I don’t know how the heck we survived Labor Day Weekend seven days back. But we did.
One of my all-time favorite weather anecdotes seems fitting in a place where we honor nostalgia. Back in the 1930s, we had a similar heatwave and were flirting with temperatures hot enough to melt horseshoes. An old cowboy moseyed into the old Signal offices. Editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher recalled that the cow puncher said it was so hot, he saw a coyote chasing a rabbit.
“And they were both walking…”
I’ll take an amen and boy howdy, saddlepals.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
ONE THING’S FOR SURE. IT’S STILL HERE. — Newhall Elementary has moved around more than the lost tribes of Israel and depending on whose datebook you’re looking at, this might be the school’s birthday. Some historians place Sept. 17, 1879, as the school’s opening day. Historian A.B. Perkins, in a 1950 article, noted the school opened in the old Lyons Ranch bunkhouse in 1877, then moved to present-day Walnut and 9th Street. The darn place burned to the ground several times and moved here, there and everywhere over the years.
TAKING A DIG AT THE GENERAL — On Sept. 19, 1863, Gen. Edward Beale, the guy with the camels, took over an existing contract and continued digging what would be later named Beale’s Cut — the major north-and-south road linking southern and central California via Newhall.
TRY LOOKING THIS UP ON THE INTERNET!! — On this date in the SCV back in 36,013,272 B.C., the apes fought the Martians for world domination. The apes won. I’m not so sure this actually happened, but it will give my old pal Pat Comey an opportunity to call me at home and launch a counter theory.
SEPTEMBER 13, 1920
AN AIR FERN? — Maybe the downtown Newhall redevelopment gang might want to borrow this from 100 years back. Seems the Newhall Improvement Committee offered a “nice prize” for the business owner who best decorates his shabby frontage.
SEPTEMBER 13, 1930
MAY I SPEAK TO THE PARTY TO WHOM I AM SPEAKING? — On this date, the collect call was born. Newhall folks were notified by Southern California Telephone Co. that phoners could “reverse the charges” for 25 cents to the other party. That call had to be pretty important because you could buy 10 pounds of potatoes in 1930 for a quarter, or three cans of sardines or five rolls of toilet paper.
SEPTEMBER 13, 1940
SORRY. NOT A “NICOLE” ANYWHERE IN HER NAME. — Mrs. Anna Smith turned 95 and that’s an event unto itself. Neat thing was five generations of family turned up for her party, all the way down to little Patty Schwartz, her great-great-granddaughter.
THERE ALMOST WAS A CROWLAND HERE — Famed star Charlie Mack, who made a tidy fortune playing one of the Black Crows (the blackface vaudeville act, not the rock group), built those famous rock houses on 8th Street, originally on 22 acres. The place was to be called, “Crowland” and was going to be a commune for entertainment folk, but, Mack died before building more of the unique rock homes that still line the street. On this date, W. Ray Johnston purchased the largest house and moved his prime residence from New York to Newhall. Mr. Johnston owned Monogram Pictures, which filmed many movies in the SCV area. One of Johnston’s first jobs was to remove Mack’s enormous bed, at the time, noted as the largest in the world. The bed had been custom made and they BUILT THE HUGE MASTER BEDROOM AROUND IT!! Carpenters took the bed apart with chainsaws to get it out. Top that, Home Depot…
YET ANOTHER SUICIDE IN A PEACEFUL CANYON — An unknown but well-dressed man, about 60, using his belt and tie, hung himself from a cottonwood by the Santa Clara River.
O BURY ME PLEASE, ON THE LONE PRAIRIE — A funeral at neighboring Pierce Brothers in the San Fernando Valley cost just $70 — including casket, vocal and organ music at the ceremony. Today, an average funeral in California is just shy of the $10,000 range. I’m thinking I’ll just skip mine and get the truck painted, thank you very much…
SEPTEMBER 13, 1950
NOPE. NOT THAT GEORGE BURNS — George Burns died on this date, 50 years ago. This G.B. owned the Burns Liquor Store & Shell Station up Sierra Highway. Isn’t that a heck of a business combination — gas station and a whiskey store?
RAIN BRINGS TRAGEDY — The first rain of the season dropped about a half-inch. It delayed hay harvesting and resulted in the death of a pretty young woman who perished on the slippery Soledad highway. Juanita Carr had been married just a couple of days.
THAT’S LIKE 240 DEGREES COOLER THAN THIS WEEKEND — It felt like winter in some canyons. We had highs in the 60s and it dipped into the 40s during the night. Highs in the 60s. In mid-September. Heavens. If only…
SEPTEMBER 13, 1960
ALAS, DANA WAS TOO CHICKEN TO SAY, “NICE TO MEET HUGH” — Actor Hugh O’Brien was at Melody Ranch, shooting a “Wyatt Earp” TV episode. One of my best pals, 10-year-old Dana Knauber, was there, watching.
AND PAT ARMAN’S STILL TRYING TO GRADUATE — The brand-spanking new Peachland Elementary School opened its doors to students for the first time 60 years back. Glen Hemminger was the principal.
SEPTEMBER 13, 1970
HART BOARD MEETING LOOKED MORE LIKE A JERRY SPRINGER SHOW — The Hart information session grew wild and rancorous. It was supposed to be about a special recall election of several of the board members. One member of the audience took the microphone to scream why the district wasn’t fighting communism more — a question I’ve asked myself over the years. A few days later, trustees Ed Duarte and Curtis Huntsinger were recalled in a special election.
JERI. YOU STILL MAKE ME SMILE THINKING OF YOU. — Before she owned The Way Station, Jeri Bronstrup owned the Newhall Smoke Shop. She predicted that unless downtown merchants got their act together, the main drag of Newhall would become dilapidated and rundown. How prophetic was she? It would take 30 years before mucky mucks and businesses started —ahem — sprucing up the place.
HI AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HIGHLANDS! — Highlands Elementary opened their doors for the first time, 50 years back on this date.
STILL SOMETIMES SEE EAGLES HERE IN THE BACK COUNTRY — Here’s an amazingly strange one for you time riders. On this date, 15-year-old Danny DeShezen saw a 2-foot-tall golden eagle on a fence by his Castaic barn. He walked up to the bird, grabbed it by the legs and captured it. Despite the wings flailing, DeShezen managed to put his belt around the legs and kept the thing as a pet.
THE KINDNESS OF THE SANTA CLARITA HEART — More than 400 people showed up at a $100-a-plate (which was pretty big money then) dinner for Ida Edwards. The Val Verde grandmother had been on the wrong end of a county snafu. Ida had gone on vacation to visit relatives earlier and came back to find the county had erroneously bulldozed her home. Newhall Land and Farming, county Supervisor Warren Dorn, The Signal and many other generous folks banded together to build her a brand-new house on her property, including some cash to furnish it.
SEPTEMBER 13, 1980
CROSSING THE DIXON LINE — Forty years ago, with little fanfare, the Sam Dixon Family Health Center opened in Val Verde.
YET MORE GOVERNMENT SLAPSTICK — Former director of the Northwest Los Angeles County Resource Conservation District AND 19-year-old parolee Marcus Frishman had been ordered by fellow board members not to show up at any more meetings. They replaced him with Ms. Jan Hinkston. At the first meeting with the new board, Frishman showed up, saying he would continue to show up until a court told him he wasn’t the director. The directors said that a court would have to tell THEM that he was. Yet another scuffle and fistfight ensued between Frishman and board member Glenn Bailey.
GEEZ. IT’S NOT LIKE THEY KILLED ANYBODY. — Locals learned that a federally funded program was illegally training illegal immigrants for job skills. The operation ran out of a storefront and was only supposed to use its money for U.S. citizens and legal visitors to America. Sheriff’s deputies got the tip when they arrested two Mexican nationals who were wanted for kidnapping and rape. Jose Contreas and Ruben Riebles said they got their training at CET in Castaic.
Geez Louise. Seems like we were only out a few minutes instead of a century or more. No pressure, but I think I’m going to ride around a bit more, maybe say howdy to an old Tataviam chieftain pal or visit some distant Anasazi relatives. Got to come up with yet another new excuse besides “I can’t stand your cooking” so I don’t have to stay for dinner. What say? See all y’all back here at The Mighty Signal for another exciting Time Ranger SCV history adventure? ¡No es una pregunta retórica — y vayan con Dios, amigos! (It’s not a rhetorical question and ride with God my friends!)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://www.amazon.com/John-Boston/e/B000APA0H8?ref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share. Leave a review, if you’re amind…