Hard to believe. We’ve somehow fell, tumbled, stumbled, slid down embankments, been washed down calm creeks turned to rapids and somehow just about made it to Thanksgiving of this tumultuous year of 2020.
Good hustle, cowpokes and cowpoke-ettes.
Just a few days away from our cherished American custom of Thanksgiving. I trust you and yourn celebrate it as you see fit. We’re a can-do country. We make do, reinvent and cherish those traditions that make us who we are, from the riparian confines of the Santa Claritas to all across America.
C’mon, you bunk huggers. Saddle up. Just because it’s Thanksgiving in a blink doesn’t mean there hasn’t been mischief and down fences to investigate.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
CLEO ENDED HIS DAY WITH A SPLIT PERSONALITY — It wasn’t a very pleasant Thanksgiving for Cleovaro Chavez. He had been the right-hand man for legendary road agent Tiburcio Vasquez. When Tibby was arrested in Los Angeles earlier, Cleo vowed to kill every white person in California unless his friend was released. Chavez fell short of his goal and authorities hung Vasquez up in Northern California for his part in taking over the town of Tres Pinos and murdering one of the citizens. Chavez retired from his life of banditry to break horses in Arizona. On Nov. 25, 1876, two bounty hunters walked up to a corral where Chavez was working, held up a wanted poster next to Chavez’s face and asked if he were, indeed, Cleovaro Chavez. Cleo said no. They didn’t believe him and nearly blew him in half at point-blank range with a pair of shotguns, collecting a rather sizable reward for his remains.
BACK IN THE DAYS OF BIG SPREADS — On Nov. 22, 1843, the Rancho Castec (Castaic) was granted to Jose Covarbias. Betcha he’d turn over a few times to see what the place looks with all those homes there now.
NOVEMBER 22, 1920
AND NOT TOO MANY WORE A SUIT BACK THEN — Really, adjusting for inflation, the price of a men’s suit hasn’t changed that much. If you do a little shopping today, you can get a really good one off the rack for about $350. Back in 1920, the equivalent of men’s high fashion was the Newhall Tailors & Cleaners. A nice three-piece number would set you back $42.50. Of course, a century later, not too many men are wearing suits — again.
NOVEMBER 22, 1930
A WHOLE NEW WAY TO HIT THE HAY — On this date, a Mr. O. Kruse misplaced his brother. Kruse was dropping off a large load of hay to the Antelope Valley. His sibling was on top of the load, sleeping. Somewhere near Palmdale, Kruse made a turn and his brother rolled off the truck. When Kruse got back to Newhall, he discovered he was one family member short. His brother suffered a couple scrapes and bumps, but was OK and, well, lost.
BACK BEFORE THE DAYS OF TEXTING — Substation No. 6 found a carrier pigeon with a message attached to its leg: “SOS. Lost. Heavy Storm. Send help quick. 30 alt. Signed Everett Thomas.” The officers didn’t know if the bird flew for weeks for help or whether it was a hoax.
THOSE ODD AND STRANGE THINGS WE CLUTCH DEARLY — We used to run a column called Mint Canyon Juleps and the author fondly recalled the odd things we keep as mementos. The columnist had a friend who kept a hardened piece of bologna her infant used to nibble on. The baby died in 1870 and, for 60 years, the mother carried that little scrap, along with a lock of the baby’s hair and its shoes.
NOVEMBER 22, 1940
AND IT STILL SEATS 700 — The H.B. Nicholson Co. of Los Angeles began construction on the Newhall Elementary Auditorium 60 years back. It would seat 700.
OUR OLD GUN SMITHY AND HIS FINAL SLEEP — Hempstead H. Smith had his last cup of coffee on this date. The aged town gunsmith who lived on Newhall Avenue put on a pot of coffee on his gas stove, went to sit in the living room and fell asleep in his big stuffed leather chair. He had his house closed, and the fumes from the stove asphyxiated the old timer, and he died in his sleep.
YET ANOTHER LOCAL HALL OF FAME COWBOY — Jackie Cooper (not the former child star) was named top bronc rider in America when he swept the national rodeo finals at Madison Square Garden. The Newhall man traveled with two saddlepals to the rodeo — Hall of Fame Placerita cowboy Andy Jauregui and some movie singing fella named Gene Autry.
NOVEMBER 22, 1950
THANK GOODNESS, A GOODBYE NOTE FOR NOTHING — He probably wouldn’t have had as much luck today. A half-century back, a young pilot, lost and nearly out of fuel, tried to find a place to land in Newhall. He wrote a note, tied it to his goggles and threw it out the open plane, hoping someone would pick it up and signal him. No one did. Francis Hardy eventually made a successful crash landing in an alfalfa field.
OH DEAR. OUR EMBARRASSING TYPOS — We ran a promotional ad for ourselves, noting in huge, “Martians Land” type: “The Newhall Signal: The Best Bargain in Town!” Then, right under, the typographer wrote: “It only cost $250 a year!” Whoops. Forgot to put a decimal point between the 2 and the 5. Today, at that rate, a subscription would run you about $2,800. Certainly well worth it just for the Time Ranger columns…
MORE FUN WITH NUMBERS — You had to be pretty well off to afford a television set in 1950. The old Chitwood’s furniture store (telephone: 404) was selling new Westinghouse 17-inch black-and-white sets for a whopping $269.95. That’s a small fortune in 1950 money (like, about $2,800?) and much less than what you’d pay for a black-and-white TV that size, providing you could even find one.
NOVEMBER 22, 1960
MORE TV TRIVIA — Folks in upper Bouquet Canyon were nearly giddy over not just TV, but “GOOD TV!” as they put it. Locals got together to build a community antenna. For a $150 set-up fee and a $5-a-month charge, the people in the deep canyon boonies got great reception. Deep Canyon Boonies. Not a bad name for a country/western garage band.
NOVEMBER 22, 1963
A VALLEY AND NATION FILLED WITH TEARS — For most of us who were old enough, we can all recall exactly where we were when the announcement was made across the nation of the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. I was in gym class. I remember walking home afterward, stunned. Most people I passed were sobbing. Grown men collapsed on sidewalks, crying their eyes out. There had never been a day like this in my lifetime, and the country hasn’t been the same since. After Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as president, he declared a national day of mourning. Just about everything, from schools to grocery stores, were closed here. The one thing that remained open during the crisis? Our churches.
NOVEMBER 22, 1970
DESPITE THE SONG, SLOOPY COULDN’T HANG ON — F.H. Arklin used to keep Sloopy, a 300-pound black bear, as a pet in his Saugus home. Someone snitched to county zoning and the declawed bruin had to be turned over to a wildlife sanctuary.
BIG BILL HEADS TO THAT BIG RANCH IN THE SKY — One of the valley’s most controversial and colorful characters, William G. Bonelli Sr., died 30 years ago this week. A noted rancher and politician, Bonelli was most famous for his 17-year hide-and-seek with federal and state governments for exposing high-ranking mucky-mucks in liquor license frauds. Bonelli penned the book, “Billion Dollar Blackjack,” a scathing indictment on The Los Angeles Times, accusing them of nefarious real estate and saloon dealings. He was a Phi Beta Kappa and four-year letterman in tennis, football and basketball at USC. Later, he would own the Bonelli Ranch and Stadium. Today, it’s called the Saugus Speedway.
WONDER HOW THEY’D RULE ON THOSE GIRLY MAN BUNS? — On this date, the William S. Hart High School board struck down a motion to allow male students to wear beards or mustaches to school.
NOVEMBER 27, 1972
MURDER COMES TO VALENCIA — It was arguably the most heinous murder in SCV history. Robert Grigsby, a disturbed transfer student at Hart High, randomly picked a quiet residential Valencia home. He brutally murdered a young housewife, her toddler son and a young neighbor boy. Grigsby stabbed the mother 67 times, her son 26, and the other little boy six times. Grigsby is still serving a life sentence, but comes up from time to time for parole.
NOVEMBER 22, 1980
THE SIGNAL OPINES ON DALLAS — Oddly enough, the No. 1 topic of conversation in the SCV 20 Thanksgivings ago was, “Who shot J.R.?” That would be Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing on the mega TV hit, “Dallas.” Signal Editor Scott Newhall even penned one of his famous editorials, in which he wrote: “And so it goes in the blessed Santa Clarita Valley. Texans may claw, kick, gouge, fornicate and shoot each other to death if they please. But as long as we have hope for improvement in our own burgeoning community, those scoundrels who run wild and who make hay and love along the banks of the Rio Bravo will have to carry on all by themselves without any particular attention from us. If the dastardly Mr. J.R. Ewing recovers, then let us wish him good health so that he may continue in his revels, hopping from couch to couch. If, perchance, he has died, well then, Requiescat in Pace.” I’m guessing that’s “Rest in Peace.”
THE OFFICIAL ‘BUZZ’ — Hardly anyone will recognize the name William Lamoreaux or even his stage name, Red Lamoreaux. In his day, he was the most famous child actor in the world, playing the cowboy character “Buzz Barton” in dozens of movies. He attended Newhall Elementary and later became a rodeo star. Red fought in World War II and was on the ship Missouri when Douglas MacArthur and the U.S. (although not necessarily in that order) accepted surrender from Japan. He worked as a wrangler at the Randall Ranch in Newhall up until 1979 and died 20 years ago this week. Red was mucho hombre.
ONE DARN GREAT GAL — On this date, personal friend of mine and all-around cutey-pie Jo Anne Darcy was appointed field deputy to Mike Antonovich. From her volunteerism to her help founding this city of Santa Clarita, that Ms. Darcy was simply one of the best darn people to live here. Ever.
TAKES ALL KINDS AND WE WISH IT DIDN’T — It can be a cold, cold world. On this date, Valencia stylist Richard Striegel was murdered. One of his clients called from the San Fernando Valley to say that she had heard of his death on the radio and wanted to make sure it was true because if it was, she didn’t want to drive all the way up from the SFV for nothing. A person like that doesn’t deserve hair.
WOULDN’T THEY BE IN CHARGE OF THE GREEN NEW DEAL TODAY? — Those swindlers from the little agency with the big name were at it again. The North West Los Angeles Resource Conservation District had been disbanded because of a long laundry list of fraud, mismanagement, monkeyshines, fistfights and overall public embarrassment. With just 48 hours to go before the state disbanded them, the NWLARCD voted to take all their money and hire themselves as consultants — payment, of course, up front.
TIP OF THE STETSON TO FRED BAUMGARTEN — Special thanks to our dear saddlepal Fred for pointing out a whoops in last week’s Time Ranger. We errantly reported that John James Audubon camped out in Castaic in the mid-19th century to sketch and study local birds. While some politicians might say “we misspoke,” we’re Western here in Santa Clarita. We “screwed up.” Brain misfired. Dropped the ball. It was John James Audubon’s son, John Woodhouse Audubon, who was studying the “boids.” Good catch, Fred!
By the looks of that familiar and glowing vortex ahead, we’ve managed to find our way back home to the SCV of 2020. Surely appreciate the companionship, sharing both fresh air and old tales. See you next weekend back here at the hitching posts of The Mighty Signal for another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then — Feliz Acción de Gracias y vayan con Dios, amigos!
A few weeks from now, John Boston is launching his own publishing house, John Boston Books. The first volume is “Ghosts, Ghouls & Monsters of the SCV.” In the meantime, you can buy Boston’s “Melancholy Samurai,” “Naked Came the Sasquatch” and other of his books on Amazon.com or https://bit.ly/John_Boston. If you liked the book, wouldn’t mind at all if you left a kind 5-star review.