I’m rather happy and then some. Despite the apparent ability to conquer time, at least in the SCV, a virus has visited, altering our daily lives. I haven’t seen my teenage daughter in more than a year now. Yesterday, I picked her up at the airport.
Did I mention I was happy?
I remember this with my father. I recall it with my little girl. There’s nothing like sitting atop a fine horse on a beautiful day, taking a trail ride, looking over to see someone you love next to you, not a care in the world.
Dear friends, saddlepals, childhood friends and neighbors — what say we do a little moseying into the Santa Clarita of yesteryear — together?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
ALL YOU BIRD LOVERS, TIP YOUR’N STETSONS — Long before we had a Hyatt, a rather notable person camped out in Castaic to view our wetlands birds. On Nov. 18, 1848, John James Audubon, founder of the Audubon Society, visited us. JJA created the volume, “Birds of America,” which centuries later is still considered one of the most authoritative birding books in the world. Audubon was born in Haiti, to his father and his father’s mistress. John James became a man’s man — handsome, dashing, adventurous, expert in sword and rifle. He briefly tried a naval career, but suffered gravely from seasickness, which put him happily back on land. Oddly enough, while in Castaic, he began exhibiting signs of dementia and would die a couple years later at just 65.
MORE TALES OF SCV GOLD — We keep adjusting our calendars about the first discovery of gold in California and Santa Clarita. For years, the date of the first major gold strike was thought to be in 1842 in Placerita Canyon by don Francisco Lopez. Other reports place that date even earlier in San Francisquito Canyon in the 1820s. In a conversation with The Signal by Judge John Powell, who served as magistrate here for 50 years in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that first gold discovery was even earlier. According to Powell, from a conversation he reportedly had with Andres Pico (of Pico Canyon fame and brother to California Gov. Pio Pico), Piute Indians found large gold nuggets in the Placerita Creek all the way back in 1796. (That would be the same year as the Lost Padre Mine in Castaic, where millions were taken out in gold.) The exact location was described as “… in the bedrock of the narrows in Placerita Canyon, 4 miles from (downtown Newhall).” The Indians brought them to the padres at the brand new construction site of the San Fernando Mission. The missionaries built rockers and sluice boxes and mined the gold. According to The Signal of Nov. 19, 1920, “No one seems to know just how much gold was mined, but it is supposed to have been a considerable sum.”
AND NO. THAT’S NOT WHERE WE GOT ‘MAIN STREET’ — A continent away, twins were born in Machias, Maine, on Nov. 20, 1831. One would become a storekeeper/businessman, the other a famous pistol fighter and lawman. We would name one of our major boulevards after them. The twins would be Sanford and Cyrus Lyon. Sanford was the businessman and Cyrus was the gunfighter.
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. FROM ACTON. — In 1891, a young couple from Switzerland, George and Magdalena Blum, homesteaded 160 acres in Aliso Canyon near Acton. The Blums would later grow wheat and extend their farm into a great pear and apple orchard, supplying cider to grocers. They also built a fantastic three-story house out of granite they hand-cut from the local mountains. In case you were wondering, it takes about a half a crate of apples to make 1 gallon of cider.
NOVEMBER 15, 1920
POOR NEWHALL LAND & FARMING CO. — They seem to always be in trouble for something. A century back, NL&F Co. had to rebuild the schoolyard fence and replace some sod for Newhall Elementary because their cattle had knocked over said fence and took to grazing where they weren’t supposed to.
SQUARE? NOPE. RECTANGULAR? NO. OBLATE SPHEROID? NUH-UH. — History is certainly — circular. It’s a theme we often push. The historic Ramona house, or, as it is known today, the Camulos Ranch House, was closed to tourists. Seems thoughtless motorists were trashing the place with litter, vandalism and using the orange groves to relieve themselves. For years, the little rancho (along Highway 126 today — it’s a state historic landmark) would attract thousands of visitors who flocked by stage and train. Why? The place was the alleged birthplace of one of American literature’s most beloved and famous characters — the Indian princess Ramona. Author Helen Hunt Jackson in the late 1800s supposedly based her novel on a Tataviam girl living there.
A KING RETIRES — King Collins, local noted sheriff’s deputy, resigned after protecting the SCV for many a year.
NOVEMBER 15, 1930
PRE-CLIMATE CHANGE — Back in 1930, December was the ONE MONTH you registered your vehicle — not with the Division of Motor Vehicles — but with the Auto Club. Triple-A set up a table outside at a local gas station and took care of ALL the valley’s cars and trucks — about 500. Fees for any car under 3,000 pounds were just three bucks a year. But, if you had an ELECTRIC car, that’d cost you $13.
NOVEMBER 15, 1940
I’D TAKE THE TRUCK. NO PLACE TO PUT AN AUDITORIUM — Today it’s nearly impossible to buy a medium-range new pickup for $48,723 (well, a real good one). On this date, Newhall Elementary granted a bid to rebuild their burned-down auditorium for that same figure.
THE GOLD MINE THAT WOULD NOT GO AWAY — Annie Rose Briggs rediscovered the historic Lost Padre Mine northeast of Castaic. The cave had originally been discovered by Indians and had been worked by padres and their neophytes, pulling out $3 million in gold from 1843 and on. The mine was boarded up and hidden by the padres and rumor is they hid the gold in the hills rather than give it to the Mexican government. A Dr. Bragg later “rediscovered” the pit, trading a thoroughbred horse for the location. Dr. Bragg hired a local Newhall gunfighter, Bronco Charley Riley, to manage it. Riley’s crew mined an additional $1 million from it. One day, in a drunken rage, Riley murdered eight Indian miners and buried them in the cave. He threatened to kill Dr. Bragg, too, saying he was tired of doing all the work and the horse-racing doctor getting all the money. Dr. Bragg, fearing for his life, never returned to his own mine. A few days later, Bronco Charley was sleeping off a drunk in a clapboard lean-to shack when someone snuck up on the cabin, stuck a shotgun through a hole in the wall and just about blew Riley’s head clean off. Most of the gold and silver was gone from the cache, but there was a rich vein of quartz that Mrs. Briggs made a comfortable profit from.
ANNIE’S GOLD, PART II — Just for the record, my good pal Clint McKinney and his dad rediscovered the Lost Padre in 1968, working for an elderly Annie Briggs. When they showed her the entrance, she fired them on the spot, then blew the place to smithereens.
NOVEMBER 15, 1950
ANOTHER WAR. MORE AMMO. — Bermite had just started working around the clock in three shifts, preparing ordnance for the Korean War. Then, they had to hit the brakes and lay off a good chunk of their 2,000-person workforce. Seems they hit an ice jam of getting parts and supplies.
NOVEMBER 18, 1957
JUST FOR THE RECORD, TOM FREW STILL HAS 3 BOOKS OVERDUE, FOR A FINE OF … — One. Billion. Dollars. (kidding) Our first real-ish library was dedicated at 9th and Chestnut streets. Prior to that, we had mobile county libraries visiting us from time to time and some of the storefronts along San Fernando Road would lease out a corner of their store to hold a few volumes. Blanche Brown, second editor of The Mighty Signal, was the town librarian during the 1920s and was in charge of leasing about 500 books, about half of them magazines. Oh. P.S., I’d tell you the titles of Tom Frew’s overdue books, but cannot as this is a newspaper with morals and standards.
NOVEMBER 15, 1960
BUT NOT IN FRONT OF FATHER BANKS — Some of us wreckless kids called Newhall’s Catholic Church “Our Lady of Perpetual Motion.” On this date, Catholics held their groundbreaking ceremonies near the present-day corner of Lyons and Orchard Village for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church. We obviously had a Catholic church since the days of the San Francisco Mission, and OLPH had a small chapel at Chestnut and Lyons. The new OLPH would be built on 10 acres and it’s still going strong today. (And if you’re Catholic and supposed to be in church instead of this trail ride, I can’t say I can cover you, but I promise to be vague if the padre calls asking about your whereabouts.)
AND NO SEALS WERE EVER DISCOVERED IN OUR LOCAL HILLS — Operation Seal-Off began in the hills surrounding the SCV. We had several fires the year before and the Forest Service had huge mounds of various wild grass seeds piled up at the Agua Dulce Airport. Tons of the seeds were airdropped onto our hills to help prevent winter flooding.
THE DUKE OF KA-BLOOEY — Chemistry teacher Roy Dundon had yet another explosion in his Hart High lab. He left a can of sodium metal out to settle and I’m betting someone spritzed it with water. That’s a no-no. It exploded and burst into flame and the chemistry class had to be evacuated. I remember that happened when I was a kid in Roy’s chemistry class. And no. I wasn’t the spritzer.
NOVEMBER 15, 1970
WHAT ARE THE ODDS? McKINNEY MAKES THE HEADLINES TWICE! — My good buddy, Clint McKinney (the kid who rediscovered the Lost Padre Mine a couple of grafs up?) set a new national record in College of the Canyons’ 73-29 romp over Mt. San Jacinto. That score, by the way, was for football, not basketball. Clint carried the ball 41 times for a staggering 419 yards. He beat out some heady football legends with that record. The previous junior college single game rushing record was 305 yards by some fellow named O.J. Simpson. McKinney even toppled the four-year single game record of 362 yards set in 1912 by some guy named Jim Thorpe. Even more astounding, McKinney had a 65-yard TD run called back on a highly suspicious holding call, which would have put him near the 500-yard mark. For one game. A thousand yards is considered great for a season. Yeeesh.
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE WILDCAT REVEREND — Yup. That’s the nickname earned from the SCV’s vaunted local media. SCV minister David Taylor was jailed on 20 felony counts, from grand theft to stock fraud. He was the former pastor of United Methodist Church.
TODAY, HIS SMILING FACE WOULD BE ON A BILLBOARD — To prove we can dish it out as well as take it, on this date, former Signal Editor Jon Newhall was convicted of marijuana possession. He was given a $250 fine and suspended sentence of two years’ probation. Newhall had been caught growing the evil weed up in the hills north of Newhall.
NOVEMBER 15, 1980
TREES DON’T KILL PEOPLE? — Signal gossip columnist MIMI recalled how President-elect Ronald Reagan had been recently kidded for a miscue when he falsely accused: “Trees cause pollution.” Some wit hung a sign around an oak, which responded: “CHOP ME DOWN BEFORE I KILL AGAIN!”
“GOING OUT FOR A WALK!! BE BACK IN SIX MONTHS!!!” — The Rev. Thomas Lesley stopped off at the old Sierra Pelona Motel to rest before finishing the last leg of his monumental hike. Rev. Thomas had walked across America, starting in Vermont and ending in San Fernando, to raise money to fight world hunger.
As the holidays approach, and heck, little things like a Tuesday afternoon or Friday morning, make it a point. Don’t tolerate anybody. Cherish them. Thanks for the company, SCV saddlepals. See you back here in a week at The Mighty Signal’s hitching post for another Time Ranger adventure. Until then — vayan con Dios, amigos!
A few weeks from now, 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.