A warm and Western howdy, saddlepals and saddlepal-ettes. Hope autumn is being kind to you. As always, inspiring vistas are promised as we mosey through our weekly time portal back to the Santa Clarita Valley of yesteryear.
I don’t know where the word, “hop” came into use when referring to climbing aboard a horse. All my years, never seen a single person “hop.”
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
YUP — Things were simpler.
ALSO, IT WAS HOME OF THE HONBY MEN’S CLUB — Soledad Canyon Road, by the Saugus Speedway up to about Camp Plenty, used to also be called the Honby Road. Most locals now don’t even know that area around there was, and still is today — Honby.
SAD NOT ALL CAME BACK TO SEE TWO PAIRS — Back in 1917, Russ Witsburgh was on leave, showing off his dog tags. They were aluminum, a matching set. In case you didn’t come back, one was for your parents, the other, for your cross and helmet.
OCTOBER 18, 1920
THREE, COUNT ’EM — For those of you keeping accurate numbers, as of Oct. 18, 1920, we had: three grocery stores; one barber shop; one dry goods store; one new brick hotel; one restaurant; one candy shop; one newspaper (still!), three garages; one filling station and two churches.
IF IT WERE A CAULIFLOWER, WE’D HAVE TO SHOOT IT TO PUT IT OUT OF ITS MISERY — In E.S. Abbott’s store, he displayed a cluster of sweet potatoes growing together that weighed 20 pounds. That’s a lot of vitamin A.
OCTOBER 18, 1930
ONE OF OUR BIGGEST BOOZE RAIDS — Federal agents, led by James Bond, (not the 007 guy) raided the National Forest Inn on the Ridge Route. The Macco Construction Co. was improving the historic highway and had more than 300 workers in camps up there. The NF Inn evidently was taking a good chunk of the men’s paychecks with illegal moonshine and crooked card games. There were 53 men arrested, including the owner of the National Forest Inn, a Mr. Dafino. While the drinkers and gamblers were charged $10 each (a nice little haul for local coffers), Dafino drew a $750 fine (enough to buy a house in 1930 Newhall) and a 90-day jail sentence. ORDER IN THE COURT! OR NOT — Highlight of the trial was when the Macco Construction foreman cold-cocked a worker for mumbling something unkind toward him. The foreman drew a serious time out and an additional cash fine.
MUST HAVE BEEN A TALL BED — Here’s an odd one. Signal Editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher reported that a local veteran, who flew several combat missions in World War I, injured himself when he fell out of bed.
A SLOW NEWS DAY? — Thatcher, in his front-page column, The Jin Jer Jar, also noted: “Judging from the loads of rock being hauled through Newhall, I am led to believe that some fellow must have found a misplaced mountain and is busy hauling it back home.”
MY DAD ALMOST BOUGHT THAT PLACE WAY BACK WHEN — Some of you hike up Rice Canyon off The Old Road. That little rancho to the north of the entrance used to be the Eaton Motor Court, a thriving little motel for 40 years when The Old Road used to be both the Ridge Route and later, Highway 99.
OCTOBER 18, 1940
AND, ODDLY ENOUGH, THEY DIDN’T PAY YOU MORE FOR THAT — Francis “Pancho” Chacanaca was the first SCV man called in the local draft for the impending second World War.
WONDER IF HE WROTE HIS NAME IN HIEROGLYPHICS — Sheriff’s deputies were looking for a chronic practical joker who was plaguing the SCV. His pranks were odd. He’d milk farmers’ cows dry or put Wilkie stickers over Roosevelt’s. He’d leave his secret identity — “The Sphinx” — at the scene of his crimes.
SO WHERE’S SHERMAN? — I swear there must have been something in the well water of Sand Canyon that caused folks to sport such strange names. Mrs. Samaria Peabody took a few days to take a census. On her own time, she walked along a 1-mile stretch of Highway 99 and counted, get this: 1,213 empty beer cans, 412 whiskey bottles, 112 discarded wine bottles and 15 empty “moonshine” jugs. That totaled out to 1,752 empty alcoholic beverage containers. Samaria took her findings to her state assemblyman and, 1940 being an election year, he promised something would be done immediately to clean up the valley’s highways.
HATE TO TELL YOU WHAT THEY’RE KISSING TODAY — Today one of the election themes was to clean up the media. Some religious folks were complaining about both The Mighty Signal and Inspiration Pictures. Seems they were showing a movie called “Hell Harbor” with Lupe Velez. Some locals objected to seeing the word “Hell” both in print and on the movie poster at the hall. They also objected to actress Lupe having her neck kissed by actor John Holland.
OCTOBER 18, 1950
LOCALS THOUGHT THEY DROPPED THE ATOMIC BOMB, SERIOUSLY — Two oil wells blew in Placerita Canyon, starting a fire that caused $100,000 in damage. That’s big money in 1950. A huge blast of subterranean gas blew out and ignited. One of the explosions shot mud, oil and water 100 yards into the air. The fire was put out by pumping heavy mud into the wells. I hear some developer wants to put houses next to those wells.
THOSE RACY KIDS! — We used to have a social organization called the Castaic Coke Club. Nope. Nothing to do with a young Donald Trump. It was a teen organization that held dances and drank Coca-Cola, which, by the way, is much preferable to Pepsi. By the way. They used real sugar and had no diet brands then. Truly. The good old days.
STILL SUBSCRIBE TO IT — Newhall got its copy of Horse & Deer Fly Magazine hot off the presses. The state ag booklet listed 60 species of horse and deer pests, with seven subspecies. Just in case you’re counting. Many a farmer said they read it for the articles, not the centerfold.
POLITICIANS!? TAKING BRIBES?! SAY IT AIN’T SO! — Three of the five county supervisors — including our 5th District’s Roger Jessup — were sternly taken to task for accepting bribes from garbage interests and using their power to set up illegal and unsanitary hog/garbage farms throughout the SCV. The plot was to make this valley the garbage dump of Los Angeles County.
OCTOBER 18, 1960
KA-BLOOEY/KEMBLOWSKI — Between bozo alleged hunters, kids and self-professed fast-draw artists, we sure perforated ourselves on a regular basis during the late 1950s and ’60s. Changing times, certainly a lack of respect and instruction were part of the reasons. On this date, young Paul Kemblowski’s father loaded one round into a defective .22-caliber rifle, absent-mindedly held it up in the general direction of his 12-year-old son, the bolt slipped forward and the bullet went through the poor child’s head. Oddest thing, it did hardly any serious damage, and the boy was back home within a few days. I guess having a name like Kemblowski is an explosion waiting to happen.
FATE IS THE HUNTER — Hunter Mel Cole had an unscheduled campout on this date. He got lost, deer hunting above Castaic. A sheriff’s posse, led by Frank Debernardi, found him the next day. Cold, tired, hungry, thirsty and alive.
BASS OUTFITTER — Here, at least, is a successful outdoorsman story. Jack Joiner went fishing off Oxnard. He came back with a black sea bass. A real, darn big, huge, gigantic, huge, colossal, huge, big ol’ sea bass. No fish story, either. The Saugus man’s trophy catch tipped the scales at 425 pounds — a world record. (I’ve got a saddlepal, Matt Lee, who makes one mean sea bass marinade. Might have to call him up soon and pretend my stove’s broke.)
ONE VALLEY, ONE VISION? — On this date, a move to unify all the school districts in the valley — six, one high school and five elementary — went down to heavy defeat, 1,269 votes to 646. Only about half the registered voters turned up at the polls.
OCTOBER 18, 1970
AIN’T SAYING NOTHIN’ — The Newhall Chamber of Commerce’s guest luncheon speaker, Harry Keeney, warned local yokels about the peril of the New Left and how they were going to destroy America. Pursing my lips here. Pursing my lips.
DESTROYING AMERICA FROM WITHIN — Don’t know if it was the New Left, but some yahoo ran a tractor into, through, up and over and about the old Onondarka horse stables off Railroad Avenue. Did a pretty good job of destroying at least a small part of America, without the bothersome speech making.
I THINK THAT CARRIED THE DEATH PENALTY BACK THEN — Former Signal Editor Jon Newhall pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana. The local paragraphist was arrested for growing the stuff up in the hills.
NOT ENOUGH ROOM FOR A MUNICIPAL BIRD BATH — In the early stages of planning to build the city, a local committee first suggested that it be just 2.5 square miles and cover a pinch of Valencia and Newhall.
THEY EAT MORE HAY, THOUGH — There was an unusual sight at the construction of Magic Mountain — Clydesdales. The big draft horses made famous in beer commercials were used to pull plows to clear hillsides. Old logic is horses don’t tip over on steep hills where tractors do.
OCTOBER 18, 1980
THE FIERIEST OF OCTOBER — Two children playing with matches were the cause of an 800-acre brush fire in Bouquet Canyon. It was the third major fire within a few weeks. Total, nearly 8,000 acres were burned.
WONDER WHAT THE HOMEWORK MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE — This one little anecdote may be one of the biggest historical benchmarks in local history. College of the Canyons held a course on a fairly new product — mace. The COC class was entitled: “Civilian Tear Gas Workshop.”
Nothing like a trail ride. Always a little let down when they end. See that glowing portal up yonder? That’s our stop, the Santa Clarita Valley of the here and now. Be nice if you could grow hair or lose a couple pounds around the midsection passing back through. We’ll have to work on that, won’t we? See you back here at Your Mighty Signal next week with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Have I mentioned Signal subscriptions make dandy Christmas presents? Until next weekend, 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.