If you’d be so kind, saddlepals, a small favor? One hopefully you’ll all remember to repeat long after this weekend’s trail ride ends?
For some of you, it can be thoughts, for some, prayers, for others, a quiet kind deed. But, if you would, keep the dear historian Leon Worden close to your hearts. Grief visits in all our lives, in a variety of forms. To have friends, neighbors, good strangers in our corner during hard times is what helps make the world, certainly this valley, go ’round.
Keep Leon Worden close.
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
TIGHTEN THE REINS. PUSH THOSE HEELS DOWN INTO THE STIRRUPS — We’re in for a rough ride. On Jan. 9, 1857, we had what scientists later estimated as an 8-plus earthquake on the Richter scale, centered in Fort Tejon. It knocked over cattle, horses and any Presbyterians in the region, and caused fissures along the Santa Clara River. One woman in Gorman was killed when the roof to her home collapsed. Reportedly, it also knocked over every building and wickiup in the SCV, which ’tweren’t many.
AND THERE WASN’T A SINGLE BIG-RIG DIESEL, EITHER — Depending on to whom you spoke, Col. John C. Fremont was either an epic scalawag or a colorful patriot and adventurer. Either way, he camped out at Castaic Junction a 154 years ago on Jan. 10.
JUMP FOR JOY. JUMP FOR WORK. — Back on Jan. 8, 1869, Sanford Lyon, Henry Wiley and Wurt Jenkins began drilling the first known oil well in Santa Clarita. It was up Pico Canyon, past future Mentryville. The trio obtained a lease from Gen. Edmund F. Beale and Gen. Andres Pico, who had been gobbling up mineral rights in the area (often by dubious means). They chopped down a sapling and formed a primitive oil derrick. Laced to this “spring-pole” were leather stirrups. The men, and I’m guessing some unnamed laborers, spent their days jumping up and down in the stirrups, pumping oil out of the ground. About 50 feet down, they hit a lake of dark green petroleum — high-grade stuff, too. That first well pumped out about a respectable 30 barrels of oil daily.
JANUARY 9, 1921
BACK WHEN THAT WAS MORE THAN A TREK — Local hunter John McClellan returned to be guest speaker at the first local Newhall Community Meeting of 1921. The affable McClellan had just returned from an Alaskan big game hunting trek. Bonus? Or not? He brought back a relatively new and improved (1916) invention — slides!
McCLELLAN PART 2 — He also wowed the locals with some regular business. McClellan was a muckety-muck in the state road department and promised that many of the SCV’s dirt roads would be paved.
THE SIGNAL. WE’RE HERE TO HELP. — Signal Editor Blanche Brown used to run her personal items column on the front page, left side. Mostly, it featured yawning items about who rode a horse from Saugus to Newhall. But she also put in who was going on vacation, to where, how long and where they lived. I’m sure local thieves invested a nickel for the information.
JANUARY 9, 1931
A TIMELESS IDEA — The Automobile Club of Southern California was basically in charge of much of the minutia surrounding the gasoline-powered carriage. A memo was passed on to them from their Detroit counterparts. It was about a judge in Michigan who ordered that immigrants from Europe could not obtain citizenship unless they first passed a driver’s test.
PASSED TOO SOON — Her engagement had made the society pages of the San Francisco papers a few years earlier. Heiress Elizabeth Newhall Cheeseborough died at the end of 1921 after a very short illness. The beautiful Liz was the daughter of William Mayo Newhall, son of Newhall’s founder, Henry Mayo Newhall. She was just 42.
HERE’S A SHOCKER — On this date, Southern California Edison announced they would make refunds. SCE had a surplus and would give its customers a little bonus around bill-paying time. I hear ol’ SoCal Edison is planning yet another increase to our juice bills.
MY OLD PAL, BAILES — Bailey Haskell had himself a winter job driving a tractor on a ranch. He was on vacation from Davis College. Bailey was part of the fabled Haskell family, of Haskell Canyon fame and the 1,200-acre ranch. He was a big part of the rescue effort of the St. Francis Dam Disaster of 1928. He told me once that, the next morning, he found a young teenage girl, in shock, clinging to the upper branches of a great oak. The flood had swept all her clothes away. He climbed a ladder, threw a blanket over her and took her to safety. He told me: “I’d see that woman around town, and she never once said ‘Hi!’ or ‘Thanks!’ She was embarrassed for 50 years that I saw her naked.” He died in January 2005 at the age of 95. In his last days, Bailes would drive around the SCV and ask: “Where are all these SOBs coming from?”
JANUARY 9, 1941
SUCKER-PUNCHED — Saugus professional boxer Aubrey Edward, stage name of Haystack Bud, was undefeated as a heavyweight and had never even been floored. Until now. Haystack was KOed on this date by Miss Elsie Mae Bryson. They would live on his 1,600-acre ranch in Saugus.
BUFFALO BILL’S FOREMAN — Work officially began on the American Theater at Spruce and 11th (today, The American Legion Hall). A Mr. Rollins of Contracting Engineers Co. was in charge of the project. Interestingly, he was an old cowboy and movie actor himself, having played in several bit parts and was foreman of Buffalo Bill’s ranch. He found carpentry easier on the spine than cowboying. The American? It’s still there, behind the Newhall Library and is the open-for-business American Legion Hall.
NEW OWNERS — Loren and Frank Clymore took over the old Ford dealership in Newhall from Jesse Doty on this date. Jess had started selling Model Ts there when the SCV was mostly a dirt clod. With World War II around the corner, most people couldn’t buy a new car, Ford or otherwise.
ONE OF EARTH’S BIGGEST RODEOS — Actor Harry Carey was named president of the Newhall-Saugus Rodeo Association. A national charter member, the local cowboy gang put on epic shows where tens of thousands of folks would stream into the valley to watch and participate. Carey, famed actor and friend to John Wayne, took over for Newhall cowboy and film superstar Tom Mix, who had been president the year before. Mix and another cowboy film star, Buck Jones, died the year before. Mix was nearly beheaded in a car accident in Arizona, and Buck died with my uncle Fred in the Coconut Grove fire in Massachusetts.
THAT’S CUZ WE’RE BOTH LAW AND ORDER — The crime stats for the previous year were out. Sheriff’s substation 6 had the smallest crime rate of all 12 county districts. We had one murder and one gas station holdup for the entire previous year (someone should clip out this statistic and send to our pal, Capt. Justin Diez). There were seven suicides, all by monoxide poisoning. There were 44 runaway kids captured. Alas, our traffic accident ratio to deaths was simply horrendous. Out of 140 accidents, there were 35 fatalities and 236 injuries.
JANUARY 9, 1951
A SPIT IN THE BUCKET — We had a paltry half-inch of rain on this date. It did little to help the three-year-drought. We had but 3.34 inches in 1949 and 4.83 inches for 1950. That great winter storm of ’51 pushed the rain gauge all the way up to 1.81 for the season. Needless to say, the farmers weren’t happy.
ALAS, NO RELATION — On this date, little Nancy Boston of the Agua Dulce Bostons won a parrot at the county fair, took it home and the dog promptly ate it. And that’s why no one EVER brings parrots over to Tom and Colleen Lee’s dog-rich house.
JANUARY 9, 1961
FOR OUR BUILDING STAT-CRAZY READER DEMOGRAPHIC — We had quite the building boom in the Little Santa Clara River Valley in 1960. End-of-the-year figures showed there were 613 building permits, which included 225 new homes. Cost of the new construction was nearly $5 million.
ONE IS TOO MANY — There were 929 traffic accidents in the valley in 1960, with 31 of them fatal.
A SUPERNATURAL MOMENT — Deputy Dallas Basey answered a radio call that you could describe as being rather: A) Old Testament; B) UFO; C) Blair Witch Project; or, D) Other. Driving past the Eternal Valley graveyard, he spotted the small campfire up in the hills. Walking over, he spotted a small cross hanging from a tree. In front of the fire and cross was a large, elderly man. He had a red beard down to his stomach and long matching hair. After several, “excuse me’s” from Basey, the gentleman finally rose from his knees. He was wearing a long white robe, white crucifix on a silver chain hanging from his neck and a rhinestone purse attached to his waist. The prophet-like fellow informed Basey he was practicing a spiritual ritual. Basey informed him he was on private property with an illegal fire. The prophet said there was no such thing as private property on God’s Earth. The pair struck a compromise. Basey would let him spend the night if he’d put out the fire. The deputy checked on the elderly man a few times during the night to see if he was OK. Next morning, he was gone.
JANUARY 9, 1971
A SCENE FROM A HORROR MOVIE — A hiker stumbled upon a headless, handless corpse propped up in a sitting position near Beale’s Cut. The corpse was of a male Caucasian, in his 20s, with various tattoos, about 145 pounds and 5-foot, 9 inches tall. Sorry. Don’t know if that was with the head or without.
JANUARY 9, 1981
SLIME BUCKET THIEVES — Bouquet Canyon’s David Bogna died in his bathtub a week earlier from smoke inhalation after his house burned. Then, thieves ransacked the rest of his tony ranch house, stealing about $25,000 in property.
LEARN LOCAL — A state-sponsored measure for mandatory busing from Santa Clarita to Downtown L.A. was killed by the Board of Supervisors.
SCV vs. TERRORISTS — America was duking it out with Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and Santa Clarita National Bank on Lyons Avenue was doing its part. On the big marquee was the message: “Will Rogers Never Met Khomeini.” At the time, Iran was holding 52 American hostages.
SINCE BREW 102, A FINER BEVERAGE HAS NEVER BEEN CREATED — It’s hard to describe how popular the TV show, “Dallas” was. People had regular Friday-night “Dallas” parties to watch Larry Hagman and Sand Canyon resident Linda “Sue Ellen” Gray. On this date, local liquor stores and convenience stores started selling JR Beer. It sold out immediately. And someone said history is dull and has no meaning in our everyday lives.
JANUARY 8, 2003
MOST IMPORTANT DATE IN ALL OF HISTORY — My absolute favorite person on this or any other planet, Indiana Rubino Boston, was born on this date. She turned 18 Friday. Two words: Ka and Ripes. As Indy pointed out to me, “It’s no big deal, Dad. It just now means I’m eligible for the death penalty under certain felonies.” Is that my baby girl or what?
A brand new year, this 2021. Good to see so many familiar faces and new ones, too. Thanks so much for the company during these treks into our lore and history. We’re home, in the present of right now, yay or boo, it’s up to you to decide. I’ll be seeing you saddlepals next weekend back here at The 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 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 at bit.ly/John_Boston. If you liked the book, wouldn’t mind at all if you left a kind 5-star review.