Time can be such a strange duck. Just last week, I pointed out how my friend Bailey Haskell died in early January 2005 at the age of 95. His son and my friend from junior high school days, Chuck Haskell, died last week. Chuck was good medicine, a smile bigger than all outdoors and the most honest twinkle in the eye you’ve ever seen. Plus, Chuck was just plain — cool.
His great-grandfather was John Condit Haskell, former ’49er who homesteaded Haskell Canyon in 1890 and turned it first into an 800-acre cattle ranch then a profitable placer gold mine.
So. Before we head out on this weekend’s trail ride through Santa Clarita time, some of you in the front row make some room for The Chas. We’ll tell him the horse he’s riding is a golf cart and hopefully, ex-lawman he is, Chuck won’t notice.
C’mon. Absolute beautiful day to ride out into the mystic, isn’t it?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
ME? I’D HOLD OUT FOR A PEACH MARGARITA — One would have a local pass named after him. The other, a canyon. On Jan. 13, 1847, Gen. Andres Pico surrendered to Col. John C. Fremont at the Capitulation of Cahuenga.
YEAH. BUT HOW LONG DID IT TAKE HANK TO WEED IT? — San Francisco mogul Henry Mayo Newhall purchased the Rancho San Francisco — essentially the entire Santa Clarita Valley — in a sheriff’s auction on Jan. 15, 1875. He bought 90,000 acres for a little less than $2 per. In today’s money, that wouldn’t buy you a medium-sized house in Valencia. Without a roof.
THINK OF US AS EARLY COMMUTERS. ONLY WITH TOWNS — Same day, Jan. 15, but three years later in 1878, the newly formed town of Newhall moved lock, stock and barrel from its location at the present-day Saugus Cafe down the road to where 6th and Main is today. To this day there are several theories about why they pulled up stakes. Historians have blamed a drought, the wind and cottonwood trees sucking up the water in the Santa Clara River. Around the same time, another community, known as Andrews, Kazinski, or Lyons Station moved to the Newhall location from around where Eternal Valley is.
AND TOM FREW’S STILL WAITING FOR A PACKAGE — George Campton opened the Newhall Post Office in his general store on Jan. 16, 1877.
OLPH TURNS 106 — It wasn’t exactly the FIRST Catholic church in the valley. After all. We had the old San Francisco Mission. But, the Our Lady Of Perpetual Help parish was founded on Jan. 17, 1915. Priests from Mission San Fernando would come up to hold services — some of them in the old Saugus train depot.
JANUARY 16, 1921
YEAH. BUT ENOUGH ALREADY! — The Signal called for more building in the little Santa Clara River Valley: “There is one thing that we need — more houses. For houses are at a premium and we believe that the population would double in a short time if there were increased housing capacity.” Hm. Wonder if Editor Blanche Brown would say that if she could see the valley today.
PUT ME DOWN FOR SIX DINNERS — We got ourselves a bona fide French chef “… from gay Paree.” The Russells hired Louis LeJeunne as head cook at their family restaurant in town. By the way. A full-course dinner at Russell’s Newhall Cafe was only 50 cents.
CROWDED CLASSES? NOTHING NEW — There were three teachers employed at Newhall Elementary. Mr. Ringnalda had 34 pupils, Miss Daugherty had 43 and Mrs. Beckley had 36 for a grand school total of 113.
JANUARY 16, 1931
AN OLD-FASHIONED COPS & ROBBERS CHASE — Local sheriffs chased some bad guys through Piru where they roared through the graveyard, knocking over several tombstones. Damage was assessed at $15. And, of course, both parties were probably haunted.
LOSING A BELOVED PET — Rabies was a real problem in America, certainly so in the SCV. Ted Kornelissen had to put a bullet in the head of his beloved German shepherd when he developed the dreaded hydrophobia.
THIS PERSON WROTE REAL GOODLY — We’ll pull off the trail for a moment so I can read you this small item. I’m including this simply because it is one of the best-written paragraphs ever to appear in The Mighty Signal. It was from our unnamed Mint Canyon columnist: “Marvel of beauty, the Chicalope Mountains covered with snow, and them a background of blue and gold, purple and old rose. Sometimes we have hard times in our valley, but isn’t it a lovely place to live and grow? Some day we’ll look back on these days and smile, and say, ‘Do you remember the time it was so cold?’ And it will just make another story to tell in the firelight glow. All I can say is, don’t give up the ship. Good times are coming. (The newspaper says so.)”
JANUARY 16, 1941
HOPE THEY GOT THE DEATH PENALTY — A local high school girl attending San Fernando High was brutally attacked and raped by five boys from prominent San Fernando Valley families. They fled to various parts of the country — as far away as Texas and Utah. Local sheriff’s Capt. Marty and investigator Rittenhouse hunted the boys down and brought them back for trial.
BAD WEEK IN THE SOLEDAD TOWNSHIP — Someone mutilated two young horses at the Cuenod Ranch in Castaic.
A PROFOUND LACK OF COWBOYS — World War II was still nearly a year away but was already being felt here in the SCV. Many young men were leaving the farms and ranches to work at various aircraft and munitions plants. Rancher Seth Biglus up Sand Canyon lost three good hands off his small spread the same week. Of course, just about anything in aviation pays better than cowboying and weed abatement.
HOW ABOUT DON’T GET ON THE DARN THING IN THE FIRST PLACE? — Hutch Blunts (yet another great cowboy name) of the Triple Bull Ranch up Soledad was a rodeo performer who had a little more smarts than most. In the off season, he invited a friend — Cid Cequella — to stay with him. Cid was a world-renowned circus performer and acrobat famous for being able to land on his feet from any position. Hutch had Cid teach him how to land boots first from any angle off a bronco.
JANUARY 16, 1951
A DECADE LATER, THE BAD KARMA CONTINUED — A faulty kerosene lamp exploded and sent an ancient Val Verde cabin up like oiled kindling. Poor Jim Lee was inside, asleep on his sofa, and died a quick but horrible death.
DEMON RUM — It was the week for terrible accidents. Chester Ferguson, formerly of Warm Springs Rehab, fell off the wagon and it cost him his life. Sheriff’s deputies surmised he had gotten drunk, went for a walk near Piru Creek, fell in and drowned in just 8 inches of water.
JANUARY 16, 1961
CORWIN MARSH NEVER GOT TO FINISH BREAKFAST — His wood-burning stove overheated and his little Bear Canyon cabin started to burn. Firefighter Roy Smith nearly lost his life battling the blaze, but not in a manner you’d expect. After putting out most of the fire, Smith walked into the smoldering cabin. A loaded rifle leaning against a chair exploded, sending a round of ammo that missed Smith by inches.
SOME MIGHT SAY, ‘THAT’S 19 TOO MANY’ — We had just 19 Signal news racks in the entire valley 60 years back. After this blankety-blank Chinese Flu quarantine lifts, I’ll bet we’ll probably have millions of news racks, stretching across America.
JANUARY 16, 1971
EXCEPT FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE COLLEGE? — Baptist minister Ray Rentz was quoted: “I love trees. There are no tree haters in our congregation.” Still, the neighbors around the Grace Baptist Church on Placeritos were up in arms when the church and then Los Angeles Baptist College cut down dozens of gigantic heritage oaks, some 500-years-old-plus, to make way for a parking lot and baseball field. Said one neighbor, Judy Balfour: “Their attitude seemed to be ‘this is our land now and we’ll just do whatever we please with it.’” Rentz said he was surprised that the trees were cut down and said he thought they were rotten. He also noted that no more trees would be felled, “Unless they were in the way.” I’m thinking if someone were Catholic, they’d be squirming in the confessional.
AND IT WAS ALL DOWNHILL FROM THERE — On this date, the Hart board of trustees caved to the freshly forming tsunami of cultural surrender, noted that it would be OK for students (male) of the two then-schools, Hart and Canyon, to grow beards and mustaches. Of course, if they did, they couldn’t attend Hart or Canyon. But, they could attend the new Bowman school. Male facial hair was considered a disciplinary problem.
MIND YOU. THIS WAS WHEN WE ALSO RAN ‘UFO IN SAUGUS’ STORIES ON THE FRONT PAGE — Here’s something you won’t see in print today. It was a caption under a COC basketball photo on The Signal sports page. It read: “Regis Malone leaps high in Saturday’s game.” Yup. The words, “Regis” and “leaps” in the same sentence. Our Castaic pal used to be a star at Cougarland 50 years back.
WON’T PRINT HIS NAME CUZ THE POOR SHEEPPOKE MIGHT STILL LIVE IN TOWN — Let’s just say this mini-rancher must have missed the Basic Barnyard Safety class in 4H many years earlier. Our anonymous lamb buster built a makeshift manger in his Saugus carport for his four pet sheep. To keep the sheep warm in the cold January evenings, he laid out hay — and — a heat lamp. IN. THE. CARPORT. (dramatic pause) WITH. THE. SHEEP. Surprise of surprises, the sheepsies kicked some straw into the heat lamp and the straw caught fire. Our minimalist sheepherder ran out and tried to extinguish it with his hands and knees. Instead of roasted mutton, we had singed moron.
CRAZY THING? WHY WOULD FARMERS OBJECT TO SELLING FRUITS & VEGETABLES? — Way back when, they were just called fruit and vegetable stands. We still have them. But 40 years back, locals were awed by a new phenomenon to hit the SCV — the health food store. Local old-timers, some agrarian types, were chuckling about the Honey Bun serving such oddball things as carrot juice, blueberry smoothies and organic sprouts. You know? Fruits and veggies?
JANUARY 16, 1981
NARCOS, SCLARITA — Law enforcement agencies from federal to California and Arizona staged a huge drug raid on a Canyon Country home. It was the culmination of a month-long investigation and the sting netted 2 kilograms of cocaine, street value of $240,000.
THE LAST OF HIS KIND? — Stanley Wall, 20, may just have been this valley’s last trapper. He worked with the Forest Service, running seasonal trap lines, primarily catching foxes and selling their pelts to primarily European furriers. He also trapped coyotes and bobcats. Wall said he tried to make it a point not to tell others what he did for a living and would sometimes grow weary of explaining that a can of tuna or the shoes someone was wearing came from a once-living creature.
IT AIN’T PEANUTS — A wretchedly hot 1980 summer ruined the peanut crop, burning up more than 2 billion pounds of the goobers — about half the nation’s crop. Peanut butter was almost impossible to find on local grocery shelves and the few jars were going for three and four times normal prices. Odd happenstance. The shortage hit just as peanut farmer/President Jimmy Carter was leaving office.
ONE SMALL PROBLEM — The county tax assessor held a land auction for delinquent SCV properties. One half-acre parcel — in tony Sand Canyon — was selling for an opening bid of $440. Of course, the acreage was also smack dab in the middle of the Sand Canyon Creek. For the truly wealthy, they’d have a place to store their submarine.
JANUARY 17, 1994
THE EARTH SHOOK, RATTLED & ROLLED — The Earth shook, rattled and rolled. And so did we. A 6.8 magnitude quake centered in Northridge crippled the valley on this date. And nobody jinx us by blurting out: “Hey! We’re overdue for the next one!” Remember where you were? Most of us were all in the same place. In bed. Well. Different beds, but you get the overall and encompassing “in bed” concept.
Wonderful keeping company with you saddlepals. Like life sometimes is, we’re back right where we started. Dismount. A loyal and courteous Barn Intern will guide your ponies to the proper stalls where they will have a thorough going over to check for unsightly latte stains. See you in seven back here at your Mighty Signal with another exciting Time Ranger adventure. Until then, tip of the O’Farrell and a hearty — vayan con Dios amigos!
Boston is launching his own publishing house, John Boston Books. The first is a three-volume set, “Ghosts, Ghouls, Myths & Monsters — The Most Haunted Town in America.” That’d be us. In the meantime, you can buy Boston’s “Melancholy Samurai,” “Naked Came the Sasquatch” and other of his books on Amazon.com or https://www.amazon.com/John-Boston/e/B000APA0H8?ref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share. If you liked the book, would you mind leaving a kind 5-star review?