Top of a Santa Clarita morning to you, dear saddepals and saddlepal-ettes. I brought my own coffee and a maple cake doughnut for today’s trail ride, and I think I’ll ride cross-legged, like a Hindi, this morn. My pony happens to be civilized and urbane. If you’ve seen your horse’s face on an FBI Wanted Poster for Great Rodeo Transgressions, I suggest you keep your feet in the stirrups, heels way, way, way, pointed down.
We’ve a most interesting trek ahead. I’d tell you about it, but I’ve a mouthful of soggy doughnut. Let’s see. Where did we put yesteryear?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
IF YOU WERE IN A LOCAL WOMEN’S CLUB, YOU HAD TO BE NICE TO IZZY — Up in Placerville, Ysabel Varela was born on March 21, 1837. She’d later marry (when she just turned 14!!) Ignacio del Valle and owned Rancho Camulos and pretty much the entire Santa Clarita Valley. She died March 29, 1905. Her husband died March 30, 1880.
AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHUCK! — Charles Alexander Mentry, oil magnate and founder of Mentryville, was born (pretty darn close to) March 27, 1847.
IF THERE WERE A DISH HERE, IT RATTLED — The Lone Pine Earthquake struck at around 2 a.m. on March 26, 1872, and the temblor (possibly as large as 7.9) was felt all the way down here in Santa Clarita and beyond. It moved the ground 15 feet straight up in places and 40 feet side to side. It also instantly formed the 86-acre Diaz Lake. Some 27 were killed with twice as many injured.
MARCH 27, 1921
SOMETHING FISHY HERE — It used to be an old cow trail linking the SCV to Lake Elizabeth. Work crews from the Santa Barbara National Reserve (today, Angeles National Forest) worked to expand it into the Fish Canyon Trail. It was a nature area for hiking, horseback riding and a soul brave enough to navigate a noisy Model T.
ABOUT HART’S CABIN — Famed silent star William S. Hart recently purchased the Horseshoe Ranch from Babcock Smith. Hart just finished building a rustic log cabin, with the bark still on it. Cost? Just $600 for labor and materials. The timbers came from a Hart film, “The Testing Block.” The cabin was built for the ranch caretaker, Walter King, whose major job was watching over Hart’s three prized horses — Pinto, Elizabeth and Cactus Kate — plus, a huge Alaskan “sledge” dog. King also custom-designed all manner of cowboy regalia, from spurs to belts to saddles.
THE THINGS WE TAKE FOR GRANTED — Few had anything approaching a modern bathroom a century ago. A.H. Wilkie owned the Newhall Barber Shop. Besides shaves and haircuts, he offered hot, relaxing baths. Some of the muddier customers had to be doused outside in a pre-rinse before climbing into the tub. During busier days, they didn’t change the water for every customer, either.
HISTORY & EDITORIALS. THEY’RE CIRCULAR — A Blanche Brown editorial lamented there were too many wrecked families in America, accounting for nearly 200,000 juveniles being brought up for felony charges. Blanche and The Signal felt the answer was having fewer fatherless households.
MARCH 27, 1931
NOT ENOUGH YET — Prof. Bouelle, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, visited Santa Clarita and commented on our chances of getting our own high school and district. His answer? No. Our neighborhoods fell far, far short of the required 650 to start a public school.
HOPE HANK WASN’T SMOKING — Henry Clay Needham’s claim to fame was that he was the SCV’s only serious presidential candidate, running three times (and, unless there’s a recount, losing thrice). Henry had Signal Editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher over for lunch, where he showed off his old long-barrel squirrel rifles, which he used as a boy in Kansas to fend off starvation. Needham recalled that, during the Civil War, powder was scarce. He had to grind up some blasting powder in a coffee mill to use in the ancient muzzle loader as gun powder. While the coarse explosive didn’t live up to its name, it also was worthless in the old rifle. Needham had to resort to the quieter but more laborious string trap to catch dinner.
THE POETIC VERDICT — Visiting judge John Jones cast a humorous decision in the case of H.H. Wheeler, speeder. Wheeler (aptly named?) was caught doing 60 in like a 3-mph zone and was fined $10. That was like a month’s pay during the Depression. Jones described his verdict as “driving instructions.”
MARCH 27, 1941
JUST A KID — Ellen C. Warren was the oldest person in the Santa Clarita at 89. Her daughter was our own and beloved pioneer woman doctor, Sarah Murray. Must be nice having a doctor in the family. I’m winking right now at my godson, Dr. Niels Kokot.
MARROONED IN SANTA CLARITA — Louie Klein was no fan of the epic 1941 rains. His Radium Springs road was wiped out and he was stranded at his ranch for three weeks. He managed to trudge out to the highway and spent nearly a day trying to flag down passing motorists. Finally, someone gave him a lift to the nearest store in Lake Hughes. Did Klein say he liked the solitude by the starvation? Not so much.
AHHHH, PFUI — A Doberman pinscher named Pfui (pronounced, “Fooey”) was the hero of the week. The dog led rescuers on a 15-mile hunt for a lost elderly man in the netherhills of upper Santa Clarita. They found the gent, freezing, exhausted and hungry, but well. Pfui saved the day.
COULD WE LIVE THROUGH ALL THIS ENTERTAINMENT? — The normally quiet SCV was absolutely giddy. Besides the upcoming world-famous Newhall-Saugus rodeo coming in April, the American Theater would be holding its grand opening. AND, the circus was coming to town. The Yankee Patterson Circus wasn’t exactly Ringling Brothers, but it was a traveling circus nonetheless. Worry around town was that no one would have enough money to visit all three.
MARCH 27, 1951
PRESSING TIMES — The Signal moved its ancient printing press out to Melody Ranch for retirement. Our press was used in a few Westerns to print pretend frontier newspapers or Wanted Dead or Alive posters.
HOW COME YOU DON’T LOVE ME LIKE YOU USED TO? — Local turkey ranchers (and we had a ton; we were one of the biggest producers in the world) were having a romantic problem. Seems they had been breeding bigger and bigger turkeys and that included turkeys with bigger breasts. The chestal area got so big for the toms, some couldn’t mate, which resulted in less, but bigger, turkeys.
NO NEED TO THANK THE SIGNAL FOR THE CITY NAMED SANTA CLARITA — Back in the 1930s, Signal Editor A.B. “Dad” Thatcher noted we were called the Little Santa Clara River Valley (not to be confused with the Santa Clara River Valley up north). He shortened it frequently to “Santa Clarita” in his writings. Signal Editor Fred Trueblood II’s wife, Bobbie, wrote a popular society column for years. It was called “Rancho Santa Clarita.”
THE GUILTY CONSCIENCE — A few weeks earlier, someone broke into sheriff’s deputy Jack King’s home and robbed him of a gun, custom Western tack and cash. The local gendarmes took a call from Emmet Richardson in Kern County, who confessed and said he couldn’t live with himself. The former restaurant worker, who hightailed it after the theft, was a prime suspect. He asked that someone come up and handcuff him. That was left to Kern County law.
MARCH 27, 1961
UFO ALERT!! — I believe this was the first and only report of its kind. The Mighty Signal notified its readers not to panic, but that the skies would be filled with alien-like spacecraft. Seems the Weather Bureau (don’t know if that was state or federal) would be launching several hundred balloons. They were of heavy plastic, shaped like triangles and painted silver. Coincidentally, the launch was on Easter Sunday. Signal Editor Fred Trueblood II offered $1 to the first kid who brought one in to our offices. Sure beats pink hard-boiled eggs.
WATER. MEHHH … — There were 2,000 local eligible voters to decide who would sit on the local water board. Not even 200 showed up to vote. All three incumbents went back to work.
THINK THE OWNER MIGHT WANT TO OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT? — A couple of local teen thugs were arrested for breaking into Jack’s Douglas Gas Station in Newhall and making off with $1,300 in cash from the register.
WAXING NOSTALGIC — This mostly is for me. One of my best friends is Grammy-winning musician, Curtis Stone. His father, Cliffie, is in the Country Music Hall of Fame and I remember spending time at their Sand Canyon Rolling Stone Ranch as a kid. Cliffie also wrote a Signal column. Sixty years ago, he devoted his entire article to the cacophony of getting his Curtis and Jonathan to take a bath. Curt was 10 then, Jonathan 7. Curt’s 70 now.
MARCH 27, 1971
COME SEE THE SHAKY BUFFALO — Hart Park reopened, well. Sort of. They were still fixing a variety of damages to structures from the February 1971 quake. The mansion wouldn’t reopen until April. Making matters edgier, we had a 3.7 earthquake that rattled the valley and a lot of nerves.
WOODSTOCK OF THE WEST — A rock promoter filed for a permit to stage a giant “Rock For Pot” concert at Vasquez Rocks. Jim Madigan, president of the Agua Dulce Civic Association, said: “Not if we can help it.” Promoter Bill Smart reportedly rented 200 acres from Precision Electronics for the staggering sum of — $10. Nope. Not a typo. Ten bucks. Madigan expected 300,000 attendees, each paying $6.50 for entrance. The funds were to go to legalizing marijuana. The concert? Never staged.
SO THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED TO MODERN MEDIA — COC voted to eliminate their journalism department. I’d say that Signal Editor Tim Whyte had to take a matchbook cover course, but, alas, would have to write a heartfelt retraction the following week…
MARCH 27, 1981
GOING POSTAL — Local postal workers and management were feuding over new federal regulations stating it was OK for management to kick back and take a coffee break but not for postal grunts. The new rules stated mail carriers and sorters could bring in a thermos of no more than 1 pint (2 cups) but management could enjoy the lounge and coffee machines. And again — these are the people who will handle global weather?
ANOTHER ATTEMPT ON THE LIFE OF A PRESIDENT —Ronald Reagan was nearly killed by an assassin’s bullet 40 years ago on March 30. He was hit by a ricocheting bullet and nearly died. He was wounded as were three others in his detail. A Signal man-on-the-street survey found locals were split 50-50 on gun control.
WELL. WAS SHE? — Another one of those famous Scott Newhall front-page editorials appeared. Title? “Was Great-Grandma A Babylonian Harlot?” It was a flowery piece on Darwinism vs. Creationism.
Seems the whole time we were moseying, even taking time for coffee. And yet, all of a sudden, back are we. Time for us to go our parted ways. Sure appreciate the company and looking forward to seeing all y’all back here in seven days at The Mighty Signal hitching posts. Until then, big tip of the O’Farrell and a hearty — vayan con Dios amigos!
John Boston has launched his own publishing house, John Boston Books. The first is a three-volume set is “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 at bit.ly/John_Boston. If you liked the book, would you mind leaving a kind 5-star review?