You can never be too early. Just wanted to warn you locals. There’s just 3,669 shopping days before Christmas — in the year 2030. If we could just figure out how to master this Santa Clarita time travel to the future, we could get the next decade’s holiday shopping done in a blink.
Although. Way things are going, we might come back from the future with strange, stunned expressions and a fervent warning: “Don’t go there …”
And that’s why we always go — backward. Except for the T-Rexes, it’s safer.
C’mon. We’re burning daylight. Saddle up. Don’t spill latte on the tack. It attracts insects.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
LONG BEFORE UBER — On Dec. 5, 1854, Phineas Banning drove the first stage through Fremont Pass.
IMAGINE THIS TODAY. JUST CLAIMING LAND — Same day, but in 1890, Frank LeBrun would get his mitts on a good chunk of rich farmland — thousands of acres — known as San Francisquito Canyon. He’d later sell part of his spread to movie star Harry Carey.
WHAT DO YOU GET FOR THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE WHO HAS EVERYONE AND IS NICKNAMED ‘TWO-GUN?’ — While on the birthday theme, keep those vocal chords warm. Silent film superstar William S. Hart was born on Dec. 6. Now, what year is anybody’s guess. The Historical Society and Friends of Hart Park and the county museum folks in town hold that Two-Gun Bill was born in 1864, which would make him 81 when he died in 1946. Had he but lived until at least his birthday, he’d be 156 today.
DECEMBER 6, 1920
IF THEY HAD ZOOM A CENTURY AGO, THAT NUMBER WOULD’VE BEEN HIGHER — The average daily attendance for all the local schools, grades kindergarten through 8th, was 99 pupils.
MOST EGGCEPTIONAL … — Today, Happy Valley is a quiet residential area in old Newhall. A century back, it was home to one of the biggest chicken farms in the nation — Eggland. Owner R.C. Gibson brought home six chickens, which entered a one-year statewide contest for egg-laying. The hens took home top honors, laying on average 196 eggs amongst them, or about an egg every two days. That would be considered pretty darn amazing for Mormons or Catholics back then and pretty darn good for chickens. One hen with a come-hither smile laid an amazing 240 eggs for the contest year.
A NOVEL NEWSPAPER — The Mighty Signal used to run serialized novels every week. We were in the midst of “Captain Warren’s Wards,” a melodrama about two rich orphaned kids raised by a crusty sea captain. Funny thing? The book STILL has a 5-star Amazon rating — no kidding! Another funny note — The Signal was just four pages long then and they still managed to sneak in part of a novel each week.
I LOVE THIS AD — The Signal ran the following in their classified section: “WANTED — 10,000 PEOPLE TO BUY SCRATCH PADS AT THE SIGNAL OFFICE. 4-CENTS & UP.” Put me and that cheapskate Jim McCarthy down for three pads.
I’D HOMESTEAD HART PARK. IN A BLINK. — The Mighty Signal’s No. 1 advertiser each week was the Department of the Interior. You could still homestead land in the Santa Clarita and the feds used to place lengthy public notices of who was taking out big free chunks of federal property.
DECEMBER 6, 1930
DEMON RUM AND THEN SOME — Prohibition was still the law of the land and it was illegal to drink, buy, own or even sniff liquor. It was even triple illegal to drink and drive. So G.A. Shaffer discovered. He went before Judge Perkins on a DUI, and Perk discovered that Señor Shaffer had not one, but two, drunk driving cases pending. Perk threw the book at the booze hound — six months in jail and a $200 fine. That’s a ton of money considering you could buy a house in Saugus for $600. Interestingly, a new Ford cost $660 then.
PERFECT PLACE FOR PUPPIES — William S. Hart must have wondered if there was some dog hospital sign on his ranch. Three times in two months, young doggie ladies in need stopped by his Horseshoe Ranch to deliver their puppies. The last gal, a German shepherdette, had a litter of 12.
DOMM IT ALL TO HECK! — On this date, the old Hawley Drug store, famous in many old photos, was sold to a Mr. W.P. Domm.
DECEMBER 6, 1940
A LAST GASP FROM A LAST GAS — The last person John Zimmerman saw alive was gas station attendant Richard Fear of the Black & White Gas Station up Mint Canyon. Zimmerman bought 9 gallons of high test, drove to a deserted canyon, hooked a hose to his exhaust pipe and committed suicide. He was the fifth carbon monoxide poisoning suicide victim in the SCV of 1940. (Interestingly, one of my students told me that because of the cleaner gas requirements of today, it’s nearly impossible to do oneself in in such a fashion.)
LOWERED BOWLING EXPECTATIONS — Long before Valencia Lanes, (which really should be called Honby Lanes or Canyon Country Alley) or the Newhall Bowl opened, we had a miniature bowling alley on Main near 8th Street in Downtown Newhall. It had just two lanes and each lane had just five large pins and smaller bowling balls.
DEFICIT SPENDING, ONLY WITH HORSES — Col. Strupp Rumley (great rancher’s name!) up Sand Canyon way raised thoroughbred racing horses. Strupp predicted that the upcoming 1941 would be his best year ever. The good-natured breeder said he hoped to lose just $15,000.
DECEMBER 6, 1950
HOW THE MIGHTY HAD FALLEN — Lester Dalbey, “Father of Hart High,” resigned on this date. Superintendent of the district and principal of the only high school in town, Dalbey had bumped heads with trustees over building contracts. In the surprise move, Dalbey (the street between Placerita Junior High and Newhall Park was named in his honor) called it quits, saying he needed the rest. The trustees voted to pay the remainder of his contract. Dalbey came to Newhall in 1930 and was principal of Newhall Elementary (succeeding Mrs. Elizabeth Rule). After the famous Valentine’s Day fire where Newhall Elementary nearly burned to the ground, he oversaw reconstruction of the school and new auditorium. For 20 years, Dalbey was one of the forces behind bringing a high school campus to the SCV and, in 1945, that dream was realized. George Harris, by the way, took over immediately for Dalbey as the school’s second principal.
OVERHEARD OUTSIDE A POLLING PLACE — Newhall’s Tiny Hostic got into an argument with a member of the loyal opposition, who said he wouldn’t vote for one congressional candidate “if he were St. Peter Himself.” Hostic replied: “You wouldn’t even get to vote because, obviously, you’re not registered in that district.”
TRAINSPOTTING. PLANESPOTTING. WHATEVER IT TAKES — Of all things, the Civil Air Patrol launched a class at Mint Canyon School on — planespotting. Yes. Planespotting. Before widespread radar, rural areas like the SCV had a volunteer force that worked around the clock to keep tabs on airplanes that might get into trouble in our mountainous terrain.
DECEMBER 6, 1960
AND HE LIVED TO MAKE LT. — One of the SCV’s best souls was a strapping young CHP officer, John J. O’Brien. “J.J.” had quite the tumble 60 years back. The motorcycle gendarme was in a high-speed pursuit when he lost control of his Harley-Davidson. He started wobbling, threw his bike into a defensive skid and slid for 50 yards. He had a tough recovery.
LOCALS IN THE MOVIES — Bouquet rancher and movie stuntman Tex Turley wrapped up picture-making with the most-decorated soldier from World War II — Audie Murphy. The movie was “Posse From Hell.” Turley’s neighbor up Bouquet was also his boss — Ed Muhl, who was head of Universal Studios and had a big spread up the canyon until his passing in 2001.
DECEMBER 6, 1970
PROBABLY SHOULD’VE TRIED SOAP AND HOT WATER, MAYBE A PINCH OF VINEGAR? — Poor Lloyd Porter of Saugus had more than a tough day cleaning out his garage. He was putting the finishing touches on cleaning his cement floor and poured a liberal dousing of gasoline to get out the tough spots. Spontaneous combustion visited and Lloyd was burned over a third of his body.
EVENTUALLY, EVERYONE ENDS UP IN SANTA CLARITA — The murder cult leader Charles Manson was dominating the headlines a half-century back. One of the side stories was the disappearance of one of the Manson clan’s attorneys, Ronald Hughes, who turned up missing in the middle of the trial for the murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate. Hughes was caught, vamoosing out of the trial and brought the case to a halt. The barrister was spotted at a gas station at Castaic Junction. Terribly fat, balding with a ponytail, splotchy beard and wearing a cheap polyester light blue tweed suit, from the description and out-of-state plates, local sheriff’s deputies quickly pulled over the missing barrister. Turns out he was worse than an attorney. The man was an out-of-work Hollywood bit actor.
DECEMBER 6, 1980
LONG BEFORE GLOBAL WARMING — farmers called it “drought.” We hadn’t had a spit of rain in six months. A storm passed through 40 years back, ending parched conditions with an inch of welcomed rain.
JUST CAN’T GET RID OF THE CROOKS — For nearly a decade, the little government agency with the long name made headlines from scandal after scandal. Finally, the Northwest Los Angeles County Resource Conservation District was disbanded, its crooked board of directors were finally kicked out. Well. Almost. One of the last bits of business was to hire a paid administrator to, well — administrate. The board hired their own outgoing chairman, the ever-controversial Glenn Bailey.
I was chatting with some friends and family up in Idaho and Montana. Snow everywhere. Temps dipping into single digits. Here? In Santa Clarita? It’s been just simply perfect weather with winter just around the corner. Hard to believe Christmas is almost here. Well. Some of you folks can take the rest of the day and, if you can find a store not commandeered by bureaucrats, go buy something. And, best you shop local. See you dear saddlepals in seven. Until then — vayan con Dios, amigos y Feliz Navidad!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 bit.ly/John_Boston. If you liked the book, wouldn’t mind at all if you left a kind 5-star review…