Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve loved this time of year in Santa Clarita. It can be perfect weather for lazy hammock time or to sit on a hillside and watch the flowers grow.
C’mon, amigos and amigo-ettes. How about we hear that most satisfying creak of saddle leather as we climb into our saddles? Let’s go explore what our community looked like back in fond and halcyon days…
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
65,000 YEARS AGO — Tom Frew was in 5th grade. They held him back for 64,389 years.
ANOTHER BURIED TREASURE — April 15, 1874, our own bad boy Tiburcio Vasquez and his gang beat and tortured Alessandro Repetto in the famed Repetto Ranch Raid. The wealthy Italian businessman/rancher was forced to send his nephew into Downtown L.A. with a note, asking to withdraw a fortune. The lad was shaking and the bankers suspicious. Lawmen raised a posse but Vasquez was long gone from the future Monterey Park spread by the time they got to the ranch. Tibby made off with $40,000 in gold and silver from Repetto. It was never recovered and is part of the lore of the fortunes Vasquez left behind.
NO TOASTING THE WEDDING COUPLE!! — April 17, 1879, Henry Clay Needham married Lillie Florence Taylor in Kansas. The couple would then move to Newhall to start an ill-fated Prohibitionist 10,000-acre community. The rules of the new town were too strict for even Prohibitionists and the movement never took hold here. But, Needham’s influence was felt for decades. Arcadia (his Kansas home town) and Kansas Street were named after the future presidential candidate. Poor guy. He lost thrice, garnering a respectable national percentage but losing the SCV.
APRIL 17, 1921
THE JEALOUS FIRE BUG — We had yet another one of those mysterious dance hall fires. This time, the Honby Dance Hall was burned to the ground (Honby is the old community where Home Depot is today). Most of the damages were covered by the $1,000 insurance policy, except for the piano, on which the owners had just made their final payments. There are stories about a beautiful young Newhall girl who loved to dance and party. Her boyfriend was a stick in the mud and didn’t like to publicly carouse, nor did he like all the attention his girl would receive from the other guys. Rumor was, the boyfriend kept burning down the few nightspots in the SCV to keep her from going out.
BUCK & TWO UNCLES, R.I.P. — Our own cowboy, Buck Jones, just released his latest film: “Sunset Sprague.” Twenty years later, he would race Tom Mix in a chariot race around town. Buck would later die in the fabled Coconut Grove fire, with two of my uncles.
DON’T TELL BILLY AT CAMELOT MOVERS ABOUT THE PRICE — On this date, the Saugus Ranger Station moved into downtown Newhall. Cost of the move was a staggering $390. The reason for the move was that Saugus was primarily in the boonies and there wasn’t any affordable housing within miles of their work.
THE BIG BUZZ WAS — Wonder if somehow we could bring the electricity rates from 1921 back with us to the future. On this date, Southern California Edison dropped their residential rates from 6 to 20%.
APRIL 17, 1931
MAJOR WHOOPS — Claude Lewis took a hike up Elsmere Canyon and never came back. He fell 100 feet to his death from a cliff.
R.I.P., DEAR FRANK — Frank E. Walker, patriarch of the famed Placerita Walkers (their ranch used to be upper Placerita Canyon, where the park is today), died of stomach flu. He left a wife, Hortense V. Reynier Walker, and 12 children.
THE ABSOLUTE BEST ROAD NAME — It is one of our oddest and romantic-sounding handles — Saugus to the Sea — and it still appears on many modern maps. On this date, local businessmen met with county government and the San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce to build a connecting road that would link the SCV and the SFV, connecting them to the ocean. You can still drive on Saugus to the Sea. It’s the road that leads up to the lodge at Ed Davis/Towsley Canyon state park. Unfortunately, it pretty much dead-ends there, unless you have a mighty agile horse.
OR, DOWNTOWN NEWHALL — Al Allen held a grand opening for his sandwich shop at Five Corners. That would be at the corner of 10th and Spruce Street. For you newcomers, that’d be at the corner of Lyons and Railroad Avenue (Lyons used to be 10th, Railroad used to be Spruce). We’ve had a passel of name changes over the years.
THEY STILL DON’T PAY COPS ENOUGH — Poor deputy Sheriff Frank Klein. He had gotten into an accident while on the job. Coming back from the hospital, his wife got into another accident and Frank had to return to the hospital for repatching his broken ribs. Then, first day back on the job, he pulls over a trucker for reckless driving (if you break down that phrase, it would seem “reckless driving” would be good driving because there isn’t a wreck). The trucker becomes abusive and shoves Klein in the chest, separating his ribs for the third darn time. Frank. They never paid you enough.
I THINK THIS WAS A FIRST, AND LAST, IN LOCAL BOOTLEGGING — U. Togawa paid a $35 fine for lower-case bootlegging. He got into a car wreck in Weldon Canyon (The Old Road today, old Highway 99). Prohibition was still the law of the land. Togawa offered cases of sake to passing motorists who gave him a hand. Unfortunately, he gave one to an off-duty officer who arrested him for having the illegal liquid rice dynamite.
APRIL 17, 1941
HOT TIME IN A NEW THEATER — Hobos (what we used to call “the unhoused”) delayed the grand opening of The American Theater. They broke into the building on 11th and Spruce and used, of all things, the molding and trim wood to start an indoor fire. A front window had to be repaired, along with the whole place having to be cleaned for smoke on the walls.
NICE DARN SALARY IN 1941 — On this date, the state Assembly nearly unanimously voted to extend their term limits from two to four years and gave themselves a whopping $100-a-week pay raise to about $3,600 a month.
A COWBOY’S GOTTA MAKE A LITTLE $$$ — Multimillionaire “Big” Bill Bonelli loaned his stadium (the Saugus Speedway) for the cowpokes to use for the huge annual Newhall-Saugus Rodeo in April. Local ranchers kidded Bill that he did it for the extra manure and accused him of selling it to the nurseries.
AND IT HELPS RIDING A POGO STICK, TOO. — There was a bronc rider who lived up Sand Canyon and made the national circuit. His name was Belter Tuler and he was bowlegged. Tuler was his own PR agent, circulating fliers billing himself as “The Cowboy Who Is Curved To Fit The Horse.” Belter said he got the idea from a wristwatch ad.
APRIL 17, 1951
FROM CONMAN TO MILLIONAIRE — M.R. Yant used to own a good portion of Confusion Hill, that maze of oil wells in Placerita Canyon. He strongly believed that there is a “Big Daddy” underneath the Santa Clarita Valley, a sea of oil more than 15,000 feet deep. We have always been rich in oil, but the debate raged for over a century whether there were many good-sized oil pools beneath the surface, or one, grand Mother of all Oil Pools. Yant had served years in prison for various con schemes and he accidentally became one of California’s wealthiest oilmen when he hit a whopper of a strike here — while he was trying to pull another con. Yant was also a mucky muck in the KKK.
APRIL 17, 1961
ONE OF OUR STRANGEST ELECTIONS, EVER — A small portion of Bouquet and Soledad canyons was eligible for a $330,000 sewer bond measure. Only 28 residents were eligible to vote in the election. It passed.
SOCRATES COMPLAINED ABOUT KIDS 2,500 YEARS AGO — And Glen Schmidt railed likewise 80 years back. He owned a pharmacy and general store and one business day, some local youths padlocked Schmidt and several customers INSIDE the one-door store. No one could get in. No one could get out. Signal Editor Fred Trueblood summed up his thoughts on the young: “Kids can be just plain ornery. Other times they are little angels, but most of the time they are downright, plain ornery. It more or less goes with the traditional dirty faces, baggy britches and all other parts and pieces that make up the average small fry.” Guess Fred must have forgotten about being a kid…
APRIL 17, 1971
NOT SO SMART — Bill Smart, a San Fernando Valley lawyer and self-styled rock promoter, had planned to bring a huge rock concert to Agua Dulce. It would have brought in more than 300,000 music lovers. Locals weren’t too happy at the theme — “Rock for Pot.” Small said he had been threatened by “10 or 20 members of the Agua Dulce Chamber of Commerce,” all wielding shotguns. He didn’t file any complaint, though, and the concert was never held.
THE LAST WARNING HE EVER HEARD — Glenn Adam Wall was driving his Jeep with four friends in the hills above Indian Dunes. One of them warned him the trail was too treacherous and only meant for motorcycles. Wall ignored the common sense and pressed forward. The Jeep rolled over a cliff to the rocks 450 feet below. Wall was the only fatality.
APRIL 17, 1981
TEEN NOT FOND OF THE FOLKS — Tracy Lincoln, a 14-year-old Hart student, was found guilty of trying to murder his parents. First, Lincoln had placed a pan of bleach and Drano under their bed to poison them. Then, with a rifle, he shot his mom when she came home from work. Lincoln had been discussing, with friends, his various plans to rid himself of his parents. He was sentenced to the Youth Authority until the age of 23. I’ve got this story, at length, in my upcoming SCV book, “Ghosts, Ghouls, Myths & Monsters.”
TEEN NOT FOND OF HIMSELF — Gregory Jenkins, a 17-year-old Canyon senior, horrified friends by placing a revolver to his temple. The gun was loaded. Jenkins pulled the trigger and died.
MIMI SHOULD SEE THE COUNTRY NOW — Supervisor Mike Antonovich declared April 15, “Growth Day.” It was a “tribute to the contributions of the free enterprise system in America…” It was also tax deadline day where one gossip columnist (Mimi) noted it being: “…the very day they are taxing (us) nearly to extinction.”
MOCHA McMULLEN — On this date, our coffee-loving amigo and Hart/COC grad, Mitch McMullen, signed his letter of intent to play with the Arizona State Sun Devils. He’d later play pro basketball in France and then start the Newhall Coffee Co., a local version of Starbucks, only with entertainment. It was a cool place.
WHAT’S UP, DOC? — On this date, my dear, dear pal, sister-in-law, future internationally renowned composer and most hubba-hubba doctor of music, Erica Muhl, was crowned 1981’s Miss Santa Clarita Valley. Hasn’t been a prettier one since is my opinion. Yay for you, Queenie!
Amazing how that happens. We’ve been parading around for a century-plus trek into the mostly pristine SCV canyons. In a blink, we’re back. One of the perks of time traveling. Well. Me and the horse should probably see who wins in the big Godzilla-Kong fight. I suppose we could just ride into the future and find out, but that’d be cheating. See you in seven, saddlepals. 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?