Well, Happy Darn New Year, o fetching and handsome saddlepals and fellow conspirators. Anyone want to lend a hand by grabbing 2020 by the unmentionable naughty parts and giving it a good heave-ho through the saloon swinging doors and bouncing it into the dusty street?
Where it gets trampled by a runaway stage team of horses 20 miles out of town, where it’s pounced upon by wolves with rabies after which the mangy remains tumble down the steepest embankment of the Ridge Route (for the record, 32,978 feet), where 2020 hits an abandoned trampoline at the bottom and bounces into outer space and gets eaten by Space Sharks, then the undigested carcass gets pulled into a Black Hole, never to be seen or heard from again?
I hear you.
I didn’t particularly care for 2020, either.
C’mon. Let’s go do some serious goofing in another time and dimension. It’s a brand-new year with glorious possibilities. Maybe we can pick up some pointers on what not to repeat in 2021?
Maybe when we get back?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
HAPPY BAPTISM BIRTHDAY, TEUTEU! — On Jan. 6, 1800, Teuteu was baptized at the Mission San Fernando. She was 34. Ms. Double-T was born in 1766, before Europeans arrived in the SCV, in the village of Tochanonga (Newhall today). She would later marry a local Tataviam captain.
NOT SURE IT’S THERE ANY MORE — On Dec. 30, 1853, the official border between California/United States and Mexico was drawn.
THAT TIBBY WAS NOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD — On Dec. 26, 1873, our infamous local road agent, Tiburcio Vasquez, and his gang raided the town of Kingston. They pretty much had their way, tying up everyone in the small town and later making off with about $2,500 in cash and jewels. Almost two years later to the day, Vasquez’s murder trial in San Jose began. It would not end well and Vasquez would be hanged. His last word at the gallows? “Pronto.”
TOMMY’S BIRTHDAY — He shot many a Western out here and even had his studios and office in Downtown Newhall, right within shouting distance of superstar William S. Hart. Tom Mix was born Jan. 6, 1880, in Mix Run, Pennsylvania. He would become one of the most famous people on the planet.
HE WAS SCHWARZENEGGER BEFORE SCHWARZENEGGER — Millionaire and Acton gold mine owner Henry Tift Gage got himself another job on Jan. 4, 1899. He was sworn in as California’s 20th governor.
ANOTHER DECEMBER BABY — Mark T. Gates was born on Dec. 29, 1907, in Nebraska. Mark would later found Eternal Valley cemetery and mortuary. He ran the Santa Monica embalming operation of Gates, Kings & Gates with his son and purchased the 750-acre Needham Ranch/Live Oak Manor off Sierra Highway near Newhall Avenue on Feb. 5, 1958. They used 220 acres to build Eternal Valley, which included the original Newhall Pioneer Graveyard. Gates was the first mayor of Santa Monica in 1947 (the city was run by a three-person board prior). He died in 1972. His son sold Eternal Valley, but kept 584 acres, which today is a new business park. About 240 acres of the Needham spread has been donated to the city of Santa Clarita for open space.
JANUARY 2, 1921
A CENTURY LATER, WE’RE STILL A BARGAIN — The Mighty Signal was quite the deal in 1921 — just $2 for a year’s subscription. Of course, we only came out once a week back then.
YOU’VE GOT MAIL! — Our congressman, Mr. Randall, arranged for Saugus to be added to America’s free rural delivery program. The brand-new route included Saugus, Soledad and Mint Canyon areas.
COLD. WET. BUT NO SNOW. — A storm passed through, dropping a quarter-inch of rain on our little heads. Our neighbors in Antelope Valley, though, got a serious drudging of the white stuff — about a half-foot of snow.
JANUARY 2, 1931
GEEZ. I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE HORSES, BUT I THINK MOST OF US CAN RUN FASTER THAN THAT — Signal Editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher penned a think piece calling for everyone to slow down while driving through the valley. Dad felt that a top speed of 15 mph provided the motorist “… with a satisfying enough dizzying rush.” Thatcher was also more than miffed that local Albert Rousseau got off scot-free on drunken-driving charges after he earlier swerved way off the road and killed Dr. Stevenson’s mare up Pico Canyon.
DON’T THINK THAT SHOULD QUALIFY AS A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION — Two Fillmore women were arrested for kidnapping two Newhall children, ages 6 and 8. Gendarmes gave chase and caught up with them in San Fernando, where the not-so ladies were arrested. The kids’ dad rushed up from the SCV to claim his missing offspring. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
LIFE. THAT’S A GOOD CHRISTMAS GIFT — The Shaw couple and their friend O.L. Nelson veered off the icy Ridge Route on Christmas Day, en route back to Newhall. They went over a steep embankment, fell 150 feet and rolled over thrice. Except for a few scratches, all three were fine.
JANUARY 2, 1941
BAD FOR JOURNALISM. GOOD FOR THE LOCALS — Over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, not a single soul was pulled over for a traffic violation in the SCV nor was anyone arrested. Alas, streaks like that don’t last long.
BUT, ON THE OTHER HAND — As the war clouds darkened before World War II, not all would stay peaceful for 11 young SCV men. They volunteered for Army service, signing up at our local Draft Board No. 175, which was headquartered over at Saugus Elementary. One local didn’t fill out his papers and a warrant was put out for his arrest.
TIMES WERE TOUGH — Several hundred locals showed up at the Tom Frew blacksmith shop on today’s Main Street. Tommy Frew’s dad gave out turkeys and other treats the day before Christmas in a lottery.
A SINGED CHRISTMAS — Torrential rains were blamed for the derailment of a big Mallet engine, pulling cars carrying mail and presents. About 3 miles east of Fiddler’s Curve near Vincent (by Acton), the locomotive veered off the tracks, crashed and burned just about everything on board. Railroaders figured the storms weakened the roadbed.
JANUARY 2, 1951
ENOUGH TO BRING A TEAR OF GRATITUDE — Barbara Bennett was a pretty and popular girl at Hart High. She got into a terrible car accident Christmas Day. Rumor around town was that both her legs would have to be amputated. Good news? It was just a rumor. Still, the 17-year-old’s legs were badly injured. Several Hart students showed up at the local Newhall Hospital to donate blood. And, good company.
BUT ANOTHER, NOT SO LUCKY — Rex Parks, a cat skinner for a hauling company in Castaic, lost one of his legs when his heavy equipment machinery went out of control on a steep grade, rolled over and crushed poor Rex.
SHRINKING OF THE MIGHTY SIGNAL — Shortages blamed on the Korean War were the reason this newspaper had to shrink its size to “World War II levels.” Newsprint, ink and metal (for the typesetting back then) were getting hard to come by. The Signal also upped its newsstand cost from a nickel to a dime. A front-page editorial apologized to readers for the scrimping.
A NEW PLACE TO SLEEP — We mentioned recently that Mrs. Mary Patrick of Race Street went on the popular national TV show, “Queen for a Day” — which was on radio then. In Downtown L.A., Mary cleaned up with a heart-wrenching tale. She was the mother of seven, in a small east Newhall home, and didn’t have enough beds for her kids. She humbly asked for some bunk beds. Not only did the producers grant her wish, they also added a new freezer, refrigerator, dinette set, comfy recliner for Mr. Patrick, silverware (made of actual silver), clothes for everyone in the family, two expensive watches for husband and wife, an all-expenses evening in Beverly Hills for the couple, a week’s vacation at a posh resort and a beauty treatment for Mary. I think Signal Editor Fred Trueblood wrote it just perfectly: “Now — who said there ain’t no Santa Claus?”
JANUARY 2, 1961
WE TIED 1941. ALMOST. — No drunken-driving arrests, no arrests period, over Christmas and New Year’s. But, there were accidents. In separate accidents, three local boys were injured while riding the bicycles they got as Christmas presents. Another motorist, 72, died after a heart attack while driving on Highway 99. He severed a telephone pole and his wife, 70, later died of injuries.
LEFT-HANDED APOLOGY — The week before, The Signal staff all lined up for the big group staff photo. That is, everyone except “Pop” Morgan, who wrote the weekly oil column. Yup. Oil was such a big to-do, we had a weekly columnist who wrote about oil and oil alone. Signal Editor Fred Trueblood II had a good excuse for not including the old oil hydrocarbon columnist: “We just didn’t want to break our one camera.”
SIGN OF THE TIMES — Local Chamber of Commerce types put up a new, big and splashy sign at Mint Canyon. It read: “The New Canyon Country!”
JANUARY 2, 1971
BIG MAC — One of most colorful and interesting souls in this valley’s history retired on this date. Judge C.M. MacDougal retired. He had served as the SCV’s judge for 25 years. Prior to that, Mac was our justice of the peace and was elected to the bench in 1946. He wasn’t an attorney and, in fact, took and failed the California Bar Exam seven times before finally passing it — WHILE he was on the bench. Judge Mac was a nostalgic soul (he also owned the Saugus Café). While cleaning out his office, he found a murder warrant he had always kept. It was signed by Judge John Powell in 1908. MacDougal’s replacement, Judge Adrian Adams, had an interesting first day on the job. His first case was a murder trial for a woman who used a double-barrel shotgun to blow her hubbie into the hereafter.
THEM STINKIN’ THIEVES. LITERALLY. — Rancher Earl Thompson noted something was rotten in Hasley Canyon. All of his hives were intact, with the honey still inside. But, in eight of the hives, all the bees were missing. Thompson stayed up all night to watch the boxes. Turns out the culprits were marauding skunks. The stinky little beasts love to eat bees and have been found with stingers inside their mouths and on their tongues. They do have a trick. They scratch on a hive, then wait for the first two guard bees to fly out. Then, they eat them. Keep the cycle going until you’ve got your fill of yummy bees.
JANUARY 4, 1974
ONE GIGANTOR SNOW DAY — A blizzard hit the Santa Clarita, dumping up to 2 feet of snow in spots of the valley floor. Daytime visibility dropped to nearly zero and the area was paralyzed. Some 14,000 SCV students were given the unheard-of “Snow Day.” Hundreds of commuters couldn’t get home and had to turn back, spending the night at their offices or in hotels. One local was surprised when he went for a doctor’s appointment in the sunny San Fernando Valley and couldn’t get home because of, yes, a blizzard.
JANUARY 2, 1981
VALENCIA DIES IN VALENCIA — Humberto Valencia, of Oklahoma, never made it through the Santa Clarita. In the pre-dawn hours, his passenger reported Valencia bent over to pick up a fallen pack of cigarettes and lost control of his vehicle. It went sailing. Valencia flew out the window and the car landed on top of him.
WAVE LIKE YOU MEAN IT — Nine SCVians rode horses in the 1981 Rose Parade.
I DON’T THINK I ORDERED THIS — The most unusual delivery over the holidays? This would be the PERFECT spot to drop some random names, but we’re not going to make a — well — beast of burden out of ourselves. Someone ordered jackass semen. In dry ice. It was from a national champion sire and went to a local jenny named Sassy.
Well what do you know. All those lovely vistas and we’re back in this new reality of 2021. Sounds more like the title of a science fiction novel than a New Year. Oh well. It shall become what we make it. Thanks for the company, dear neighbors and saddlepals. See you back here in seven days with another exciting Time Ranger adventure in a brand-new year. Until then, tip of the O’Farrell and a hearty —vayan con Dios!
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.