One of the wonderful and practical virtues of being a Time Ranger saddlepal (or saddlepal-ette or saddlepalito/ita) is that if you don’t particularly care for what’s going on in present day, you can climb aboard a fine steed and ride back to SCV climes more scenic, peaceful and, often, entertaining.
Happy Fourth of July to all of you rascals. Let’s mosey through that spinning time vortex yonder. As my wretched wise-cracker alleged nephews and nieces like to say: “Show us where the dirt used to be.”
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
OUR WORLD’S LARGEST BEAR — A delightful book many should read is Charles Outland’s “Mines, Murders and Grizzlies.” John Lang has a train depot named after him, despite the fact he sold land to the Southern Pacific that he didn’t own. He was a Canyon Country rancher, businessman and community leader in the 19th century, but is most famous for shooting the world’s largest grizzly bear on July 7, 1873. It’s chronicled in an 1889 book on county history. This beast ate both men and cattle and was one of two giant bruins terrorizing the SCV way before there were yuppies. The “smaller” bear was nicknamed the Piebald Grizzle of the Piru, due to its multi-colored face. It had a second nickname: Old Clubfoot, due to a mangled paw torn from a bear trap. Various witnesses, including the local doctor, noted that the Soledad beast that Lang aerated tipped the scales at 2,350 pounds, stood over 10 feet tall and had a pawprint 19 inches in diameter. There’s a neat photo of the creature’s dinosaur-sized pad. There is some confusion with Lang’s bear and another giant grizzly north of us called the Monarch. Lang’s bear would later be stuffed and mounted in a San Francisco museum, then sold to a museum in London. What makes the bear — and this valley — world famous is that the creature was the model for a late-19th-century version of the California flag. These reports come from both Outland and stories from the early 20th-century Signal.
JULY 5, 1920
ONE OF OUR MANY PRE-1930s PARADES — About 2,000 folks emptied out of the hills and came up from the San Fernando Valley to enjoy our Fourth of July celebration — big numbers, seeing there were only about 500 people in the whole valley here. We had a huge barbecue at Judge Powell’s oak grove, a dance, games, a parade (featuring Civil War vets from both Union and Confederate sides), baseball and a fireworks show. Charles Hastings woke up everyone in town at 4 a.m. with four sticks of dynamite ignited in his field. Wonder how long it took Chuck to fill in the holes?
JULY 5, 1930
DARN DANCE HALL WOMEN — It was a wild and woolly Independence Week in the SCV. Joe Kelly got shot, reportedly by a man named Yost who ran the original French Village. Rumor was, they both craved the same dance hall girl. Hate when that happens. Kelly, though, wouldn’t cop to the feud and said he shot himself in the leg. Same day, an oil worker and a gas worker got into a humongous fist fight that rolled back and forth across Spruce Street, then our main drag. Both men were fined $10 for fisticuffs. As of press time today, we have no information on the victor.
DEAR PERK SURE WAS ACCIDENT PRONE — A.B. Perkins was sporting a nasty bee sting around his eye. The valley historian and president of the local water company also acted as meter reader from time to time. When he was taking a peek at a water meter, the bee came out and stung him.
JULY 5, 1940
BIG FORK IN THE ROAD — Local businessmen were watching the highway and their cash registers with interest. Prior to June of 1940, Highway 6 (today, that would be Sierra Highway to San Fernando Road) was the main link from Southern to Central California. But the new Placerita-Solemint road opened in 1940 and essentially stretched Sierra Highway up to Mint Canyon, bypassing downtown Newhall and the businesses there. The Saugus Cafe said they were hurting the first week. Locals also watched as road crews came in on this date, removing the old State Highway 6 signs, replacing them near the Cafe with new signs proclaiming the road as State Highway 126.
WE, OF THE FUTURE, SALUTE OUR POTATO PALS — Much of the flatlands that are today shopping centers and housing projects used to be prime agricultural land. The Haddad-Butler company leased hundreds of acres from Newhall Land & Farming to grow their potatoes. They hired a crew of 105 to harvest 7 MILLION pounds of spuds. Potatoes tossed into 50-pound sacks were No. 1 quality and brought about $1.65 per sack.
DON’T TRY THIS IN YOUR CONDO — Workers at the Governor Mine up in Soledad Canyon were vigorously celebrating the Fourth by tossing dynamite sticks into the air. Problem was, they — like other things — came down. A serious brush fire ensued.
THEM SNOOTS OF SAND CANYON — Signal columnist Soledad Mike coined a phrase: Mike called the shady Sand Canyon area that is now filled with millionaires, a “Snootists Colony.”
WISH HEMLOCK DIDN’T HAVE AN ‘R’ IN HIS LAST NAME — One of Sand Canyon’s residents raised flowers and made those horseshoe floral displays for those thoroughbred race winners. The farmer’s name? Hemlock Brutts. Our editor’s son, Luc, came THIS CLOSE to being named that.
AND, COOL BONUS, NO GIRLS — On this date, the SCV’s first Explorer Scout post was formed. Frank Whitmore was elected first Explorer Patrol Leader of Troop 2.
JULY 5, 1950
AT LEAST HE WASN’T NAMED SAMMY SUBARU — An out-of-towner panicked when two horses bolted in front of his car on Highway 99. The man hit one of the ponies and it had to be destroyed there. The man’s name? Henry Ford.
CROOKS IN ACTON? WHAT ARE THE ODDS? — A small group of Acton politickers were blamed for manipulating local elections. It seems that the Acton Rehab Center had 375 residents — more than the entire population of Acton and all of whom were eligible to vote in local elections. Some Acton insiders discovered this technicality and started a custom of offering to pick up the recovering out-of-town drug and alcohol abusers, drive them to the nearest voting booth and take them to dinner afterward. Evidently, a couple of school bond measures passed handily because of the intervention.
NOPE. MABEL ’TWEREN’T MY MOM — Helen Holcombe used to host a come-as-you-are breakfast for the Agua Dulce ladies. One morning, Mabel Boston showed up in a flannel nightgown, hair in curlers and face full of cold cream. Halfway through breakfast, Mabel complained it was getting hot. Stunned, her breakfast pals watched as she proceeded to strip. Turns out she was fully dressed under the nightie. Ah, that Mabel.
CRIPES, ART. YOU SHOULD SEE JUVENILE DELINQUENTS TODAY. THEY’RE IN THEIR 40S — Judge Arthur Miller addressed the proverbial group of concerned citizens. He spoke at length about a problem stalking Newhall — juvenile delinquents. “Parents do not control their children as they should, and consequently the teen-agers are permitted out in automobiles at all hours of the night.” Hmm. Don’t know if you saddlepals feel like turning your ponies toward ancient Greece, but I can remember Socrates saying something like that about 2,500 years ago. Well. Except for the part about the cars.
JULY 5, 1960
WE’LL BE BACK WITH A VENGEANCE NEXT YEAR — Just because we were a small village didn’t mean we didn’t have a big parade. An estimated 10,000 folks lined the street to watch our Fourth of July lineup. Most years, we hold one of the largest Independence Day parades in California. Used to have a lot of horses, but it gets harder and harder to get them to the parade.
‘LARGER DERRIERES’ — GOOD BAND NAME? — Hmm. Wonder. While revisiting the Fourth of July from 1960, we came across a convertible housing ALL FIVE parade queens comfortably sitting in the same back seat. Today, we can only get two per car. I’m confident convertibles today are just smaller, not that the contestants have — Big Giant Ahem — larger derrieres.
JULY 5, 1970
AN SCV SUMMER TRADITION THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD — Two huge brush fires blackened 7,000 acres. One started in San Francisquito and roared all the way into Bouquet, the other consumed brush in the Solemint area.
HOW TO GROW BUREAUCRACY — The largest tax increase in local history was approved. Property owners were shocked to discover the average tax bill had a 93-cent-per $100 valuation increase attached to it. In 1970 dollars, that meant about another $70 on a $30,000 home.
LET’S SET A RECORD IN 2021 (IF THERE’S STILL A COUNTRY) — We had a pretty huge turnout for the Fourth. Crowds estimated at 50,000 attended the parade and various park activities. The parade was one of the largest with more than 200 entries. Did you guys on the parade committee hear that last one?
I’M BETTING SOMEONE AT THE PAPER DID IT ON PURPOSE — Here’s interesting news juxtapositioning. The week Signal Editor Jon Newhall was arraigned on marijuana-growing charges, this newspaper ran an editorial on drug availability. Actually, the think piece pointed out that there was no place in the SCV to get prescription drugs between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. No Tom Frew Back Porch Jokes Here, please.
JULY 5, 1980
THOSE DARN LUBBIES — Some called it an ecological nightmare. Many locals were up in arms over the Lubrication Company of America plant up Soledad Canyon, near the old Lang Station. It was perched right on the edge of the Santa Clara River and was an odd collection of leaking tanks and pipes. After 12 years of citations, it still had not been cleaned up.
AT LEAST THEY DIDN’T CALL THE PLACE ‘AWESOMETOWN’ — On this date, 76% of voting members voted to change the name of the Newhall-Saugus-Valencia Chamber to the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce. Awesome.
ANOTHER GREAT JOINS THE GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY — Famed local cowboy Ed Jauregui died 40 years ago this week. Ed, brother of Hall of Fame cowpoke and pal of mine, Andy Jauregui, rode the rodeo circuit, was John Wayne’s double, Lorne Green’s double in “Bonanza,” and was one of the charioteers in “Ben-Hur.”
Happy darn summer. Happy darn Fourth of July weekend. Appreciate the company and hope you spend some quality time with those who matter. See you next weekend here at The Mighty Signal with a brand new Time Ranger adventure? Until then — ¡ Feliz cuarto de julio y vayan con Dios, amigos de la silla de montar!
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 bit.ly/JBonAmazon.