On the bright side, we’ve only got another 93 days until we hit cool weather.
I’ve noticed over the years that the hot weather of summer always starts right around, if not ON, the Fourth of July and goes about 100 days until mid-October. I am waiting with bated breath.
In the meantime, what say we hop aboard our mighty steeds and head through that spinning time vortex up yonder. It’s been my experience these trail rides into SCV history are always right around the mid-60s and sunshiny.
Perfect weather for sunglasses and an effortless smile.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
THE BIG SHORTCUT — On July 14, 1876, thousands of Chinese laborers finished digging the 6,940-foot San Fernando Railroad Tunnel, the third-longest in the world at the time. When you commute to the SFV and city of Los Angeles beyond today, you are essentially running alongside the same tunnel that was bored 144 years ago. Cool thing? Digging from San Fernando and Santa Clarita, when the two sides broke through, they were less than an inch off.
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS BEAT US OUT BY ABOUT 20 MINUTES — July 15, 1891, entrepreneur R.E. Nickel published the first issue of the SECOND newspaper in the Santa Clarita Valley — The Acton Rooster. Since 1891, it’s gone in streaks, running for years and going out of business. Actually, the OLDEST SCV newspaper started in the 1860s, when the valley’s population center was where Eternal Valley mortuary is today. It was printed by the bookkeeper of the Coast Oil Co., Billy Carlson. It was printed in longhand and Carlson distributed only 10 copies, which was probably the number of people in the SCV who could read then. The paper is so long forgotten, no one can remember the name of the Newhall periodical. I’d KILL to have a copy.
JULY 12, 1920
THE AGE-OLD ART OF WATER SHAMING — It was early in summer but the third drought of the early 20th century was predicted for the SCV. Historian and Newhall Water Co. president A.B. Perkins warned that the Happy Valley well, which produced most of the water for Newhall, might go dry if people over-irrigated their farms and lawns.
PRE-PRIUS — In the days before SUVs, the old cars got pretty good gas mileage. C.A. Doyle and E.E. Webb entered a contest in San Fernando to see how far they could drive their Maxwell on one 10-gallon tank of gas. The boys logged 354 miles.
JULY 12, 1930
SO WHO WANTS GOOEY ALUMINUM? — We are famous for our gold and silver mining here, not to mention copper and quartz. In fact, a gold rush during the 1930s helped pull the SCV through The Great Depression. But a Mr. G.W. Kurth employed 10 men to scour a site in Canyon Country to search for a rare mineral called Cesium, which was used for hardening aluminum.
FOXES DON’T GROW ON TREES — Another cottage industry here in the SCV was fox farming. W.S. Lockwood owned a farm up Wildwood Canyon. He sold 15 adjoining acres to Canadian J.G. Brown, who likewise grew silver foxes. Alas, they weren’t pets. They were used to make fur coats. Besides getting bludgeoned to death, it was tough being a caged fox in summertime Newhall. Why? Note the item below:
YEE AND OUCH! — On this date, it was 108.
HEY, JOE — Joe Wegar retired. He was Bill Hart’s longtime chauffeur.
JULY 12, 1940
FINALLY. NOW THAT’S WHAT THE WAY STATION NEEDS!! —T.J. Means bought the Soledad Hotel from Mr. & Mrs. Hugh Porter. Means immediately began a renovation on the boarding house, saloon and restaurant. Some of the old-timers note that “ladies of the evening” used to frequent the top floor. The Soledad was torn down years ago and on its foundation sits the absolute best cowboy coffee shop on Earth — The Way Station — at 9th and Main. Great food, but, alas, no hookers. Well. Haven’t chatted with my pal and owner, Eric, in a while so let me add the disclaimer — “yet.”
FROM THE TINY ACORN — M.W. Shepherd added his tree to the local contest of huge oaks in the SCV. Shepherd even named his plant, “Old Protector,” building his home under the branches that spread out to 150 feet. The tree trunk was 17 feet in diameter. There’s a cypress today down in Oaxaca, Mexico, with a 36-foot diameter. It’s 2,000 years old.
ANOTHER NEWSPAPER I’D DO SOMETHING SINFUL TO OWN — Walter Allen brought in one of the rarest finds on the planet — copies of the old Saugus Enterprise newspaper. The short-lived periodical was printed in 1924 and run by forest ranger Thornton Doelle, who was this valley’s first cowboy poet and the on-again, off-again editor of The Mighty Signal. Doelle’s Enterprise merged that year with The Signal and the two have been inseparable ever since. I’ve never seen a copy of the S.E. If any of you saddlepals have one, I’d sure appreciate seeing it.
WELL WILKIE-DILKIE-DOOKIE — Freeman Beale started a local “Wendell Wilkie for President” campaign here in Newhall. One of his first recruits? Local A.H. Wilkie, distantly related to the candidate by marriage. For those of you with public educations, Wendell didn’t win the election.
JULY 12, 1950
THE ROAD TO HELL IS LAID WITH DUMBBELL MIDDLE MANAGEMENT — It had been MORE than a bone of contention the local sheriff’s deputies and Highway Patrol officers had borne bravely. For decades, the local gendarmes were required by downtown scripture that they were to wear 100% wool uniforms. No matter what the temperature. Problem was, the mercury can hit 120 out here on the worst summer days and the lawmen couldn’t even loosen a top button. Another year passed. Still, no cotton or linen uniform relief.
AND, HE DIDN’T OWN A PRIUS — Capt. Robert Cook took over top duties at substation 6. Small problem. He lived 41 miles away in Arcadia.
HOPE THE NEXT LIFE IS TREATING JOHNNY BETTER — This wasn’t the first time someone in the SCV had committed suicide by walking into traffic on Highway 99. Elderly transient John Callahan, homeless, penniless and possessing no fingers, stepped in front of a speeding Santa Fe bus to end his life. They found bank papers on him, indicating he had withdrawn his last few pennies.
JULY 12, 1960
FROM FARMLAND TO SUBURBIA — Big headline of the day 60 years back was: “Soledad Township faces prospect of huge coming population blast!” The story went on to say how a 2,000-house Bonelli tract would be built, along with a smattering of 40 houses there, a hundred mobile homes here. Seems like we build that many in a day now.
HEAVY IS THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN — Life was not all glamor for our local beauty queen. Myrna Cash, as part of her duties as Miss Fourth of July, had to make a series of appearances at local industries. She was photographed at the grand opening of Newhall Launderama, washing her clothes. Beauty suffers.
JULY 12, 1970
MUCHO CHOO-CHOO — A national rail strike was blamed for a runaway 1-ton utility car speeding through the SCV unmanned. The car managed to travel 17 miles through railway crossings before being stopped.
COULD SOMETHING LIKE THAT HAPPEN TODAY? NAAAAAHHHHHH — The FBI and Treasury Department launched a program to spy on citizens who checked out “subversive” books from the libraries. The G-men were checking out the check-out cards of major city libraries. Alas, they never made it as far as the SCV.
BACK IN THE DAY WHEN WE HAD SOMETHING CALLED, ‘HORSES’ — Trans World Bank in Canyon Country pulled the ultimate PR stunt 50 years back. They moved several thousand dollars from their one branch to the new one — via stagecoach. An armed posse on horseback escorted the cash and bank execs.
AND NO. IT DIDN’T GO FOR LEE SMELSER’S VACATION FUND — The Newhall Land & Farming Co. presented College of the Canyons with a no-strings-attached gift of $158,000 on this date.
IN THE GROOVE — Some of you old-timers will remember this ancient entertainment device. On this weekend, 30 years back, Grant’s Department Store ran a sale on something called “vinyl record albums.” You put these things on a Lazy Susan-type device, then place a toothpick like “needle” on these black plates and music came out. Fab.
JULY 12, 1980
FROM THE 1% BODY FAT DEPT. — Former Mr. California Steve Davis and bodybuilding buddy Harvey Keith had started the first-ever health club in the SCV in a tiny little building next to the railroad tracks. The fitness boom hit. The partners feuded and each started their own health clubs. They ended up suing each other, too.
WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE, AND ALL THE TENANTS DID SHRINK — A rhubarb started when a local building owner tried to divvy up his water bill with some tenants. The bill was for $37, split among six shop owners. Each denied ever turning on the water or flushing a toilet. Unkind words were exchanged and a free-for-all fistfight ensued, with the owner’s dog joining in to bite one of the renters.
Thanks so much for the good company and the ability to take a big breath of fresh air with my compadres. Surely enjoy sharing this Santa Clarita Valley with you, dear saddlepals. See you next weekend here at The Mighty Signal with a brand new 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