Anybody out there in our dear and riparian valley know how to perform an actual, functioning rain dance? Please? We’ll be most appreciative. It doesn’t have to be some Old Testament proper cloud burst. We wouldn’t mind our sins being washed away, but, a steady few days of rain to douse the fires, rinse the dust off leaves and park benches and make the skies blue again.
In the meantime, I figure all of us in the Santa Clarita should just skedaddle back through the history vortex to climes filled with more fresh air and elbow room.
We have two choices. All several hundred thousand of ourselves can just madly spur our horses and see who gets to the space/time continuum first.
Or, we can just mosey.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
ATOP AN OCEAN OF OIL — On Sept. 26, 1876, California Standard Oil’s historic No. 4 well became the first successful oil well in the West. It diligently pumped out crude for over a century. It was dedicated as a state historical landmark in 1977.
FLAME BROILED STEAKS — Back 132 years ago, the Southern Hotel burned to the ground after a fire started in the kitchen. It was considered a five-star resort and one of the finest hotels on the entire West Coast. Henry Mayo Newhall built it to attract investors to Santa Clarita. There’s something called The Great Man Theory of history. Hank died in 1882, relatively a young man. Had he survived, the town of Newhall might have indeed become the Paris of the West Coast.
DEATH OF ANOTHER ICON — On Oct. 4, 1900, oil pioneer “Alex” Mentry died from a bite NOT from a black widow or bee sting, which had been reported, but from a nip on the lip from a poisonous insect — probably the infamous local “kissing bug,” a creature that still dwells in wood piles and brush here in the SCV.
SEPTEMBER 27, 1920
BURSTING AT THE SEAMS — Little Newhall Elementary’s Class of 1921 would be the largest in school history, with an even dozen predicted to graduate from the eighth grade.
HMMM. TURNING BACK THE CLOCK, WOULD I ATTEND A DANCE HOSTED BY ‘LOOSE YOUNG LADIES?’ — A group of the proverbial Local Concerned Citizens (same title and contorted faces over the decades — only the names change) banned together to fight in moral outrage. Seems San Fernando High (which most of the kids in the SCV had to attend as we didn’t have a high school here until 1945) had invited some of the El Retiro students to attend their campus. El Retiro was the school for problem or “loose young ladies.” The Newhall contingent didn’t want their kids getting, well, loose. There were only about 500 souls in the valley then, and most of them avoided the meeting.
SEPTEMBER 27, 1930
PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME WRITE TO THE SQUARE INCH EXACTLY WHERE NEWHALL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT USED TO BE — County road crews, Newhall Land & Farming folks and local mucky-mucks were all standing at the end of the Wiley Canyon Creek at the end of Newhall past 16th Street. They were starting to figure out how they were going to put a bridge across the wash to connect Newhall Avenue all the way through so folks would have a direct route to the airport. That’d be Newhall International, close to where Granary Square is today.
FALL’S ALMOST HERE; TIME TO OIL THE ROADS — Most of the SCV’S roads were dirt or gravel and the first of October meant it was time to oil them. Big tanker trucks would spray a fine mist to pat the dirt down and make the water run off during the lighter rains of autumn.
SEPTEMBER 27, 1940
ALAS, YET ANOTHER SUICIDE — The biggest manhunt in Antelope Valley history stretched into the Little Santa Clara River Valley. Beloved Jim Millar, a county ag man, had been stricken with amnesia and turned up missing. The amnesia may have been a ruse to protect a troubled man. The seemingly happy-go-lucky Millar was found dead 20 miles from nowhere in the desert — a bottle of poison found in one pocket, a suicide note in the other.
THE RIDGE ROUTE: ONE OF EARTH’S MOST DANGEROUS ROADS — In just a two-day period, there were 14 people seriously injured in various accidents.
AND NARY A WHIG TO BE FOUND — The Mighty Signal office was pretty crowded as last-minute voter registrations were held in the SCV. Eighty years back, we were primarily Democratic and 178 new voters showed that. Just 79 signed on as new Republicans with 10 not stating. There were two Prohibitionists registering.
SEPTEMBER 27, 1950
STARTED AS A CAR RACE, ENDED IN MURDER — Newhall yahoos were racing on old Sierra Highway. The race was close and there was a heated debate about who won. That turned into a fistfight. And that turned into the loser coming back with a gun and shooting at the other toughs. One was hit. The shooter was arrested for homicide.
SEPTEMBER 30, 1955
AND DEAN WAS DONE — The melancholy teen film icon, James Dean, still haunts us 64 years later. The actor ate his final meal in the Santa Clarita Valley on this date. James stopped at the old Tip’s Restaurant at Castaic Junction and had apple pie and a glass of milk before getting into his souped-up Porsche and heading up Highway 99. He died a couple of hours later in a car crash. Oddly enough, two other people who owned that Porsche or parts from it would later die in car crashes. Dean was just 24. After his death, he’d be nominated for the Academy Award’s Best Actor in 1956 and 1957 — for “Giant” and “East of Eden.”
SEPTEMBER 27, 1960
PROGRESS REARS ITS UGLY HEAD — Traffic on Lyons Avenue got so bad, the supervisors put in a stop sign at Peachland. Gnashing of teeth. Time to move.
SEPTEMBER 27, 1970
UNMARKED HAZARD — Seems a Mobil Oil pipeline ruptured and hundreds of gallons of crude formed a small lake — smack dab in the middle of the new Valencia Golf Course. Randy Wrage tells me it’s been cleaned up since. Still not going to take up golf.
AND THE COMMUNISTS MIGHT BE MAKING A COMEBACK — Signal photographer Gina Urbina had her vacation cut short. She was visiting Chile during the national elections. The communists won and Miss Urbina beat a hasty retreat back to the States.
HEAVY IS THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN — This young pup named Tony Newhall added another title to his resumé. The Signal publisher named himself editor. His twin brother, Jon, quit the week before. Jon got caught growing pot along the calming banks of the Santa Clara.
OCTOBER 2, 1972
WE HAVE BEEN CALLED MANY THINGS OVER THE YEARS, SOME OF THEM UNPRINTABLE — This valley has been known over the years as Rancho San Francisco, Little Santa Clara River Valley, the Soledad Township, Newhall, New-Hell, Andrews, Surrey, Newhall-Saugus, Newhall-Saugus-Valencia, Canyon County, Valencia Valley and, believe it or not — even SClarita. On the above date in 1972, locals voted to officially call the place the Santa Clarita Valley. So far, it’s stuck.
SEPTEMBER 27, 1980
WHERE’S DR. NUPUF? — Lots of folks wanted to know. The Canyon Country optometrist and his secretary, Michele Lackemann, had been gone for more than a month. Patients would show up at the locked office and mail was piled up on the floor. He had earlier been charged with assault with a deadly weapon as part of a love triangle and was the target of several civil suits. He showed up much later to clean out his office with the statement that he was working on an important project with many lives at stake. From our saddles, will you join me in raising your eyebrows and saying: “Uh-huh.”
WE PUT THE POP IN POPULATION — The valley population figures of 78,146 came out (a 60% increase over the decade). They didn’t include Castaic, Hasley or Val Verde because THOSE numbers had to be counted in Bakersfield while the rest of the valley was counted in Los Angeles. Ah, government.
LIKE THAT’S GONNA HAPPEN — The Regional Planning Commission voted to limit the population of the SCV to 114,000. Geez. What happened to that great plan?
THE CYCLE OF FLAMES — More than 6,500 acres burned in upper San Francisquito Canyon. Huge winds fanned the flames for days.
CHUGGA CHUGGA, CHUGGA CHUGGA, CHUGGA CHUGGA, ETC. — Former KABC TV anchorman Baxter Ward was running for re-election against this young fellow, Mike Antonovich. Baxter wanted to reactivate passenger trains into and out of the SCV to help alleviate transportation congestion and expense. Mike laughed at the guy, and Ward’s idea was laughingly referred to as “Baxter’s Choo-Choo.”
Well saddlepals, neighbors, protesters, the pleasantly content and you with the bees in your bonnets, we’re just about back home. Up ahead? That spinning liquid diamond with the glowing edges? That’s our stage stop. We’re just about back where we started, Santa Clarita, September-ish, 2020. A few more minutes and all y’all can start yelling at one another again about politics. Be good to one another. I’ll see you back here at The Mighty Signal in a week with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Ride with God my friends. Or — as they say in a certain romance language — ¡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.