Johnson. The spread produced grapes and fruit trees. M.W. Atwood, the Pasadena designer of Happy Valley and after whom Atwood Street is named, sold his 10-acre ranch to the Woodward family.
BUCK & MY UNCLE — Our local cowboy Buck Jones, who for a while owned what would be the Saugus Speedway, starred in his second silent oater, “Forbidden Trails.” And no. It wasn’t about the Calgrove Gate. Buck would later die in Boston, at the famed Coconut Grove along with one of my uncles.
IT AIN’T HAY. OR MAYBE IT IS. — Some of you pony and livestock owners might want to clip this out of the paper and take it to Fox Feed on Sierra and see if they’ll match these 1920 local prices — Rabbit Alfalfa: $38 a ton; Standard Dairy: $30 a ton; good ol’ hay: $28 a ton.
KISSING & THE PRESIDENCY — Here’s a great quote from Signal Editor Thornton Doelle. Fits nicely for all seasons: “The presidency, like kissing, is not to be sought and it is not to be declined.”
JUNE 7, 1930
TOM FREW: EARTH’S FIRST GRADUATE? — There were 90 kids graduating from San Fernando High 90 years back. Of that figure, 12 were from the SCV. No. Tom Frew was not one of them. He graduated from Tataviam Technical Prep back in 1142 — B.C.
THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE FOX BUSINESS — Mr. Lockwood finished his first year at the Wildwood Canyon Fox Farm. Lockwood didn’t have a very good freshman year. Warm weather made for wispy pelts and many of the kits didn’t survive. One of the problems was that mother foxes in captivity are very high-strung and, when startled, they frantically try to protect their pups by burying them. That doesn’t work too well in a metal and wooden cage. Adding to the problem of a marauding puma, low-flying airplanes would purposely strafe the ranch as a gag. Many of the babies died with their frightened mothers crushing them. Of course, that’s a sooner or later proposition with fur-bearing domestic animals, isn’t it?
WELL, WELL, WELL — Our water company hit a new well, 462 feet deep with water just 5 feet from the surface. No one’s died of thirst locally since.
JUNE 7, 1940
HINT? IT WAS THE TIMES — Some downtown L.A. newspaper was bragging about an oak down there with a circumference of 14 feet. Many residents in the SCV had trees bigger than that. Plus, there was our historic Bouquet Oak, which had a shade diameter of 150 feet and a trunk 36 feet around. Burned down in a big fire about 40 years ago.
SOMEBODY WOULDN’T BE COUNTING SHEEP THAT NIGHT — An old Fageol truck blew a tire on the Ridge Route, spun out of control, flipped and slid nearly 100 yards. Victims were 315 sheep, 90 of which either died in the wreck or were so badly mangled they had to be destroyed on the spot.
WE CHASED OUT THE YAHOOS AND $1.5 MILLION — The U.S. Army Flying School was driven out of the SCV officially on this date. The young and sometimes reckless flyboys were accused of everything from chasing herds of cattle in their airplanes to strafing movie shoots to stopping hens from laying eggs. The school moved to Ontario. Locals figured that the Army had a $1.5 million budget, a good chunk of which was spent locally.
JUNE 7, 1950
GUESS THE DOG WANTED ATTENTION — On this date, Earl Zell’s pet bulldog ripped open Earl’s wrists and abdomen. Earl had been watching TV. The dog came over to be petted. Earl pushed it away because it was in front of the set. And the dog used Earl like a doggie chew.
DON’T TRY CALLING DR. CORBEN TODAY AT THAT NUMBER — Dr. W.L. Scown had his optometrist office at 813 Spruce St. His telephone number was 505-J. I used to go there as a kid. I remember him hiring some young whippersnapper right out of eye school named Mike Corbin. Mike took over the office and is now still in business on Lyons. I think they changed the telephone number …
JUNE 7, 1960
AND, THEY UP & BUILT IT, TOO. — The Methodists announced plans to build a huge church on Bouquet. Sixty years later, it’s still there.
JUNE 7, 1970
CHUMP CHANGE TO BUILD THE 14 — Locals were amazed when they heard the price tag for a stretch of road called the 5-14 Interchange. One of the highlights of the project was a massive 170-foot-tall off-ramp. The stretch of mega-highway with its towering bridges and 16 lanes was, at the time, the world’s most expensive interchange at $24.5 million. Can’t buy speed bumps for that anymore …
NOT COUNTING THE MULLIGANS — On this date, a young Dave Harris shot a 73 at San Clemente to become the top golfer in CIF for the second year in a row. Same day, Elmer Childress shot a hole in one at the now defunct Hasley Canyon golf course. Hasley made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most holes in one of any golf course on the planet.
JUNE 7, 1980
CHUMP CHANGE — Two Hart High students were captured after a crime spree. They were pocketing money from vending machines and were caught stealing $1,900 over a four-month period. All in change.
MISS YOU, MIMI! — There’s about 12 people left in the valley who’ll appreciate this. But what the heck. I’ll just let former Signal gossip columnist Mimi tell it like it was: “One of the best writers, and worst spellers in town is historian Jerry Reynolds, who writes a sentence like: ‘Of corce he ate in the dinning room.’ He has been bawled out so often by editors that he now communicates with them by memo. For this purpose he had printed up a memo pad imprinted at the top: “JERRY AND MYRNA REYNALDS. Mr. Reynolds gets the last laugh.” Amen.
Well. We’re back home, just about to ride through our own, personal time portal. Hope you don’t mind. I’m going to sneak back through to 1958 and have a toasted tuna sandwich, fries, six vanilla Cokes and read some comic books at the lunch counter. I’ll see all y’all in seven, OK? 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.