The Time Ranger | Killers, Pigs, Disasters and Gary Cooper

The Timer Ranger
Time Ranger

I’d be tempted every decade we visited to remind you to set your watches ahead one hour plus 10 years. But I’d run the risk of getting coffee cups thrown at me from behind, which you can’t do because you can’t leave stuff from the future in the past or bad things like dinosaurs returning in 2021 could happen. 

And some of you know, that’s against most HOA rules. 

Perfect darn day for a trail ride into the historic canyons of Santa Clarita yesteryear — isn’t it? 

This one’s a fun and interesting trip. I’m tempted to get out the big Mason glass jar. As soon as you smile, put a quarter in it. Last person to smile gets something like 11,000 quarters. 


GOT THE EXACT DATE SOMEWHERE IN THIS PILE OF PAPERS — A long time ago, before the SCV was even part of Pangea, dirt was invented. 

BLACK GOLD. SCLARITA T. — Oil is a big part of our history. On March 18, 1865, the entire Santa Clarita Valley was deeded over to Thomas Bard. He was a front man for a Pennsylvania speculator who had been doing his homework and knew there were great lakes of petroleum under the crust of the SCV. 

GOT A ROOM WITH A FIRE ESCAPE? — The Swall Hotel (the wooden one, not the brick one) burned to the ground on March 18, 1919. It happened to house, at the time, the offices of The Mighty Signal, which was just founded a month earlier. 

MARCH 13, 1921  

WOULDN’T CALL IT THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY. BUT YOU CAN. — The Bercaw Store was robbed of two Kodak cameras and $20 cash from the register. Not sure if the thieves stole any film. It was actually a pretty entertaining caper. Willis Baum rented a little space and a cot in the back of Bercaw’s, where the SCV’s U.S. Post Office was housed. He was wakened when he heard a noise then spotted a flashlight beam lighting up the store. Baum grabbed a .45 AND his pants, making a bit of a noise, which scared the robbers. They also left a monogrammed handkerchief by the front door, which they used to muffle the sound of breaking the glass. Every lawman in town — and there were plenty, including future Signal Editor Thornton Doelle — went to round up the crooks. 

SLOW NEWS DAY — Besides the rare robbery, we were quite the sleepy village. Much of the front page — yes, the front page — of The Signal was taken up with such Stop The Presses items as: “A limited amount of soap; 4¢ a bar at E.S. Abbott.” and “Red Steel fence posts at San Fernando Hardware, across the tracks.” 

MARCH 13, 1931 

FAREWELL, MY LOVELY — It was just the third anniversary of the great St. Francis Dam Disaster, in which some 500 souls lost their lives in one of the biggest manmade tragedies in American history. The dam broke on March 12, 1928. But what many remembered on the third anniversary was what a staggeringly beautiful area had been stripped naked. From San Francisquito to Castaic and out to the Pacific was a gorgeous, scenic route, lined with thousands of trees, from ancient oaks to great pines. All were lost in the flood. 

THE STRIKE OF 1931 — One unintended consequence of the St. Francis Dam break was the start of a new gold rush up San Francisquito. The canyon was the site of a huge but unheralded gold rush in the 1820s that yielded millions. More gold was discovered and about 2,000 people this week 80 years ago invaded San Francisquito Canyon to pan for gold or just sight-see. August Ferrier, an old-time prospector, had a mouthful of unkind and blue words for the visitors: “The gullibility of the public is beyond comprehension.” And that’s the cleaned-up translation. Local merchants were cleaning up, selling gold prospecting kits that included variations of shovels, pans, lunches, lemonade jars and leather pouches to keep gold dust and nuggets. 

FAREWELL, DEAR GUIBERSON — History is filled with lunatics and imbeciles, many who lead civilizations to ruin. Too often, we forget the ordinary soul. William Guiberson, estimated to be 86, died this week. He hadn’t lived inside, in a house, since he was a boy in the mid-19th century. For countless years, Guiberson meandered in and out of the SCV, camping in fields and up in the mountains in his horse-drawn Conestoga wagon, which was his transportation. When he grew too ill to care for himself, he moved back indoors to a home at the corner of 9th and Chestnut.  

MARCH 131941 

BRRR! THERE’S A DRAFT IN THE ROOM — Quietly, Santa Clarita along with the rest of America was preparing for war. The local SCV draft board had nearly met its quota of 26 enlistees. We signed up 25. Of course, we were the Soledad Township then, a 1,000-square-mile community that made up the Antelope Valley and up to Gorman and down to Chatsworth. 

YEE AND HAAA — Rains and time eroded the huge Newhall Saugus Rodeo Grounds, and L.A. County approved a measure to build 20,000 new seats at what would later become the Saugus Speedway. The new board of directors to our rodeo was chosen. One name you might recall — John Wayne. 

HOWDY, COOP! — Alf Clark nearly passed out when he stepped to his register at the Solemint Store. His customer? Gary Cooper. Clark started fumbling and grinning, complimenting the superstar actor on his films. Quoth Gary Cooper in Canyon Country on this date: “Well. I like to take credit for the good ones but hate to be blamed for the bad ones.” Trivia? What’d Coop buy? A plug of chewing tobacco. 

AND, MORE RAIN — Yet ANOTHER storm hit the SCV, bringing the season total to just about 40 inches. 

MARCH 131951 

THIS LITTLE PIGGY DID NOT GO TO MARKET — Hogs were the biggest issue facing Santa Clarita in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Powerful pig farmers wanted to turn a good portion of the SCV into a series of giant slop farms. Pigs were used back then to consume edible (and sometimes not) trash, were fattened, butchered and sold for meat and by products. Hog ranchers wanted to bring in about a quarter-million hogs here. After a series of disastrous PR nightmares and a hog hoof-and-mouth outbreak, the county ix-nayed two giant farms that would have housed 50,000 porkers. 

PIGS TO DOGS — A pack of wild dogs was running loose in Sand Canyon, killing deer and livestock. The county dog catcher was nowhere to be found. 

THE INDIAN IN THE IRON MASK — Louis Logian was elected Hart High ASB president and was sworn in. Problem? His identical twin, Arthur, took the oath, making him technically and officially, the non-elected ASB president. After a chuckle, Arthur resigned and Louis took the throne. 

SPEAKING OF INDIANS — Bert and Minnie Balsz, of Honby, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Bert’s bride was a full Apache Indian who had lived on an Arizona reservation. They were wed in 1901. The couple homesteaded a farm here in 1937 in Honby. They had nine kids. One lost his life in World War II. 

MARCH 131961 

TURNING OVER IN THEIR GRAVES? — One of my favorite headlines was: “Commy Menace Film at Mint Community Bldg.” It was about socialist infiltration in America. 

FOR DRUGS AND PETTY CASH — Popular resort owner John Sellers was shot dead and robbed of $75 at the Cottonwood Campground. Antonio Garcia, 20, an escapee of a local youth facility, was found with his truck, money and belongings. He said he killed Sellers for drug money. 

RABID RACCOON — It wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to do. Ken Wormley was driving up Bouquet Canyon with his small daughter when they spotted a raccoon zigzagging along the side of the road. Thinking it might be a pet, the two got out and approached the creature. It had rabies and attacked the pair, biting both. The raccoon also had Wormley’s thumb and wouldn’t let go of it. He finally pried his digit away, drove for help and reported the incident. Deputy Violette came back and the coon attacked him. He emptied his service revolver into the rabid trash monkey. 

MARCH 131971 

FROM MIGHTY OAKS, PLASTIC CHEVRONS GROW — At the corner of Sierra Highway and Placerita the Chevron Oil Co. chopped down 45 pristine oaks, some several hundred years old, to make way for a gas station. The gas station? Never built. 

UH… MIND IF WE CHECK YOUR REFERENCES? — The trial of Hart district consultant Chester Furgeson continued. Added to a litany of charges, including attempted murder, Furgeson was none too happy to see the prosecution’s star witness: the hit man Furgy allegedly hired — for $5,000 — to slit the throat of another of his clients, the superintendent of the Torrance High School District. Furgeson also was accused of trying to kill Hart super, Dave Baker. Furgeson somehow made bail, jumped it and killed himself in a motel room in Central California. 

REMEMBER THE ALAMO(S) — Religious cult leaders Tony and Susan Alamo were scheduled to appear in court for several zoning violations. It was just the beginning of a litany of charges for the Sierra Highway figures, ranging from human trafficking to child molestation. The zoning charges were postponed. 

RED, WHITE & PLENTY OF BLUES — The big earthquake of 1971 set the SCV on its collective ear in more ways than one. Breaking a streak that stretched 40 years, the chamber canceled the Fourth of July parade. Of course, we’re a town that won’t take no for an answer.  

MARCH 131981 

THANKS FOR THE INCONVENIENCE — The issue pretty much has been split over the decades. Some SClaritans like movie shoots in the valley. It gives them an opportunity to rubberneck in hopes of seeing some uncaring celebrity. Others don’t like entire streets being closed all day during filming. A Signal expose noted that unless you’re the one getting your house rented for filming, the community got little, if anything, for the interruption. It cost just $10 for a film permit plus a $100 bond. Of course, movie and TV productions at times do support the local economy, buying everything from 2x4s to paint. For some strange reason, most movie companies disdained eating our food. 

ALL DOWNHILL FROM THERE — The City Formation Committee held its first meeting. If memory serves, it eventually passed — 16 years later. Actually, the SCV had been trying to form a city since the 1920s. 

FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE IN ALCOHOL ABUSE  A Canyon High teen arrived at an anti-drunk driving symposium a bit shaken. Seems she had unwittingly climbed into a truck with a drunk driver. He flipped the camper on the way to the meeting. 

THE DUMBBELL GREAT ESCAPE — Dratted luck. A burglar was caught smack dab in the middle of the Tournament Road Post Office, using a knife and crowbar to dig a tunnel to the drug store next door. An off-duty LAPD officer happened to swing by to pick up his mail and the digger high-tailed it.  

TREND OF THE ’80s — We had several new tobacco shops in the SCV, along with a new kind of customer — women. The fairer sex was starting to smoke pipes. 

!#*%¡¡@#=/?÷##$!!!!!, CAN BILLIE COME OUT AND PLAY? — A 13-year-old Canyon Country girl was visited by our local gendarmes. Seems she made more than 40 calls to a male classmate’s house within a few days, demanding to speak with the lad or she’d pretty much beat the parents to death if they didn’t let her speak with him, all laced with yards of expletives deleted. Today, we parents don’t have to suffer that sort of indignation and assault. Our children all have their own cellphones. 

Cracks me up that it’s Daylight Saving Time and here we are, sashaying across decades without a blink or spilt drop of latter. Thanks for the good company, friends. See you back here next weekend at the hitching post of your hometown newspaper The Mighty Signal. (259-1234 for subscriptions; You DO have a subscription, right?) 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 If you liked the book, would you mind leaving a kind 5-star review?

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