Well, a warm and Western howdy, all you survivors of Christmas. C’mon. You’re all seasoned-enough riders by now to swing your foot (left) into the stirrup and hop aboard your pony without spilling your lattes.
Also do note. This is the ONLY place in Los Angeles County where you can gather in close range in numbers exceeding tens of thousands. Heck. There’s so much fresh air where we’re going, you can even offer a robust cough and blame it on trail dust.
Or pixie dust. Or Endust. Or, for just you married couples, Lust In The Dust.
We’ve a most entertaining trek into the back canyons of Santa Clarita history this morning. Put a little tug on your Stetson. There’s always a slight breeze passing through the time vortex.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
IMAGINE WHAT THE MONTHLY WATER BILL WOULD BE — Ignacio del Valle had a happy new year 179 years ago. He drew claim to the Camulos Ranch portion of the Rancho San Francisco.
MR. ROGERS & THE MANLY MAN — Eight years later, in 1850, Manly and Rogers arrived at the Del Valle Ranch, begging for help for their stranded wagon train party in faraway Death Valley. The del Valles would send a big posse to bring the settlers to the SCV, where many of them stayed.
DECEMBER 27, 1920
A LOCAL NON-BILL HART SUPERSTAR — Western cinema hero Harry Carey starred in the new hit flick, “Blue Streak McCoy.” Carey had that huge ranch up San Francisquito Canyon he partially homesteaded and turned into one of the state’s premier lodgings and resting spots.
DECEMBER 27, 1930
THINK OF IT AS OUR GIANT SPARKLETTS WATER BOTTLE — It was built in 1912 and was reported to be the largest water tank in California. The big redwood holding barrel in Happy Valley had a capacity of 350,000 gallons. It was torn down 70 years back and moved closer to present-day Hart Park so Newhall Water Co. could build a new tank. Upon inspection, local engineers noted there wasn’t one rotten board and only a thin layer of residue was found at the bottom of the tank. The company used the same boards, saving themselves hundreds of dollars, and just rebuilt the tank with the old lumber.
WENT FROM CAN DO TO NO YOU CAN’T — Electricity for the average Joe and Jane was still relatively new. Even up until the 1960s, electricity was so cheap, they were thinking of not putting meters on the sides of houses because it wasn’t worth the trouble. Output in 1930 was noted in horsepower, not megawatts. Southern California Edison only had 427,000 customers, with about 1,000 in the SCV.
DECEMBER 27, 1940
ANOTHER ‘AIN’T LOVE GRAND?’ CAPER — You just didn’t want to lay your eyes, or, for that matter, anything else on the husband of Mrs. Margaret Tortorici, co-owner of the Dixie Diner in Castaic. Convinced her husband was having an affair with a former waitress, one Miss Johnny Morgan, Mrs. Tortorici showed up at Johnny’s new place of employ in Hollywood on New Year’s Eve. Margaret slashed Johnny’s face with a razor, yelling out: “I’ve been a sap long enough.” It took 28 stitches to close the wounds. Mrs. T was arrested for attempted murder.
SEW. SEWER. SEWIST. — Right off the bat, Signal Editor Fred Trueblood had to start off the new year with a correction and apology. Seems Fred ran a small item noting that the Red Cross was looking for “sewers” for the war effort. He duly noted that “sewers” was not exactly the appropriate term when describing volunteer women and promised to use the word “sewists.”
BACK WHEN WE HAD ELBOW ROOM — We were just giddy with progress. In reviewing construction of 1940, there were 10 — count ‘em — 10 new homes built all year. We seem to throw them up by the hundreds on a weekly basis now. Cost of all new construction in the SCV for 1940? A whopping $280,000 and that included $80,000 for the new Newhall Elementary building.
DECEMBER 27, 1950
WAIT A SECOND. WOMEN ARE QUEENS EVERY DAY. — Mrs. Mary Patrick came back from Hollywood a little richer. The Race Street resident competed on the hit TV game show, “Queen for a Day.”
SECOND COUSIN TO PIRU GEORGE? — One of the largest road projects ever undertaken on this planet was underway. The widening of Highway 99 from a narrow, treacherous road to a modern four-lane freeway. Hundreds of millions of cubic yards of earth were moved, bridges contracted and mountains blown away to accommodate the highway. Some of the explosions, coupled with the fierce winds that terrorized what used to be called “Piru Gorge,” sent huge dust clouds darkening the sky for miles and sometimes cutting visibility to zero.
NOT REMOTELY THE FIRST TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED HERE —— Hobo Alex Walker of Oregon was just 25 years old and met with a horrific death. He was bumming a ride on a freight train. We don’t know if he passed out, went to sleep, fell or was pushed, but somehow, he slipped out of a freight car. His legs were still caught on the car and his head was nearly missing from hitting the underneath of the car. The corpse barely resembled anything human after miles of being dragged along the Saugus rails.
A STRANGE MIRROR ACCIDENT THE SAME WEEK — Heavy equipment operator Rex Parks lost his leg working to make that road safer. His bulldozer was on a steep incline, hit a rock and flipped. It landed on Rex’s leg and he had to have what was left amputated.
YUP. IT’S ACTUALLY HANK’S AUDITORIUM. — Groundbreaking for the construction of the Henry Mayo Newhall Community Auditorium occurred 70 years ago. Folks call it the Hart Auditorium because it’s on the Hart High campus. But actually, the hall was built for the community and was built in part by funds from Newhall Land & Farming Co. It was supposed to be called the Newhall Auditorium, but then there was confusion because of the Newhall Elementary Auditorium down the street a couple of blocks.
DECEMBER 27, 1960
THAT’S ABOUT $1 BILLION TODAY IN TICKETS — The CHP put up roadblocks to try and catch the random drunk driver New Year’s Eve 1960. They caught 166 of them. Still, we had one traffic death and 14 accidents on New Year’s weekend.
AND, HE WAS IN BOTH ‘STAR TREK’ AND ‘2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY’ — Mr. and Mrs. John Yurosek were mighty proud of their son, Gary. The Hart High grad had motored over the hill to Hollywood a year earlier to try and make fame and fortune as an actor. Young Yurosek landed a few roles, at first as a stunt man, then as a stand-in for Anthony Perkins in 1957. Yurosek then signed a contract with 20th Century Fox and earned a part in the Natalie Wood movie, “Splendor in the Grass.” He went on to make several motion pictures, starring with Henry Fonda, Vincent Price and many famous names. The former Hart football star, on the urging of a producer friend, Josh Logan, took on a stage name, using Logan’s middle name. You might know the former Mighty Indian as “Gary Lockwood.”
RE: THE ABOVE? — Darn strangest happenstance, saddlepals. In the 1950s, when Lockwood/Yurosek went to Hart, there were only a few thousand souls stretched through 1,000 square miles and a few hundred attending Hart and a couple dozen on the football team. You know who was Yurosek’s fellow running back? Joe Kapp. Kapp would later become a movie star HIMSELF! He also had an amazing professional football career and was the only man to quarterback a team in the Rose Bowl, Canada’s Grey Cup and the Super Bowl for the Minnesota Vikings. Kapp is still tied with just a few to score seven TDs in one game.
DECEMBER 27, 1970
LESS ATTORNEY FEES, WE’RE THINKING THAT’S $350,000 BUCKS EACH — The Newhall Oil Refinery was sued by 35 individuals for $3.5 million. A brush fire had started on the grounds and spread through the hills of Newhall to Chatsworth, burning down several houses.
MOST GRINCH-LIKE — On Christmas Eve, someone broke into the Sprouse-Ritz dime story on the corner of Market and San Fernando Road. They stole $250 in large bills, but, for some strange reason, left another $600 in smaller bills behind.
DECEMBER 27, 1980
MORE THAN A LITTLE TOO CLOSE — Mrs. Lyda Ragusa won a 25-year battle with the Army. Her husband, retired Maj. Vincent Ragusa, had been just 2,000 yards away from an atomic bomb test in Nevada in 1955. He died a few years later of leukemia, which doctors linked to his proximity to the A-bomb. Mrs. Ragusa was awarded the pension she had so long been denied.
T-SHIRT WEATHER — We had the warmest Christmas Day I believe on record — 85 degrees in downtown Newhall.
Looks like that’s our particular time vortex to return to present-day Santa Clarita. It’s not like we’re taking attendance, so if you want to hide out in a quiet canyon until the holidays pass, we won’t snitch. Hey. Happy Darn New Year upcoming, saddlepals. See you back here at The Mighty Signal’s hitching post — next year — with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then —vayan con Dios, amigos!
Pretty darn soon, Boston is launching his own publishing house, John Boston Books. The first of a three-volume set 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 bit.ly/John_Boston. If you liked the book, wouldn’t mind at all if you left a kind 5-star review.