Can you absolutely believe it? The first day of autumn is Tuesday. Someone tell Linda Storli to make sure she sets her clock back. Hope someone sends an email to the lower-case Santa Clarita weather deities and have them deliver some nap-inducing, non-triple-digit, non-thicker-than-German-mustard clean air days because I need to hang some laundry.
C’mon. Enough of this. Road trip.
The old-fashioned kind.
Why don’t you dear saddlepals hop aboard the fine steed personally chosen just for you? We’ll hang onto our fine Western toppers as we duck into the time vortex. We’ll mosey into the back canyons of the SCV of yesteryear where it’s always a perfect 68 degrees — on our particular trail.
Here that distant call? It’s:
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
IN THE DAYS BEFORE NEWSPAPERS — Santa Clarita was part of the great übercontinent, Pangea and dinosaurs ruled the planet. Former Scotsman, SCV Historical Society president and local blacksmith Tom Frew MCCIX (who couldn’t draw a horseshoe let alone pull one out of a carney vending machine with the top open) would not relocate here for another 100 years.
‘IT’S GONNA BE ON THE FINAL,’ HE WARNED — We are overrun with long-forgotten typographical errors. For one thing, Lyons Avenue should be Lyon Avenue, as it was named after the twins from Maine, Sanford and Cyrus. Sanford was the businessman. Cyrus? The gunfighter. On Sept. 24, 1855, the brothers bought the Wiley Station, which would sort of be Newhall before there was a Newhall.
THE ORIGINAL DEMOCRAT? — On Sept. 20, 1863, Gen. Edward Fitzgerald Beale loaned $2,000 to A.A. Hudson and Ollie Robbins to build a toll gate and house on the main road out of Beale’s Cut into Newhall. The partners ran it for several years and made a tidy profit, charging pert near everything from cats to cattle, humans to Presbyterians a fee to duck under the toll gate. Interesting that the county of Los Angeles paid Beale to build the road and he made even more just making a toll road out of it.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1920
IF YOU’RE BUYING A CAR THIS WEEKEND IN THE SCV, MAKE SURE IT HAS A STARTER — I have a pal I’ve known for weeks up Agua Dulce way — Genene Doty Staats. Her grandfather Jesse owned the town’s Ford dealership and they had an overstock of cars. There was a neat advertisement in The Mighty Signal from 100 years back, touting that one could buy a new coupe for $745 — “Now, With a Starter!” Love those things.
WORSE? THE MENUS WERE THE SAME — The old White Star Cafe changed hands. Mr. & Mrs. W.G. Stephens sold it. H.W. Russell bought it. Mr. Russell also ran the Saugus Cafe.
BOTH UPHILL AND DOWNHILL — The maximum speed limit in California was 35 mph.
NEWHALL MONOPOLY — Newhall Realty opened their doors on this date. It was a two-man operation, with O.C. Abbott and Albert Swall as the agent/owners. Swall was already well on his way to owning most of downtown Newhall’s business section.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1930
THE DAYS OF CRIPPLING HUNTING FINES — Seventy years ago, a Newhall jury took three days to decide whether L.A. resident R.N. Meyers killed a fawn up Sand Canyon. Judge, jury, defendant, clerk and lawyers all motored up to the heavily wooded area to inspect the scene, and the dead fawn was brought into court as evidence, along with eyewitnesses, who, by the way, were quite alive. Meyers was found guilty and charged with a $250 fine — about HALF THE COST of a new house in Saugus in 1930. Meyers appealed the decision. The fine stuck.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1940
THE HOSE THAT KILLED — We seem to be reining our ponies gingerly over suicide victims in some of our recent weekend treks. Eighty years back, Gordon Bennett addressed his note: “To the public official finding me.” Bennett, 55, had evidently come to California two years earlier with $2,000. He ran out of money and ended his life in Castaic by running a garden hose from the exhaust pipe to the interior. He asked that he be buried in a potter’s field. They found poor Gordon with just 62 cents in his pocket.
BEST LAID PLANS OF MICE & MILITARY — Army surveyors, thinly disguised as civilians, were mapping out San Francisquito Canyon Road. The plan was to widen it for a military superhighway that would link the SCV more efficiently to Palmdale, where a huge munitions plant was to be constructed. Neither got built.
THAT LEE SURE WAS FUNNY — Lee Smith dug a new septic tank hole in his front yard. Nosy neighbors kept asking what the hole was for, and Smitty said: A) He was burying a fine, tall horse; and B) He was digging a hole to hide from the draft.
TODAY, MOST FOLKS DON’T KNOW WHERE HONBY IS — The old Honby School District disbanded, via a vote from the parents. They joined with the Saugus School District. Eighteen pupils from Honby were moved over to Saugus Elementary. Honby is still on many maps. Its epicenter would be Home Depot on Soledad.
WHY? BECAUSE A GUY DIED IN THE SIPHON — For the first time since 1913, the aqueduct was shut down up San Francisquito Canyon. Repairs were made at the Deadman Siphon in Dry Canyon.
CRIPES, ARE THOSE THIEVES GONNA BE SICK TO THEIR STOMACHS — It wasn’t exactly the crime of the century but it ticked off Bob Lombardi. Vegetable thieves, using trucks, made off with seven tons of banana squash. Value? About 85 bucks.
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, THE ROAD JUST WENT NORTH AND SOUTH — Two unions, vying for control of bus drivers, called off their double strike. Local sheriff’s deputies and highway patrolmen breathed a sigh of relief. They had the extra duty of escorting the buses, with the scab drivers, up and over the Ridge Route.
MONDO PETROLEUM — A new, major oil well on the Del Valle lease was hit on this date. It was the biggest in California and was located near Castaic.
I’M GUESSING PELTON MOVED ON EMOTIONALLY — Sand Canyon rancher and bachelor Pelton Preston wrote a letter to the Miss America pageant, saying that he’d be happy to marry the winner. Last I heard, no takers, not even from Miss New Jersey.
AHH, THOSE ROMANTIC OLD DAYS OF THE PENAL SYSTEM — Former Saugus prison guard Fellow Brooks came back to visit one of the county work camps. He sadly noted that the convicts were using tractors and bulldozers to build new roads. In his day, “… the jailbirds used picks, shovels and sweat.”
SEPTEMBER 20, 1950
THE MESSAGE NO FAMILY WANTS — The parents of former Newhall Elementary School graduate Robert L. Whisler were informed of the death of their son on this date. He was killed in Korea earlier in July. Whisler was the valley’s first victim of that faraway war.
BONUS? THEY GOT TO CALL THE GUARDS ‘SCREWS’ — For years, the Wayside Honor Rancho was a minimum-security work farm for low-risk convicts. They passed their short time doing ranch chores. On this date, a new wing was added to the prison that would later be Castaic’s Peter Pitchess Detention Center. A ribbon cutting opened up the new maximum-security wing for hardened perps.
BACK THEN? WE RECYCLED BEFORE THERE WAS RECYCLING — L.M. Barnes shot a 140-pound black bear in the family hen house. Barnes’ wife cooked up the bear meat, and the hide was displayed over the fireplace.
I’D ASK JANNY FRYER IF SHE GOT AUTOGRAPHS, BUT SHE WASN’T BORN YET — Two movie companies shared Vasquez Rocks during filming. Robert Ryan was making the Western, “Best of the Bad Men” and Arthur Kennedy was filming “Lights Out,” a pix about the blind during World War II.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1960
BACK WHEN DEMOCRATS WERE ACTUALLY DEMOCRATS — It’s been a lot of years since we’ve had an actual storefront operation for a Democratic presidential candidate. On this date, Kay Martrell opened the John F. Kennedy for President office on San Fernando Road (Main Street today).
SEPTEMBER 20, 1970
REEFER MADNESS — A half-century ago, Jon Newhall resigned as editor of The Mighty Signal. Newhall, with his twin brother, Tony, (and a little help from Scott and Ruth, their parents) oversaw the growth of this paper from a small weekly to a thrice-weekly. Newhall cited his plans to travel in a farewell editorial, but also noted: “I still have an unfortunate appointment to keep with the court systems … but assuming I’m not asked to cool my heels at Wayside … for a short spell, I will soon leave this valley and head for other parts of the planet.” Newhall had been earlier arrested for growing marijuana plants on the side of the interstate. Tony took over as editor and publisher. That Tony did a pretty not-half-bad job over the years, too.
LIKE A BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED TUMBLEWEEDS — Many of you newcomers might find this hard to believe. But, Newhall Avenue used to connect over a bridge and across the wash to McBean Parkway. On this date, county planning gave the go-ahead to abandon and condemn about a mile section. Seemed Newhall Land wanted some elbow room to build something called Valencia. I haven’t driven to that part of the valley lately. Is it still there?
SEPTEMBER 20, 1980
WELCOME TO THE SCV; NOW GO AWAY — The population of the SCV was listed at 74,146. Unless we’re hit by a comet, I’m betting we’ll hit 10 times that mark in the near future.
IT’S A QUESTION MOST OF US ASK OURSELVES SOMETIME IN OUR LIVES — There are no shortages of big-rig horror stories in the SCV. This one at least has a pinch of humor. Seems the local CHP pulled over a Teamster for weaving across four lanes of traffic south of Castaic. He was slobberingly drunk and near unconscious. So, the road cops threw the idiot into the poky, confiscated his rig and had it towed to Castaic. About three hours later, owners of the Castaic Truck Stop were shocked when the cab opened up and a SECOND driver, stinking of booze, fell out of the tall truck. He wanted to know, “Where the hell am I?”
Hate to say it, but that impending rip in the space-time continuum looks familiar — one of the calmest places in America, our home town, the Santa Clarita Valley. I know some of you might want to stay back in the yesteryears, but best we all return together. I got all these horses at a group rate. No need to worry. We’ll meet up back here at The Mighty Signal, as we have, decade after decade, for another exciting 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 https://bit.ly/John_Boston. Leave a review, if you’re amind.