Mercy me. And you guys, too. We’re in for an absolute epic trail ride through Santa Clarita history. Don’t believe me? It’s in the headline, and Signal headlines Do Not Lie.
C’mon. Find some dignified manner to climb into the saddle. As the demographics have shifted to Mostly Yuppie, no one’s going to notice which way you’re facing.
Make sure the little hole in the paper latte cup is facing toward your lips. If you’re wearing a baseball cap instead of a proper cowboy rig, make sure it advertises a feed store, off-colored slogan about mating practices of Western peoples or the Second Amendment.
Pro Second Amendment.
Pinkies out. Into the vortex of yesteryear ride we …
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
THE NINES OF MARCH — This is tea-totally weird. Placerita gold discoverer Francisco Lopez discovered his historic find on March 9, 1842. Fran was BORN on March 9, 1802, at the San Gabriel Mission. His SON was born on March 9, 1825.
AND HE GOT HIS CUT — On March 3, 1853, President Millard Fillmore appointed our Gen. Eddie Beale (of Newhall’s historic Beale’s Cut fame) as Commissioner of Indian Affairs for California and Nevada. Beale was a complicated figure. He used his various government positions to make fortunes. And he was reportedly a kind and forward-thinking man. While he worked to “rescue” (and modernize) Native Americans, he was also in charge when the No. 1 budget expenditure for the new state of California was for the eradication of Indians. There’s a Hart High joke in there, but I’m going to avoid it.
SPEAKING OF — Beale’s Cut was deemed officially finished on March 4, 1864.
KA-BLOOEY! — Back on March 3, 1884, George Campton’s General Store in Newhall blew up. If you’ve been to a fast-food eatery in the SCV, there’s a picture in about every one today.
KA-BLOOEY, PART 2! — March 8, 1913, young gun Billy Rose shot legendary pistol fighter W.W. Jenkins and thought he killed him. Rose hid in a cave for months. Jenkins and his neighbor, Bill Chormicle, were the patriarchs of one of America’s biggest range wars (The Castaic) that took the lives of 27 people (mostly men). Rose was on Bill’s side and came across Jenkins as they passed each other on a dirt road, Rose on horseback, “Wirt” was in a buggy. Wirt may have been old, but he often carried a rifle or shotgun, two pistols and a brace of throwing knives.
MARCH 6, 1921
WHO SAID HISTORY ISN’T CIRCULAR? — Well. Not too many. BUT, while the SCV is going through COVID-19 in 2021 with mandatory mask wearing, a century back, the Ladies Auxiliary held a Mask Dance at the Conrad Dance Hall. Noted Signal Editor Blanche Brown: “While it is desired that those who expect to dance come masked, this rule will not be rigidly required. It will be more jolly, though, if everyone masks.”
SLOW WEEK FOR NEWS? — One of the front-page stories was that rancher Lewis has several hundred goats and they were in the hills of Saugus, pasturing.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION — One of my favorite classified ads appeared from time to time over the years at The Mighty Signal. From memory, it ran up until the 1940s and we placed it. Here it is, in its entire glorious brevity: “WANTED — 10,000 PEOPLE TO BUY scratch pads at the Signal Office. Four cents and up.” That price would go down to 2 cents during the Depression.
MARCH 6, 1931
SIGNS OF THE TIME — To show you what a small town we were 90 years back, local chicken farmer R.C. Gibson was in charge of the SCV’s sign committee. Part of his job was to go buy a sign to show motorists coming from Weldon Canyon (future Highway 99/future Old Road) that Newhall and Saugus were just sitting there, waiting, a few miles to the east. Cost of the signs was $350. Ol’ R.C. just passed the hat to pay for the highway signs.
GAS WARS — Gasoline dipped about a nickel to about 21 cents a gallon. That makes us pickup truck drivers weep. However, if you knew somebody who knew somebody, it was pretty easy back then to buy bootleg gasoline for about 15 cents a gallon.
WHAT’D I SAY EARLIER? HISTORY? CIRCLES? — The Signal ran a story about how public education needed a drastic rethink. For one thing, schools, especially secondary, were beginning to overflow. We noted that in 1890, nationally, about 4% of older kids attended high school. By 1930, that number leaped to 74%. In 1918, college attendance was about 4%. By 1930, it was 11%. We wouldn’t get a high school until 1944. That’d be Hart.
O THOSE MODERN DAYS — The SCV added two more long-distance lines that connected us to the Las Vegas and Salt Lake City areas. The thousand-plus souls in the entire valley rarely used a phone, certainly didn’t have one in the home and would go down to a nearby, or so, store to make a call.
YOUR NAME’S IN THE BOOK!! — Local lawmen had more paperwork. This week in 1931, California started keeping records of drivers with bad records, from DUIs to fatalities.
SOMETHING THE SIGNAL’S THINKING OF BRING BACK? — Much of your local newspaper 90 years back was devoted to agriculture. We even had a rather large page 2 column every week entitled: “Poultry.” We were pro. This week’s offering was about using unwanted acreage around your home to start a turkey farm. I think even back then it was called, “Congress.”
MARCH 6, 1941
AS LONG AS IT WAS THE SECOND ‘MILE’ — The storms had been coming in like planes on an aircraft carrier. Not counting daily rains, the ninth major drenching came through, dropping nearly 7 inches of precipitation. The Signal headline noted we had started on our second yard of rain, topping 37 inches and it was just the first week of March. Dry creeks turned to rivers, but there was relatively little damage.
NO MORE GOLD? — The rain wasn’t a blessing to gold miners. Several panners were worried their fortunes were being washed away. On the other hand, others thought it might result in new finds.
SO LONG, DEAR JOE — Joe Jue came to California in the late 19th century and worked the mines and fields here in Santa Clarita for quarter-a-day wages. Being Chinese, he lived in a hostile environment. Mr. Jue learned everything there was to know about a vitamin-B-rich vegetable, asparagus. He leased hundreds of acres of land here and soon became known as The Asparagus King of America. His fields of flowery, feathery crops were a familiar sight to Santa Claritans for decades, and he produced more asparagus than anyone in America and possibly the world. The dear fellow from South China became rich, raised a family and sent his four kids to college. He died 80 years ago this week.
POLITE BUT AWKWARD CLEARING OF THE THROAT — Signal Publisher Fred Trueblood noted — on the front page — that a few local souls who were more than a year behind in their $1-a-year subscription might not be getting the paper. He also noted that the very first subscriber to The Signal was the mother of my dear and departed pal, Gladys Laney. Her mom, Mrs. Thibaudeau, still had that first 1919 issue as a keepsake.
AND DON’T FORGET TO PUSH WITH YOUR LEGS — Scott Case died of a heart attack at his home up Haskell Canyon. His truck got stuck in the mud and he was pushing it with all his might when Scott’s heart gave out and he met his Maker. Scott was 90.
MARCH 6, 1951
SMALLTOWN LIFE — Our local justice of the peace, Art C. Miller, received a hilarious letter from a local felon, Cpl. Jens P. Newman. Jens sent 10 yen to cover a ticket and an apology that he couldn’t appear in court as he was fixing windshield wiper blades in Korea. Judge Miller wrote back to apologize that Jens’ ticket was for 6 yen and Miller couldn’t make change, but was happy to apply it as a credit for the corporal’s next offense when he got back from the Korean War, safe and sound. Miller also noted he had asked some of the local sheriff’s deputies to personally bring Jens’ warrant, but they all noted it was sort of out of the way.
SOUND FAMILIAR? — Crooked California politicians and big business interests ganged up on our local “Big” Bill Bonelli, überrancher and whistleblower. As head of the State Board of Equalization, Bonelli tried to, ahem — drain the swamp — when he discovered a massive organized crime syndicate linking politicians and the wealthy owning hundreds of illegal liquor licenses. Locals tuned in to watch Bonelli (who was sunbathing in Mexico at the time) being crucified on televised court hearings. Bonelli lived in exile (sort of; he flew from various U.S. and Mexican ranches) for 17 years before getting public written apologies from the U.S. government for the falsified charges brought against him.
LOS VISITADORES — Local lawmen corralled 14 illegal aliens in the SCV. All were deported to Mexico.
MARCH 6, 1961
HOPE THEY DON’T TRY TO CHANGE YOUR MASCOT — Happy Birthday, Placerita Junior High. On this week, 60 years ago, 502 SCV seventh- and eighth-graders were moved into the new campus. The Placerita Miners wiggled into their 21 new classrooms and buildings at 8:20 a.m. The gym was yet to be completed.
SAME PLACE. DIFFERENT NAME. — Santa Clarita has a thesaurus of names, from Rancho San Francisco to The Soledad Township, which covered 1,000 square miles. This date 60 years ago, L.A. County informed us we’d now be known as North County, lumped in with Gorman, Antelope Valley and a few scattered jackrabbits. The county predicted the entire area would hit 250,000 by 1980. All of us sort of topped that. All of L.A. County has a population of about 10 million. That’s more than 43 states or one Canyon Country apartment complex.
MARCH 6, 1971
MADE YOUR BED? NOW SLEEP IN IT. — The first 80 students arrived at the brand new CalArts dorms. One of their first tasks was to make their beds. Literally. All 80 had to build bedframes out of aluminum tubing and parts, then plop a mattress on it. At least you know you’ve got clean bedding.
BRAIN SCIENTISTS FIGHT — We had an earthquake centered on the Magic Mountain Fault. (Not the amusement park location, the fault line between Sand and Placerita canyons; there’s also a Soledad fault line!) Caltech and the U.S. Geological Survey both agreed there was an earthquake there, but couldn’t agree how big it was or just where was the epicenter. Bright side? The disagreement was over a smidge, and the quake was just a dish-rattler. Of course, it WAS just a couple weeks after the giant 1971 Northridge quake so people were jumpy.
AND WE’RE NOT TALKING BARNEY — L.A. County set up free Rubble Pick-Up Centers for SCV residents cleaning up after the Feb. 9 shaker. Drop off your chimney. No questions asked.
FLEEING HART — Post-quake, this week, 200 students moved out of the William S. Hart High and Newhall school districts. About another 100 moved out of SCV’s other elementary schools.
MARCH 6, 1981
BIG BAD JIM — At one time, home was a sofa at a friend’s house, and he was a Hart High coach and teacher. Jim Droz got his real estate license and it was “adios” after that. He was honored as one of SoCal’s top real estate agents 40 years back. Working locally, he would become the top real estate salesman in the world, selling just about two homes — PER — DARN — DAY.
SNOW JOB — The white wet stuff fell from the sky, making it slippery in Castaic and northward. Several accidents were blamed on the flurries.
COUNTRY NEVER DIES — Just a few years earlier, the SCV was a farm and ranching community. Then, came Valencia and — hock, spit, ptooey — disco. THEN, the national country/western fad kicked in and ALL of the SCV’s local bars and few nightclubs went back to the country theme, taking down the spinning silver globes and bringing in ka-twang.
Darn it. Love the company so much, hate to point out. That’s our present-day time portal up ahead. We’re back at the hitching post of The Mighty Signal (259-1234 for subscriptions!). See you in seven, saddlepals and saddlepal-ettes. Until then, big tip of the O’Farrell and a hearty — vayan con Dios amigos!
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…?