The Time Ranger | Not So ‘Buffalo’ Tom & Train Robbing

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I’m guessing that most of us are adult enough to have figured out this insane cultural dance we’ve all grumpily agreed to — Daylight Savings Time. Spring forward. Fall back. If you live in Palmdale, it’s stumble drunkenly in a six-month-long figure 8 while giggling. You know. Like what they do when the CHP pulls them over?

If you still haven’t done so from last weekend, set your clocks back an hour. Or so. Heck. Try two and see if anyone notices.

Or not. Be like an old Tataviam and don’t use a wristwatch. I have no dog in this hunt and besides. I’m into time travel so I’m frequently finding myself setting my clocks back decades and centuries and, slowly pirouetting — see? Not an ooch of jet lag or the insatiable need to pour hot coffee atop my head to face a new day.

I’d accuse Tom Frew of the previous, but, being the prototypical Scotsman, we all know Tommy IV wouldn’t waste money like that.

Shall we hop aboard your own, personal favorite pony and ride back in Santa Clarita time, toward the historical and mystic?

WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME

THIS WILL BE ON THE FINAL — There was no one in North America nor Santa Clarita of note. In Europe, Africa and the Middle East, conversation was rather monosyllabic. And, there was no hot cocoa.

NOVEMBER 8, 1920

LONG BEFORE GREEN ENERGY — The California Bureau of Mines notified locals that because of excess demand for gasoline (the old CBM used to oversee gasoline production) caused their product to be, ahem, watered down. They warned that the petroleum by-product “…still smelled real bad,” but wasn’t as potent. Lots of pinging and explosions around here…

AND FOR GOODNESS SAKES, DON’T DRINK THE STUFF! — We were primarily a farm town and the lead story of The Mighty Signal a century back was how to prevent fruit tree sunscald. In case any of you are interested in protecting the fruit trees on your condo porches, try this recipe: mix 8 pounds of quick lime, 2 pounds of sulfur and one-half-pound of salt. Add a little water to make a paste, then apply to your fruit trees in the winter for summer protection.

NOVEMBER 10, 1929

MOSTLY TOM, NOT MUCH BUFFALO — “Buffalo” Tom Vernon pulled off the second-to-last train derailment robbery in the Wild West. (He also pulled off the last.) He tipped over the old Owl train by the present-day Saugus Speedway. For years, Vernon was hailed as a villain for derailing and wrecking the train, then robbing the passengers. We just learned of his motive. It seems that Vernon robbed the train to pay for a woman friend’s “operation” in Los Angeles. Early editions of L.A. papers wrongly wrote that the engineer of the Saugus train died after being scalded by escaping steam. Vernon escaped to Wyoming, where he pulled the same stunt, derailing a train and robbing the passengers. It sure wasn’t hard catching up to the former pretend Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West star. In Saugus, he had squatted by the rails as the train passed. Seems as he was hunched thusly, his wallet dropped out of his pants and he left a note with his name and address on it. Then, in Wyoming, he mailed a letter to a prostitute, giving his detailed itinerary and that was how Not So Buffalo was captured.

NOVEMBER 8, 1930

HEY! CAN YOU SING ‘FAR, FAR AWAY?’ — A front-page Signal editorial lamented the fairly new craze of singing over the radio. “And work as they will, artists will never be able to make it anything else but canned music. The personal quality, the something that grips the heart, and moves one to tears or to ecstasy, is lacking when the receiver set sends it out.” I guess Signal editor old Dad Thatcher never heard his contemporary, Cher, sing.

NOVEMBER 8, 1940

NOT VERY HELPFUL — It was Los Angeles County No Highway Accidents Week and we did our part by contributing four traffic deaths.

ONE OF OUR MOST TRAGIC OF ACCIDENTS — Jim White broke down in tears during his trial for vehicular manslaughter. He sobbed that, “I wish it had been me instead of them.” White’s 16-ton truck had lost its brakes and ran out of control, doing over 100 mph when it struck a station wagon carrying a family of nine. When the wife and mother had awoken in a hospital from the wreck, she learned that she and her 2-year-old were the only survivors. White was acquitted.

COULD HAVE PERSONALLY BANKRUPTED SOCIAL SECURITY —  Mrs. Escolastica Ashby died and was buried in the Camulos Cemetery. She was the valley’s oldest resident at the time, being around 106. She had worked for Ignacio del Valle on the ranch in her younger days.

HOPE POLE-CAT GOT THE RUNS — John Ranse returned to his cabin in Live Oak Springs Canyon Road to find someone had ransacked his home, cooked himself a dinner and stole about half of Ranse’s furniture. The burglar’s correspondence: “Dear Loves — Had a swell time eating your grub and all the rest of the stuff. Will come back again when you get more stuff to eat. So-long, Sucker! — (signed) Pole-Cat.”

UNASKED-FOR HIGH CULTURE — Busby Blugger was foreman of one of the bigger Sand Canyon spreads and in appreciation, his boss gave Buz and his wife two tickets to the opera in L.A. The two country bumpkins were rather intimidated by people in tuxedos and formals, plus, to Buz’s lament, the opera was in Italian. He told a friend, “Had I known that, I would have brought a couple of the Morenos from the ranch next door to translate.”

SHOULDA ARRESTED JOSE FOR DRUNK RUNNING, TOO — Jose Magana was atop the Ridge Route and quite tipsy. He pulled over to answer Nature’s Call and while he was outside, noted he had forgot to set his parking brake. He ended up chasing his car for about 50 yards before it plunged over the cliff to the bottom a few hundred feet below. Adding insult to injury, the Highway Patrol were soon on the spot and threw him in jail for drunk driving.

NOVEMBER 8, 1950

THAT’S JUST CLIMATE CHANGE IN NEWHALL — We had a rather bizarre weather week. It started out hot, in the 90s. Then, the mercury dipped below freezing. Then, the Santa Anas kicked in, blowing over stuff. Then, we had a freezing rain.

TOO MUCH INDIANS FOR THE INDIANS — Here’s some alleged cocktail party trivia for you. Best as I can cipher from the old records, the worst defeat in Hart varsity football history occurred on this date a half-century back. The Mighty Indians were trounced, 69-6. Their opponent? ’Tweren’t the Crimson Tide. The Hart alums beat the varsity so bad, one varsity player was sent to the hospital unconscious.

NOVEMBER 8, 1960

MILHOUSE KICKS SCV BUTT — There were 3,516 Democrats registered in the SCV and 2,287 Republicans. Yet, Richard M. Nixon carried the valley in the 1960 presidential race.

MAYBE SARGE TRANSFERRED TO COUNTY LIFEGUARD AFTERWARDS — Sgt. Harold McClain had been issued a brand spanking new 1960 Dodge prowl car and motored it up Sand Canyon during one of our huge gully womper rain storms. The year before, fire had ravaged Bear and Sand canyons and McClain didn’t expect the flash flood. While watching the waters roar down the creek, the bank slipped away, carrying McClain and his squeaky clean patrol unit a mile downstream. Fortunately, McClain got out with just major psychological trauma, a whole lot of scratches and much silt in his mouth, ears and eyes. The water had washed him out of the car 300 yards past where the patrol car was wedged under a bridge. Rescue units were able to find McClain because of the vehicle’s headlights shining a beacon in the sky. His brand new car? It got pretty much Cuisinarted.

NOVEMBER 8, 1970

REAGAN DOUBLE TROUBLE — The GOP carried the Santa Clarita in the 1970 election. Some actor fellow named Ronald Reagan not only earned the governorship, but carried the valley as well. Reagan more than doubled Democrat Jesse Unruh’s local tally with 9,942 to 4,541 votes.

THEM DARN ACTOR/BARBERS WITH THE LONG BLONDE HAIR — We had barbershop wars here in both the 1950s and 1960s. Starting off the new decade, Ron Hiner drew the ire of his competitors. First, Ron, also a working actor, was criticized for wearing shoulder-length long hair. Next, the rotter cut his prices from $2.25 to $1.75. Supposedly, one of the other barbers in town threw a chair through Hiner’s plate glass window to get him to: A) cut his hair; or B) raise his prices; C) just get the heck out of Dodge; or D) all of the previous. His competitors pointed out that barbers who used to take home $100 a week were now taking home about $70 because of Hiner.

NOVEMBER 8, 1980

DID BAXTER BECOME A WARD OF THE STATE? — Former ABC news anchor-turned county supervisor Baxter Ward was dethroned by a young Republican on this date. Mike Antonovich started his reign as our 5th District representative on this date.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS HARD AT WORK — Our controversial little government agency with the long name — The Northwest Los Angeles County Resource Conservation District — was at it again. They met secretly at their new director’s home in Chatsworth to plan transferring $100,000 to another bank account to prevent the county from taking their money. A state court had disbanded the agency after years of misdeeds illegal and comic. One of the latest was using board money to heavily tip a manicurist.

AH, NOSTALGIA. REMEMBER THE 4TH OF JULY? — Lastly, some skinny Signal sports editor with thick curly hair and 33-inch vertical leap named Walt Cieplik nabbed his 12th and 13th major journalism awards on this date. They were for a special Fourth of July section and being best sports columnist.

Another nice thing about time traveling? You don’t get a chance to get stove up riding in the saddle decade after decade. Well. We’re home. Thanks for joining me on another Mighty Signal trail ride through SCV history. Truly hope all of you are well and happy because I surely appreciate you. Thanks for the company and until next weekend — izquierda derecha o centro, vayan con Dios, amigos!A few weeks from now, Boston is launching his own publishing house, John Boston Books. The first volume is “Ghosts, Myths & Monsters of the SCV.”

In the meantime, you can buy Boston’s “Melancholy Samurai,” “Naked Came the Sasquatch” and other 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.

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