Heavens to Betsy, we’ve got a most interesting and dangerous trail ride ahead of us. As we ride through the Official Time Ranger SCV History Time Vortex, make sure to spray yourself with Bad Things Begone. Comes in an aerosol. Just $23.99 at Fox Feed. Ask for your Tom Frew Special Discount when you go in and I’m positive they’ll direct you to the back dressing rooms with instructions on where to apply it.
That senseless Tom Frew bashing aside, shall we mosey into the mystic? Check out the scenery? Talk about friends, families and neighbors behind their backs? It’s the absolute foundation of civilization, I’m telling you.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
IT’D TAKE A FEW HUNDRED AND THEN SOME TO MAKE A SUSHI HANDROLL — A young, strapping lieutenant, R.S. Williamson, was wandering around the Santa Clarita Valley in August of 1852, avoiding grizzly bears and making the area’s first detailed maps. California as a state was only a couple of years old. Williamson was checking our valley out as a possible route for a cross-state railroad. He also was the first known white man to discover our present-day development-busting tiny anchovy — aka, the three-spined stickleback. You can still see the itty-bitty beasts in the upper Santa Clara River, around Agua Dulce off Soledad Canyon Road. They love to build nests in abandoned Coke cans and Styrofoam cups — no foolin’.
GOES TO SHOW: PRISON DOESN’T REHABILITATE — Our most famous badman, Tiburcio Vasquez, started his first day at San Quentin of a one-year sentence for grand larceny. That was back on this day, Aug. 16, 1859. He’d end up being one of Santa Clarita’s — and California’s — most notorious road agents. They even named that Fred Flintstone-esque rock formation after him in Agua Dulce: Vasquez Rocks. Prior to his using it as a hideout, the place was just called “The Rocks.” No relation to Frank and Carol.
I THINK PRESBYTERIANS EVERYWHERE SHOULD PLAY A LITTLE DEEP PURPLE RIFF TODAY ON THE KEYBOARDS IN HONOR — Back on Sunday, Aug. 15, 1888, the minister’s wife at the Acton Presbyterian Church (and local schoolhouse) played the first song on the congregation’s new organ. She was joined by schoolteacher Mattie Adams.
AUG. 16, 1920
I THINK ANOTHER PHRASE FOR THIS WAS GOODY TWO SHOES — On this date, The Busy Bee Club was formed. It was made up of Sunday School male youths. Or, as Pat Arman liked to call them his 20 minutes in high school — sissies.
ONLY PROBLEM? THERE WEREN’T ANY IN THE VALLEY — The Auto Club was in town, passing out pamphlets on a new phenomenon called “The Traffic Signal.” “The signals are three in number, simple to learn and practically impossible to forget. Five minutes close study may save five months in the hospital,” the pamphlet cheerily warned.
SOCIAL DISTANCING A CENTURY BACK — The Signal (that’s like us — the newspaper that will not die) — warned residents to watch their barbers to make sure they used a fresh towel on every face they shaved. Didn’t want to spread any germs this close to the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918. Ditto with the bath sheets as well because our local barber shop was also a place where you could get a private hot bath.
ANTS AND DIARRHEA — Hot weather was blamed for spoiling food and the spoiled food was blamed for several local cases of dysentery. The Tataviams, by the way, used to use red ants to cure the malady. Ants were swallowed whole and some were spread on the victim’s stomach, where they were encouraged to bite the patient.
AND, YEARS LATER, GOVERNMENT PROMISES TO CHEW YOUR FOOD FOR YOU — The State Railroad Commission on this date took over all operations of local power companies. Seems the water and electric firms were having trouble delivering both H2O and juice to businesses and residences.
AUG. 16, 1930
TOP THAT FOR HISTORICAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS, ROMAN EMPIRE — The Standard Oil gas station in Downtown Newhall was wowing locals with a relatively new device — the hydraulic lube rack.
AHHHH. THE GOOD OL’ DAYS. SHOOTING YOUR GUN TO BREAK UP A WILD MOB — Joe Borgilieri lost his brakes coming down the Newhall grade. His truck went faster and faster, eventually hitting a tree and a telephone pole. Borgilieri wasn’t hurt seriously, but his rig spilt a wide variety of groceries all over the road. Instead of helping Borgilieri, motorists quickly scrambled to pick up everything from canned goods to cigarettes. When local sheriff’s deputies arrived, they had to fire off warning shots to disperse the crowd.
NOW THAT MUST’VE TAKEN A LOT OF PAPER TOWELS — Fred Condit was in charge of a 12-man crew to restore the Standard Oil Refinery on old Railroad Canyon/Pine Street.
LOCAL MONSTERS — A sociopath or plural thereof poisoned two milking cows of John Olsen. The cows, valued at $150 each in Depression-era money (about $600 would buy you a new house then), were killed via arsenic. The Agua Dulcean had been ill himself and depended on the milk and butter income from his two pets. Do you think if we went back in history and dropped the perps into a bottomless pit, would the world now be a better place?
AUG. 16, 1940
A DECADE LATER, MORE SICKOS — The big California Conservation Corps camp up Sand Canyon had just closed and we were short of manpower to fight several blazes. Adding to the problem, an arsonist set a fire at the Double V Ranch in Weldon Canyon. Another fire had been started in Val Verde when a driver had to throw a burning blanket from his truck. He had driven his truck from another fire and the blanket in the back had caught a spark.
FROM MONSTERS TO IMBECILES — Forest Service official O.M. Thurston was nearly killed by a high-caliber cartridge. A careless hunter had been target-practicing and his bullet traveled nearly a half-mile, coming within inches of Thurston’s head. The alleged hunter got a severe tongue-lashing but no beating.
FROM IMBECILES BACK FULL CIRCLE TO MONSTERS — Sadly, “Idiot” and “Hunter” are sometimes synonymous. On this date, rancher Frank LeBrun up Sawmill Mountain reported that hunters had killed three of his steers — on purpose. The beeves were shot in the head at short range.
SHALL WE DANCE? — After burning to the ground a few months earlier, the New French Village held its grand reopening on this date. It was on modern-day Newhall Avenue, across from where Green Thumb is today, and was one of the Southland’s swingingest night clubs, attracting some of the best in jazz and dance bands.
BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU POINT THAT THING — Mrs. Algera Ramsey, Saugus postmistress, lost her index finger on this date. She stuck it in an electric fan. That was operational. At a very, very, very, very, very (pause for a sec to catch my breath) very high rate of speed.
AUG. 16, 1950
I’M BETTING SHE GOT CALLED ANNIE OAKLEY A LOT — On this date, Major Hatton organized a local chapter of the Junior National Rifle Association. HQ’ed in Saugus, it consisted of 33 boys ranging in age from 8 to 18 and one girl.
WARMING TREND? — It was 108 a half-century back on Aug. 18, two degrees cooler than Aug. 19 at 110. Had that trend continued, then next week should top off at somewhere around 25,500 degrees for a daytime high.
AUG. 16, 1960
ERASING STUFF; A BUREAUCRAT’S DREAM — Our little Sheriff’s substation No. 6 (located on 6th Street by happenstance) was named the official 313th Military Censorship Detachment by the county Board of Supervisors. The office was only to be used in time of war or serious emergency. I guess if anything from asteroid to A-bomb hit, you’d go there to get your unmelted personables censored.
WORDS SURE HAD A DIFFERENT MEANING BACK THEN — The Signal ran a rather large photo in the Bercaw Market ad about their new butcher. Under the big pix of the meat carver was the huge word, “GAY.” We weren’t advertising the gentlemen’s behind-closed-doors preferences. It was just the name of the butcher. By the way. The first item advertised in the ad? It was for “Boneless Sirloin.”
AUG. 20, 1967
PLUS A FEW NAMES WE CAN’T GET PAST THE COPY DESK — Old-timers call Valencians by many names. Yuppies. Condo Monkeys. Portable BBQ Engineers. The community of Valencia was formally dedicated 53 years ago next week. Some long-forgotten first city fleer in Bermuda shorts crashed a bottle of champagne on an oak tree and there we went. Quick sidenote? I wrote a school play my junior year about out-of-town zombies invading the valley, pushing barbecue grills and wearing socks with sandals and Hawaiian shirts. Cowboys and cowgirls roared onto stage on pretend horseback, driving away the newbies with copies of The Mighty Signal. Guess they must have snuck back after dark.
AUG. 16, 1970
WOULDN’T DARN BRAG ABOUT IT — The week before, the SCV was the hottest spot in America. Then, same week in 2000, we were the smoggiest in America, with a 0.39 level — 0.12 notches above San Gabriel and twice as much as downtown L.A. Ironically, the Chamber of Commerce had just chosen a new pro-SCV slogan: “Move to Smog-Free Newhall.” Back to the drawing board. Actually, most residents today have absolutely no idea how bad the smog was out here for the latter half of the 20th century.
GUESS SAM FORGET TO MENTION THE 7TH COMMANDMENT IN HIS LAST SERMON — One of the best people to ever live here was the Rev. Sam Dixon. The dear minister received an unfriendly farewell to the then all-Black Val Verde, the community he had served so well for so many years. Sam also owned a hamburger stand there and the day he left to take over a parish in Littlerock, burglars ransacked his cafe, taking about 50 pounds of hot dogs and hamburgers. I’m not a holy man, so I can say this. I hope they choked.
OUR MOST VIOLENT YEAR — The year 1970 may have been the most violent in SCV history. There were many spectacular murders, the latest of which was when two SFV young men visited a Walnut Street home, stuck a shotgun through an open window and killed a man. Drugs were suspected as motive.
AUG. 16, 1980
DOUBLE PINKY SWEAR, I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP — An elephant up Soledad Canyon started a fire that caused $40,000 in damage. The trained pachyderm, housed at Noel Marshall’s wild animal compound (formerly Africa USA) was goofing around, playfully bouncing a ball in the elephant barn. The ball went downhill, as balls are wont to do, and the elephant broke through a fence to fetch. The creature sort of leaned against a big propane tank. The tank caught fire and so did the elephant barn. No critters were hurt, but Bill Dow, a worker and photographer there, had his lab burn down. Adding insult to injury, the following week, poor Bill Dow was mauled by a lion. Over the years, that darn Africa USA, in all his incarnations, had more injuries than the Civil War.
It’s good to forget differences and grudges. Me? I’m going to start with forgiving that elephant. And the lion. Absolute Christmas treat to ride together atop a tall horse, nothing to do but see where the same weed moved from Point A to Point B. You folks are good medicine. Thanks for riding with me and I look forward to seeing you all next week back here at The Mighty Signal with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. ¡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/John_Boston. Leave a review, if you’re amind.