The Time Ranger | ‘Female weakness,’ bubonic plague and toxic HOAs

The Timer Ranger
Time Ranger

I might have to run a side errand while we’re on today’s horseback ride through local history. It’s so bloody hot. Duh. August. Santa Clarita. I want to stop by the library and see if there’s a book of spells I can check out to see if I can magically become Mr. Cambria or Mr. Carmel. Wouldn’t mind riding on the beach in August and it’s 60 degrees.

I know. Not very bona fide cowboy of me. It’s just been hotter than the sun-facing side of the planet Mercury this week.

That whining aside, c’mon. Let’s go sneak onto some old-time Newhall Land & Farming property and ride under their sprinklers.


AND BEST OF ALL? NO HOAs — On Aug. 24, 1853, the immense Rancho San Francisco, essentially the boundaries of the entire Santa Clarita Valley today, was willed by Antonio del Valle to his son, Ignacio. Sort of. Tony sent a letter to his philandering son that if he were to marry and start a family, he’d leave him a fortune. And he did. Ignacio, one of the state’s most revered figures and mayor of Los Angeles, was a horrible businessman and ended up losing the ranch to kind-hearted loan sharks. They let Ignacio stay on his acres and even gave him spending capital, even though he was essentially bankrupt.

POSTAGE IS STILL 1 CENT UP THERE — Same day of Aug. 24, except a quarter-century later, the post office was established at Lake Hughes.

SALUTING OUR OLDEST TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR — A scant 175 years ago on this week in 1845, the Rancho del Buque was granted to Francisco Chari. Francis was actually French and jumped ship off Oxnard. He changed his name to Francisco to blend in and worked cattle in this area before being deeded a large tract of land up Bouquet Canyon. Interestingly, Rancho del Buque was French for Ship Ranch, in honor of Fran’s sailing days. American cartographers came in after statehood, saw “Buque” on the old maps and thought it meant Bouquet because of all the wildflowers in the region.

AUG. 23, 1920

AND NOT A SINGLE SOUL WORE A FACE MASK — Of all things, the SCV was on bubonic plague alert. Squirrels in the surrounding county had been discovered carrying the dreaded disease and in neighboring areas, 80% of the rats had been found with traces. Interestingly, a 50-year-long effort to eradicate predators that ate squirrels and rats helped increase the squirrel and varmint population.

AUG. 26, 1926

AND, IT USED TO BE MY OFFICE — On the corner of 6th and San Fernando Road, that little white bunker was built and dedicated as the Newhall substation No. 6. It was our local police HQ until the 1970s, when the sheriff moved over to the present-day Valencia site. Old No. 6 would become the production shop for The Mighty Signal. It is currently the office for The Canyon Theatre Guild.

AUG. 23, 1930

PERT NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO GET YOUR BOOTS OFF WITHOUT ONE — James J. Rolph gave his initialed bootjack to Bill Hart as a gift. So, if any of you docents have a bootjack with the initials JJR on it, there’s the story. Rolph was a frequent visitor to the SCV and Hart’s castle. He was also the governor.

THE GUY WENT THROUGH A LOT OF SHOVELS — F.A. Rainsborough was working in Newhall and Castaic, stretching an underline telephone cable from here to L.A.

HERE’S SOME AMAZING TRIVIA FOR YOU — The very first traffic accident on the new Weldon Canyon Road/Highway 99 was on this date, 90 years ago. Jim Osborn drove his car into a ditch. He had two passengers. Mrs. Boles broke her arm and Mrs. O’Conner had cuts about the face.

AUG. 27, 1933

THE MOST IMPORTANT DATE IN ALL OF SCV HISTORY? — It’s a day perhaps the most overlooked in its significance. Millionaire Atholl McBean, son-in-law to George Newhall (who was son of town founder Henry Mayo Newhall) was named president of the Newhall Land & Farming Co. This is important because it was McBean who turned around a nearly dead company into what would be one of the big-dog players in the state. McBean has been called the most influential person in SCV history because if he had not saved NL&F, the valley would probably have been developed haphazardly a la the San Fernando Valley.

AUG. 23, 1940

IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, WE ALL SUFFER FROM IT — Here’s an ad for you. This ran 80 years ago and the headline was: “AN URGENT MESSAGE TO WOMEN WHO SUFFER FEMALE WEAKNESS.” It was a spot for Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. “For over 60 years, Pinkham’s has helped hundreds of thousands of weak, run-down, nervous ‘ailing’ women to go smiling thru ‘difficult days.’ Why not give this wonderful ‘women’s friend’ a chance?” We’re thinking some of these secret additives back then were alcohol and cocaine.

TODAY, THAT’S CALLED TWITTER — The war in Europe was felt here in Newhall. Ted Kornelissen received a letter from relatives in German-occupied Holland. It had been censored by the Nazis.

AUG. 23, 1950

TODAY, THAT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT — We made all the downtown papers when an elderly but adamant gentleman walked into the sheriff’s station and demanded to register as a communist. State laws then required such tracking. With effort, local deputies found the forms, blew off the dust and the man signed up as, I believe, our only known commie. Well. Up until then. The law stipulated that while extreme socialists had to get the human equivalent of dog tags, their privacy was protected by law and we never knew who that person was.

PERSONALLY, WE PREFER THE TERM, ‘NAPISTS’ — Signal Editor Fred Trueblood didn’t think it was so funny. Adamantly anti-communist, Fred wrote, in a front-page column: “The Signal has no doubt that a few Communist Party men are planted in this strategic area, through which pass the life lens of Los Angeles. But you will never find their names on any registration list, nor will you ever spot them as Reds by any act or deed. They are called, ‘sleepers.’ They will emerge from their holes when Russians and the United States enter the shooting war stage. We’ll get ’em then.” I don’t think we’ve shot too many communists here in the past half-century. Today, I’m told, it’s against CC&Rs.

TODAY? IT’S A CHURCH. — Saxonia Park in Placerita Canyon was the town’s premier picnic grounds. On this date, they held the annual German Heritage Crossbow Shooting Championships. Our own Charlie Vogel won.

COME TO ME MY MELON-CHOLY, BAAAAY-BEEEE — Road crews were repairing a leak in some oil pipes under downtown Newhall. They erected a temporary bridge for vehicles to drive over the San Fernando Road project. A huge truck carrying melons proved too heavy for the impromptu structure. The bridge broke. The truck tipped over and tons of melons rolled through town.

AUG. 23, 1960

PARDON ME. I’M GOING TO KILL THE CAT. — Isabel Wright went to sit out on her Bouquet Canyon porch to enjoy the warm evening. A mountain lion had the same idea. Mrs. Wright quietly back-stepped into the house to get a shotgun, but when she returned, the puma had hightailed it.

AUG. 23, 1970

WHEN PORN IS OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE PORN — The Signal outraged the community — again — when it published a rather large front-page photo of a youth reading a porn magazine. In the spirit of honest journalism and self-promotion, The Signal asked: “Are girlie magazines harmful?” Well. The photo of the photo sure strained some eyes, seeing if you could see anything.

ENTERING THE ON-RAMP TO PERDITION — More signs of a go-go culture — the Board of Supervisors gave the go-ahead to open up the first birth control clinic here in the SCV.

PERDITION, PART II — The William S. Hart High School board delayed voting on recommendations to do away with the dress codes on their campuses. The Hart district had stringent requirements up to this date, requiring exacting measurements on lengths of sideburns and where dresses should dip on the female form. Eventually, with various court decisions in other districts overturning dress codes, Hart would change with the culture.

AUG. 23, 1980

OUR PIE-THROWING LITTLE AGENCY — The little district with the giant name was a godsend to the media. For several years, The Northwestern Los Angeles County Resource Conservation District made headlines with such shenanigans as fistfights, expensive and unnecessary travel junkets, redesigning plush offices, buying themselves cars and bicycles, and, best, getting into fistfights with one another. On this date, two board members duked it out after disagreeing on some parliamentary procedure. The NWLACRCD was blessed with a convicted felon currently on probation and a certified mental patient on their board.

GOLDEN VALLEY. THE HIGH SCHOOL WITH THE GLOW-IN-THE-DARK FOOTBALL TEAM — Seems Bermite, the fabled munitions factory on Soledad Canyon Road, admitted they test-fired atomic bullets on their grounds. These bullets were 30mm anti-tank rounds. Well. I guess at that size and composition, you’d call them anti-ANYTHING rounds. The shells were made of depleted uranium, which carries little radiation. Go Toxic Grizzlies!

Well, horse-riding robots, saddlepals and other sentient SCV beings, that’s about it for our time travels for this weekend. Stay cool. Stay hydrated. Put the brakes on rolling your eyes so much. See you in seven back here at Your Mighty Signal and 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 or Leave a review, if you’re amind.

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