The Time Ranger | When Frankenstein stalked the SCV

Time Ranger
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If it weren’t for having to cart all that extra ammo, I’d say we set the dial on our time travel portal to ride back 12,000 years to the Pleistocene Ice Age here.

Upside?

Tad cooler. Four times as much rain, too.

Downside?

Big, giant, hairy, mean, nasty, giant, ugly, giant, SClaritan-eating giant, hungry megafauna. (We won’t shoot at them if’n they won’t shoot at us.)

C’mon. Douse your bandanas in ice cubes, take along those little insufferable battery-operated personal face fans and let’s keep the tenderfoot grumbling to a slight whimpering. Remember that old Western koan: “There’s no crying in cowboying or time travel.”

C’mon. Aboard a fine horse, we’re actually closer to the coolness of outer space…

WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME

GASPY, FOR SHORT? — The first known European explorer Don Gaspar de Portola crossed into the Santa Clarita Valley on Aug. 8, 1869. He was treated to a major earthquake his first night camping here.

HONEST ABE DIDN’T PARTICULAR COTTON TO BEALE — On Aug. 8, 1855, Edward Fitzgerald Beale, surveyor general of California and Nevada, bought a huge chunk of land he had officially surveyed — the Rancho La Liebre tract. The controversial Beale had been passed over as surveyor general of the United States by Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln didn’t like the man, quipping that the land-hungry entrepreneur, “… tended to become master over all he surveyed.” Guess we liked Beale more than Lincoln. The historic roadway and monument of Beale’s Cut, right at our southern border to the San Fernando Valley, was named after the land-grabbing Beale.

WAY, WAY, WAY, WAY, WAY BACK WHEN AND THEN SOME — It’s still being debated, but a relatively recent excavation at a Mastodon site near San Diego found human remains. Real, darn, old human remains. They were dated at 130,000 years ago. I don’t mean to make light of this, but I’m betting if the carbon dating is correct, it was probably just a Tom Frew picnic. Although if the scientist actually KNEW the SCV’s legendary old-timer Tom Frew, they’d realize it couldn’t have been T.F. because he’s so cheap he never throws anything away.

AUG. 2, 1920

WE WERE ALMOST A CITY A CENTURY AGO — While city incorporation had been voted down literally by a show of hands a couple weeks earlier, the local movers and shakers kept holding meetings on how to best present Newhall to the outside world — and to protect it from the outside world, as well. An 8 p.m. meeting at the old Conrad’s was held, and locals filled the hall to discuss everything from road improvements to advertising. Locals even brought their children, setting up a little tent city to put the young ones to bed while the grown-ups shook the rafters with ideas and pointed index fingers.

HIS SERMONS LEFT YOU IN A ‘COMA?’ — Father Coma was the priest for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. The little rectory was not quite a mile down the street off of present-day Lyons and Pastor Coma would come once a week from the San Fernando Mission to hold one Sunday Mass, “at 8:30 SHARP,” Father Coma always stipulated.

AUG. 2, 1930

A NEW LINK TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD — Locals were pensively attempting to figure out what this dang new Weldon Canyon (Highway 99) road meant to Newhall. Prior to that, the major interstate traffic motored right through downtown Newhall, bringing with it both blessed business and speed demons. Talk of the town was how eerie it was without all the traffic. Signal Editor A.B. Thatcher felt that we should encourage people to come to the SCV not just for tourism, but to stay and live. Some of us old-timers today might wish that old Dad Thatcher had kept his mouth shut.

AUG. 2, 1940

FRANKENAPE — Horror superstar Boris Karloff was in town, filming “The Ape.” Bill Nye directed the film on the Monogram lot in Placerita Canyon. Perhaps the real star was an unnamed athlete in a $3,500 gorilla suit. Signal Editor Fred Trueblood noted: “Mr. Karloff was out of character. In impeccable sports attire, he looked like a very dignified and benevolent college professor.” Those who knew the man who starred as one of Earth’s most famous monsters and made “Frankenstein” a household name recalled that he was perhaps the sweetest and funniest man in Hollywood.

70 GRAND WOULDN’T GET YOU THE PAPER FOR AN EPA TODAY — Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was felt in the SCV. Besides all the bridges and roads that were constructed with federal depression money, the WPA authorized $70,196 to build a new auditorium for Newhall Elementary. The 8,776-square foot hall sat 642.

A RESCUE STORY MOST ODD — Two families were camping out on the shores of Lake Hughes. Two teenage daughters were sunning themselves in a dingy when one fell out. She couldn’t swim. Her friend jumped in, tried to save her, but couldn’t swim very well, either. They were about 100 feet from shore. One of the fathers heard their cries for help, dove in fully dressed and rescued his daughter’s friend, not realizing his own girl was drowning on the other side of the boat. He pulled the girl to shore. Exhausted and confused, he watched as HIS friend, father of the daughter he just saved, saw HIS daughter bobbing in the water. The second dad got there in time to see the girl disappear into the lake. He dove down several times, finally bringing her up. They thought she was dead, but by happenstance, a doctor was camping next to them, and administered CPR. Both girls’ lives were saved by fathers, but not their own.

IMAGINE TODAY HOW YOU’D GET THAT BARREL HOME — DuVall Chevrolet gave away a free 50-gallon barrel of gas with every used car they sold. In 1940s pricing, that worked out to about 10 bucks. Today, that barrel would be worth about $200.

THAT ‘HO’ — The Saugus branch library was so small, they used to list EVERY book they got each month in The Mighty Signal. One of the new titles? “What Ho?”

AUG. 2, 1950

50 BOY SCOUTS NEARLY KILLED — All manner of law enforcement agencies were patrolling the backcountry of the SCV, looking for the firebug who set three fires that burned 18,000 acres and nearly took the lives of four dozen Boy Scouts on a campout. Investigators found evidence that an arsonist had purposely set the blazes.

ARSONIST MURDERS WILDLIFE — An offshoot of that blaze above started by an arsonist was that all the wildlife was killed or pushed outside their ranges. Deer season was a disaster. Well. More of a disaster than usual.

AUG. 2, 1960

YICK ON TRIPLE-DIGIT SUMMERS — That big Placerita fire was still causing havoc. Ranchers reported several calf abortions when cows were traumatized by burning ashes. On top of that, farmer Oscar Flowers reported that he had a significant drop-off of milk due to the extreme, triple-digit heat.

WHY AREN’T TEENS ILLEGAL? — A group of visiting teens ran off with $250 worth of historical artifacts from the Hart bunkhouse portion of the museum. They used fishing poles to pull things off the walls.

AUG. 2, 1970

YOU NEWBIES WOULDN’T RECOGNIZE THE SCV 50 YEARS AGO — One of the big changes was constructing a brand new Highway 14. State road crews literally moved a mountain, taking billions of tons of dirt and rock out at Placerita Canyon to make room for the freeway. Locals pointed out to road crews that they were hauling away a fortune in gold dust.

HOW BAD DID DAD FEEL — An off-duty LAPD officer, getting ready for vacation, absent-mindedly placed his service revolver on a shelf in his camper while he packed. His 5-year-old son climbed into the camper, picked up the revolver and discharged a shot, hitting his 2-year-old sister in the shoulder. She was most fortunate and healed nicely.

COUNTING SHEEP. LITERALLY. — Here’s something you just never see anymore. Up until the early 1970s, Basque sheepherders would graze their flocks on land that today holds townhouses and condominiums. I remember being a teen and up until my 20s, Bouquet Canyon could just shut down as thousands of sheep moved across the road from one grazing hill to the next. Traffic jam? Yup. Peaceful sight? Yup.

AUG. 2, 1980

WE NEED A CITY ORDINANCE: NO SUMMER DAY OVER 82 — With July averaging well over 100 degrees PER DAY, and the heat wave continuing in August, Newhall Ice was doing a land rush business, selling about 10 tons a day. There were several blackouts and people tended to stay indoors.

WE SHOULDA BURIED THE GUY FROM NORTHRIDGE — The gravestone of Rose Bailey was recovered. A vandal was spotted digging up the tomb marker of the pioneer woman. A neighbor jotted down the description of the perp and his license plate number. Local sheriff’s deputies paid a visit to the man’s house and found the marker in the home of a Northridge man. Rose’s family had run a large cattle ranch and dairy farm up Soledad Canyon by Oasis Park in the 1860s. She died in 1890.

I’ll be back next weekend nonchalantly leaning against The Mighty Signal, ready to lead you out on another exciting Time Ranger adventure. ¡Ser amables el uno con el otro y vayan con Dios, amigos! (Be kind to one another and ride with God!”)

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/John_Boston. Leave a review, if you’re amind.

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