Top of the weekend morning, you Santa Clarita grizzled cowpersons, condo monkeys and everyone’s favorite demographic: Other. C’mon. We’ve a most interesting trail ride ahead through the historic back canyons of SCV yesteryore.
Bonus points for those seasoned riders who can climb aboard the saddle by putting a boot in the stirrup (port) while holding a latte and not using any hands and not spilling nor getting bucked off nor getting a groinal cramp.
Good band name.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
STILL OPEN TODAY (WE HOPE!!!) — Back on Jan. 18, 1899, Martin and Richard Wood purchased the old Tolefree’s Eating House. They renamed it, “The Saugus Cafe.”
I’M SIPPING SOME CHEAP, BOOTLEG GIN IN YOUR HONOR, MR. NEWHALL — Happy birthday, Scotty. On Jan. 20, 1914, soon-to-be Signal Editor Scott Newhall was born in San Francisco. Newhall would become editor of The San Francisco Chronicle, not to mention becoming one of the most famous swashbuckling journalists of the 20th century.
NOW THAT’S A NICE SALARY BONUS — Lt. Antonio del Valle was a happy camper. On Jan. 22, 1839, Johnny (aka, Juan) Alvarado, the governor of Alta California, deeded Tony the entire Santa Clarita Valley in exchange for some back wages. Technically, Alvarado was supposed to give the land back to the local Tataviam Indian tribe. But Tony and John were kinda best of pals.
THE AGELESS TALE — It would become one of the most significant books of the 19th century and in all of American history. Author Helen Hunt Jackson stopped off at the Camulos Ranch on Jan. 23, 1882, off present-day Highway 126. There, she interviewed Blanca Yndart. And from those tales would be born the inspiration for the novel “Ramona.” The book had such a profound effect on America, it helped create a land rush and westward movement that lasted a half-century.
AND NO ‘A PLUG’ REFERENCES — The Acton Post Office was founded on Jan. 24, 1888, by Rudolph Nickel.
JANUARY 23, 1921
WELL THAT’S JUST ‘SWALL’ — A Mrs. Ramsey and her daughter, Edith, bought the old Swall Hotel on this date. That used to be the world corporate headquarters of The Mighty Signal. The downtown Newhall building burned to the ground a year and change earlier and was rebuilt as a brick structure. The gals bought the hotel from Albert Swall. They came up from Santa Barbara to run the place. Guess they got sick and tired of all that pleasant weather and sea breezes.
I’M … HAPPY. HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY, TOO — The Pennywit family moved to town and bought a parcel on the outskirts of town. On their oak-shaded lot, they opened a public campground and a gas station. Earlier, they developed a brand new neighborhood in Newhall that’s still with us today. When trying to figure out what to name the residential area, one family member suggested they name it after the nickname of one of their cheerful daughters — Happy. And that’s how Happy Valley got its name.
WANNA GO FOR A LONG WALK? — Louis Mong and his wife passed through Newhall en route to Canada from Akron. This wouldn’t be terribly interesting except the well-educated couple was walking from Ohio to British Columbia. They weren’t hobos, either. Just pedestrians with a penchant to see North America firsthand. That must have been just one heck of an adventure. One wonders. In the days before Vibram soles, how many pairs of shoes they went through on their journey. Interesting sidebar? There were actually several cross-country hitchhikers who either were near starting or ending their 3,000-mile cross-America treks in the 1920s.
AND AREN’T WE ALL ‘JUST PALS?’ — Saugus cowboy and movie star Buck Jones (who would later own the Saugus Speedway) debuted his latest movie, “Just Pals,” down at the Cody Theatre in San Fernando. It was the first movie John Ford would direct for Fox Films. That same year, Ford and his close friend had a falling out and never spoke to one another. Film historians feel it may have been over money. Harry Carey was making about $1,200 a week and Ford just $300 at Universal.
JANUARY 23, 1931
HEARD COWBOY CORKY ULLMAN DID IT, TWICE. SOBER. — I’ve known for a long time that cattle can be dumb, but this story takes the cake. Rancher W.R. Cook lost three steers from his Oak Glen Ranch when they just walked over a cliff.
MORE BAD LUCK PURSUES LOCAL RANCHERS — C.H. Kellogg had a huge hay barn near where IHOP on Bouquet Canyon is today. Some hobos snuck in to spend the night, started a fire to keep warm and burned the ancient structure to the ground, not to mention 600 tons of hay and oats. Ouch.
BREAKS DOWN TO A SAVINGS OF ABOUT A PENNY A WEEK — The Great Depression was upon us and many locals were behind on their subscription payments to this paper. As an inducement, The Signal offered to “forgive” 25% of the bill. Folks were given the special rate of $1.50 for a year’s subscription, down from two bucks.
PUT ME DOWN FOR THE ENTIRE DEVELOPMENT — John Dunn Jr. and C.F. Peter, owners of the Atwood Addition tract in Newhall, were selling lots 50 by 100 feet. Asking price? Just $550. That was for the whole lot. House was a bit extra, but you could float a loan at 8% for five years.
JANUARY 23, 1941
BIG-HEARTED BILL — One of this valley’s all-time greatest philanthropists was movie star Bill Hart. In his day, he was constantly not just signing his names to checks, but also helping out in big and small ways. One of our local pastors, the Rev. Claude Rowley, made do by borrowing cars and just plain wearing out shoe leather taking care of his flock. One day, a brand, spanking new 1941 Dodge appeared in his church parking lot. It was a gift from Hart. When he took his surprised wife for a drive in their new vehicle, she couldn’t stop screaming. First, there was the lavishness of the gift. Second, Rowley was from England and had to get used to driving on the right side of the road. How about that Bill?
MANNY’S HOUSE O’ POISON — L.A. County finally found some use for their old jail at the corner of 11th and Spruce. Today, it’s a former flower shop that sits in the parking lot of the Newhall Library and owned by my dear buddy, Manny Fernandez. Back in 1941, the Ag Department used it to store poison.
SOUNDS LIKE A TIM WHYTE MEMORIAL DAY EDITORIAL — A Signal editorial warned against youths involved in “automobile petting parties.” Quoth The Mighty Signal: “The safest thing to hug is the right side of the road.”
CAN’T FIGHT IF YOUR PANTS KEEP FALLING DOWN — Angelo Cato closed up his shoe repair shop to help the war effort. Nope. He didn’t enlist. He went to work for Sam Browne to build Army and police belts.
JANUARY 23, 1951
ACTUALLY, THE RED SCARE IS HERE — McCarthyism and the Red Scare came to Newhall a half-century back. A local Hart teacher was investigated because he showed a World War II documentary on Russia to his class. The film was produced by the Army (ours), but caused a huge furor locally because it cast the Soviet Union in a positive light (it was made during the war when Russia was our ally). A WWII vet, the teacher was nearly fired. The film was confiscated and destroyed.
JANUARY 23, 1961
SOMETIMES, NO JUST MEANS NO, RUSTY — Russell Rueff was a salesman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, housewife Vicky Kelley painted him. It seems Rueff, who was tipsy, walked onto Kelley’s property while she was painting her house and asked if she’d go have a drink with him, if you get the metaphor. She refused, several times, while on a ladder. Rueff started shaking the ladder. Holding a full bucket of paint, Kelley stepped down and wiped her large brush across his suit. He finally got the idea.
JANUARY 23, 1971
A NO RETURN POLICY, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DIDN’T BUY IT IN THE FIRST PLACE — We hope, 50 years later, that times are better for this youth. A 15-year-old was arrested for attempting to return a coat he had not purchased. The boy took the tags off the jacket at Grant’s Department Store in Canyon Country. He brought it up to the front desk and tried to get the $28 cash value for it, saying it didn’t fit. Employees had spotted him removing the tags, and he certainly didn’t have a sales receipt. It turned out the lad was from an impoverished family and wanted the money to buy food for him and his nephew.
AMAZING COINCIDENCE — Jan. 17, 2001, our dear saddlepal Tom Lee announced his retirement from Newhall Land & Farming after 30 years of service. That was on Jan. 17 (his last day would be March 31, 2001). On Jan. 17, 1971, Scott Newhall quit the San Francisco Chronicle after 36 years. His note, in typical Scotty style: “To all my friends: acutely aware of the incipient onslaught of senior citizenship, and determined not to become a journalistic geriatric basket case, and hounded mercilessly by my doctor (who, I think, is a genuine M.D.) I find the day has finally arrived when I must retire the field of San Francisco daily newspapering.” He would, of course, work about another 25 years as editor of The Mighty Signal.
NO. NO. NO. NO. NO, and, NO — Representatives from Newhall Land met with city-forming activists. The mucky-mucks from the development company said they would not support the formation of a city of Santa Clarita.
IT’S NOT KAREN. IT’S ME. — On this date, Karen Horney got wed. Sorry. Just wanted to say her name out loud.
JANUARY 23, 1981
ONE OF OUR BIGGEST — An international drug ring was smashed at its Canyon Country headquarters. Five men were arrested and $250,000 in cocaine taken.
AND SOMEHOW, THEY SURVIVED AND PROSPERED — College of the Canyons had to make massive cuts due to Proposition 13, the public-sponsored ballot measure that limited property taxes. Everything from sports programs to teachers were cut.
MAYBE HE JUST MISQUOTED THEM ONE TOO MANY TIMES — Reporter Rich Varenchik, aka, Buck Drango, Outdoors Writer, had been the cops and crimes reporter for The Mighty Signal for eight years. My humble opinion? Best we ever had. Varenchik retired 40 years ago this week. Señor Drango had been waiting and waiting for his longtime friends with the local law enforcement agencies to take him out for a retirement party or at least a final beer. Finally, his last day on the job, Varenchik got his farewell. A CHP officer stopped him making a milkman stop at 16th and Newhall and gave him a $31 ticket. Not exactly a gold watch.
Fortunate for us, I left one of your paper latte cups by our particular reentry point to our time vortex. No sense ending up in Glendale in the year 2130. No. Sense. What. So. Ever. See you back here at the hitching post of your neighborhood newspaper for a hundred-years plus — The Mighty Signal. Appreciate the company, saddlepals, and see you in seven! Until then, big 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 bit.ly/John_Boston. If you liked the book, would you mind leaving a kind 5-star review?