I just adore living out here in the Santa Clarita. It’s one of the most historically rich communities in the country, and we didn’t have a single Civil War battle fought here.
Today, we’ll look at one of the last classic gunfights fought in the Old West. We’ll sneak a peek at Gladys Laney, a great life lived in simple ordinariness. And to liven things up, we’ll throw in the usual recipe of bad hombres, bad hombre-ettes, gee whiz SCV Cocktail Party Trivia, imbeciles, dirt roads and heat waves.
C’mon. Put your boot in the stirrup, add a little bounce and swing your leg up and over the saddle. There should be two twitching horse ears in front, not a swishing tail.
Shall we ride into less complicated times, saddlepals?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
NOT GUILTY ON THE GROUNDS WE REALLY DIDN’T LIKE THE DECEASED — On July 17, 1903, a Los Angeles jury would find the likeable Kentuckian gunslinger W.H. “Rosy” Melrose non-guilty in the death of Acton Mayor William Broome. Their feud had started nearly a decade earlier, when Rosy shot Broome’s dog (a mean s.o.b. that attacked Rosy’s cute little white lap puppy). Broome had Rosy arrested and, like a tale from a dime novel, the pretty local school marm’s testimony saved Melrose from jail. For nearly a decade, Melrose and Broome scolded, scuffled and called each other names. The feud ended on Acton’s main street with Rosy pumping a few slugs dead into the mayor’s heart. The L.A. Coroner’s report would later cite: “Good grouping …” Melrose was friends with Theodore Roosevelt and would later nominate him for president. Just in case the rowdies have removed the last statue of The Rough Rider, Roosevelt won and was our most popular president. Gave an hour-plus speech once AFTER someone shot him.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR GLADYS — I still smile, remembering my dear friend, Gladys Laney. She seriously needs to have a street named after her because there was NO SCVian who contributed more to this valley than Gladys. Plus, she was my father-in-law’s baby sitter in the 1920s. The lifelong Newhall resident was born on July 17, 1910, to Bert and Armantha Thibaudeau. I still miss getting those Monday morning calls on The Time Ranger column where she’d start with an even-tempered, “Now John, I don’t mean to correct you — BUT …” Gladys died on Nov. 24, 2014, at the age of 104. Never been a better person.
JULY 19, 1920
HAPPY 100th ANNIVERSARY, CITY OF SCLARITA — It sure took a long time to form a city. Exactly 100 years ago this week, local mucky-mucks got together under the shady oaks at Judge Powell’s home in downtown Newhall to vote down a proposal for the SCV to incorporate into a city. Several hundred citizens, in a show of hands, voted against incorporation, feeling that it would be too expensive. In a rather humorous note, there was supposed to be a lawyer present at the meeting, to answer questions. He didn’t show. In the public record, one citizen noted that we still had a lot of beautiful oak trees to be proud of and that by being a city, we could save and advertise their beauty to tourists. Likewise, he noted, every moving picture made in the SCV would carry the disclaimer: “Filmed in Newhall.”
THE DARN STUFF HAS BEEN KNOWN TO EVAPORATE — We were in the middle of a drought, and some ranch hand got blamed big time for leaving an irrigation pipe open for 24 hours, spilling out thousands of gallons of precious water in the farmland of Happy Valley.
HARVESTING FRUIT — About 100 people — 20% of the valley’s population, showed up at the Doheny Ranch in neighboring Piru to help with the fruit harvest. There were also another 200 ranch hands and migrant workers there picking the crop. It was hard work, but pretty romantic. A tent city was set up for braceros and locals. Peaches and plums were harvested, some jarred on the spot. Average work for pitting and jarring was about 8 to 13 crates per day. At night, there would be guitar-playing, singing and dancing by the campfire.
JULY 19, 1930
SIGH. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL THOUGHT. A PHONELESS WORLD. — The Saugus Train Depot added a modern convenience — a telephone. The number was Newhall 77. Believe it or not, the train station didn’t have electric lights until 1930.
OUR RESTAURATEUR/RANCHER — Local cattleman and patriarch Helm Schmidt died 90 years ago. He made a small fortune in the restaurant business, then retired to be a ranch in Canyon Country, owning a spread so big, it had its own airfield. His 6-S Ranch (named after the six Schmidts in the family) would later become a World War II military base and then a drag strip. Whites Canyon today would be the airstrip. He was survived by his daughter, Helma, and sons Helm Jr., Homer and Earl.
ROOM TO WIGGLE — St. John’s Auditorium held its grand opening with a 3,200-square-foot dance floor, boasting of “no posts.” It was 6 miles east of Saugus on Mint Canyon Road.
EXPORTING GOOP — A mini oil boom hit on this date. Standard Oil was doing most of the pumping and shipping. But Andrews Oil sent out four railroad cars of raw dinosaur and plant remains to be refined.
ICE IS NICE — Mr. Viegal ran the Newhall Ice Co. Problem was, business was so good, it was hurting him. He kept trying to shut down for a few days to make needed repairs, but the demand for ice was so high, he was running around the clock.
BUILT FORD TOUGH — Newhallian A.J. Scheider earned the distinction of owning the oldest Ford in Los Angeles County. His 1915 flivver, at 15 years, was considered ancient. Scheider said his car had one valve job and some oversized pistons put in, but ran good as new.
NOT SCV, BUT SUE ME — A little auto trivia — alas, none local — In 1896, there were only four cars in all of America: a Duryea, a Ford, a Haines and a Benz (which holds the distinction of being the first import). The first car purchased in the U.S. was a 1-cylinder Winton on April 1, 1898. S.H. Roper set a speed record of 80 mph in 1894 with a steam-driven car, then died shortly thereafter from the vibration of the ride.
JULY 19, 1940
ONE OF OUR WORST BLAZES — A huge fire, stretching from Highway 99 to the Orcutt Ranch on Oat Mountain, burned more than 8,000 acres. The fire started at an oil well in Towsley Canyon. A miraculous midsummer heavy fog helped douse the blaze. Thousands of creatures, from deer to rabbit, were killed in the blaze. Forest Service workers wandered the hills, spreading grain for the wildlife and seeds for replanting.
ONE OF OUR SADDEST STORIES — A stunned wife woke in Newhall Hospital to discover most of her family had been killed in a head-on accident on Highway 99. Mrs. Gladys Yount rose from her coma to learn only her 2-year-old survived. She lost her husband and six other children when a truck driver, James White, crossed over the centerline doing 90 mph in a large truck carrying grapes. He was booked on manslaughter charges.
AND AN IMPERTINENT CABERNET SAUVIGNON? — Deer season opened. You could get hunting licenses at the Saugus Liquor Store. No comment.
JULY 19, 1950
NO RELATION TO DOOGIE — Farmers built a 7,000-cubic-yard earthen dam up in Hauser Canyon. It’s off Sierra Highway. Yes. I know. The child doctor TV guy spelt his name “Howser.”
FORGET ABOUT PLAYING WITH MATCHES — Kids from the Lazy D Ranch in San Francisquito Canyon found a rather inappropriate toy — 10 sticks of dynamite left in an old mailbox. The playthings were confiscated and no one died.
AND THE ANTS GO MARCHING, DOWN, TO THE EARTH, TO GET OUT, OF THE HEAT — Armies of ants invaded hundreds of houses and businesses a half-century back. Everything from DDT to diesel fuel to lye was used to combat them. With rationing from the Korean War a factor, one Newhall woman found her box of sugar cubes invaded. She took the sugar outside and dusted off each ant personally, saving the rationed sweet stuff.
JULY 19, 1960
EFFICIENT USE OF RESOURCES — Simultaneously at Newhall Park 60 years back, they held a polio shot clinic, a rabies clinic and a swim meet.
T.D.H. — On this date, it was 115 lousy darn degrees.
THE VALLEY’S SECOND-WORST FIRE — It was dubbed the worst fire in Santa Clarita history (barring that one in the 16th century that stretched from Palmdale through Newhall to Malibu). Triple-digit temperatures and 60 mph winds fanned a fire that hopped over 30 square miles. Started by lightning near Magic Mountain (the one up Sand Canyon), the flames spread to cover 30,000 acres. More than two dozen firefighters were injured, and two flame spotters died in a plane crash. Houses and structures were turned to ashes throughout Sand Canyon.
THIRD TIME NOT SO MUCH THE CHARM — An elderly couple beset by overwhelming medical and financial problems ended their lives up Bouquet Canyon by running a rubber hose from the tailpipe of their station wagon to the inside of the car. It was the pair’s third attempt.
JULY 19, 1970
SWITCHING POLES — The telephone company began removing all the telephone poles on Lyons Avenue, on the Newhall side.
SEXY SMELSER — On the front page of The Mighty Signal was a picture of COC’s new, tanned, rested, ready and skinny basketball coach doing his summer job — lifeguarding at Castaic Pool. Lee Smelser’s assistant manager and addendum lifeguard? Yours truly.
STILL AIN’T — Someone pointed out to the Civil Defense folks that there wasn’t a single public nuclear fallout shelter in the SCV. While we’re complaining, we’re missing some drive-in theaters.
JULY 19, 1980
I THINK THAT’S BEING A LITTLE MORE THAN PETTY — Reggie Ogburn, one of the best players ever to put on a uniform at COC, lost his full-ride scholarship to Oregon. The quarterback was busted by the NCAA for accepting a plane ticket home.
ANOTHER JULY. ANOTHER EPIC BRUSH FIRE — This one consumed 2,000 acres in Texas Canyon. Same day, firefighters were battling a 7,000-acre blaze on the outskirts of Palmdale.
A ONE-MAN PROTEST — No war but 18-year-olds still had to register for the draft. Saugus High graduate Eric Shulman brought a BB gun and dressed in military garb as a protest. But, he registered.
POLICE LIVES DO MATTER. AND HERE’S BUT ONE IN A MILLION REASONS WHY — It’s sad that a few bad apples can spoil our view of law enforcement. So many kind and creative deeds go unheralded. Case in point was when a 59-year-old man, despondent over medical problems, sat near Denny’s in Sand Canyon on a curb, pistol pointed to his head. Officers Ron Card and Sandy Crawford responded and were soon joined by officer Richard Bricker. Bricker sat down next to the man and offered him a cold beer if he’d put down the gun. The suicide attempter agreed, and the other deputies rushed to a 7-Eleven to get a cold one. Simple act of kindness and resourceful police work 40 years back.
Cripes. I think I’m going to tweak the time travel vortex and, unless there’s any objections, adjust it so usn’s and our ponies end up on the beach in Ventura, instead of Santa Clarita where it’s 1,433 degrees. See you next weekend here at The Mighty Signal with another exciting Time Ranger 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 at bit.ly/JBonAmazon.